1 Peter 2:18-20

1 Peter 2:18‑20  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 8
The exhortation is next addressed to domestics (οἰκέται), instead of continuing the unrestricted appeal of verses 11-17. The apostle begins with those, and does not follow up to their masters as in the Pauline Epistles; and then he writes to the wives and the husbands, without specifying either the children or the fathers. But it may also be noticed that the “domestics” here exhorted are a milder name if not a wider class, not necessarily “bondmen” as in the letters to Ephesus and Colosse. At least they were in contrast with the οἰκόυτιφ or born slave. One can understand hired servants of Jewish origin among Jews.
“Household servants, be in subjection with all fear to your masters (δεσπόταις), not only to the good and gentle, but also to the crooked. For this [is] grace if for conscience toward God one endureth griefs, suffering unjustly. For what glory [is it] if when ye sin and are buffeted ye shall endure? but if when ye do well (ἀγαθοποι) and suffer ye shall endure, this [is] grace with God” (vers. 18-20).
One of the hateful and fatal plague-spots of Romanism is the so called church's interdiction of God's word, save according to its own will. None but Satan gave such an authority. But Protestantism never rose in this to the truth; for, in opposing Popish arrogance, it fell into the snare of claiming man's right to the Bible; which easily led on to the wicked principles of the French revolution, socialism, and other like iniquities. The Christian knows it as his real privilege and solemn obligation to assert God's right to address His word to His children now, as of old to Israel, not forgetting man universally in the Old T. as well as in the New. And this it is which constitutes the apostate guilt of the miscalled Higher Criticism, which is but a euphemism for base infidelity, however many amiable and would-be reverent persons are thereby ensnared in both Nationalism and Dissent as well as Popery. What a contrast with the world is God's communication first to the domestics whose lot among Greeks and Romans was hard indeed! The slaves at any rate were no more than living tools or possessions; and their numbers were immense, public as well as private.
With these home-menials as a class the apostle begins. As he had exhorted all in view of public authority, here he presses like subjection in the house. The domestics are enjoined to be subject with fear on every side to their lords; they were Christians, and bound to serve many a master where the danger of provocation was extreme. They needed therefore to walk in all awe. For according to Christ their godly subjection was due not only to the good and gentle, but to the crooked or perverse which last naturally abounded.
Where was any so noble a principle, morally speaking, found among men? We see in the O.T. how selfish were the ways of the Jewish chief men toward their own brethren after the flesh. What a conflict, and what humiliation to such as Ezra the priest and Nehemiah the governor! Of heathen heartlessness and cruelty we need not speak, even among the civilized Greeks and especially the Romans who had to face reprisals and rebellions and serious wars through their barbarity. It is Christ seen by faith as we perceive in the context that follows, which explains the elevation of heart which is here counted on by the apostle. They were to serve the Lord Christ in the spirit not of self-abnegation but of grace. No matter how worthless their masters might be, grace raises the soul above the most morose, and enables it to obey and suffer even in face of wrong.
For as the apostle explains, this is grace, in contrast with the natural bias toward the legal claim, if for conscience toward God one endure griefs, suffering unjustly. The A. V. renders it “acceptable,” and this is a fair sense in this place, and capable of defense. But it appears to me simpler and more forcible to adhere to the ordinary meaning, bearing in mind of course that it is not grace as in God which is in question, but the answer to it in those who believe. They were in this and in their measure imitators of God as beloved children, and walking in love as Christ loved them.
An effort has been made to translate the word “thank worthy” here as in Luke 6:32-34. But this seems short-sighted, because there is no ὑμῖν (to you) here as there, which makes a sensible difference. We can readily perceive the propriety of “thanks to you,” where “grace to you” could not stand. Here in the first case it is used absolutely; and in the second it has the very different adjunct παρὰ τῷ θεῷ (with God), who delights to find in His child what reflects Himself.
The apostle carries his argument yet more deeply in ver. 20. “For what glory is it, if when ye sin and are buffeted ye shall endure (or, bear it)?” This no person can affirm. One bears the burden of admitted fault. It is only natural in such circumstances. “But if, when ye do good and suffer, ye shall endure (or, bear it), this is grace with God.” This is supernatural; yet it is what the Lord looks for, not only in the mature and better instructed of His saints, but in the most down-trodden menials who call upon His name. For God despises none, and has called by His grace the foolish things of the world that He may put to shame the wise; and chosen the weak things of the world that He may put to shame the strong things; and the base things of the world, and the despised did God chose, that He might bring to naught the things that are: that no flesh should boast before God. A house-servant if a Christian was exhorted instead of resenting injustice to follow Christ in
His path of suffering love. Impossible so to do unless abiding in Him; but he that says he abides in Him ought, just as He walked, so to walk himself.