Bible Class Notes on 1 Peter 2:18 | Notes on the Petrine Epistles
Peter now shows slaves how that they can “maintain good conduct among the Gentiles”—they can do so by being submissive to their masters.
Slavery is often mentioned in the New Testament.
Slaves are told to submit to their masters throughout the New Testament. Colossians 3:22. Ephesians 6:5.
The New Testament never condemns the use of slavery. Indeed, Paul sent Philemon back to Onesimus (Phile 12).
The New Testament teaching on equality and brotherhood did eliminate slavery in much of the world.
Some are bothered by the New Testament’s apparent approval of slavery. The New Testament never really approves slavery. The New Testament does regulate the practice—there are regulations for slave owners in Scriptures. The New Testament writers did not attempt to change or correct the government.
The New Testament is very bold in its treatment of slaves.
In Roman society, slaves were not considered full persons. Slaves were merely property; therefore, they did not have moral obligations. However, Peter here addresses slaves as persons and gives them obligations. The New Testament does teach that all—including slaves—are real people and have significance in Christ. Galatians 3:28. 1 Corinthians 12:13. Colossians 3:11. Philemon 16.
Slaves are to submit to their masters.
Submission to their masters would allow slaves to have good conduct among the Gentiles. This would permit them to allow their lights to shine before men. Submission would not necessarily be easy, especially to those masters who were overbearing. Yet, servants had the obligation to submit.
This submission is to be “with all respect.” The Greek term is literally “fear.” Should slaves fear their masters or should they fear God?
The context clearly indicates that Peter means that slaves should submit with fear to God. The preceding verse speaks of our fearing God, i.e., giving him the proper respect and honor. In the Greek word order, “with all respect” comes before the word “masters.” Therefore, “fear” could not be directed toward the masters. The term used here for “fear” is always used in 1 Peter to refer to God rather than individuals.
Two other texts speak of slaves being subject to their masters out of respect for God. Colossians 3:22. Ephesians 6:5.
That servants are to submit to their masters out of respect for God shows that servants should submit to their masters regardless of how the master acts.
Servants are to be submissive to all classes of masters.
Servants are to be submissive to the kind and gentle masters as well as to the overbearing ones. The context indicates that “kind and gentle” and “overbearing” do not have reference to the masters’ religious practices. The idea is that these masters are either “kind and gentle” or “overbearing” toward the servant.
Obviously, submission to the “kind and gentle” masters would not be difficult.
However, submission to the “overbearing” masters would be difficult. “Overbearing” literally means “perverse.” The idea here is that these masters make unreasonable demands on their servants.