1 Peter 2:21
For even hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps:
Christianity brings its highest principles to bear on the lowliest duties. If it did not regulate these, what would there be for it to regulate? Life is made up of a great many little things and a very few great ones. The clock only strikes twelve twice in the twenty-four hours. The apostle is engaged in exhorting a handful of Christian slaves to patience and submission, and he points to the solemn mystery of the cross, and bids them look to it amid their squalid miseries, and take pattern from the infinite meekness and unmurmuring submission seen there. The supreme truth of revelation is fitly used for so lowly a purpose. Further, note how here the two views of Christ's work which have been often held apart, and even made antagonistic, are united - suffering for us, and example to us.
I. THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST OUR GAIN. It is interesting to notice the change in the apostle's insight into the meaning of Christ's sufferings. At first, it was he especially to whom they were a stumbling-block. The very intensity of his belief that his Master was "the Christ, the Son of the living God," made him recoil from the thought of his violent death as an inconceivable contradiction. "Be it far from thee, Lord. This shall not be unto thee!" expressed with characteristic vehemence at once his blindness and his love. Even after the Resurrection, Peter's earlier preaching, as recorded in the Acts, does not go beyond putting in contrast the two things - the death as man's crime, the rising again as God's seal. He does not seem, in these first days of transition, to have reached the harmonizing thought of the purpose of the sufferings. But in this Epistle these sufferings have become the very keystone of the arch. The references to them are continual. The whole fabric of his theological and moral teaching is built on them. The black thunder-cloud has been discerned to be the source of all-refreshing rains and the cause of fruitfulness, and the inexplicable anomaly has been unfolded as the deepest truth on which faith and hope and soul-transforming love, the mother of all practical obedience, may fasten and feed. The one thought which has thus illuminated the darkness is the recognition of Christ's sufferings as for us. The world has admitted that the Sufferer had no sin of his own. Unless we see in them suffering on behalf of others, his life becomes the great indictment of God's providence. Only when we see that he was wounded for our transgressions do we understand the mystery of the cross. The text does not define the manner in which these sufferings work on our behalf. "For us" is not necessarily "instead of us." But there can be no doubt as to what that manner was in the view of the apostle. "His own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree," says the context. His death was a sacrifice; by the sprinkling of his blood we are hallowed. No other view does justice to the plain import of these and other passages than that which takes Christ's sufferings to be substitutionary in their character and propitiatory in their operation, and therefore to be for our advantage. Note, too, that the apostle dwells on the sufferings, the actual mental and physical pain, and not only on the that of death. The loving memory of the eye-witness of his Lord's Passion retains each incident of the slow torture, the buffeting, the mocking, the livid weals of the cruel scourge, the fainting form bearing the heavy cross, and the unmoved meekness in it all. Sensuous representations of Christ's sufferings have often been carried too far, but surely there is a danger of going to the other extreme; and every Christian life needs for its vigor a believing and realizing contemplation of the sufferings of Christ endured for and instead of us.
II. THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST OUR PATTERN. We are familiar with the idea that our Lord's life is our pattern. But here we have his Passion presented not only for our faith, but for our imitation.
1. Note the special force of the two metaphors here. "Example" is only used here in the New Testament. It means a copy of writing set to a scholar to be traced over by his unaccustomed hand. Think of the clear firm characters below, and the wavering clumsy ones scrawled over them. How the figure speaks of careful observance of the example, of laborious effort after reproducing it, and of the hope of constant gradual improvement! The view of the whole Christian life which is involved in the figure is that in it all we are like schoolboys writing our copybooks, which have to be examined by the Master one day. What we have written, we have written. Let us live as remembering that we have to take up our books to the Master's desk when school is ever! The other metaphor is remarkable on Peter's lips. Did he remember how rashly he had asked, "Why cannot I follow thee now?" and the last solemn command by the fire of coals on the lake-side? The word employed has the force of "follow closely." We are to take Christ for our Guide, as men walking across a glacier might do by their guide, stepping in the prints of his footsteps, and keeping very near him.
2. Notice the solemn thought that Christ's sufferings can be imitated by us. They stand alone in their bearing on man's salvation, and in certain respects, in their severity and awfulness. We have but, at the most, to go a little way down the awful descent which he traveled to its depths, to drink a little of the cup which he drained to its dregs, t,, stand on the edge or' the storm through the worst of which he passed. But yet the same spirit and temper may be ours. Not the mocking but the meekness, not the scourging but the submission, not the dread desertion by the Father's love but the Son's cry to the Father, may be copied by each of us in our lighter griefs. Complete surrender to the will of God and meek endurance of the enmity of men are to be our patterns. The highest ideal of human character is the Christ who, when he was reviled, reviled not again. How utterly opposed to it are the so-called virtues of high-spirited resistance, and the whole practice of most of us in regard to slights, insults, and injuries! We call ourselves Christians, and say that we take Christ for our Example: do we ever remember that his cross is not only the ground of all our peace and hope, but the law of our lives? or bethink ourselves that whatever more "being made conformable to his death" may mean, it means that "when we do well and suffer for it, we take it patiently," and let no anger, or revenge, or bitterness to our worst enemy ever ruffle the clear waters of our hearts?
III. THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST OUR POWER. The world has plenty of examples. Men do not go wrong for want of patterns. The worst man knows more of goodness than the best man does. Models make us neither willing nor able to copy them. What is the use of a headline in a copy, be it ever so beautifully written, if the scholar has no will to imitate it, has a lame hand, and a bad pen with no ink in it? We want something more than examples if we whose disease is that we know the good and choose the evil are ever to be better. So all types of Christianity which merely take Christ as an Example fail to get his example imitated. We must begin with "Christ suffered for us" if we are to live like Christ. Only when I look to his cross as the great act of his love, by which he gave himself wholly for me and bore the burden of my sin, do I receive the power to follow him and live as he lived. That death, if I look to it with faith, opens the deepest springs of love in my heart, which make obedience to and imitation of him necessary and delightful. It joins me to him in a union so close that in him I am crucified to the world, and a new life, the life of Christ himself, is implanted within me. It brings to me a new power of holiness in the Spirit which he gives. Unless the sufferings of Christ are to us the propitiation for our sins, they will never be to us the pattern for our lives. Unless they are the pattern for our lives, it is vain to fancy that they are the propitiation for our sins. What God has joined together let not man put asunder. "Christ has suffered for us" - there is the whole gospel; "leaving us an example" - there is the whole Law. - A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: