(Some notes on 1 Peter 2:18-20):
“If we are asking for a connecting thread in this crucial second argument, it is that Christians are called to live exceptional lives, even amid various sorts of suffering, for the glory of God and so as to be good witnesses to outsiders” (Withering, Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, vol. II, 135)
The entire life of the Christian takes place in a foreign land. The honor and shame of the Christian must not be measured by the current culture, but rather by the call of God and the honor of the world to come (the grace which is coming, 1 Peter 1:13). This burden will seem (often) unfair and unbearable. Yet,
We have not so learned Christ as to be pickers and choosers when the fruits of his lips are before Us. Yet have I known professors of that sort, who would fain rend the Master’s vesture that they might have only the softest part of it to be a pillow for their idle heads. “That,” they say, “was a gospel sermon, sweet food for our souls,” because it happened to tell of what Christ has done for us; but on the next occasion they cry out, “That was not a gospel sermon; it was legal; it laid a burden upon our shoulders,” because it dared to tell of what Christ has commanded us to do for him. Bach men, it seems to me, accept Christ for a servant rather than for a Master. They are glad that he shall do this or that for them that he shall, in fact, gird himself and wait at their table while they sit down to meat; but if they had learned better they would have chosen Christ for a Master, and would have been willing to gird themselves at his command and wait on their Lord, counting it their honor to be servants of so divine a Prince.
Spurgeon, “Heroic Christianity” Vol. 27, pp. 123-124
Section on Household Servants:
18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 1 Peter 2:18–20 (ESV)
1 Peter 2:18–20 (SBLGNT)
18 Οἱ οἰκέται ὑποτασσόμενοι ἐν παντὶ φόβῳ τοῖς δεσπόταις, οὐ μόνον τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς καὶ ἐπιεικέσιν ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς σκολιοῖς. 19 τοῦτο γὰρ χάρις εἰ διὰ συνείδησιν θεοῦ ὑποφέρει τις λύπας πάσχων ἀδίκως· 20 ποῖον γὰρ κλέος εἰ ἁμαρτάνοντες καὶ κολαφιζόμενοι ὑπομενεῖτε; ἀλλʼ εἰ ἀγαθοποιοῦντες καὶ πάσχοντες ὑπομενεῖτε, τοῦτο χάρις παρὰ θεῷ.
The household servants/slaves.
The construction may be either vocative or nominative. Nominative is more likely, in that Peter will address wives and husbands directly in the following sections. Jobes notes the fact of Peter directly addressing slaves (and later wives), which was not done in the broader culture (Jobes 185). The “articular nominative in address” (Selwyn, 175).
This is not “obey” unconditionally. “Michaels then notes that unconditional and unquestioned ‘obedience’, hypakoe, is a term reserved for the Christian’s relationship to God in Christ….since Peter under no circumstances would advise Christians to compromise their faith or obedience to God in order to comply with some lesser authority figure, we should see the verb hypotasso here as applied to one’s relationship to a non-Christian ruler, master or husband … as meaning something closer to ‘defer’ or ‘respect’ rather than ‘submit’ or ‘subject’ in English. I agree” (Witherington, 131).
Predicate adjective: submissive, in order. The question here is , Is the form of “to be” implied? It can be translated, Household servants submitting. If “to be” is implied then what choice is made? You servants are submissive, should be submissive, must be submissive? The same grammatical structure is used for both wives and husbands: Article, noun, participle as a predicative adjective.
The answer seems to be in context.
First, there is no need to read the participle as an imperative, per se. It seems reasonable to understand word forms to function as they most commonly do. Second, Peter did use this exact verb as an imperative in the introduction to this section of the letter, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution ….” (1 Peter 2:13). Therefore, if Peter had wanted to use the imperative, he could have done so.
For a discussion of the rhetorical unit running from 2:11-3:12, see Witherington.
Third, what is the relationship between the imperative and the participles?
