When reading a book of the New Testament, it is wise to read in such a way to pick up on a theme. For instance, the first epistle of Peter has as a theme suffering. The word or concept of suffering is located in each chapter. Related to suffering in this world as a Christian, Peter also has sub-themes (if you will). For instance, in 1:22-2:3, a sub-theme is the Word of God and what it is able to accomplish. This article is going to address another sub-theme, and that is submission (2:13-3:6).
It is surely the case that if there was ever a them of the New Testament that causes some people great anxiety it is submission. It is very tough for many males to submit to authority, at least some who are in authority. Peter says, however, it must be done. There is a reason for this. “Peter urged them to do nothing that might arouse suspicion of governmental authorities. On the contrary, their conduct was to be beyond reproach” (Warden, p. 125). Let us consider, briefly, three sub-themes in this portion of Peter’s letter to the saints.
First, the saint is to be in submission to every institution of man. The NKJV reads that the saint is to submit himself to every ordinance of man. The word “ordinance” conveys the idea of laws that man makes for a community (the ASV and the KJV read the same). Is this the idea, however? I don’t think it is. The idea is not pertaining to particular laws made by man, but to the general idea of authority. William’s New Testament translation reads, “submit to all human authority,” and I think this is the idea.
Second, the New Testament saint is to be in submission to one’s master, whoever that particular individual is. This means that one might be a slave to a person or to the Lord Jesus. In both cases, the saint is to submit. Why? Because as one lives the life of Christ, that saint actually brings attention and glory to the Lord. For the sake of the Lord, one’s submission to another is a great teacher. And this brings us to the third point, a godly female saint who teaches her ungodly husband.
Third, the godly woman is to submit to her husband. This is a difficulty for some women today, even saintly women. The reason it is difficult is because society teaches nothing of the sort. In fact, some people in society look upon submission as slavery. This illustrates how little they know, and even less understand. When a godly woman submits to God, she willingly submits to His role given her. If her husband is not what he should be, then a powerful role she plays in helping him be what he ought to be.
There is no slavery in any of this, but an opportunity to serve and save those outside of the Lord’s direct mercy (cf. 1 Peter 4:17-18). Yes, there are circumstances wherein submission to man might be terribly hard, but to the Lord, submission is the “right of passage.” RT