There are 3 relationships that believers in Peter's day often found themselves in:
being under the authority of unjust rulers (2:13-17), being under the control of an unjust Master (2:18-25), and being married to an imperfect person (3:1-7). Peter shows us specific ways that Christians can live differently as citizens, as slaves, and as wives and husbands.
We are to "be "subject" to every human institutions, whether it be to the emperor as supreme or to governors as sent by him..." The Emperor at the time of this writing was Nero, who set fire to Rome, went out on his balcony and played his harp while watching it burn, and then blamed Christians for the burning and had them fed to the lions. Nero's predecessors were just as evil as he was, and this is the context in which the Christians are reading this letter. Romans 13:1-7 speaks to this as well. Christians are to observe man-made laws carefully as long as those laws do not conflict with the clear teaching of Scripture. Christians should not blindly follow the governing authorities without exception. Peter gave the general principle that believers should submit to the laws of the land and to the authorities enforcing those laws. "Government is a gift of God's common grace. Lack of human authority combined with the human tendency to sin is never a recipe for peace or prosperity.
As Christians, how do we live out verse 17:
1. With honor and respect
2. Never disobeying God's Word/Commands
3. Love the brotherhood by speaking out against evil
Unlike recent history, slavery in Rome was not based on race or ethnicity; anyone could become a slave and nearly any slave could become free. Slavery resulted from being a prisoner of war, through birth to someone in slavery, gathered by slave traders, or by selling yourself into slavery to pay off a debt. Peter challenged Christian slaves to a new behavior which required them to submit to and respect even those who are harsh. The word "unjust" (v18) comes from the word "skolios", which means curved or bent. It is not right.
The New Testament writers like Peter were not social revolutionaries. They did not believe that overhauling social structures would transform the culture. Instead, they were concerned with the relationship between people and God, and they focused on the sin and rebellion of individuals against their Creator. They believed that if enough individuals are transformed, then society as a whole benefits and the Christian faith begins to function as a healthy influence. Peter specifically shows Christ's example from Isaiah 53:9 in verses 22-25.
The New Testament nowhere commends slavery as a social structure. There is no case for slavery to be a part of the created order. In fact, Scripture does strictly forbid it. (Exodus 21:16)
As Wives and Husbands:
The contrast with marriage is remarkable at this point because God ordained the institution of marriage, but slavery was invented by human beings. Peter is challenging wives to let their inside beauty point their husbands to Jesus. As Peter speaks to hair, jewelry, and apparel specifically. Let what is on the outside match what is on the inside. Let your godliness match the outside, and let your beauty come from the inside. If our hope is in our outer beauty, we will fail. Our outer beauty won't win anyone to Jesus. It starts with the heart. Anytime you look more like Jesus, you are more attractive to others.
Men should understand and be considerate of their wives' spiritual, emotional, and physical needs. They should be curious, and ask lots of questions, and know their wife's love language. wives being called "the weaker vessel" does not speak to value, it literally speaks to the fact that in most cases, men are physically stronger than women.
To Discuss Today:
1. How does this passage challenge your thinking about government authority? Where have you allowed a distorted line of thinking to distract you from what God has called you to do? (masks, vaccines, political parties, etc...)
2. Where do your convictions tell you to push back against the culture and the authorities that may be advancing that culture?
3. Husband, where do you need to focus on your relationship with your wife? Do you pray for her? Do you pray with her? Do you study her? Do you know her better than anyone else?
4. Wife, are you letting your inner-beauty be more of the focus than your outer beauty? Where is this a challenge for you?