4. Live to Submit - Kody LaBarthe (I Peter 2:13-3:7) Living HOPE

Living HOPE Series
  • When Jesus asked his disciples. "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" Peter responded "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus promised Peter that upon the Rock of that confession He would build His church. The truth of who Jesus is empowers common man to speak the message that opens the doors of heaven to sinners. Join us to learn strong principles for Godly living and reach new heights in our faith as we work our way through Peter's writings which evangelize the lost and instruct the church.
4. Live to Submit (I Peter 2:13-3:7)
  • As believers and followers of Jesus, we are to live in voluntary submission to His lordship, but also to employers and spouses.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance - What are the central ideas of this text?
    • God wants His people to submit voluntarily to the governing authorities and be good citizens where they live. – I Peter 2:13-15 
    • God wants His people to submit voluntarily to their employers and be good employees where they work. – I Peter 2:18 
    • God wants His people who are married to submit to their spouse and be good spouses in their marriage. – I Peter 3:1-7
  • Implications - What questions should the listener be asking?
    • What governing authorities are over you and how can and should you submit to those governing authorities? 
    • How can and should you submit to your employer? 
    • If you are married, how can and should you submit to your spouse? If you are not married, how can you be supportive of your friends who are married in this matter of submission?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide 
  • Interpretation - What is the text telling/showing us?
    • What do you think of when you hear or read the words “submit” or “submission?” Do you like those concepts, or do you react negatively to them? 
    • Why is submitting so hard for us? 
    • What does it mean to submit to the civil government? 
    • What does submission have to do with being free in Christ? 
    • We do not live in a society with the institution of slavery. What does the principle of submission mean in reference to employers and employees in our day? 
    • How does enduring wrong treatment find favor with God? 
    • Describe how Jesus lived out His life in terms of submission. What did it mean for Him to trust Himself to the One who judges righteously? How is that an example for us today? 
    • Describe how the principle of submission applies to the marriage relationship? How should the wife submit? How should the husband submit?
  • Implementation - What should the listeners response be?
    • How are you doing in living out the principle of submission in your life? 
    • Think about your work situation, if you are employed. How does the principle of submission apply at your workplace? Think of specific examples and applications. 
    • Obviously, in our day we can leave a bad employment situation, unlike the slaves of Peter's day. If you are in a bad employment situation and cannot leave for whatever reason, how should you live out the principle of submission then? What does it mean to trust yourself to God? 
    • If you are married, describe how the principle of submission should work with your spouse? What changes might you need to make in your behavior to apply this Biblical principle to your life? 
    • If you are not married, what does this principle of submission mean to you as you think about your prospective spouse, should God lead you to marriage? 
    • Describe the character traits and life actions of a Godly wife in reference to her husband? 
    • Describe the character traits and life actions of a Godly husband in reference to his wife? 
    • How are you going to apply and live out the lessons of these verses in your life? What attitudes and actions might need changing?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as compiled by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation - What's generally going on in this area of scripture?
Peter continues with the explication of how to live a life of living hope in this study. The essence of his next point is that a salvation that resulted in a life of living hope demands submission. Of course, the great model and picture of submission is Jesus (cf. Philippians 2:5- 11), and if our lives are to focus on Jesus Christ and we are to be like Him, then submission certainly must describe the way we live. But what does submission mean and how does it work out in daily life in a secular society. This text will provide answers that are surprisingly practical not only for his audience, but for us today. First, a look at the word itself will give us a clue to what God has for us. The Greek work translated “submit” is hupotasso, and it means “to place under.”

The word has the sense of the voluntary placing of one's self under the order or rule or authority of another; it was used as a military term meaning “to array in military fashion under the command of a leader.” (so writes Wuest) Thus, there is in submission an attitude of the heart involved as well as a matter of the will and of strength. In many ways and in many aspects of life, then, the believer is to voluntarily, willingly, and even joyfully place himself or herself under something or someone. Peter provides three areas which describe the “something or someone.” First, submission to civil authority (I Peter 2:13-17); second, submission to masters (for us, to employers) (I Peter 2:18-25); and third, submission to one's spouse (I Peter 3:1-7). Remember that Peter wrote this letter during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero, who was anything but a likable, kind, understanding leader.

