In 1 Pet 2:18-25, Peter exhorts servants to be subject to their masters regardless whether they are good and gentle or froward. The conduct of a master toward his servant described in this passage is much harsher than anything allowed in the United States today. For one thing, these are servants, not employees. For another thing, the masters strike their servants to punish them; they don’t just reprimand them, fire them, or dock their pay. Nevertheless, we can certainly apply these verses to our current employer/employee relationships. Servants should:
Subject themselves with all fear – 1 Pet 2:18 – servants were to fear their masters. The cross reference in Eph 6:5 says, “be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling.” The servant’s thought is, “I’m going to get it if I don’t do what I have been told exactly the way I have been told to do it.” His fear isn’t respect; it’s fear. A servant is to respect his master [1 Tim 6:1-2], of course. But he is also supposed to fear him. Employees should fear their employers because they should be serving “in singleness of… heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as men pleasers: but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart: With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men,” [Eph 6:5-7].
Take it patiently when they are punished for their faults – 1 Pet 2:20 – when Peter wrote this, servants could be buffeted [beaten] for their faults [Ex 21:20-21, 26-27]. A master could beat his servants, but he couldn’t permanently injure them or kill them. Peter said that a servant should take his beating patiently when he has it coming. You might think the the Lord wouldn’t support this treatment of servants, but he does. It may come as a surprise to you, according to Lk 12:42-48, the Lord will beat some of his servants, as well. Employees should accept their “punishment” when they have done something wrong.
Take it patiently when they are punished wrongfully – 1 Pet 19-20 – in certain instances, it is possible that a master would punish his servant wrongfully, like Joseph was punished [Gen 39:20]. In those cases, servants are to take it patiently, as well, because of their conscience toward God. That is, they are to recognize that God may use it. He certainly used Joseph in ways that weren’t apparent when Joseph was first sold into slavery and then imprisoned [Gen 45:5-8]. When you have done well and yet you endure grief, suffering wrongfully, and you take it patiently, “this is acceptable with God.” Employees should remember that they are not the employer and that the employer is not perfect. Yet God is perfect and he knows when you have gotten a raw deal.
Follow Christ’s example of suffering – 1 Pet 2:21-25 – Christ suffered for us and we are to follow his steps. Believers who follow Christ are going to suffer in this world. In the same way that Christ suffered before he could enter into his glory [1 Pet 1:11], so we must suffer before we enter into our glory [Rom 8:17-18; 2 Thes 1:4-5]. Now what was Christ’s example?
- He did no sin – 1 Pet 2:22 – there was not a single accusation that could be legitimately brought against Jesus. You should be blameless in your service [1 Thes 2:10].
- He spoke no guile – 1 Pet 2:22 – guile is contradictory doubleness of speech; what some have called “doublespeak.” Jesus never did this. As a servant, you shouldn’t be saying one thing to one person and another thing to someone else, like “talking behind their back.”
- He reviled not again – 1 Pet 2:23 – Jesus was reviled [Matt 27:39]. Yet he just took what they said against him and said nothing in return . When someone says something bad to you or about you, don’t say something bad in reply. Just let it go.
- He threatened not – 1 Pet 2:23 – Jesus could have prayed to his Father and wiped out the whole bunch with angels [Matt 26:53], but he didn’t even threaten them. Likewise, we shouldn’t threaten others when they cause us to suffer.
- He committed himself to God – 1 Pet 2:23 – Jesus left the judgment to God. He trusted God through the whole ordeal of his suffering. And we must trust God when we are in a situation that causes us to suffer. You don’t know how God is going to use what you’re going through to benefit someone else.
- He bore our sins in his body – 1 Pet 2:24-25 – the wrong for which Jesus was punished was our wrong. He took our punishment that we deserved. In other words, Jesus was not guilty and yet he accepted the punishment for our sin. And in so doing:
- We can now live unto righteousness – this wasn’t possible until 2 Cor 5:21.
- By his stripes we are healed – the effects of sin on our soul are gone forever.
- We are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls – we are now reconciled to God [Rom 5:10].
Conclusion: we could not have been saved, healed, and reconciled to God if Jesus had not suffered wrongfully. Since he didn’t fight his wrongful death, we will now live forever. Likewise, we must remember that there are times when we are going to suffer and someone else is going to benefit from our suffering. Paul certainly knew and accepted this suffering in his life for the sake of others [Col 1:24; Gal 6:17; 2 Tim 2:8-10]. We should, too.