In Peter's first epistle, we learn that God has called us to bear unjust authorities with patience.
You have to seek to love the very person who is injuring you. Isn't that what Christ teaches? And isn't that what Jesus did? It is so hard, but that is the radical ethic of the gospel. No matter who you are or where you live, there are systems of authority over you. But what if those leaders put you through unjustified hardship or suffering? The question then becomes, how far does your submission go?
Today and over the next couple of days here on Renewing Your Mind, R.C. Sproul will take us to the book of 1 Peter to help us learn what submission looks like. Where do you find problems of submitting to authority? We've seen this theme here expounded by Peter in his first epistle. And isn't it a strange thing that this section on submissiveness that forms so much a portion of this epistle is linked to and flows out of the comforting words that the Apostle gives us about the hope that is ours in the midst of suffering?
Well, I think there's a link here. One of the links is that being submissive at times is the occasion for our affliction and the occasion for suffering. Well, we've seen already Peter's admonition to be submissive in general to the ordinances of men, and then he gets specific, and he speaks to specific groups, and we'll look at these briefly today. In chapter 2, verse 18, he says, servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. He says, you are to be, those of you who are in the role of a servant, you are to be submissive in that role to your masters, not just be submissive to the kind ones, to the generous ones, to the nice ones, but also be submissive to the harsh ones.
That's where it's difficult, isn't it? Because when somebody treats me harshly, I recoil in the very depth of my being. I want to fight back. I want to respond in anger. I want to get even. That's axiomatic in our society. In fact, we say, don't get mad, get even. But we really don't want to get even. That's a tie. That's like kissing your sister.
What we want to do is get one up. And yet here is the radical ethic of Jesus at work and the radical model that Jesus presents to the world, the one who was very God of very God, who was willing to make Himself of no reputation and voluntarily enter into humiliation for our sakes, did not behave in a defiant manner. He was meek. He was humble. It doesn't mean that He was weak.
On the contrary, He was anything but weak. And in fact, it takes enormous strength to be able to be forbearing and patient and loving when one is being tyrannized. And yet Jesus exhibited that virtue in His life, and He calls every Christian to imitate that particular virtue. It's one of the hardest Christian virtues that we have to achieve. He says, for this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God, one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. Again, this echoes the teaching of Jesus, blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake, for great is your reward in heaven. God loves His saints who bear the slanders of men with charity and with forbearance. For what credit is it, He says, if when you are beaten for your faults you take it patiently, but when you do good and suffer if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called.
Wow. This is what God has called us to, to bear these things with patience, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that you should follow His steps. Every time I want to react against injury, against myself, which is every time I have an injury against myself, I want to react. I want to defend myself. I want to retaliate. I want to have vengeance.
I have all that stuff. I feel the sting of this rebuke. And I mentioned earlier how Jonathan Edwards' little book, Charity and His Fruits, has helped me so much deal with this, because he has a chapter in there on how we are to bear the ills that we suffer at the hands of other people. And he tells us on the one hand to not be surprised by this kind of treatment, harsh treatment, unjust treatment, slander, and all the rest. And he says that there's nothing that anybody can do to really hurt us. They can take our possessions. They can take our jobs. They can take our good name.
They can destroy our reputations. But all of these things are part of our worldly goods. What they can't do is steal the inheritance that Christ has reserved for us in heaven.
No human being can take that away. And so Edwards said we are to bear these burdens and these slanders and these injuries patiently. And that part, you know, is helpful to my soul to listen to that. But then he goes on and said we're not allowed to be vengeful either in our actions or in our spirit. I mean, you know what it's like. You sit there. Somebody says something nasty to you, and you know it's not true. And so you force yourself to be quiet and accept it and tolerate it. And you say, okay, I'm not going to return evil for evil.
I'm going to be loving, and I'm going to be gracious, and I'm going to be charitable. And so you do that. All the while, in your heart, you are hoping that person gets knocked down and so on. And Edwards rebukes me.
He says you can't even harbor those feelings in your heart. You have to seek to love the very person who is injuring you. Isn't that what Christ teaches? And isn't that what Jesus did? It is so hard, but that is the radical ethic of the gospel. For to this you were called, Peter said, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example. Is the servant above His master?
