by Mike Ratliff
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. (Ephesians 6:5-8 ESV)
God’s ways are not Man’s ways. His ways are far above our ways. In fact, to those with a fleshly focus, His ways are entirely inscrutable. It is saddening to hear so many in the pulpits of churches preach messages, which lead their followers to pursue a self-focused or selfish lifestyle. It is as if they completely ignore all of the teachings in Sacred Scripture that command Christians to be humble and obedient.
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:13-17 ESV)
In this passage the two words “Be subject” is one Greek word, “ὑποτάσσω” or “hupotassō.” It means to place in an orderly fashion under something. This is a command and is in aorist tense, imperative mood, and passive voice. Aorist imperative denotes a command, request, or entreaty calling for action to be begun at that very moment. The passive voice tells us that this is a command to do some action that will directly affect oneself, hence the word “Be” preceding the command. The KJV translates this as “Submit yourselves.” I believe the ESV’s translation is closer to what Peter is commanding us though for it conveys the word picture of us actually conforming ourselves in both attitude and deed.
Why are we to submit ourselves? It is for the Lord’s sake. Peter is commanding us to be subject to every human institution so that God will be honored and glorified. Rebellious conduct by Christians brings dishonor on Christ. How are you doing in obeying the speed limit and driving laws where you live and work? This command says that we are to be subject to every human institution. Peter then tells us that every human institution or ordinance includes all possible governmental authority of wherever God has placed us.
In the few years this blog has been online it has become more than apparent to me that there are many foolish people who dearly love to criticize our faith and try to make their outlandish comments in the hope of provoking an argument. It took me awhile, but over time I have learned to not entertain such foolishness. Instead I have determined to follow Peter’s command here to do good and thereby silence the ignorance of foolish people. If we obey the authorities God had set over us then those who desire to criticize our faith must do so from an untenable position. In v16 the word “servants” is the Greek word “δοῦλος” or “doulos.” This word means “one in permanant servitude.” In other words, a doulos is a slave. We bring dishonor on God when we attempt to live this life outside of the context of being God’s doulos. We bring glory to Him when we live as servants of God, honoring everyone, loving the brotherhood, fearing God, and honoring the emperor.” We may not have an “emperor” over us, but this still applies in our honoring of whatever leaders God has placed us under.
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:18-25 ESV)
Our Christianity does not give us the right to rebel against our superiors in the social structure no matter how unfair or harsh the conditions are. We must continue to do good. God does not promise that we will not suffer if we do what is right. Christ’s life is our example. He suffered for us and has left us to follow in His steps. Even though our Lord was treated harshly, He never retaliated in any way. Instead, He entrusted Himself to the Father who judges justly. The Cross was where He bore our sins. Those who are New Creations in Him are to die to sin and live unto righteousness. Our Lord’s suffering and death has healed our slavery to sin and cancelled the indictment of eternal death against us. Therefore, let us obey our Lord in submitting to all authority over us for His glory alone.
Soli Deo Gloria!