1 Peter 2:18-25
Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the fraudulent.…
Christ suffered for us, and left us an example. There must be no division of the two. You must not regard the suffering on one hand, and the example on the other. You must not divide Christ. I love to contemplate the life of Christ as an example, and the death of Christ as an atonement for sin. If He were an atonement without being an example, He would have been no atonement. If He were an example and yet not an atonement, He would be no example. If I preach to you Christ as an atonement, but not an example, my doctrine would be immoral; and if I preach to you the example of Christ, leaving aside the atonement of Christ, my preaching would be worthless. The New Testament always couples the two elements in the life of Christ. The word "example" in the text, is synonymous with the word model, or the idea of design. I do not know of any system, or of any religion, which can place before men a life fit to copy, except that of Jesus Christ. In Him we have the model of a perfect character. In the next verse the apostle changes the figure. Here the apostle, after describing Christ as an example, proceeded to refer to Him as a Shepherd leading His sheep to the green pastures. The sheep followed the Shepherd. They had implicit reliance on Him. And Christ has left us an example which we may with equal certainty follow. It is devotion; it is worship; that is the sentiment which we cherish towards the Lord Jesus. It is not mere sentiment. Christ is not simply a hero — some one to wonder at, and strike men with astonishment. His life is something different, and something greater. His life is an example which all men might follow. No one in his senses would dream of living a life like Christ, so obscure and so self-sacrificing — no one would care to tread in His footsteps and stoop so low unless they looked at the whole plan, as a complete example, at the unity of aim, at the supreme objects to the attainment, by His life and death, of those distinguishing features which made the Lord Jesus Christ what He was. You will now see what the subject of the present discourse is — The Lord Jesus Christ as an example. What is a perfect example? How would you define the perfect man? There are four principal features in such a character.
1. A perfect example must be sinless. Christ is not a mere fragment of a man. Men have peered into the life of Christ, bringing microscopic criticism to bear upon its minutest details, but have failed to discover a single fault. Voltaire tried, and failed; Strauss has tried, and Renan. They have all failed, and many of them were men whose genius was sufficiently creative in its character to discover faults where there were no faults; but in the case of Christ they found no sin. And yet Christ was no recluse.
2. It was not sufficient that the life be a sinless one — difficulties must be overcome; that must be a characteristic of the perfect man, the great example of humanity. Now, there are the angels. An angel is perfect, but has not overcome difficulties. Could anyone conceive of any combination of circumstances in which the anguish could be so keen, in which the suffering could be so intense, difficulties so insuperable as those which Christ experienced and overcame?
3. A perfect example must be more than an example: it must hold out pardon for the past. We cannot forgive ourselves. Our past is so sinful that we falter before it. Robertson has said that man can afford to forgive himself if Jesus Christ can afford to forgive him! That is right; that is true. It is possible to break the links connecting the man with the old life and to restart in a heavenly direction by the aid of the Holy Spirit of God.
4. The Christ of the gospel is a living Christ. That is the foundation of the gospel. It would not pay me to preach philosophy to you, if I could do so. I would not preach poetry without a living Christ; I would not preach doctrine to you without a living Christ. The Bible would not be worth anything for the purpose of preaching but that it contains a living Christ. The atonement would be valueless except for a living Christ.
(T. C. Edwards.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.