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with Laura Leathers
1 Peter 2:13-23
Peter, along with the Apostle Paul, faced many challenging circumstances (2 Cor. 11:24-31). Neither man demanded his rights. Instead they set an example of submission and slavery to Christ. The focus of Philippians is to rejoice always even in the midst of suffering. The focus of 2 Timothy is expect to suffer. Suffering and submission are the themes of 1 Peter 2:13-23. It is during this time of hardship, dealing with persecution and discrimination for their faith, Peter encourages the letter’s recipients to do the following: do good and not evil, submit to earthly authorities, and remember the example of Jesus. Trusting God in every circumstance is our lesson’s thrust.
In our culture the word ‘submit’ is at the bottom of the list and at the top are the words ‘my rights’. ’Submit’ is a military term meaning “to arrange in military fashion under the commander,” “to put oneself in an attitude of submission.” As citizens in the world and under civil law and authority, God’s people are to live in a humble, submissive way in the midst of any hostile, godless, slandering society for the Lord’s sake” (John MacArthur Study Bible). Submission is simply the recognition of God’s authority in our lives and herein we find our freedom. “It is our responsibility to “advertise God’s virtues” (1 Peter 2:9, author’s translation). This is especially true when it comes to our relationship to government and people in authority” (Warren Wiersbe, Be Hopeful, pg. 58). We are to be model citizens, yet the laws of the land must never make us violate our conscience or disobey God’s Word. But we are to do what is good and right because we have first submitted to Christ, no matter what the situation is. This is trust—not in government but in God!
Next, in verses 18-20, Peter addresses submission to those who were Christian slaves in the congregations scattered throughout the region. They thought this meant they had gained their personal and political freedom as well; thereby creating problems in the churches and for the individuals. Today, we do not have Christian slaves; but we do have employers. Wherever you find yourself in the marketplace an employee is not to take advantage of his employer, but do an honest day’s work, be respectable, and some days you have to “take it” when you know you are not in the wrong. On my desk at work is a 3” x 5” notecard with the following: God doesn’t need your help. He only asks you to trust Him—Proverbs 3:5-6. It is a reminder that whatever I may be facing God is not asking me to manipulate or control the circumstances, nor is He asking me to demand my rights. He is simply asking repeatedly, “Will you trust me and the Sufficiency of Christ?” Forgiveness, love, and knowing His mercies are new every morning show us how patient He is as we learn more about trusting Him. It is a moment by moment choice. We are to let God fight our battles (Rom. 12:16-21) and our work is to be done unto the Lord (Col. 3:23). This is where we find favor with God (see Neh. 2:8) and bring Him glory. Life guarantees hardships will come and our attitude in these reflects our faithfulness to God.
“For to this you were called, because Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow,” Peter writes in verse 21. I believe verse 23 is the key to suffering. The Jeremiah Study Bible gives a brief summary of verse 23, “Christ is the example for everything in life—including the reality of suffering and the Christian’s response to it. He endured and did not retaliate verbally (revile or threaten) but did what was right and committed the results to the Lord, who judges righteously (Isa. 53:7-9; 2 Cor. 5:21).”
Enduring faith is moving forward, when everything within you wants to quit and there are no answers to the suffering you are experiencing. It is resting with confidence knowing the Master will fulfill His promises. It is holding tightly to the sovereign, holy, infinitely wise, forever faithful and always loving God. It is a choice we must make. God is in every detail of your life. Open your hymnal to Trust and Obey, and prayerfully commit to . . . “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way. To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey” (Text by John H. Sammis).
Leathers is a member of First Church, Madison.