If Jesus can suffer these things for me, can I not suffer them also for Him? He is our example, and the reason for us to do this, that you should follow His steps. Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth. Who when He was reviled, did not revile in return. When He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously. Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we having died to sins might live for righteousness, and by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now have returned to the shepherd and the bishop of your soul.
Wow! Then from servants He turns to wives. Wives like wives, be submissive to your own husbands. Then even if some do not obey the word, they without a word may be won by the conduct of their wives. When they observe your chaste conduct, accompanied by fear, do not let your adornment be merely outward, arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel. Rather, let it be the hidden person of the heart with the uncorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.
A gentle and quiet spirit may not be precious to radical advocates of feminism, but a beautiful and gentle spirit is commendable and precious to God. And this is what Peter is saying to wives. If you have husbands who are not good husbands, who are bad husbands, who are harsh husbands, who are insensitive husbands, who are jerks, and all they care about is how nice you look.
You know, they want you to look pretty for them all the time and dress you up like some kind of model or so on. Hey, if you care about your husband and his soul, let your adornment to which you give your chief concern be the adornment of your own soul, your inward person, that by your witness as a godly woman, you may bear witness to your own husband of the character of Christ, because what Christ wants to see in you is a is a beautiful and gentle spirit. Now, that's even harder to work out than submissiveness. And we get all bent out of shape about the call to submissiveness, but do you hear the point that he's making here?
He's not giving men a license to tyrannize women. God forbid if you go on and look at the admonitions given to the men later on. Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife. I sit around in the men's locker room, the golf club all the time, and listen to the humor and the jokes, and I have a good time with these guys.
I love these guys, and we have a wonderful relationship. One of the things that does wound me, however, is the way I hear them talking about their wives constantly. And I'm thinking if the wives could hear what these guys are saying about them here, they would be devastated.
And I really have the feeling that the guys aren't really thinking about what they're saying, but it's part of the macho act and everything. But one thing is not taking place, and that is the wives are not being honored. And I wonder if one of the reasons that drives and motivates this widespread revolt against husbands by women in our culture is because women have been so seriously dishonored by their husband. You know, when Paul gives the admonition to women to be submissive to their husbands as to the Lord, again, is there any Christian woman who would be feeling demeaned, devalued, or debased, or in any way losing dignity if they were called to submit to Christ if Christ were their husband? Would there be any fear to submit to Him or to follow His leadership because they know that Christ will never abuse them, never exploit them, never tyrannize them, never demean them, and will always treat them with honor?
And what I'm saying is that a lot of the problems that men have with what they consider submissive wives is because we are not doing what God has called us to do to honor our wives. Then Peter goes on here and says, Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another. Love as brothers, be tenderhearted, courteous, not returning evil for evil, but on the contrary, blessing, knowing that you were called to this. He keeps bringing us back to our vocation, bringing us back to our duty as Christians. And then jumping down to verse 13, he ties this again to the problem of suffering. And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed.
Do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled, but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you with meekness and in fear. And then later on, for it is better if it is the will of God to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. And almost as a refrain here, Peter brings it back again to the supreme example why we should be willing to be suffering in humility.
For Christ also suffered once for sin, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh and made alive in the Spirit. Now, throughout the following verses, he continues this theme, and I want to move quickly over to chapter 5, because there is a final admonition and exhortation here that is directed to a specific group of people, and those are the ministers of the congregation of the people of God. And you may not be a minister or a clergy person right now, and so you may say, well, I guess I don't have to hear any more of this lecture because it doesn't apply to me.
Yes, it does apply to you. If you are in a church, and if you have a pastor, you need to understand what God is calling your pastor to do and to be, that you may help your pastor be what he is called to be. In chapter 5, we read this, "'The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed. Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly.'" Let me stop there for a second. Do you see the style that Peter uses here, the literary method of comparison and contrast? Do it this way, not this way. He wants to make it clear not only what the pastor should do, but what the pastor should not do, how the minister should behave and how he should not behave.
Let's look at it again. "'Shepherd the flock of God, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly.'" You know people who are servants but they're reluctant servants. It seems like every time they do a work of service, they do it with such a dour look on their face that you'd rather they not do it because they are so unwilling in the service that they are rendering. And now Peter is saying to the pastors, and now Peter is saying to the pastors, you have a duty to perform, an office to fulfill, and if you do it, don't do it out of compulsion. If you're doing it out of compulsion, you're in the wrong job, but you should be doing it willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly, not as being lords over those entrusted to you but by being examples to the flock.
