These small group studies of 1 Peter contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
1 Peter 2:23-35 Inductive Bible Study
I. Submit to the government (13-17)
II. Submit to masters (18)
III. Suffering for righteousness (19-25)
I. Verses 13-17
What does it mean to submit? What is the difference (if any) between submitting and obeying?
Why are we supposed to submit? It says for the Lord’s sake. What good does it do God if we obey the government?
What if your government is not a democracy? What if it is not a good government?
Why does God establish authority? What is the purpose of earthly governments? Do you ever complain about the government you are under? Do you pray for its leaders? How often? Do you give thanks for the government you have? How often? Should we pray for the government we are under and thank God for it?
What “ignorance of foolish men” do you think Peter is referring to in verse 15?
Are we free? What does the phrase mean “act as free men” mean? What can you do to honor the people around you?
1 Timothy 2:1-3 – Pray for authorities.
John 8:32 – The truth will set you free.
Do not use our freedom as a license to sin – 1 Cor 7:22, 8:9-13, 2 Thess 3:7-9
1. We are to submit for the Lord’s sake. Submitting is beneficial for us since if we submit to the government we will avoid punishment and live a stable and secure life. Yet this is not the reason we are commanded to submit. We are to submit because for God’s sake. When we submit to the government, we are being a model citizen, a good testimony. Our obedience reflects back on God and brings Him glory. Imagine what would have happened if the early New Testament church refused to obey governments. The world governments were already afraid of and suspicious toward believers. If believers refused to obey the governments they would have been labeled as dangerous revolutionaries (like the zealots in Israel or the North Ireland terrorist groups). The church would seemingly never have been accepted into society. It would have been endlessly persecuted. Beyond that, people would be afraid to become Christians since Christians would have been viewed as very extreme. Now when the Chinese authorities call believers in to question them at police stations we can truthfully say that we desire to be good citizens and in fact are commanded to by God. The government truly does have nothing to fear from us.
2. We are commanded to submit to every human institution. This refers to all authorities God has put over us. This is the clear rebuttal to the common argument, “What if the government in my country is bad?” Well, the authorities in every country are bad. Every person is a sinner. Every government has its own weaknesses and shortcomings. As bad as they are, the world would be a much more wicked place with no human governments. See how bad Israel got when there was no king during the time of the Judges when each person did “what was right in his own eyes.”. This was a land where most people had knowledge of and claimed to believe in God. Even a bad king like Saul whose heart wasn’t fully God’s improved the situation.
3. God has appointed governments (Romans 13:1) to punish evildoers and praise those who do right. Sometimes the government’s standards are wrong. This appears to be more and more common in the modern world. Yet in general most laws are good laws and are intended to limit wrongdoing. Murder, assault, theft, drunk driving, speeding, not paying back debt, breaking contracts, etc. is all illegal.
4. Our actions are scrutinized by the world. In the early NT church, Christians were also heavily scrutinized. Leaders wanted to see if they would revolt against governments or spark uprisings. There were many foolish people who in their ignorance of the basic tenets of our beliefs, may have leveled such kind of accusations against believers (the Pharisees false claim that Jesus wanted to be the king instead of Caesar comes to mind). Peter exhorted the believers to silence such ignorant criticisms by being model citizens.
5. In general most of us probably don’t go out breaking the law every day or committing crimes. So what can we do to be better citizens? We can start praying more for authorities in charge, either governments, our teachers, our bosses, wives your husbands, our parents, etc. It is so easy to find fault with people in leadership. Kids find fault with parents. Employees find fault with bosses. Wives find fault with husbands. We all find fault with the government. But instead of criticizing, which has no positive impact, let us get down on our knees and petition for God to show His mercy and grace to our leaders. I imagine much of the time Daniel spent praying, he prayed for the Babylonian leaders. He lived in an evil country with pagan leaders. Yet he was able to influence the country for good from the inside. His testimony eventually helped to convict Nebuchadnezzar and seemingly bring him to God. I confess that too often I complain about leaders. I spend far too little time praying for them and thanking God for the good they have done. Imagine for a bit that you are the authority/leader. Then think how you want those under your leadership to treat you. Now switch that around and treat your leaders like this.
6. Act as free men. We are free from sin. Remember Galatians 5:23. There is no law against the fruit of the Spirit. We shouldn’t have the attitude that “I am free! I obey God only. I’m not going to listen to you!” This is prideful and arrogant and disobedient to God. Our freedom is not an excuse for license. Imagine that you are serving a life sentence for a crime you committed. Twenty years into the life sentence you despair of ever seeing the light of day. One day a visitor comes to your cell. It is the first visitor you have had in twenty years. It is the person you committed the crime against. He has come to say that he has forgiven you, dropped the charges, and appealed to the judge for mercy. He has come to say that as of right now, you are a free man. You can leave the prison. You now have a new life. What are you going to do with your new life? Will you turn a new leaf? Will you take advantage of this unforeseen opportunity to show love and kindness to the people around you, to show your gratitude and appreciation to the person who forgave you? Or will you rub your fingers and start devising new schemes and then go right back to your former way of crime? As much as I would like to say that everyone will choose the first path, many do not. Many criminals get freed from prison and go right back to their crime. Some professing believers use their freedom in Christ as an excuse to sin as well. I hope each of us will use our freedom to serve God faithfully each and every day.