Rather, Nero was ruthless, not hesitating to execute any who were perceived as a threat to him in any way. Moreover, the general approach of Rome in that time period was that all fealty was to be given to Rome, and the emperor was in effect to be worshiped. Nevertheless, Peter writes that his readers were to willingly and voluntarily place themselves under the authority of “every human institution” (I Peter 2:13), and then, as if to respond to the question of who is included in that phrase, Peter adds, “whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors sent by him.” (I Peter 2:13b & 14) In short, believers are to cooperate with and uphold the role of government “for the Lord's sake;” submitting thus honors the true King, namely God. Peter enunciates that it is the purpose of government to promote order in society, which is a good aim, and by submitting to such government, a believer is thus participating in God's will as it is God who ordains governments in the first place (Romans 13:1). F

urther, by doing such, a believer is doing good, and acting in that way will quiet those who would otherwise defame the believers (Apparently it was being alleged that the believers in Asia Minor were treasonous and opposed the emperor.). In living submission in this way, Peter adds, believers are to live as “free men” which, to his readers, meant not a slave or one under restraint. This thought underscores the “voluntariness” of the concept of submission; the believer is free in Christ and thus free to live righteously (cf. Romans 6:15-18), and submitting to government as part of submitting to God is voluntary … the believer is “free” to do so, to choose God's way. To sum up, Peter writes: “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (I Peter 2:17) Quite a task, but in Christ, the believer is able to live such as one aspect of a life of living hope.

But Peter does not stop with submission to the civil government. He goes on to write that slaves are to submit to their masters. Some discussion of the institution of slavery in Peter's day is warranted at this point. The Greek word for slaves used by Peter in verse 18 is oiketes which means household or domestic slaves (as opposed to agricultural slaves or those who worked in mines as a brute labor force). The “manumission,” or the emancipating, of a slave, was “a frequent and viable alternative” (so Witherington) in the 1st century Roman empire. Witherington writes, “many ancients deliberately chose to become slaves because they knew it was often not a permanent condition in life, and indeed could lead not only to their manumission but also to their becoming Roman citizens.”

Slavery was the foundation of the Roman society; up to 1/3 of the population were slaves (Barclay states there were 60,000,000 slaves in the empire). Domestic slaves were often well-educated; they were doctors, teachers, clerks, secretaries, cooks, etc. They were often happy, trusted members of the family of the master. In Rome, all the work was done by slaves - if one was a master, why work! Slaves had no rights; they were “chattel’ (i.e., property) – they were subject to being put to death by their master, and normal execution was by crucifixion; they couldn’t give testimony in court unless it was given under torture; they could not marry, though they could co-habit; and their children belonged to the master.

To revolt against slavery was of no use; it would have meant certain death. There were several slave revolts that occurred, but none were successful; all the rebelling slaves were killed. Given the reality of the institution in Peter's day, many, believers in the 1st century church were slaves, and therefore their relationship with their masters in the context of their new-found faith was certainly relevant. Because these believing slaves were now “free” in Christ (Indeed in verse 16 they, and all believers, were just referred to as “free men” with “free” meaning “liberated.”), how they interacted with and treated their masters was an issue, particularly because some of those very slaves may well have had church responsibilities that put them “over” their masters in the church! Further, since the society included the institution of slavery, it was important to speak to slaves as to the “how” of the Christian life for them in the context of that institution, especially as the “how” had to do, among other things, with submission. In other words, Peter was speaking to how they were to live “good lives” in their society as slaves (cf. I Peter 2:12).

So what does Peter write? Believing slaves are to voluntarily and willingly submit to their masters, and to do so “with all respect.” (I Peter 2:18). And this approach was the rule whether the master was good or bad (I Peter 2:18b). The believing slave is to act in this way without being asked or forced; it is to be part of living out the life of living hope, even if it means bearing up and enduring in submission to a “bad” master, as doing so is commendable before God and follows the example of Jesus Himself (I Peter 2:19-22, quoting from Isaiah 53:9, and explicating the meaning of the Isaiah 53:4-12 passage). Peter is not saying that anyone is “called” to suffering; only that if one's life of submission includes suffering, then – like Christ – we are not to retaliate or make threats, but entrust ourselves to the righteous judge, God Himself, who guards His own children who have been “healed” from their sin by Jesus' death and resurrection.