A. Imperative: Give deference to every human institution:
1. General relationships
Excursus: Rationale and explanation
i. You must represent God: “Christians are not just called to be good and honorable neighbors; they are also called to be good witnesses” (Witherington, 129).
ii. You are God’s freeman
b. Honor everyone
c. Love the brotherhood
d. Fear God
e. Honor the emperor
2. Special relationships
a. Slaves, by being submissive to masters
i. Remember, you must do this with fear toward God
ii. Remember you are God’s freeman.
iii. It is a credit to you.
b. Excursus of Christ’s example
c. Wives, by being submissive to your husbands
i. Rationale: This will be pleasing to God
ii. Rationale: To win your husband to Christ.
d. Husbands: Understand your wives and treat her as fragile.
3. General relationships: Finally, all of you have unity, etc. 1 Peter 3:8
Rationale: , et cetera.
The imperative is in 2:13. By using the participle (he also uses a participle to introduce the husband’s role (3:7); adjectives followed by a participle are given in 3:8-9), he draws one’s attention back to the imperative which begins the section (2:13).
QUESTION—What relationship is indicated by the participle ὑποτασσόμενοι ‘submitting’?
It is used as an imperative [BNTC, EGT, ICC, NIBC, Sel, TH, TNTC, WBC; all versions]. It resumes the thought of one of the previous imperatives [EGT, ICC]. It is an extension of the same imperative verb in 2:13 [NIC]. It extends the thought of ‘honor all’ by ‘being in subjection’ [Alf].
David Abernathy, An Exegetical Summary of 1 Peter, 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2008), 96.
ὑποτασσόμενοι.—The most simple construction is to connect the Participle with the preceding Imperatives, especially with the τὸν Θεὸν φοβεῖσθε, to which the following ἐν παντἰ φόβῳ seems also to refer. It is the Apostle’s way to intertwine his sentences after this manner: the following exhortations begin with similar participial sentences, ch. 3:1, 7, 8, 9. We learn from it, that he considers the duties to which he exhorts included in the principal duty, v. 12. He particularizes the exhortation, v. 13, as to the manner how the fear of God should be evidenced, v. 17. (Lange, 1 Peter)
ἐν παντὶ φόβῳ
In all fear.
Dative of manner – this is the manner in which they are (to be) submissive. Fear/respect. Is the fear toward God? Toward the master? Both? In 2:16, only God is honored with “fear”.
The submission is to be carried out “with all respect.” The Greek literally says “with all fear” (en panti phobō). The NIV’s “with all respect” and the NRSV’s “with all deference” suggest that a proper attitude toward the master is in view.79 But this interpretation is unlikely, and the NIV should have retained the meaning of fear. In every instance in 1 Peter fear is directed toward God, not human beings (1 Pet 1:17; 3:2, 6, 14, 16).80 In fact, Peter spoke against fearing human beings in 3:6 and 3:14. The phrase “conscious of God” in 2:19 also constitutes evidence for this view. The reason slaves are to submit to masters is because of their relationship with God. Hence, we have evidence that masters are not to wield absolute authority over slaves. If they commanded slaves to violate God’s will, then slaves are obligated to disobey, even if they suffer because of their disobedience. (137)
The dative is dictated by the participle: they are submissive to their masters.
οὐ μόνον τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς καὶ ἐπιεικέσιν:
Not only to the good and gentle.
The construction assumes that the servant would already be submissive to a good master.
ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς σκολιοῖς
but also/even to the wicked.
Alla: marks a strong contrast.
Kai: marks a coordination. We are still speaking of masters. However, now we are speaking of wicked masters.
Skolios means something twisted or bent, hence perverse or wicked (think use of the word in Out of the Silent Planet).
τοῦτο γὰρ χάρις
For this is grace
This is the first of two uses of the charis in the passage. ESV has “a gracious thing”. NASB 95, “this finds favor”. NIV84: “it is commendable”. NRSV, “it is a credit to you”. NET, “this finds God’s favor”. HCSB, “it brings favor”.
Peter has prayed for grace (1:2). He has commanded looking forward to receiving grace (1:13). How then is this response a matter of “charis” (grace). Is it thankfulness toward God? Is imitative of God?
32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. Luke 6:32–34 (ESV)
The emphasized words are all “charis”. Should we better understand this sort of life as one evidencing the gracious work of God?
