1 Peter – Chapter Two XXXVI

by Ed Urzi

“Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust” (1 Peter 2:18 ESV).

The idea that one human being can be made to serve as the property of another human being is properly viewed by every modern society as a violation of human rights. We can also say that most contemporary societies rightly agree that the concept of “slavery” is morally repugnant. Yet in addition to what we read here in 1 Peter 2:18, the New Testament Scriptures offer the following admonitions…

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ” (Ephesians 6:5 NIV).

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord” (Colossians 3:22 NIV).

“All who are under the yoke as slaves should regard their own masters as worthy of all respect, so that God’s name and his teaching will not be blasphemed” (1 Timothy 6:1 CSB).

“Slaves are to submit themselves to their masters and please them in all things. They must not talk back to them or steal from them. Instead, they must show that they are always good and faithful, so as to bring credit to the teaching about God our Savior in all they do” (Titus 2:9-10 GNT).

While these passages seem difficult to reconcile with the unjust practice of slavery, the mere existence of an immoral institution (such as slavery) does not automatically mean that God endorses it. For instance, God accommodated certain types of human interaction in recognition of human sin. Those relational behaviors did not reflect God’s preference for His creation, but the fact that He permitted and regulated them did not necessarily signal His approval.

As mentioned earlier, every human person has been created in God’s image and thus possesses an inalienable value that is worthy of respect. In addition, Galatians 3:28 tells us that “We are no longer Jews or Greeks or slaves or free men or even merely men or women, but we are all the same-we are Christians; we are one in Christ Jesus” (TLB).

This was a revolutionary concept in the context of first-century Roman culture: everyone is equal in Christ regardless of his or her social position. Over time, this idea began to fracture the master/slave paradigm and paved the way for a new standard of business and interpersonal relationships. We’ll examine how this important New Testament concept served to undermine the master/slave relationship model next.