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1 Peter 2:18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
18 Let servants be in subjection to their masters with all due fear, not only to the good and reasonable but also to those hard to please.
Let servants be in subjection to their masters. On the duty here enjoined, see Eph. 6:5–9. The Greek word here used (οἰκέται) is not the same as which is employed in Ephesians, (δοῦλοι.) The word here means properly domestics—those employed about a house, or living in the same house—from οἶκος, house. These people might have been slaves or might not. The word would apply to them, whether they were hired, or whether they were owned as slaves. The word should not and cannot be employed to prove that slavery existed in the churches to which Peter wrote, and still less to prove that he approved of slavery or regarded it as a good institution. The exhortation here would be and still is, strictly applicable to any persons employed as domestics, though they had voluntarily hired themselves out to be such. It would be incumbent on them, while they remained in that condition, to perform with fidelity their duties as Christians, and to bear with Christian meekness all the wrongs which they might suffer from those in whose service they were. Those who are hired, and who are under a necessity of ‘going out to service’ for a living, are not always free from hard usage, for there is trials incident to that condition of life which cannot be always avoided. It might be better, in many cases, to bear much than to attempt a change of situation, even though they were entirely at liberty to do so. It must be admitted, however, that the exhortation here will have more force if it is supposed that the reference is to slaves, and there can be no doubt that many of this class were early converted to the Christian faith. The word here rendered masters (δεσπόταις) is not the same as which is used in Eph. 6:5, (κυρίοις.) Neither of these words necessarily implies that those who were under them were slaves. The word here used is applicable to the head of a family, whatever may be the condition of those under him. It is frequently applied to God, and to Christ; and it cannot be maintained that those to whom God sustains the relation of δεσπότης, or master, are slaves. See Luke 2:29; Acts 4:24; 2 Tim. 2:21; 2 Pet. 2:1; Jude 4; Rev. 6:10. The word, indeed, is one that might be applied to those who were owners of slaves. If that be the meaning here, it is not said, however, that those to whom it is applied were Christians. It is rather implied that they were pursuing such a course as was inconsistent with real piety. Those who were under them are represented as suffering grievous wrongs.
With all due fear. That is, with all proper reverence and respect. Notes, Eph. 6:5 below.
Ephesians 6:5: With fear and trembling. With reverence and with a dread of offending them. They have authority and power over you, and you should be afraid to incur their displeasure. Whatever might be true about the propriety of slavery, and whatever might be the duty of the master about setting the slave free, it would be more to the honor of religion for the servant to perform his task with a willing mind, than to be contumacious and rebellious. He could do more for the honor of religion by patiently submitting to even what he felt to be wrong, than by being punished for what would be regarded as rebellion. It may be added here that it was presumed that servants then could read. These directions were addressed to them, not to their masters. Of what use would be directions like these addressed to American slaves—scarce any of whom can read?
Not only to the good and reasonable but also to those hard to please. The word rendered froward (σκολιοῖς) means properly crooked, bent; then perverse, wicked, unjust, peevish. Anyone who is a servant or domestic is liable to be employed in the service of such a master; but while the relation continues, the servant should perform his duty with fidelity, whatever may be the character of the master. Slaves are certainly liable to this; and even those who voluntarily engage as servants to others, cannot always be sure that they will have kind employers. Though the terms used here do not necessarily imply that those to whom the apostle gave this direction were slaves, yet it may be presumed that they probably were since slavery abounded throughout the Roman Empire, but the directions will apply to all who are engaged in the service of others and are therefore of permanent value. Slavery will, sooner or later, under the influence of the gospel, wholly cease in the world, and instructions addressed to masters and slaves will have no permanent value; but it will always be true that there will be those employed as domestics, and it is the duty of all who are thus engaged to evince true fidelity and a Christian spirit themselves, whatever may be the character of their employers,
By Albert Barnes and Edward D. Andrews