Peter continues on to write of submission in the context of the spousal relationship. In Peter's day, which was a very patriarchal world, women basically had no rights. Under Jewish law, a woman was a thing; in the Greek mind, a woman was not at all independent but was to be obedient to her husband; under Roman law, a woman was considered a child, with no rights, and entirely subject to her husband to whom obedience was demanded. A wife could not get out of a “bad marriage” even if she wanted to; however, her husband could divorce her on a whim. The wife was expected to follow the religion of her husband. Witherington writes that a wife’s practicing another religion “would be seen as an act of rebellion by many a husband and a violation of the social order.” Wives who became Christians, and thus followed a perceived “cult” that looked askance at Roman and pagan religious practices, could be charged with atheism, and at least be viewed by their husbands with a measure of hostility.

Not all marriage relationships were bad or negative; many were loving and respectful. Yet, there was tension in many marriages involving a believing wife and an unbelieving husband given the foregoing cultural norms. So, as with the institution of slavery, it was quite appropriate for Peter to write about how spouses were to live with one another now that one or the other or both spouses had become a believer. Peter hits the ground running by writing that wives must voluntarily, and of their free will, submit to (i.e., place themselves under) their husbands, whether he is a believer or not. As to the unbelieving husband, Peter adds that the lifestyle of “living hope” of the wife is to serve as a witness and testimony to the love of Jesus that can win over the unbelieving husband by his mere observance of such behavior.

Peter then outlines the life a believing wife is to lead: it avoids a forced witness to the gospel; it is pure in thoughts and actions; it shows reverence to God and for the husband; it serves the husband; it pays attention to inner character (as it is eternal) moreso than outer appearance (it is temporal and fleeting); it is gentle, and shows a quiet disposition and attitude; it does good deeds; it is not dominated by fear. In short, the life of the believing wife is to be quite the opposite of that of the “natural” or “secular“ wife who is described as in revolt and rebellion, irreverent and impure, aggressive and self-assertive, concerned with external superfluous adornment, seeks self, is dominated by fear and is apart from God. Abraham's wife, Sarah, is cited as the example of a Godly wife, as she obeyed her husband, was respectful of him, and put her hope in God. What a wonderful picture of a Christian wife! But Peter goes further and writes to the husband as well. The believing husband, in the same way and for the same reasons as the wife, namely because he belongs to God and is charged with living a holy life, must in effect submit to his wife (cf. Ephesians 5:25-33), living with her with understanding.

This means that the husband must make it his business to know who his wife is, what her needs are, and what her personality and traits are. And he is to live with his wife (note, not over his wife), treating her with respect (translated “honor” in the NAS) which really means to give value to her and treat her as precious, recognizing that she is weaker in terms of physical strength. And beyond that, he is to recognize his wife as a “fellow heir” of God's grace, which is to say that she is equally as important to God as he is, and there is no difference in terms of their relationship with God; they are equal, even if in terms of responsibilities the husband is the “head” of the household. And then, quite remarkably, Peter adds that the consequence of a husband treating his wife other than as set out above is that his own relationship with and access to God will be hindered, impeded and thwarted! Thus, as Witherington writes, the husband’s “relationship with God is intertwined with his love and respect for his fellow humans, especially his wife.”

Altogether, Peter sets out a supremely high view of the marriage relationship. For the believer, the relationship he or she has with his or her spouse matters greatly to God, and is to be a reflection of his or her relationship to God and his or her obedience to Him. The life of living hope means that we who name Jesus as Savior and Lord are His, and we have the responsibility of living lives that reflect whose we are, including submitting to our government, to our employers, and to our spouses. That very submission is Christ-like, as He submitted to His Father's will and to the authorities of His day to go to the cross for us. By living lives of submission, we give witness to the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, and underscore His greatness. Again, what a responsibility; but what a privilege! Lives with a purpose indeed … to submit as a reflection of him! There is no greater calling.