1 Peter 2:21-24
For even hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps:
One thing must be observed and admired in the religious life and the religious teaching of the inspired apostles - everything they did and everything they said led their minds to the Lord Jesus. If Christ be the Son of God and the Savior of mankind, this is not to be wondered at. He is not only the central figure of human history; he is at the core of each Christian's heart, at the spring of each Christian's life. The Christianity which is apart from men's thinking and duty and interest has no likeness to the Christianity of the apostles. Every subject they treated was, in their view, related to the Lord Jesus. Especially did they look at every relationship of society, and every duty of man, in the light of Christ's Deity, Christ's humanity, Christ's cross! It was natural to them to think thus. Their hearts were full of Christ, and whatever path of inquiry, instruction, or action they took, it was sure to lead them to him. And this was not vain enthusiasm; it was most reasonable and right. We, too, cannot see things as they are in God's sight, we cannot act as he would have us, unless we connect all our experience and all our duty with him who has brought God to us, who has brought us to God. Peter was a very practical man. When he wrote his Epistle, he wrote it to actual living men and women. God be praised that we are taught our doctrines, not in theological treatises, but in letters which were the outpouring of soul to soul. Certain superfine religionists think the real occupations and relations of life as something quite beneath their notice. So did not the apostle. For instance, he knew that some of the Christian people who would read his letter were slaves; and accordingly he wrote to them as to slaves. There is no doubt that Christianity introduced among mankind principles which first ameliorated, and then abolished, slavery. But Peter had to deal with facts as they were. Christianity was to help men, not only to rise above slavery, but - whilst slavery still endured as an institution - to make the best of it. So Peter told these slaves that there was a work for them to do, a witness for them to offer, whilst they were still slaves. He bade them remember how their Master Christ, who was at the same time their Redeemer, had borne himself amidst injustice, false accusation, contumely, and suffering. And he brought to bear the willing sacrifice of Christ for them upon their hearts, as a Divine motive to endurance and patience. They were not so ill treated as their great Savior had been; and, whilst he was perfectly innocent and good, they were not free from human infirmities. It was certainly their duty to display the spirit of their Lord, to do what he had done, to endure as he had endured. Thus they should honor him. Thus they should be in the way of reaping some wholesome fruit of blessing for themselves. Thus they should win others to the faith which none could help admiring. And thus they should secure for themselves a sure recompense of reward.
I. LOOK AT THE FACT OF CHRIST'S SUFFERING. That the Founder of our religion should suffer is itself an astonishing and instructive fact. Buffering and shame, sub - mission to violence and cruelty, - these are not usually associated with power and victory. Yet the Author of the religion which has the greatest influence over mankind, and is molding the history of the world, was pre-eminently a Sufferer. We believe that this was foretold. It cannot be questioned that the first Christian preachers and writer's proclaimed, without any reserve, the humiliation and the woe of their great Lord. They even gloried in the cross. Peter was, perhaps better than any man, able to witness to the sufferings and to the demeanor of Jesus Christ. He was "with him in the garden;" and although he fell asleep, yet, on waking, he saw on his Master's brow the "bloody sweat," and read upon his Master's features the agony of soul through which he had passed, with no human sympathy, with none to share his awful watch. Peter was there when Judas betrayed the Lord with a kiss, and beheld the meekness with which he yielded himself into the hands of his foes. It was Peter who drew the sword in defense of his Master, and who heard that Master's rebuke, and his language of pathetic resignation, "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" The same Peter followed Jesus into the judgment-hall, and saw the Lord whom he loved bound and reviled, and witnessed his meekness under insult and injustice. Upon himself Jesus had turned the glance of affectionate reproach, which smote him to the heart, and opened the fountain of his tears. It was Peter who entered the empty grave of the risen Immanuel. It was Peter who, when forgiven his faithlessness and fear, was assured by the Lord of a share in the humiliation and agony of the cross. Who, then, so fit as Simon Peter - both by his opportunities of observing the Lord's sorrow and anguish, and by his warm and tender love for Christ - to speak of the Redeemer's woes, and to testify of his bearing and his spirit, when he "endured the contradiction of sinners against himself"? The witness of this companion and friend of Christ Jesus is that he suffered. That our Lord endured weariness, hunger, and thirst; that acutest pain was suffered by him in the closing hours of his life; - this the whole record abundantly proves. And his mental sufferings were made evident by the tears he shed, the sighs he heaved, the groans and cries he uttered. His soul was "exceeding sorrowful;" it was "troubled." Keenly susceptible to human emotions, he was distressed at his rejection by his countrymen, at his desertion by his friends, at his betrayal by one disciple, his denial by another. A yet further and a more mysterious woe was that which he endured when he bare the burden of the sins and sorrows of mankind, and "tasted death for every man." As the Son of man, the Head and Representative of the race whose nature he assumed, Christ Jesus shared our lot in more than all its grief and anguish. Great stress is laid upon the fact that Jesus was reviled. It was woe enough, so it might be thought, to suffer in our stead; but what shall be said of the endurance of the taunts and mockery of those for whom he came to die, whom he came to save? This was the bitterest earthly ingredient in the bitter cup which Jesus drank. Now, all these sufferings were undeserved. The apostle observes upon Christ's innocence. He "did no sin." With a reference to Isaiah's prediction, he boldly proclaims his Master's guilelessness. Whatever afflictions befall us in this life, candor constrains us to admit that we deserve all, and more than all, that we endure. If they are punishment, the strokes inflicted are lighter than the guilt they chasten. But nothing of this kind can be said of our Savior's pains. tits very enemies could substantiate no charge against him, and in this their testimony supports the assertions of his friends. And Paul says, "He knew no sin." "In him is no sin," says John. And Peter's witness is in the text, "He did no sin." To complete the picture, we must observe the demeanor of our Savior when enduring these afflictions. Men too often complain and murmur, whilst some rebel against the trials appointed for them. No one here is perfected in patience. But we are well reminded of the meekness and the patience of Christ. He endured more than we are ever called upon to suffer, yet he uttered no word of impatience. He endured his sufferings at the hands of injustice, and was cruelly and unpardonably wronged; yet he had only submission - no resentment - to return to his injurers, and a prayer to offer for their forgiveness. "He was reviled, but he reviled not again." The impenitent malefactor by his side joined in the jeers of the rulers and the people around the cross. But Jesus held his peace. When his sufferings were acute, he gave way to no impulse of revenge against his persecutors. Although he might have come down from the cross, or have summoned legions of angels to his rescue, "he threatened not." He was content that the will of God should be done. Men might judge unjustly. God is he who judgeth righteously. To him, accordingly, the Lord Jesus committed all - himself and his cause. What a picture is this of superhuman self-forgetfulness and self-sacrifice! As we contemplate the sinless Sufferer, first in the garden, then before his judges, and finally upon the cross, we are constrained to acknowledge with the centurion, "Certainly this was a righteous man! Truly this was the Son of God!" The scene surpasses all that man has invented. The character exhibited is one beyond the attainment of human virtue. We cannot wonder that the name of Jesus has become, and must ever remain, the symbol of love and meekness, patience and long-suffering, submission and self-restraint and self-denial.
