Friday, 26 February 2016

Submission & Authority ~ 1 Peter ~ Ganeida

We recommence our study of Peter in Chapter 2, starting at verse 13.  

In the Greek this passage starts hypotassō & we are going to deal with this word right at the beginning because a correct understanding of this word makes everything else so much clearer.

Peter, like Paul, understood God to be a God of order, order not chaos. 1 Cor 14:33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the meetings of God's holy people.

Once we fully grasp this everything Peter then says following hypotassō makes perfect sense.

Hypotassō was a military term used to describe the arranging of troops according to rank & authority as you would on a parade ground or in battle formation under the command of a leader.  In non-military use, it was a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden ~Strongs. In a sense beginning his sentence with  hypotassō, is like a Sergeant bellowing: At~ten~tion! It is a call to action.

Both definitions apply to us as believers. Again & again Paul compares the body of Christ or the church with the military & Peter picks up on this metaphor.  Paul speaks of war in the heavenlies. He says our foes are not flesh & blood. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Eph 6:12

You can’t win a war if your army is all over the place doing its own thing.  It needs to be drawn up in military formation under a single battle commander. Our primary battle commander is Jesus but there are ranks of leader under him, responsible for various aspects of life in this world & Peter addresses most of these: Kings, authorities, slaves, husbands & wives.

Does this devalue any single person?  Of course not! It simply ensures there is order & cohesion. Where there is not order in government we have civil war.  Where there is no order in families there is dysfunction. If there isn’t order in the church there is chaos. The idea of hypotassō is for our own good, ensuring that there is peace & functionality in all aspects of human existence.

Peter then clarifies by stating that we are to be subject to authority for the Lord’s sake. What’s more, good bad or indifferent we are to be subject to the ordained authorities. Slaves are instructed to be respectful even if their masters are cruel. This cuts against the grain in our democratic society where everyone is overly conscious of their *rights*.

Aristotle wrote:
In regard to a slave, his master’s will, and even his master’s caprice, is the only law. Slaves literally had no rights.  They were property to be bought & sold & worked into the grave. They could not marry but if they cohabited their children belonged to their master to do with as he willed. This idea that slaves were a *thing* ~ a possession ~ meant that inevitably many Christians would be abused by their masters. Yet nowhere in scripture do you find the writers telling believers to rise up & overthrow abusive authority.

Now, I am not saying that slavery is right.  I am not saying that all governments are good.  I am not saying that there is no place for civil disobedience ~ when practised in accord with the scriptures.  What I am saying is that there is a principle at work & there are spiritual benefits to our obedience in these matters. 

You will find it in Peter 3:1
In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives.

As believers we only have one mandate from our Lord: to win others for Christ. Exactly the same word for authority is used here: hypotassō.  Same idea. Same principle. How we live our lives matters.  If we are seen as disrespectful we actually blaspheme the gospel 1 Timothy 6:1  All slaves should show full respect for their masters so they will not bring shame on the name of God and his teaching. The word translated shame is blasphēmeō in the Greek ~ to blaspheme.

We have an example of this in modern times.  We all remember the *Eastern Block* countries that were governed by communism for a great part of the 20th century.  Under their despotic rule Christians were persecuted, jailed, bullied, forced underground but there was a difference in how they approached their plight. In East Germany the Pastors learnt to love their persecutors & respected the authority they had as government leaders.  They prayed that their situation would be changed without bloodshed ~ & it was! Not so in Romania. Romania had no revelation of walking in honour & respecting the authority over them & they have suffered because of it.

Again Peter reminds us that our example is Christ who *left His case in the hands of God.* May we learn to do the same!V22~25

Peter then moves on to discussing families, women first.  Peter was a married man so he was not speaking without experience. As we have already said Peter uses the same Greek word expressing an aligning of ordered authority, partly I am sure because that was the society in which he lived, but also because eventually the buck stops somewhere & Peter says it stops with the husband. 

There is another reason.  In Ancient Greece & Rome it was unthinkable for a woman to have a different religion to her husband.  If a woman came to Christ before her husband it created problems.  The woman might consider herself superior.  She might be tempted to use her freedom in Christ to belittle or disobey her husband.  She might consider leaving him. How was she to behave towards him? It is these things that Peter is striving to address but they are also relevant to us~ especially if we are yoked unequally.

Peter then talks about a woman’s true beauty.  Now most women are not beauty queens but we all want to be attractive ~ especially to our husband & children. This desire has created powerful industries in fashion & cosmetics but I want to share something with you that one of my sons once said to me. He said, Mum, you are one of the most beautiful women I know!  I was shocked.  I am under no illusions about my physical attributes ~ but my son wasn’t looking at my physical attraction. He was talking about the sort of spirit he saw in me ~ & this is what Peter is talking about here.  As women we are to cultivate our relationship with Jesus & His spirit because that will translate into true & irresistible beauty. When we are Christ’s we will be as Christ in our homes.

In most ancient cultures women & children were the property of the man.  He had absolute rights of law & culture over them.  A wife had none.  Think Islamic marriages in the middle east. The N.T is incredibly radical in its attitude towards women.
Firstly Peter instructs men to honour their wives. The Hebrew is kabed & carries the idea of weight. The Greek is timao, to hold in esteem, to value. 

This is the idea behind Proverbs 31:10
Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies.

Men are to value their wives. This was an incredibly novel idea at a time when women were considered a man’s property. It was an honour/shame society so in elevating women as persons considered worthy of honour, the men’s status in their society was lowered.  This was to choose between God or man. What’s more, they are to live with them with understanding. We have books like Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars because men & women do not think, act, or even believe the same way.  Generally women will have a more emotional response than a man will but Men are not to dismiss this way of being.  They are to seek to understand ~ & value it!

The woman is described as the *weaker vessel*, something bound to get the feminists hot under the collar. In straightforward terms it means exactly what is says: women are physically weaker than men.  In a society where brute strength was needed just for everyday survival women were at a distinct disadvantage. In the context of culture ~ & this is still true to a large extent even within our own culture ~ women are less able at managing without a man to head the household.  Their wages are generally lower.  They often have young children to care for.  They may have had a break from the workforce & find it difficult to get work. In essence Peter is reminding men not to abandon their wives to fend for themselves.

To summarise, the passage on husbands & wives clearly teaches that a husband & wife are to live in harmony together that their prayers are not hindered because the wife is an equal co~heir with her husband in Christ’s gift of a new life. The family unit was designed to be a reflection of the unity between Father, Son & Spirit. Scripture teaches when 2 or 3 unite in prayer Christ is present, so agreement, harmony, unity are essential in a Christian household.  This is the pattern & it is one that all Christians are to emulate.

I will pause here as Peter moves onto a different subject in the following paragraphs.

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