A Gracious Thing (1 Peter 2:18-20)

A Gracious Thing (1 Peter 2:18-20)


  • Greek philosophers wrote moral instructions for the household. They believed healthy homes made for a strong society. Society enjoys the fruit of orderly and prosperous households.
  • Christian Relationships:
    • Citizen/Civil Authorities
    • Servant/Master
    • Wives/Husbands
  • The blessings a Christian receives, through union with Christ and other believers, impacts us at the most basic level of what takes place within our homes.
  • Peter is still applying the principle of living differently, yet exemplary lives (2:11-12).

Read 1 Peter 2:18-20

  • Why do Paul and Peter provide “household codes”?
    • Addressed a cultural concept, but grounded it in the centrality of God, informed by Old Testament principles (not Greek philosophy).
    • Apologetic arguments:
      • Christianity doesn’t introduce chaos.
      • But it may subvert the standard moral code.
  • Business and family relationships contribute to the health of society. Homes are never truly private, they will impact society.
    1. Unjust Masters (18)
    2. Unjust Suffering (19)
    3. Christian Response (20)

Unjust Masters (18)

  • Domestic servants were common in Greek culture (25% of population).
  • Clowney Slavery was widespread in Peter’s world; it included many who would today be regarded as professionals. managers of estates, physicians, teachers, and tutors.

  • Why doesn’t Peter address masters like Paul (Eph. 6:9; Col. 4:1)? Masters probably weren’t in the original audience.
  • “Respect” is literally “fear” and considering the previous verse, it seems to be a reference to God (2:17).
  • 19C slavery is not 1C slavery, but differences can be exaggerated.
  • Differences:
    • Not determined by race.
    • Rules regulated the industry.
    • Typically paid (Manumission).
    • Schreiner Doctors, teachers, managers, musicians, artisans, and could even own other slaves.

  • Similarities:
    • Not voluntary. Most born into it, some captured in war/kidnapped.
    • Most had no hope of freedom.
    • Many had miserable jobs (mines).
    • Schreiner Slaves had no legal rights, and masters could beat them, brand them, and abuse them physically and sexually.

  • Although there were “good and gentle” masters, there were certainly unjust masters as well.
  • John Dalberg-Acton Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Robert Caro Power doesn’t always corrupt. Power can cleanse. What I believe is always true about power is that power always reveals.

  • All masters were not unjust, but those who were revealed the corruption of their hearts.

It is inevitable that those who serve under unjust masters will endure…

Unjust Suffering (19)

  • Peter doesn’t condone unjust masters. He encourages mistreated servants to persevere knowing that their endurance is pleasing to God.
  • Peter is not trying to get into the good graces of wealthy slave owners. He knows that anyone who abuses their power will face a harsher judgment from God.
  • Subversive: They submit to their masters because they fear God (“respect”/“mindful of God”). Masters not the final authority. A master cannot command something God opposes.
  • Schreiner Slaves are commended, then, if they suffer pain because of their relationship with God, a relationship that causes them occasionally to deviate from what masters desire.

  • Why no criticism of the institution of slavery? Christians are not called to be social revolutionaries, but to proclaim the gospel (2:9).
  • The New Testament never commends/endorses the institution of slavery. The institution of marriage is commended because it was ordained by God. Not so with slavery.
  • Peter specifies that it is a gracious thing when a servant suffers because of their faith.
  • God sees unjust suffering and considers it to be a picture of grace when a servant is able to endure. Instead of retaliating or returning evil for evil, a servant who suffers a beating for doing good finds favor with God.
  • “Mindful of God” implies trusting God will ultimately right all the wrongs.

Peter goes on to clarify the…

Christian Response (20)

  • Consistent with Peter’s challenge to live exemplary lives – going above and beyond what was expected.
  • Doing good is what makes suffering gracious.
  • But this is different than the “good” described in 2:14-15 which assumed the governor was just.
  • Here, Peter is not suggesting that an unjust master would beat a servant who brought him prosperity.
  • The “good” is something a servant does fearing God, even through he knows his master may disapprove.
  • Maybe the master expects his servant to treat others unfairly or with cruelty. Maybe the servant is expected to take advantage of others or lie, cheat, and steal for the master.
  • An unjust master would lack the moral character of the Christian servant, and the servant’s refusal to obey the master would lead to unjust suffering.
  • And that models grace!
  • Peter seems to be applying what he heard Jesus say (Matt. 5:11-12, 43-47).
  • God expects justice. People in positions of authority are not to abuse their power.
  • But this passage challenges the assumption that social justice is a primary purpose of the Church.
  • The call to live exemplary lives has more to do with gospel proclamation (2:9) than correcting society.
  • Christian servants were called to endure the suffering of systemic injustice.
  • Christians show love rather than demand justice.

It is a gracious thing to return unjust suffering with good.


  • We tend to be very selective about which authorities we recognize as legitimate, and how/when we will be subject to them.
  • We are quick to call injustice wherever we see our faith being attacked or criticized.
  • Enduring suffering because of our faith has been the norm for Christians.
  • The superior priority of the Church is the proclamation of Christ’s excellencies for which suffering unjustly is perfectly suited (2:21-25).
  • You cannot endure suffering unjustly until you have entrusted yourself to the One who judges justly (2:23).
  • Consider the example of Christ in order to follow it (2:21)!