Titus points in this direction:
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, Titus 2:11–13 (ESV)
Here Paul links the eschatological hope with the present appearance of God’s grace, which teaches us to renounce ungodliness as we turn our expectations towards the return of Christ. Peter has commanded that we hope eagerly for grace – which will be ours in full in Christ appears. The rationale for the behavior (submission) stems from the conduct of Christ who submitted in the present based upon his hope of a future judgment.
In 1:14-15, Peter ties the eschatological hope toward a life bent toward that hope; one not conformed to the present age, but rather one of “holiness”.
However, there is also an aspect of honor/credit here. The idea of “credit” will be explicitly raised in 2:20 (For what credit …). Thus, Peter is also responding to the shame of suffering and being in a subservient relationship (in the world’s system) by noting an alternative (and permanent) valuation which comes from God.
QUESTION—What is meant by χάρις ‘commendable’?
It refers to a good action that merits approval or praise [TH] or which is thankworthy and which wins favor or gains recognition from God [Alf, NIC]. Χάρις can be either a gracious act or, as in this case, the response to a gracious act [NIBC, Sel]. It is used in the same sense as it is used in Luke 6:32ff. as an act that counts with God, merits ‘credit’ with him, or evokes his approval [Alf, EGT, ICC, IVP, NCBC, NIC, NTC, Sel, WBC]. It is explained by the parallel term κλέος ‘credit’ in 2:20 [BNTC, ICC, IVP, NCBC].
David Abernathy, An Exegetical Summary of 1 Peter, 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2008), 98.
For this is grace.—The sense of these words is determined partly by the following χάρις παρὰ Θεῷ, partly by the antithesis ποῖον γἁρ κλέος. This question suggests that of our Lord, Lke. 6:32. “For if you love them, which love you, what thanks have you?” ποία ὐμῖν χάρις ἐστί; in Matt. it reads τίνα μισθὸν ἔχετε. The ideas of thanks, reward and praise are here conjoined. Here as there the reference is to thanks, praise, or honour before God. (Lange, 1 Peter).
Why would Peter make such strong demands of a servant when his master is perverse and harsh? There is no earthly reason to justify such commands, and so the answer must be found in the spiritual realm. It is there that Peter reminds his readers that such action is commendable (2:19). The word translated commendable is that which is frequently translated grace. It also can mean thanks or excellence. In the present context, the word means “patiently bearing unjust suffering. It does not here have its usual meaning of divine grace; rather, it is used in the sense of something pleasing to God.”
David A. Case and David W. Holdren, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude: a Commentary for Bible Students (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2006), 82.
Summary application of the teaching of Jesus recorded in Luke 6:27–36 = Matt. 5:39–48.—χάρις seems to be an abbreviation of the O.T. idiom to find favour (תן) with God—cf. χάρις παρὰ θεῷ (20)—taken from St. Luke’s version of the saying, εἰ ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἀγαπῶντας ὑμᾶς, ποία ὑμῖν χάρις ἔστιν (6:32).—Compare χάριτας = רצון that which is acceptable in Prov. 10:32.—διὰ συνείδησιν θεοῦ (i.) because God is conscious of your condition (θεοῦ subjective genitive), a reproduction of thy Father which seeth that which is hidden … (Matt. 6:4, etc.); so συνείδ. in definite philosophical sense of conscience is usually followed by possessive genitive OR (2.) because you are conscious of God (θ. objective genitive), cf. σ. ἁμαρτίας, Heb. 10:2. The latter construction is preferable: the phrase interprets διὰ τὸν κύριον with the help of the Pauline expression διὰ τὴν ς. (Rom. 13:5; 1 Cor. 10:25) employed in the same context.—πάσχων ἀδίκως, emphatic. Peter has to take account of the possibility which Jesus ignored, that Christians might deserve persecution; cf. 20, 25.—ποῖον κλέος, what praise rather than what kind of reputation (κλ. neutral as in Thuc. 2:45) cf. ποία χάρις τίνα μισθόν, (only twice in Job in LXX) corresponds to ἔπαινος above: χάρις παρὰ θεῷ shows that the praise of the Master who reads the heart is intended.—κολαφιζόμενοι, from description of the Passion, Mark 14:65, ἤρξαντό τινες … κολαφίζειν αὐτόν, cf. Matt. 5:39, ὅστις σε ῥαπίζει. So also St. Paul recalls the parallel between Christ’s and the Chrstians’ sufferings (1 Cor. 4:11) κολαφιζόμεθα.—ἀγαθοποιοῦντες, opposed to ἁμαρτάνοντες, explains ἀδίκως (19).—χάρις, see on 10. ver. 19.
