1 Peter 2:21-23 ~ 20090215 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
02/15 1 Peter 2:21-23 God honoring Conduct; tracing his steps in suffering
Peter laid down some massive truths in the beginning of his letter. He gave his readers their identity; they may have become outcasts and exiles in society because they chose to follow Jesus, but they are chosen by God and precious to him. They have been selected by God for obedience to Jesus Christ. They have been birthed by God into a heavenly inheritance. They are no longer to conform to the foolish passions of this world, but they are to live distinctly, set apart from those around them. They are to fear only God. They were ransomed by Jesus Christ set free to hope in God. They are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, and their ultimate purpose and destiny is to bring glory to God.
Lest we get the wrong idea and feel that because we are aliens in society we can justifiably rebel against all social institutions, Peter gives us clear instructions as to how we are to relate to the government, to employers or masters, and as husbands and wives. All our submission to authority is for the express purpose of fulfilling our destiny; to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light. The goal is that they would see our good works and glorify God on the day of visitation. He started with our relation to government. We are to submit to government because government is instituted by God for our good. A government rightly functioning is a blessing to believers as it punishes evil doers and praises those who do good. Then he moves to the master/servant or employer/employee relationship. Here he raises the possibility that the master may not be good and gentle, but rather crooked and unjust. Even in this situation, a believer in the fear of God is to submit to his master. This is a hard thing to swallow. Peter encourages us that it is grace in the sight of God when we suffer for doing what is right, and now he points to our Lord Jesus Christ as the ultimate example of one who suffered well.
2:13 Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Notice that suffering is not a detour from the path of following Christ. Suffering is central to our calling. We have been called to suffer unjustly for the sake of the reputation of Christ. We have been called out of darkness and into his marvelous light so that as the spotlight of suffering shines on us, we can put God's great grace on vivid display. We do this by following in the footsteps of our master.
It says 'Christ also suffered for you'. Peter could have said 'Christ also suffered, leaving you an example'. Those two words 'for you' are essential. Some have understood Christ's suffering as nothing more than an example. Jesus was a great moral teacher in his life, and even in his death he taught us by his example. They would say what his death accomplished for us was to set the pattern so that we could follow in his footsteps. It accomplished nothing for us other than to pave the way and show us what we must do to be right with God. Peter is pointing to Jesus as an example for us to follow, but he very carefully guards against the error of limiting the work of Christ to setting an example. Jesus suffering is an example for us to follow, but the central purpose of Jesus' suffering was 'for you'. In verse 24 Peter will spell out even more clearly the substitutionary nature of Christ's death. That's where the power to suffer unjustly comes from. We are enabled and empowered to do good and suffer unjustly because Jesus suffered on our behalf.
If you are following the example of Jesus, your suffering is not for your own benefit, but for the benefit of those around you. 'Christ also suffered for you'. Jesus' suffering was on our behalf. So we also suffer for the sake of other people. Remember, our purpose is to proclaim the excellencies of him to those around us. Jesus suffered for you!
Our calling is to follow in the footsteps of our master, who suffered unjustly for us. The word 'example' (upogrammon) that Peter chooses gives us the picture of grammar school, where students trace the letters written by their master so that they learn how to form them correctly. We look to Jesus in order to know how we must shape our lives.
Peter points us first of all to the sinless perfection of Jesus in what he did not do. 'He committed no sin'. That is an absolute statement of the perfection of Jesus from a follower who knew him intimately. Jesus, the sin bearer, was completely without sin (Jn.8:46; 14:30; 2Cor.5:21; Heb.4:15; 7:26; 1Jn.3:5). Peter said in 1:19 that Christ is like 'a lamb without blemish or spot'. 'Neither was deceit found in his mouth'. Peter has in mind Isaiah 53:9
Isaiah 53:9 ... because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
Jesus' speech passed the most rigorous scrutiny of his enemies.
Jesus never sinned in action, and he never sinned in his speech. Jesus had enemies looking for opportunity to accuse him, and the testimony of those that interrogated him was 'I find no guilt in this man' (Jn.19:4,6). James tells us:
James 3:2 For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.