II. Verse 18
How does this verse apply to us today in the modern world?
How should we treat our employers? What if the way the want to run the company and the things they want us to do are ridiculous?
Ephesians 6:5-9 – Servants and masters.
1 Corinthians 7:20-24 – Slaves were to remain as slaves after being saved unless they get freedom legally.
Colossians 3:22-25 – Servants and masters.
1. Similar commands are given in several other places in the New Testament including Ephesians and Colossians. This verse follows the same theme of submission to authorities that we discussed in the previous passage. First, Peter emphasized submission to the government and now submission within the social structure of where we live. From a big picture point of view, it would not have been good for the New Testament early church to be associated with revolutionaries who would overthrow the slave/master relationship, which was so popular at that time. Yet throughout the Bible we see compassion and love preached again and again. Throughout history Christians such as William Wilberforce have sought to change the evils of slavery from within the rules of the government. From an individual perspective, slaves during that time should realize that God is sovereign and put them in that position for a reason. From 1 Corinthians 7 we learn that slaves should be willing to remain in the condition in which they were called. They should not rebel. Peter focuses not on what paradise would look like (no slavery), but on how we should live in the real world situations we face.
2. Servants were to respect their masters. This not only applied to good masters, but to everyone. This is the same logic as the previous passage about submitting to governments. We are to submit to all governments, including the bad ones. God appointed these governments and He also allowed slaves to be where they are. A servant should respect his master even if his master doesn’t deserve it. A child should honor his parents even if he thinks they do not deserve it. We can not control what everyone else does, but we can control our own actions. So what application can we make from the verse on servants/masters today?
3. For those who have been in this Bible study a long time, you know that one common application is to employees and their employers. Do any of you have problems with your bosses? What problems and why? Discuss. I can speak from personal experience that I don’t always agree with my boss. I have been teaching in the same training center for 5 years. I feel that I have a lot of experience and know what I want to do in the classroom. You can say that my teaching style has been refined. Sometimes we will get new instructions from the head office for how to teach. Frankly, sometimes I find these instructions ridiculous and do not think they will work effectively in class. What should I do? Well, I can discuss with my boss and give my reasons for not wanting to follow those instructions. Then, if she insists, I have made up my mind to follow the instructions (as long as they are not sinful of course.) I will note my objection and the reason for the objection, but then do what the company wants me do. They are the ones paying me so it is reasonable that they get to make those decisions.
4. One more application I want to discuss is that we are not slaves. While under contract, we do have an obligation to obey our authority in the company, namely our boss or bosses. Yet legally we are free to seek to other employment. This means that while we should respect our bosses and follow their instructions, we do not need to do so blindly and we should consider if staying in this company is beneficial for our spiritual well-being. When might it be suggested to seek other employment?
a) If your company/boss is straying from ethical business practices.
b) If your work life is starting to consume your life. That means if your boss is putting more and more pressures on you to the point where it is affecting your walk with God.
c) If being in the company opens up a lot of temptations. For example if your boss wants you to take business trips together with the opposite sex.
In conclusion, we are to respect our bosses and strive to maintain good relationship with them. Whenever possible, we should try to share the gospel with them. We should learn how to deal with conflict with our bosses biblically, voicing our opinions, but respecting the final decision of the boss gracefully and humbly. We must realize that we are NOT slaves and therefore if our work interferes with our walks with the Lord we should give notice and then find a more suitable job. Do not live in a state of perpetual anger toward your boss. Do not hold a grudge or allow the sun to go down on your anger.
III. Verses 19-25
What does the phrase mean, “if for the sake of conscience toward God?”
How can we “bear up” under sorrows?
Who in the Bible suffered unjustly? Are any of you suffering through something that you view as unfair? What?
How will you normally react if you think that people are treating you unfairly?
Why does it find favor with God if we are patient when we suffer unfairly?
Who is our ultimate example?
In what ways can we follow Christ’s example?
How should we treat those who hate or mistreat us?
Who did He turn to in order to get justice?
What reasons are given in verse 24 for Christ’s death on the cross?
What applications can we make in our own lives based on these verses?
2 Samuel 16:5-14 – David is cursed unfairly, but bears up under it patiently.
Matthew 5:10-12 – Blessed are you when persecuted… your reward is great.
