Slaves, Obey Your Masters

1 Peter 2:18–20, Part 1

Slavery is a sensitive topic with a horrific history. So what does the Bible say for slaves? Or does the Bible say “so little”? In this lab, John Piper explores one place where freedom is found, looking at a couple key passages that address the tragedy of human slavery.

Principle for Bible Reading

Some topics are so sensitive and painful, we have a hard time slowing down enough with the texts in the Bible that deal with them. For instance, the horror and destruction cause by human slavery. As issues like this one remain relevant in our society and world, we have to study very carefully all that God has said about slavery and freedom, about Christian hope and witness, looking for every principle we can find.

Study Questions

  1. Look through 1 Peter for passages similar to 1 Peter 2:18–20. What can you say about this theme in Peter’s letter? For help, start in 1 Peter 3:9 and 4:19.
  2. As we read Peter’s counsel for Christian slaves, we have to keep in mind relevant encouragement or counsel from elsewhere in 1 Peter. How do 1 Peter 2:13 and 2:16 inform our understanding of 1 Peter 2:18–20?
  3. Now, read 1 Corinthians 7:21–24. How does this effect your reading of 1 Peter 2:18–20 and your understanding of slavery in the Bible?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–02:11)

A Theme Throughout 1 Peter (02:11–03:32)

  • The theme of submission to authority with good deeds, even to unjust authority, is not new in 1 Peter 2:18–20.
  • Just as slaves are told to good and suffer, we are all told to do good and suffer. (1 Peter 4:19)
  • We are not to repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but instead to bless or do good. (1 Peter 3:9)

Free Slaves for the Lord’s Sake (03:32–06:26)

  • What makes these slaves’ submission to their masters Christian?
  • All Christian submission to any human institution is submission “for the Lord’s sake.” (1 Peter 2:13)
  • We must remember general principles for submission as we come to more specific circumstances of submission. (1 Peter 2:13, 17)
  • Another overarching principle is that Christians are free (1 Peter 2:16). That applies to every Christian in every position in society.
  • God sends us into every human institution as free people for his sake (“for the Lord’s sake”).

A Second Text on Slavery (06:26–08:49)

  • Christians have far bigger issues to worry about than slavery (1 Corinthians 7:21). We don’t ignore it or condone it, but it’s not our first and primary concern.
  • Paul does encourage slaves to gain their freedom if they can. (1 Corinthians 7:22)
  • Any slave who is a believer is a freedman in the Lord, and a slave of Christ. (1 Corinthians 7:22)
  • Slaves submit to their masters as men and women who have been bought and freed by Christ. They submit now to their earthly masters because of their Master’s authority and purpose. (1 Peter 2:18)