And that's a strange warning there. I remember when I was in seminary and I spent so much time with guys that were preparing for ordination who were clearly unbelievers and who were overtly hostile to the teachings of the New Testament, and it used to puzzle me. And I would say, why in the world do these guys want to go into the ministry? They don't believe the message of the ministry. What attracts them to this position? And I don't know. I mean, I still don't know.
I can only guess. I can see some things that could possibly entice a person to go into the ministry who really has no love for Christ or for the gospel. One is that there is an obvious attraction to those who are hostile to Christianity to find a place where they can undermine it. Their hostility is so great, they want to overthrow it, and so they infiltrate the very house of God.
That certainly happens. But I think there's something else here, and that is where else can a man get instant authority and be placed in an instant position of leadership and of community respect than to be an ordained minister. You can move into a town where nobody knows you, and as soon as you walk into town, you have automatic leadership authority that's vested in the office. Now, I hope that people aren't going into that for financial gain because most of them will be sadly disappointed, but there are other benefits, and that is you can be somebody by being a minister.
Where else can a person go and have a captive audience on Sunday morning after Sunday morning where one person stands up and speaks for 20 minutes or 30 minutes or 40 minutes, and everybody sits there and listens to that person? That's one of the dignities that goes with the office. And there, a person can manipulate, exploit, and abuse that leadership position by lording it over the people who have been entrusted to him. And this is what Peter's concerned about because we've seen that in our world.
We've seen the Jonestowns, haven't we? We've seen the David Koresh and the people who take to themselves a kind of domineering lordship role in the role of the pastor, using the ministry as a weapon to manipulate and exploit other people. And Peter says, don't do that, but being examples to the flock so that when the chief shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. Finally, there is the admonition to young people.
Likewise, you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another and be clothed with humility. For God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon him, for he cares for you.
What does this all come down to? But the conflict between pride and humility. We don't want anybody to boss us around.
We don't want to submit ourselves to anybody because we're too proud for that. And yet, it is our pride that God is in trouble in the first place with God because we were too proud to submit ourselves to his holy ordinances. And the mark of a Christian is the mark of a spirit that is willing to obey not only God, but to those whom God has placed in authority over us. It takes grace to be humble, but God is pleased to give us that grace. And again, he gives resistance to those who are proud. I don't want God to resist me.
I have enough people resisting me. And the only way I can avoid his resistance is by seeking to cultivate a spirit of humility and of submissiveness before him and before others for his sake. Let me finish this again by reminding you of the living hope that is ours because of the living stone who is Christ, who has called us to be submissive to him and to his authority for the sake of the kingdom of God. To be a Christian is to be one who is willing to obey not only God, but those in authority over us. Even when it's difficult, the Christian is able to honor those in authority for the Lord's sake, for his glory. And it's encouraging, isn't it, to read one account after another of people in the Bible who did just that. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind.
I'm Lee Webb, and I'm glad you could be with us today. We're spending some time this week listening to R.C. Sproul's series on 1 Peter. The apostle was writing to persecuted believers living in exile. Despite their circumstances, Peter pointed them to the hope they could find in Christ.
And as you heard today, he instructed them on how they should think about authority and submission, something we all need to think about. So let me encourage you to request Dr. Sproul's commentary on 1 and 2 Peter. This is a beautiful hardbound book, and it will be a welcome addition to your Bible study library. When you give a donation of any amount today, we will send it to you and provide a digital download of the series that we're hearing this week. Request both resources when you call us at 800-435-4343. You can also find us online at renewingyourmind.org.
Dr. Sproul began this ministry in 1971 and started recording Renewing Your Mind in 1994. We have been sustained over the years by the generous giving of listeners like you. The impact of your giving is being felt around the world as we work to come alongside the church with teaching resources to help growing Christians know what they believe and why they believe it. That's why we say thank you for your generous donation.
Well, here's R.C. now with a preview of tomorrow's lesson. Human creatures are subjected to all of the buffeting that comes to us from one degree and another, and we long to have something of permanence, something of stability, and what the New Testament says is that anchor for our souls, not for our ships, but for our souls, is this idea of hope. Join us for a message titled, A Living Hope. That's tomorrow here on Renewing Your Mind.
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