Acts 24:16 – I strive to keep a clear conscience before God and man.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 – Momentary light affliction is producing in us an eternal weight in glory.
2 Timothy 2:12 – If we endure we will reign with Him.
Isaiah 53:9 – Verse 22 is quoted from here.
Matthew 27:12-14 – He was silent before Pilate.
Matthew 5:38-42 – Turn the other cheek.
1. God wants us to endure suffering patiently. Why? Because of our conscience. This means it is not because we want to be rewarded with a promotion or achieve a materialistic benefit. We endure suffering patiently because we know that God is watching and He wants us to. So how can we bear up under suffering? What it might look like if we are doing this? What might it look like if we are not bearing up under suffering? Attitudes of bearing up:
a) Being cheerful.
b) Giving thanks.
d) Speaking kind words.
e) Humbly listening.
Attitudes not consistent with bearing up:
b) Getting depressed.
c) Holding a grudge.
e) Seeking revenge.
2. It is to be expected if we sin and are punished for it or face the consequences for it. We have no excuse and no complaint. Still many people complain and grow angry for situations they brought on their own heads (students who didn’t prepare well for exams, a person who gets married to the wrong spouse because he/she rejected counsel, etc.). If Peter said, “Don’t get upset when bad things happen to you unless you don’t deserve them” we might could understand it better. But God’s standards are much higher than this. He calls us to patiently and joyful accept all things that happen to us, even when it is unfair. Can you think of any biblical examples? Paul and Silas singing in prison. Joseph forgiving his brothers. David when he was cursed. 2 Samuel 16:5-14.
3. Application. Are any of you facing situations that seem unfair? What? How have you been responding to it? How has your attitude been? Remember that the purpose of biblical instruction is to change how we live. There should always be two steps we should take when reading the Bible. Firstly, we ask ourselves, “what does this mean?” These verses mean that God wants us to endure through suffering, including those times when it is unfair. Secondly, we ask ourselves, “Am I doing this? How can I do this better?” Trials like the ones mentioned in 1 Peter are common. Probably all of us, sooner or later, will face situations that we think are unfair. How do we respond to those? Many people get angry toward God and question how He could allow this to happen. Seeds of doubt and resentment grow in their hearts. But this is not how God wants us to respond. He wants us to forgive those who mistreat us and return good for evil. Why?
4. Because Christ is our ultimate example and this is how He handled unfair suffering. I believe that Christ suffered more than any human who ever lived based on the fact that He took the punishment for the sins of the world. Yet of all people who have ever lived, Jesus is the ONLY ONE who didn’t deserve any of the bad things that happened to Him. Jesus did come to earth to die for our sins (as we will see in verse 24), but He also came to give us an example of how to respond when we face different situations. He did not respond to his unfair imprisonment and trial how many of his disciples expected. They were grabbing swords and thinking that Christ may fight to defend Himself. But He didn’t. He didn’t defend Himself physically or even verbally. This took amazing self-control. People in the world today are obsessed with personal rights. They will sue each other at a moments notice if they think their rights were violated. You push me, I push back. You put your stuff in the common space between our homes and I will put my stuff there too. But God doesn’t want us walking around with a chip on our shoulder ready to spout off against the first person who dares to cross us. He wants us to be humble and meek and ready to forgive. Matthew 5:38-42. Of all of God’s commands, this is one of the most difficult for me. How can we improve in this area and learn to humbly give up our own perceived rights?
5. The second part of verse 23 has at least one part of the answer. That is to entrust ourselves to God. We must realize that God is the righteous judge. He sees everything. If we do bear up under suffering, He will see us and He will reward us. He will also see and punish those who treat others unfairly. Do not take revenge into your own hands. Romans 12:19 says, “Revenge is mine says the Lord, I will repay.”
6. Verse 24 is a common memory verse for new believers. It is a very succinct summary of the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement. In simple terms, He took our punishment so that we don’t have to. There is one theological theory of the atonement. That theory says that Christ died for the sole purpose of encouraging us to live righteously and to take sin seriously. This theory is often espoused by liberals. They ignore basic Bible texts which show that Christ’s death is effective and His atonement for us is real. However, from this verse we can see that this is ONE OF THE REASONS why Christ died. Verse 24 says He bore our sins… so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. Christ’s sacrifice shows us the high price He paid for sin. He inspires us to love others, even those who don’t deserve it. He inspires us to get rid of all of the sin in our own lives and to take it very seriously.
7. Verse 25 also borrows some of the pictures from Isaiah 53, specifically verse 6. We were lost sheep without a shepherd. Now we have a Good Shepherd. Our task is to faithfully follow Him! Based on today’s text, what is one way that you think you can follow the Shepherd better than before?
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