Series: 1 Peter: "Freedom Under Authority”
Reading: 1 Peter 2:11-25: Freedom under authority
Sermon Date: October 1st, 2017


1 Peter 2. 11-25: Freedom under authority

 As with all Biblical texts, these have to be understood in their historic, political and sociological context. Peter is writing to groups of Christians, possibly ethnically diverse from the predominant culture, because of dispersal from their origins in what we call Israel. They are living under persecution, yet are multiplying and spreading the Gospel of Jesus. The dominant cultures of Greco-Roman thinking, with their many gods, thought that Christians were 'atheists', because they didn't 'believe in the gods'.  Roman politics and harsh government kept the peace, and slavery was just a part of life. Add to this the strong belief in the early years of the Church that Jesus' return was imminent. This meant that evangelism was a priority, and eliminating social injustice was not. Hence there is no united condemnation of slavery in the New Testament.
Vv. 11 and 12: 'Aliens and  strangers/exiles'  in the world.
In what way were they 'aliens' in the world. And in what way are we?
List some different ways in which Christians are perceived and depicted in our culture.
[Suggestions: news reports on 'church matters'; association of some Christian institutions with child abuse; TV programmes like Vicar of Dibley, Broken and Rev, compared with  All Gas and Gaiters! Also: Not holding the same values as the predominant culture; being ridiculed; being religious 'oddities'; holding a higher allegiance than the politics of the day.]
Where does the balance lie between feeling alienated from the World's values on one hand, and loving the World as God does, on the other. i.e. 'In the world but not of the world'?

  • Do we have to be 'weirdos' to be faithful Christians?
  • Where do you feel you lie on this continuum? 

Referring back to verses 9&10: we have a new identity, in Christ, and must sometimes be prepared to stick out as 'non-conformists' in our culture. What are the positive things we can do in this respect?
[Suggestions: exercising self-control; abstaining from sinful practices(such as...?); living good lives in and among those who don't know God, so that they are impressed by this and God gets the credit.]

  • What might be a negative outcome of our separate identity?[Suggestions: being seen as 'holier-than-thou; not being good neighbours; not sharing the sorrows and burdens of those round you.]
  • How do you think the people of Ashtead perceive us?

Vv 13-17:  Submission!!

  • To whom do you submit in life? Why submit to anyone?  [Suggestions: the law -police, magistrates/judges and the Courts; educational institutions; someone who bullies you; your boss at work; other family members;  your wrestling partner! etc]
  • How do we understand 'freedom in Christ', and how does it balance with the license that says 'I can do whatever I like and bow to no-one'?  [Suggestions: total freedom of behaviour can lead to anarchy; the freedom Christ gives us is to be understood in community, -so I have to do what is good for others, too.]

The context of this passage is a period of history when rulers were autocratic and people were subject to them in every way. There was no democracy for all, so Christians had to adapt/respond to what they couldn't change. We live in a VERY different culture where we choose our leaders etc.

  • So how do we apply these principles to our politics etc in 2017? 
  • How should we react when political decisions don't go the way we would have wanted?(Dare we mention Brexit; or our observations of the American Presidential Election!?)
  • As there is no one way for Christians to vote, how do we accept what our fellow believers have chosen on an issue which affects us? This could apply to decisions taken in our church.
  • Is it justified to be a whistle-blower at work? 

v.18-20 About slaves.
Let's be clear that Christian faith does not advocate slavery. The Church has been involved with it in many ways, -to our shame. Let's hope we have fully repented of it.
The NIV translation uses the words 'commendable' or 'to your credit' at least three times in vv19and 20.  

  • In each case, what exactly is being described this way?[Suggestion:  NOT the beatings and harsh treatment, but the grace with which it is endured WHEN THERE IS NO CHOICE.]  
  • If there is a choice, or an opportunity to overturn such treatment, should Christians take it by legitimate means?
  • What else should we be involved in changing in our society, when we perceive injustice?
  • And how will we challenge it? 

Vv.21-25  Christ's example of suffering.
Peter uses the example of Jesus' passion and death to give hope and comfort to those suffering persecution for His sake.

  • To what extent were the sufferings of Jesus for you, a part of your calling to be a Christian, when you realised what he has done for you?
  • Does this mean that 'suffering is good for you' now?  [Suggestion: suffering persecution and sharing the sufferings of the world are part of our calling to follow a Suffering Saviour. But there is no intrinsic merit in 'suffering' for its own sake.  Much of the work of Jesus and His Church is to relieve suffering. He takes no joy in seeing us suffer, but longs to give us life in all its fullness. Morbid obsession with punishing ourselves is not part of the Kingdom.]

It might be good to read Isaiah 53 together at the end.  Jesus' suffering was 'for us', in our place. Others may make us suffer, but Jesus suffered with the intention of its being instead of us. A broken world hasn't caught up with that yet.

Christine Bailey, 26/09/2017