J.H.A. Hart, The First Epistle General of Peter, The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Volume V: Commentary (New York: George H. Doran Company, n.d.), 60–61.
“Grace” refers here not to that which God gives freely (as, e.g., in 1:10, 13; 3:7; 4:10; 5:5, 10, 12: cf. BGD, 878.3b) but to that Milch counts with God or that with which God is pleased (cf. BGD, 877.2b). Peter’s τοῦτο γὰρ χάρισ͂ looks like a positive adaptation of the three-part rhetorical question (“what grace is yours?”) attributed to Jesus in Luke 6:32, 33, 34 (ποία ὑμῖν χάρις ἐστίν: cf. Did. 1.3: ποία γὰρ χάρις). Negative adaptations of the same or similar questions can be found in Ignatius Pol. 2.1 (χάρις σοι οὐκ ἔστιν) and in 2 Clem. 13.4 (οὐ χάρις ὑμῖν): for the construction, cf. also certain manuscripts of 1 Cor 9:16 (οὐκ ἔστιν μοι χάρις, א* D* F G).
J. Ramsey Michaels, 1 Peter, vol. 49, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 139.
εἰ διὰ συνείδησιν θεοῦ
If due to consciousness of God
Peter has provided a wealth of theology up until this point. Thus, by keeping such things in mind – understanding the Triune God who has brought us to hope through the giving of Christ can lead one to the behavior.
Something is also present in this construction: The commendable/ the grace shows only when one suffers patiently when mindful of God. One could suffer patiently on all sorts of grounds. Yet, such suffering would not be gracious.
In addition, knowledge of God makes it possible to suffer rightly. The slave would suffer no matter the state of his heart. Yet, the worse part of the suffering is not the physical pain (suffering when “deserves” it merits no acknowledgement). It is the suffering unjustly. Therefore, a consciousness of God’s judgment to come permits one to know that the injustice will be righted. The slave need not be frustrated that there will never be a reckoning.
Black’s commentary (JND Kelley) 117:
The awkwardness of the genitive, if suneidēsis is assumed to signify ‘conscience’, was early appreciated and gave rise to the insertion of katharan (‘pure’) alongside theou in some MSS and in place of it in others. The correct solution lies in recognizing that (a) by all the rules of Greek usage the genitive can only be objective; and (b) suneidēsis (lit. ‘knowing-with’), while ordinarily signifying a knowledge shared with oneself (i.e. moral self-awareness, conscience), can also denote a knowledge shared with others (so almost certainly at Rom. 13:5: cf. TWNT VI, 914 f.). Thus the puzzling phrase here might be paraphrased, ‘because of the knowledge of God which he and his fellow-Christians share as members of God’s holy people’. This knowledge in the strength of which the Christian slave cheerfully bears affliction is not simply knowledge of God’s existence, but awareness of His whole relation to him and insight into His purpose for His people, as this is expounded more fully in
ὑποφέρει τις λύπας πάσχων ἀδίκως
One (tis) bear sorrow, suffering unjustly
Hupophero: Theword for enduraning/bearing itself implies an unhappy situation.
Lupe: Peter has already warned that we will suffer lupas, sorrow. A verbal form of the root is used in 1:6, “suffering in various trials”.
Paschon: participle draws out the nature of the endurance: enduring pain, suffering unjustly.
ποῖον γὰρ κλέος εἰ:
For what credit is it if
A very similar construction is used in Luke 6:32 (except the word translated ‘credit’ in Luke is “charis” and here it is “kleos”).
Kleos is almost ironic here: Kleos means fame, or glory. This is part of the inversion which works throughout the letter. To suffer is incur shame. Yet Peter (and Jesus before him) speak of suffering in terms of glory!
