Called to a Higher Standard

Called to a Higher Standard

Pastor Don Carpenter / General

Not From Around Here: The Complicated Life of a Sojourner / Testimony; Submission; Suffering / 1 Peter 2:18–20

Kites rise against, not with the wind. It is the winds that oppose it that drive it even higher. When the winds of adversity or criticism blows, allow it to be to you what the blast of wind is to a kite–a force against it that causes it to rise higher

Someone once said, “Adversity is prosperity to those who possess a great attitude.”

(From a sermon by Ty Tamasaka, Dare To Dream Again, 9/9/2011)

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Our testimony as believers is a tool that God often uses to declare His great salvation to a lost world. As sojourners, it becomes evident that we have something else to live for. This evening we are going to see that when facing mistreatment by others, it is during that very dark trial that we can shine the brightest.  

Peter was talking to scattered believers under the weight of persecution. He has given them identity and children of God and citizens of another country. Many of these same folks were actually slaves… and often mistreated. Tonight we will see that when we are shamefully handled we have a great opportunity to show the power of God as we go above and beyond.

Service That Goes Above and Beyond

1 Peter 2:18 KJV

Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

The particular Greek word translated “servants” indicates that these were household slaves. They were Christian slaves serving for the most part in the homes of pagan masters. The fact that Peter singles them out for special admonitions indicates that slaves, as a class, formed a large part of the early Christian community. The slaves are exhorted to put themselves in subjection to their absolute lords and masters.1

1 Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 63.

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Thus the motive for the submission and service is not their respect for their masters, but their respect for God, who receives the service as if it were done to him and whose name is honored by their good behavior. Therefore their submission is not bounded by their masters’ actions (i.e., if the master is “good and kind”), but extends “to the unjust” (a term that means “bent,” from which the Eng. “scoliosis,” the disease of a curvature of the spine, comes, and hence “perverse”), for God is served and honored in either case.1

1 Peter H. Davids, The First Epistle of Peter, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), 106.

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They are to do this to the good and gentle ones. Some of these pagan masters had what the poet calls “the milk of human kindness.” They were good to their slaves. The Greek word translated “good,” refers to inner intrinsic goodness. They were good at heart. The word “gentle” in the Greek refers to that disposition which is mild, yielding, indulgent. It is derived from a Greek word meaning, “not being unduly rigorous.” Alford translates, “where not strictness of legal right, but consideration for another is the rule of practice.” The one word “reasonable” sums up its meaning pretty well.1

1 Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 63.

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The slaves were to put themselves into subjection as well to the froward. The Greek word means “unfair, surly, froward.” The word “froward” is from the Anglo-Saxon word “from-ward,” namely, “averse.” The masters had their faces dead set against these Christian slaves. We can understand that attitude when we remember that these slaves lived lives of singular purity, meekness, honesty, willingness to serve, and obedience in the households of their heathen masters. This was a powerful testimony for the gospel, and brought them under conviction of sin. All this irritated them, and they reacted in a most unpleasant way toward their slaves, whom they would punish without provocation. Yet they did not want to sell these Christian slaves and buy pagan ones, for the Christian slaves served them better. So they just had to make the best of the situation.1

1 Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 63–64.

Service That Becomes Thank Worthy

1 Peter 2:19 KJV

For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.

 • One does not thank a slave for obedience.

 • “if a man” – in God’s eyes these believing slaves still had human value so could indeed be thankworthy.

Peter develops this idea with a difficult sentence, difficult both in its grammar and in its teaching. Consistent with his addressing slaves as full persons, he refers to their suffering “the pain of unjust suffering.” While the Stoics had admitted that injustice could be done to a slave and while in common practice most owners exercised moderation (if for no other reason than that slaves were valuable), Aristotle had earlier argued that injustice could never be done to a slave, for the slave was mere property (Nic. Eth. 5.10.8). Such a view was impossible for Christians, who knew that their Lord and God had taken the form of a slave (e.g., Phil. 2:7) and had treated slaves like any other human being. But this higher status for slaves in Christian ethics is not to lead to a demand to receive one’s rights, for what “wins God’s favor” (an unusual idiomatic use of the Greek word charis, often translated “grace”—the same expression appears in Luke 6:32–34, which could be the source of this teaching) is enduring or “bearing up under” injustice, which here refers to the insults, blows, and beatings a slave might receive if the master was in a bad mood or made impossible demands.1

1 Peter H. Davids, The First Epistle of Peter, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), 106–107.

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“Thankworthy” is the translation of a Greek word referring to an action that is beyond the ordinary course of what might be expected, and is therefore commendable. The unsaved slave would react toward unjust punishment in a surly, rebellious, sullen, vindictive manner. That would be the expected and ordinary thing. But Peter exhorts these Christian slaves to be obedient to these unjust and cruel masters, and when punished unjustly to behave in a meek, patient, and forgiving manner.1

1 Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 64.

 • Motivated by a clear conscience before God.

This would be an action beyond the ordinary course of what might be expected, and would therefore be commendable. The motive for acting thus, Peter tells them, is “for conscience toward God.” The idea here is not that of conscientiousness in the ordinary sense, but of the Christian slave’s conscious sense of his relation to God. He has a testimony to maintain before his pagan master. He has the Lord Jesus Christ to emulate and reflect in his life.1

1 Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 64.

Service That Is Above Reproach.

1 Peter 2:20 KJV

For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

The teaching is hard and unpleasant enough that some argument is needed, so Peter expands his reasoning before going on to ground it in Jesus and their calling. His first rhetorical question (“What glory is there …?”) points out that there is no merit in receiving punishment for one’s faults. The term “glory” (kleos) is found only here in the NT and refers to fame or reputation due to some great deed. One might show stoic endurance when one is punished for a fault, but it is hardly heroic or praiseworthy. 4 But in contrast to the first situation, there is a type of fame if one does good and suffers. In this situation one can show true endurance because it is wrongful suffering.1

1 Peter H. Davids, The First Epistle of Peter, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), 107–108.

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The construction “receives credit” is literally “this is grace (touto charis) before God.” There is no question of fame or boasting before God (and thus the change in vocabulary from kleos of the first part of this verse or epainos of 2:14), but neither is this simply “grace” only because God’s grace produced it. This endurance is an act that finds favor with God, on which he smiles with approval. It is a deed of covenant faithfulness to the God who has extended grace to them (1 Pet. 1:10, 13; 3:7; 4:10; 5:5, 10, 12) and as such leads to the paradoxical joy already mentioned in 1:6–7. 1

1 Peter H. Davids, The First Epistle of Peter, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), 108.

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A Second Century believer, in a letter to his friend, Diognetus, described how Christians are alike and different from others. He wrote, “Though they are residents at home in their own countries, their behavior there is more like transients…Though destiny has placed them here in the flesh, they do not live after the flesh; their days are passed on earth, but their citizenship is above in the heavens. They obey the prescribed laws, but in their own private lives they transcend the laws. They show love to all men–and all men persecute them. They are misunderstood and condemned; yet by suffering death they are quickened into life. They are poor, yet making many rich; lacking all things, yet having all things in abundance…They repay [curses] with blessings, and abuse with courtesy. For the good they do, they suffer stripes as evildoers.”

(James Bryan Smith, The Good and Beautiful Community, IVP, 2010, pp.28-29. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Living Stones, 5/19/2011)

Exported from Logos Bible Software, 1:51 PM June 3, 2020.

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