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In 1Peter 2:13 Peter begins to apply the biblical principle of submission in various human relationships.

‘Submission’ is an emotive concept. It is not something we do easily. It cuts across our pride. It offends our ego. We would usually far rather not be submissive. The offensiveness of submission is particularly acute for those who have historically been the targets of demands for submission.

But the principle of submission pervades the whole New Testament and applies to all who believe in Jesus Christ – regardless of who they are and what social roles they fill.

The biblical principle of submission reflects the humility and self-denial exemplified by Jesus Christ, and the obedience to Christ commanded of all believers. It is the opposite of the ego-centric, self-promoting independence and pride that was our human downfall in Genesis 3. The submissive person, recognizing the biblical priority of the other, puts aside their own rights [whether real or perceived] in order to achieve the well-being of the other. This principle of submission, of prioritizing the other, applies at both ends of any ‘authority’ structure – to both husbands and wives, to both parents and children, to both masters and slaves.

In 2:11-12 Peter says: ‘Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.’ He then goes on to spell out the implications of this instruction in various relationships and situations, and the key implication in every relationship and every situation is submission:

We should all submit to the government for the Lord’s sake. [2:13-17].

Slaves [employees] should submit to their masters [employers], even insulting or unjust masters, and so express the example of Christ [2:18-25].

Wives in the same way should be submissive to their husbands, and possibly by this submission win them over to Christ [3:1-6]. Note that this submission is not an expression of fear [3:6].

Husbands in the same way [3:7] are to treat their wives with consideration and respect because they know they are weaker and because they are heirs together of the gracious gift of life, and, Peter adds, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

All of us [3:8-4:19] are to live in harmony, be compassionate and humble, and suffer insult and persecution without retaliation. By doing so we acknowledge that Christ is Lord [3:15].

Elders [5:1-4] are to serve God’s people, not lording it over them.

Young men, in the same way [5:5], are to be submissive to those who are older.

All of us [5:5,6] are to clothe ourselves with humility, and humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand.

Peter, very much aware of the pagan world looking on and observing the behaviour of Christians, calls Christians to express their knowledge of Jesus Christ in their relationships in such a way that God will be glorified.

Governments may be wrong: but the Christian’s responsibility before Christ is to submit to their decrees.

Masters may be harsh and unjust: but the Christian servant’s responsibility before Christ is to respect them and not retaliate.

Husbands may be unsaved and demanding: but it is the Christian wife’s responsibility to choose to respect their authority.

Wives may be frustrating dependents, but it is the Christian husband’s responsibility to treat them with consideration, respect and equality.

As the ultimate example of submission, Peter speaks of the way Jesus Christ submitted to human insult and assault, without retaliation:

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps ...” [2:21].

© Rosemary Bardsley 2018