Sabbath School Lesson for April 15-21, 2017
The theme so far in our study of 1 Peter has been that of salvation: what it is , why we need it, and how important it is to share it.
But now, Peter moves on in chapter 2 and expresses his views on submission. Submission to the government, our employers, and our spouses. But above all, our submission to God. When we submit to God, our other relationships fall into place.
Consider the times when Peter wrote this epistle. The Roman Empire was in full swing. It was an oppressive, persecuting government to many of its citizens. The employer-employee relationship was more likely to involve a slave or servant and his/her master. And certainly women held few rights and were treated more like property than as an equal marriage partner.
What a difficult, but vital, topic to address back then: submission. Yet, Peter knew they were hungering for some guidance in this area. And we have a need for this message as well.
- During these end times, governments are struggling all over the world to find a healthy balance between liberty and law enforcement that would prevent terrorism from engulfing their populations.
- Unemployment rises, bringing unrest and poverty, and causing the middle class to all but disappear in most countries.
- And certainly family relationships, including marriages, have never felt so shaky and uncertain as they do now.
Yes, we need to understand Peter’s thoughts on submission. This impulsive, sometimes aggressive, disciple of Jesus must have learned his own lessons of submission many times while working with his Master. If God could tame Peter and make him submissive, then we all have hope of learning how to submit.
Scripture Gem: “Above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’ “ 1 Peter 4:8 NKJV
Our submission must then be tempered with love. Without love, we will either be a disgruntled tyrant nobody wants to be around, or we will be a cowering, fearful “doormat” everyone wipes their feet on, who doesn’t even want to be around himself. In other words, it is important to love others, but also to love ourselves.
Let’s be eager to learn what advice Peter has to say about social relationships.
Sunday: Church and State
As ruthless and corrupt as the Roman Empire‘s government had become, there were still positive things that it brought to the main populace and even to the growing Christian church. War between countries was less likely under its united domain. Roads made travel easier (and the spread of the gospel). The monetary system made commerce and the overall economy better for most people. And at least Roman wives had some property and legal rights.
Notice Peter’s admonition to not only submit to the emperor, but to those authorities that worked under him, the “governors”. All levels of government were to be respected and obeyed, as much as their conscience would allow.
Peter’s advice on church and state, found in 1 Peter 2:13-17, tells us why we are to be submissive to governments. He uses the phrase “for the Lord’s sake” as the reason for our being good citizens.
Laws are generally based on punishment for those doing harmful things to others and for protecting those less fortunate. When this is the case, Christians would certainly want to be considered among those who are law-abiding and tax-paying.
Discussion Questions: Read 1 Peter 2:13-17 and Romans 13:1-7. What are the reasons given by Peter and Paul about why we need to submit to our governments?
Read 1 Peter 2:17 and Proverbs 24:21. How can we safely honor, fear, and obey someone who isn’t God? Was it possible to honor an emperor who expected worship from his people? What makes worship different from honor? Why is important to honor ALL people, as Peter says to do?
Read Revelation 13:11, 12 and 14:7-9. What two authorities will people be worshiping just before Christ comes again? Which of the ten commandments will be easiest for the beast to require our obedience? Which commandment is already the most ignored and misunderstood and points to God as Creator?
Monday: Masters and Slaves
At first glance, the topic of this section of Peter’s epistle would have little to do with our society and culture today. Most countries have done away with slavery, at least as it was practiced centuries ago.
But the principles Peter taught back then are just as important for us as it was for his immediate readers living in the Roman Empire. This is because there are people in all levels of society who are still mistreated and neglected in some way, and our response to this abuse, whether it happens to us or someone else, is vital to our Christian witness.
Almost everyone has experienced employers or co-workers who were difficult to work for or work with. How does one respond to abrasive or demeaning remarks that are unjustly aimed at us or someone close to us?
Peter’s counsel is clear. We are not to return abuse or threaten those who are punishing us in any way. Remembering that God is their judge enables us to remain calm and gentle, just as Jesus showed us time and again while on earth when He faced persecution and oppressive attackers.
Remember also that Jesus has come to redeem, or free, us from our adversaries, whoever they are. The knowledge that we don’t belong to any human being, but to God alone, certainly frees us and allows us to ignore unjust treatment.
Discussion Questions: Read 1 Peter 2:18-20 and Ephesians 6:5-9. How does this kind of submission impact our submission to God? Why are submissions to both needed?
Read 1 Peter 2:21-23 and Isaiah 53:5-9. What was Christ’s example for us in how to submit?
Read Ephesians 1:7, Romans 3:24, and Colossians 1:14. What does our redemption given to us through Christ’s sacrifice have to do with how we relate to others?
Tuesday: Wives and Husbands
Both Peter and Paul address the topic of marriages. Evidently, with so many new converts to Christianity, there would have been many homes divided on the issue of religion. So, their advice was surely needed to relieve the confusion about what should be done when there was an unbelieving spouse involved in a marriage to a believing one.
But another important reason why marriage was a part of Peter’s epistle was that it provides an excellent tool for the whole family to learn about submission, and also gives us a glimpse of the partnership we have with Christ.