ἁμαρτάνοντες καὶ κολαφιζόμενοι
sinning and being beaten
Two present participles describing the state of the slave: actively sinning, passively suffering a beating.
This is a different word than used in verse 19. This word is more neutral: it means to bear up under something, remain in place. Thus, in Acts 17:14, Silas and Timothy remained while Paul left. It can refer to a disagreeable circumstance; but that is determined by context. By shifting verbs, Peter subtly marks the difference between the two circumstances.
ὑποφέρει comes close in its meaning to ὑπονενεῖτε (“patiently endure”) in v 20, but the two verbs are not identical, ὑποφέρειν refers to a passive kind of endurance (i.e., undergoing or submitting to affliction), while ὑπομένειν means to “stand one’s ground, hold out, endure” (BGD, 845.2) in a more active or positive sense, ὑπομενεῖτε is used absolutely both times it occurs in v 20, while ὑποφέρει not only takes λίπας as its object but depends on λύπας for its meaning. The whole expression ὑποφρ́ρει … λύπας is virtually equivalent to the single verb πάσχειν.
J. Ramsey Michaels, 1 Peter, vol. 49, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 140.
ἀλλʼ εἰ ἀγαθοποιοῦντες καὶ πάσχοντες ὑπομενεῖτε
But if doing good and suffering you endure
The contrast is marked with the “alla”. “Ei” if sets off the next circumstance. The structure is parallel: A behavior of the slave, the response of the master, the response of the slave.
Sinning Doing Good
Being beaten Suffering
this is grace
The same construction as opens v. 19, except for the omission of the “gar” (for) in v. 19.
Schreiner (NAC), notes that this second “grace” marks an inclusion.
Some might think Peter simply said that such suffering is “evidence of God’s grace” in one’s life. Two pieces of evidence, however, indicate that Peter thought of rewards rather than evidence of grace.91 First, the word “credit” (kleos) is parallel to the word “grace” (charis), and it can be defined as “credit,” “fame,” or “glory” (cf. Josephus, Ant. 4.105, 115; 19.223; 1 Clem. 5:6; 54:3). It refers to the reward believers will inherit (cf. 1 Clem. 5:6), demonstrating that “grace” here is not “evidence of grace” but the divine favor, blessing, and reward given to believers on the last day. Second, the argument in v. 19 is quite similar to Luke 6:32–35, and Peter adapted that tradition here.92 Jesus in Luke argued that if people bestow love only on their friends, they are no different from unbelievers. What distinguishes believers from others is their love for enemies and sinners. Similarly, Peter insisted that suffering for doing wrong deserves no credit, but if one suffers for doing what is right, a reward is fitting. Interestingly, three times in Luke the reward believers would receive for showing love is conveyed through the word “grace” (charis), translated “credit” by the NIV (Luke 6:32–34). We see from this that the word “grace” can be a synonym for the word “reward.” Indeed, in the conclusion of the paragraph (Luke 6:35) Luke shifted from “grace” to “reward” (misthos), showing that the two terms are roughly synonymous here. Indeed, in the Matthean parallel (Matt 5:46) to Luke 6:32 the word “reward” (misthos) is used instead of “grace” (charis), constituting another piece of evidence that “grace” means reward in Luke 6:32. To sum up, when Peter said it is “grace” for someone to endure suffering because of their relationship with God, his point was that those who suffer in such a way will receive a reward from God and that the reward in context is their eschatological inheritance—future salvation.
That is, in the sight of.
To testify that it was acceptable to God, when any one from conscience towards God persevered in doing his duty, though unjustly and unworthily treated, was at that time very necessary; for the condition of servants was very hard: they were counted no better than cattle. Such indignity might have driven them to despair; the only thing left for them was to look to God.
It is, in short, a general truth, that what we do is approved by God, if our object be to serve him, and if we are not influenced by a regard to man alone. Moreover, he who considers that he has to do with God, must necessarily endeavor to overcome evil with good. For, God not only requires that we should be such to every one as he is to us, but also that we should be good to the unworthy and to such as persecute us.