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20th November 2014
1 Peter was written to give the Church courage so that they could endure persecution and suffering. They were facing difficulties and needed to know the hope that God provides in times of trouble. They needed practical help with how to handle an unjust boss, or an unrighteous government, or an unbelieving spouse, as well as general suffering in a broken world.
Peter demonstrated clear affection for the churches he was serving – they were beloved by him, but also by God, which means they can trust the teaching in this letter.
This life can sometimes be overwhelming and all-consuming, but it is just a short leg on our eternal journey. Our lifestyle and culture aren't determined by our holiday destinations, but by where we live permanently, so we need to have an eternal perspective rather than one that is rooted in our temporary residence here in this life.
So how should we live? Peter wrote that we should "abstain from the passions of the flesh that war against your soul..." To 'abstain from' means to keep away from or avoid. We are not to let these desires (some of which are listed in Galatians 5:19-21) be active in our lives – we are to give them no space. They "war against" us, but they can be restrained or nurtured. Entertaining such desires weakens the Christian.
Peter writes that we are to maintain such good conduct on a day-to-day basis that even in the face of accusation and slander, we bring glory to God. He then gets specific about how this is worked out practically, looking at how to live under the authority of the government and how to act in the workplace.
God has organised patterns of authority for the orderly functioning of human life. We see it in creation, in the Trinity, and even the angels. There are examples in the Bible of when God's people have disobeyed authority, but only when they were ordered to sin and forced to choose between obeying humans or obeying God.
It pleases God when we submit to the authority structures. Just as God works through an imperfect Church, so He works through imperfect governments and systems. In 1 Peter 2:17, we're told to honour everyone, love the brotherhood, fear God and honour the emperor. We're not just to obey, but also to honour. We're not to lash out, destroy or take people apart with our words. We are to pray for them, lift them up, work for change, honour them as those created in the image of God, however flawed they may be.
As Christians we are both free and servants. We have been freed from the tyranny of sin, yet have become servants of Christ. Sometimes we can think that freedom means no responsibility, discomfort, difficulty or effort. We can imagine God will take all of that away and that we're free to do whatever we want, say whatever we want, think whatever we want.
But real freedom – the freedom that is ours in Christ – is freedom from the tyranny of the Law, the power of sin, and the kingdom of darkness. Those who follow Jesus have become His servants, which means we are also to serve one another, make every effort, and that in fact we have died and our lives are now hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3).
The gospel's freedom is so liberating, but there's a danger that we can embrace the freedom and ignore servanthood. We can use the message of freedom to give us permission for laziness, selfishness, and a lack of servant-heartedness. But Jesus said that those who follow Him need to die to these things! When we do, we enter into this glorious freedom where we can be who we were created to be.
After all, Jesus died so that we might live. The Son of God Himself became a servant for the sake of us!
To download the 'Free servants' sermon and life application questions, click here.
Posted by Paul Mann