'When he was reviled, he did not revile in return'. I can't imagine a much more difficult situation to keep your mouth shut than when you have been falsely accused of something you clearly didn't do by men who are guilty of the very thing they accuse you of. Justice demands that you exonerate your name from the false charges. Justice screams that the guilty be punished and the innocent go free. Jesus was accused of being possessed by a devil. They called him a Samaritan, a glutton, a drunk, a blasphemer, demon-possessed, on the side of Beelzebub, a perverter of the nation and a deceiver of the people. When we follow the pattern of Jesus we “must learn to die to (our) reputation as well as to other things for His sake” (Nesbit, p.107)
'When he suffered he did not threaten.' The words of a Jewish martyr are recorded “You seek to terrify us with your threat of death by torture. ... But you, because of your foul murder, will suffer at the hand of divine justice the everlasting torment by fire you deserve.” (4 Maccabees 9:5-9). Polycarp recorded the words of early Christian martyrs “You threaten with that which burns for a time. ... you do not know the fire of the coming judgment and eternal punishment that awaits the ungodly”Peter has in mind Isaiah 53:
Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
How did Jesus maintain sinless perfection in the face of such unjust treatment? How can we possibly follow in his footsteps? Peter gives us insight into what was going on in the mind of Jesus as he silently stood before his accusers. It says 'but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly'. The word 'himself' in our English translation is an attempt to clarify an open-ended statement. Literally it says he 'continued entrusting or handing over to him who judges justly'. Jesus was continually handing over to God, giving over to God. Jesus took the injustice and entrusted it to God. Jesus took the slander and entrusted it to God. Jesus took the abuse and entrusted it to God. Jesus took the pain and entrusted it to God. In everything Jesus kept entrusting to God. Jesus gave himself and his enemies over to God. He kept entrusting to God. Christianity never demands that we stoically tough it out and absorb the injustice with a smile. Justice must be done. But it is not our place to ensure that justice be done. God says
Romans 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (cf. Deut.32:35)
This is an amazing statement. Jesus certainly has the capacity to judge justly, yet he submitted to the authority of the Father in judgment. We have a tendency to judge unjustly by either demanding excessive punishment, or by letting sin slide and not demanding justice. How much more should we be eager to entrust to God who judges justly. Our sense of justice is warped and must be retrained by the word of God. Jesus' sense of justice is flawless and he had the authority to pass judgment, yet he refrained and entrusted it all to God.
But Peter is not simply encouraging us to face suffering with silence. Silence can mask a bitter, hateful, resentful, unbelieving, hard, calloused heart. Remember, God is not concerned merely with outward appearances. He looks at our heart. Jesus' heart found expression when he did speak as he hung suspended by the nails:
Luke 23:34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Jesus' heart was full of compassion and forgiveness toward his enemies.
Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
We can't think that we are following in the footsteps of Jesus when we silently suffer and pray 'I'm not going to pay them back for what they've done, I'm entrusting the situation to you – you get 'em God! Make 'em pay! Let justice prevail!' That's not 'entrusting to him who judges justly'; that's declaring the verdict and asking God to be your executioner. This is not what Peter has in mind, and clearly not what Jesus taught and patterned for us. Ultimately it all comes from pride. My rights were violated. I was not treated fairly. I just want people to treat me with the respect I deserve. No one in the history of the planet was more worthy of respect, had more claim to rights than Jesus. And no one has suffered more unjustly at the hands of perverse men than Jesus. Jesus found strength to do good while suffering unjustly by continually giving it over to his Father.
In verse 13 Peter told us to be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution. In verse 19, he told us that it is grace when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. In verse 12 he told us that our conduct should cause unbelievers to glorify God on the day of visitation. In verse 9 he told us that our purpose is to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us. Our suffering is to be a Godward suffering, a God honoring suffering, suffering that proclaims his excellencies. Let's get real practical. What excellencies of God do we put on display in our suffering unjustly?
First, loving our enemies is an entirely supernatural attitude. It runs absolutely contrary to our fallen human nature. Living in this way puts God on display by showing strong evidence of his awesome power to overcome the self-centered pride in our life.
The other side of that is our God consciousness. Mindful of God we endure sorrows while suffering unjustly. We put God on display when our minds are oriented around a new central theme – God is worth thinking about – all the time.
When we trade in our comfort for suffering, we show God's comfort and approval is of greater worth than our temporary comfort and the approval of men
When we surrender our rights and suffer, we show that we are trusting in a God who is just and holy and will right every wrong.
When we endure sorrows for Christ's sake, we display God's ability to replace our deepest sorrows with his soul satisfying joy.
When we persist in doing good even when we suffer for it, we display God's sustaining grace and power to keep us against all odds.
When we humbly accept God's call to suffer for doing good, we magnify God's grace and mercy toward sinners as he uses our conduct to open blind eyes to see the excellencies of his character.