The Christian Ideal
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.…

"The Christian is the noblest type of man," says our Christian poet; and, assuredly, if the Christian be, in any extent, a reflection of the spirit of Christ, this language must be true. Whatever the grace we seek to inculcate we may find in Him a perfect illustration. Amid all life's trials, perplexities, temptations, and requirements we can have no law so suited to every occasion as this: "Let the same mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus."


II. THE ESSENTIAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE MORALITY WHICH THE WORLD PROFESSES TO HONOUR AND THAT OF THE GOSPEL, IS TO BE FOUND IN THE ENDEAVOUR OF THE LATTER TO REFLECT THE MIND OF CHRIST AS IT ACTUALLY EXISTS. I do not mean, of course, the morality of pure selfishness — if it be worthy the name of morality at all — which is all that numbers would acknowledge, but that which is cultivated by those who would develop a character higher than the Christian — the morality of the "Religion of Humanity," and of those who hang on its outskirts, approaching more or less nearly to its ideas. What is it, and how does it differ from that which the Church of Christ commends to the acceptance of men? It is clear that up to a certain point there is no outward difference. The law of truth, righteousness, sobriety is common to both. Further, the morality outside the Church is different from that which was in the world before the gospel, in that it has incorporated with its precept that law of gentleness, mercy, self-forgetfulness which was first set before men in the life of the Lord Jesus. Here, then, is likeness so great, that there are some only too eager to conclude that they are the same. These are the graces for which we seek lofty aims, pure desires, gentle thoughts, loving deeds. What can Christianity do more? Alas! has it not failed even to do as much? Without entering at length into the controversy here, it is at all events clear to those who will look beneath the surface, that this is not Christianity. The characteristic of the Lord was that the zeal of God's house had eaten Him up. In other words, the central idea of His life was to please God. It would be misleading in the very highest degree to describe a life out of which this ruling idea of the Saviour's conduct, this inspiration of His whole being, was omitted as Christlike. The difference is an essential one. It goes to the root of the whole being, affects every motive, touches every principle, regulates the whole ambition of the soul.

III. ONE OF THE FIRST AND MOST FREQUENT CHARGES AGAINST THE TEACHING OF THE CHURCH IS, THAT IT ENCOURAGES A SELFISH TYPE OF RELIGION. A grave impeachment this, and one which, if sustained, certainly indicates a separation from the spirit of Christ. It is a mere truism to say that there is no feature more prominent in His entire ministry than that of unselfishness. The one ruling thought of His life on earth was the salvation of others, and the sacrifice of Himself for this end. And as with His life, so with His teaching; it was full of emphatic warnings repeated against selfishness. This certainly, is lost sight of in too many of the current representations as to the nature of salvation. How often is the stress of exhortation laid upon happiness, whether here or hereafter, rather than upon holiness as the supreme object of Christian endeavour! Nay, how often is the idea of salvation almost restricted to this one point of deliverance from the wrath of God and the sentence of the law!

IV. IN THE DISTINCTNESS AND PROMINENCE GIVEN TO THE THOUGHT, THAT THE OBJECT OF THE GOSPEL IS TO CHANGE THE CONDITION OF MEN ONLY BY A CHANGE AMOUNTING TO AN ENTIRE RENEWAL OF HEART IN THE MEN THEMSELVES, IS TO BE SOUGHT THE TRUE ANSWER TO THE SUGGESTION THAT THE CHURCH IS ONLY FOSTERING A HIGHER TYPE OF SELFISHNESS. Looked at thus, salvation is the richest blessing which can be conferred upon man. It means salvation from himself — from the evil heart of unbelief which makes him depart from the living God; but which also places him in selfish antagonism to his fellowmen; from the sway of passions which scorn all restraints of right and duty; from the curse of a restless, discontented, repining, ambitious heart. The effect of a work like that can be only to purify and ennoble the character. Its polar star is no longer happiness but duty, and duty defined for it by its understanding of the will of God.

V. THE QUESTION WHICH IS OF GRAVE AND CRITICAL IMPORTANCE, IS WHETHER THE CHURCH IS EARNESTLY WORKING TO THIS IDEAL, AND SEEKING TO ENFORCE IT UPON MEN. It is not to be denied that there are those whose only desire is for safety, and who wish to secure even that at the least possible cost, and that they do very much to awaken the prejudices of men by the representation they give of Christian life. It is, in truth, little better than a ghastly caricature. They are not distinguished from others by nobility of character, generosity of spirit, tenderness of heart, active and sympathetic charity. They are not courageous in their assertion of principle, still less are they foremost in the exposure and condemnation of wrong. They have not keen instincts of justice, still less have they strong impulses of benevolence. If they try to reach the average standard of service, they never exhibit a spirit of self-denying devotion. Yet with all this there may be unctuous words on their lips, and occasionally an apparent spiritual excitement. But the conscience is not sensitive; the heart is not tender; perhaps there is not an intelligent conception of what religion ought to be. If we could probe their principles and motives, we should probably find that they had accepted the selfish conception of religion. They want to be sure for eternity, and they endeavour to obtain this assurance by a rigid conformity to their ideas of the Divine requirements. It is from professors of this type, who are not so uncommon as we should desire, that unbelievers take their conceptions of the Christian ideal. "These," they would say, "are your saints. In what are they better than those whom they would describe as sinners? They may seek a different kind of happiness, but the one class is as selfish in its views and aims as the other. If this be Christianity, there is in it nothing to awaken our reverence or constrain our faith." The only answer that can be found is the exhibition of a different spirit. It is for us to meet, by publishing the gospel of the kingdom that Christ died, rose, and lives again, that He may be the Lord both of the dead and living; that they only eat of the tree of life who keep His commandments; that the test of discipleship is obedience, conformity to the example He has given, that we may follow in His steps.

(J. G. Rogers, B. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

WEB: Servants, be in subjection to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the wicked.

The Christian as a Servant
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