It may appear that the wife carries on herself much of the submission requirement, but when husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loves the church, we see that this submission and honor must go both ways. Because we have found that love is the basis for all submission. You can’t love someone supremely without submitting to whatever is best for the one you love.
Discussion Questions: Read 1 Peter 3:1-2 and 1 Corinthians 7:10-16. Why does this advice still prove helpful in society today?
Read 1 Peter 3:3-6 and 1 Timothy 2:9, 10. What does proper adornment have to do with submission and humility?
Read 1 Peter 3:7 and Ephesians 5:25-30. Consider the woman being a weaker vessel. How do you handle something that is particularly precious and fragile and is this what Peter intended by his remark? Why is it instead often used to make the woman seem inferior, when just the opposite was probably intended?
Wednesday: Social Relationships
Consider the different backgrounds of Peter and Paul. Although they were both Jewish by birth,
- Peter was married, was a fisherman by trade, and had firsthand experience with Jesus before He was crucified.
- Paul, on the other hand, had more formal education under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) and was at one time a very strict Pharisee. This means he must have been married, but no mention of a wife is made during his missionary journeys, leaving us to believe he was either a widower, or his wife may have left him after his conversion.
And yet, Peter and Paul had much the same advice on marriage and other social relationships:
- They both determined it was best to submit to governing authorities whenever possible.
- They both counseled husbands and wives to love and respect each other mutually.
- They both encouraged workers and those they worked for to treat each other honorably, with kindness.
In essence, they said we should obey anyone above us in society with the same respect and honor we would give to Christ. This seems strange advice when we are also told that all are equal in God’s sight.
But knowledge of our equality should make it easier to follow rules of submission on this earth. It’s uplifting to think that, when we get to heaven, there will be no unjust barriers of authority like we have here and now.
Just as Jesus suffered and died when He came to earth, we are called to submit and at times suffer. It’s just the sinful world we live in. The best way to survive, as Peter tells us, is through submission, based on love.
Discussion Questions: Read Galatians 3:26-29. Is this passage referring to all men/women, or just those who have become sons of God? How do you explain this statement of equality, along with all the advice about submitting to others who have authority over us?
From other passages, we have found that God has established/condoned systems of authority, such as governments and the marriage relationship. What purpose do these authorities have in teaching us how to submit?
How does God treat us, and why should this be our guide in how we treat others, no matter who they are? How is obeying and submitting to someone a way to show our love to them and to God?
Thursday: Christianity and the Social Order
As Christians, we find ourselves in some very complicated situations when it comes to political and governmental involvement.
- Many questions are raised about how much to advocate for moral justice, for instance.
- Is it permitted for a Christian to serve their government, either through public service or becoming a member of the armed forces?
- Is it necessary to attack other countries in defense of the greater good?
- How far should we separate ourselves from political issues that don’t directly impact morality?
- Just what forms of protest are justified and acceptable before God?
So much confusion exists that some have refused to pay taxes, and others refrain from even saluting the flag of their native country. Others just neglect to vote, thinking their voice doesn’t count in the end anyway.
Peter and other apostles during the early church years encountered the systems of justice numerous times. They were accused of breaking the law just by preaching about Jesus, but defended themselves with arguments that we should not ignore.
When does government step over the line and oppose the authority of God? And when should we do something about it, at least on a personal, one-on-one level, and refuse to obey its demands?
Discussion Questions: Read Acts 5:25-32. What reasoning did Peter give for his disobedience to the captain’s instructions? When is civil disobedience not only permitted, but demanded?
Read 2 Peter 2:9, 10, Jude 6, 8, and Romans 13:1, 2. Why are we advised not to speak evil of our government leaders? Is this evil speaking considered “resistance”? How can we disagree with our leaders without dishonoring them?
Read 1 Peter 2:25 and 1 Peter 5:2-4. What are some guidelines for church leadership (shepherds of the flock) in these verses? How are they to lead the church?
This lesson takes up the subject of social relationships, but it actually explains what submission is all about. Without a thorough understanding of salvation, however, the kind of submission Peter describes seems like a foolish way of thinking. That’s why he took such care to explain the way of salvation at the beginning of his letter.
Until we fully understand our salvation and redemption by Christ, which enables and encourages our submission, we will never understand the topic of suffering, which is addressed in the next part of Peter’s letter.
In summary, there are three levels of authority to whom we are to show our submission:
- to God–He deserves our highest respect and reverence, including our worship
- to the emperor (or king)–deserving the highest honor of anyone here on earth, as God appoints them
- the family (of believers)–they deserve our self-sacrificing love and kind treatment, as our equals
Embracing the Message
Considering the Memory Text from 1 Peter 4:8…
“Above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’ “ NKJV…
…and also read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, perhaps the most eloquent description of love given in Scripture. As you read it, ponder what kind of sins this love would cover for the believer.
How would these verses conquer impatience, unkindness, envy, pride, rudeness, selfishness, a tendency to provoke, or thinking evil of others? These may not sound like the kind of sins that most come to our minds, but perhaps they are the most prevalent, and the ones we struggle with the most.
Why is love always the answer?
Next Week: Living for God, Lesson 5
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/