II. The apostle, however, does more than state a fact - HE EXHIBITS THE PURPOSE for which our Savior thus suffered. It was "for us" - for our advantage, on our behalf. It was certainly not for his own sake. Jesus neither deserved to suffer, for he was faultless, blameless; nor did he stand in need, as we do, of the discipline of affliction, for there was no dross to purge away, and no gain could accrue to the pure gold by its being cast into the furnace. The end for which our blessed Redeemer consented to endure the humiliations of his life and the agonies of his death was no personal end; he suffered "for our sake." There were two distinct and yet closely related purposes which the Savior had before him in his sufferings. Both are stated in this passage very explicitly. There are some minds that look only at the one of these purposes; there are different minds that regard only the other. But the sober and attentive student of Scripture cannot fail to recognize the necessity of both, and their harmony with each other. Christ's endurance of sufferings, being exemplary, furnishes us with the model of our patience and submission; and the same endurance of sufferings, being sacrificial and substitutionary, supply us with ore' highest motive. That Christ is an Example for our imitation is not only taught in Scripture; it is a truth seized upon by every Christian whose Christianity is not merely nominal - who is by the Holy Spirit awakened to spiritual life. When he said, "Learn of me," "Follow me," Jesus sanctioned this view of the religious endeavor and prayerful aim of his disciples. And the apostles frequently admonish their converts to imitate the conduct, to share and display the spirit, of the Divine Leader and Lord. His obedience to the Father, his holy life, his benevolent disposition, his self-denying labors, are all put before us as a model which we are to study and to copy. In this passage the especial point selected for imitation is the meekness and long-suffering of our Lord. This is represented as a "copy" which he has left behind, that we may place it before our eyes, and try to produce a good, correct, well-studied imitation of it. We are told to follow in his steps; he is the Guide, to whom we entrust our way, in whose wisdom we have confidence; where he treads it is for us to follow, placing our feet in the footmarks he has left behind him. By these two simple and beautiful figures it is shown how we should lay to heart the perfect example of our Lord, and seek to make it ours. Human examples are so faulty, and human characters, even when noble, so lacking in sympathy, that hero-worship (as it has been called) is a very perilous proceeding. The young are more likely to emulate the questionable side of a great man's character, if that side be dazzling. Thankful should we be that our Creator, who has implanted within us the principle of imitation, has made provision for calling out that principle, and giving it full scope. The imitation of Christ is the lifelong practice and discipline of every pupil and learner in the spiritual school of God. The Divine Spirit must be the Teacher, revealing and applying the lesson to the scholar's heart, firing that heart with a holy ambition to be conformed to the sacred likeness of the Lord. But this is no such easy matter. Our gracious God and Father, who knows our nature perfectly, knows that it would be vain to set before men a perfect example of holiness and of patience, and then bid them and leave them to aspire to conformity thereto. Hence the further purpose of the Savior's sufferings. We are happily familiar with the great and precious truth, so strikingly exhibited in the twenty-fourth verse, "who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree." When Christ suffered as he did, it was not simply as an illustration of the grace of patience. It was both to secure to us the pardon of our sins, and to provide us with a motive of holiness, in the experience of his sacrificial grace. Without himself becoming a sinner, he nevertheless took the sinner's place, entered into the case of the sinner, and took upon him the sinner's burden, dying the death of the cross - appropriate, indeed, to the sinner, but only appropriate to the holy Christ as the sinner's Representative and Savior. By "bearing our sins" we are to understand a sacrificial, and therefore a redemptive, act. Whilst many popular teachers are insisting that sin can never be forgiven, and that every man must bear to the uttermost the consequences of his sins, the gospel comes with the good news of the remission of sins, and the favor of God for those who receive the Christ as their Mediator and Redeemer, in humility faith, and penitence.
III. The apostle traces THE OPERATION OF THIS DIVINE PRINCIPLE. It is not enough to tell that Jesus died, and died for us sinners. We need to show what is the result of Christ's sacrifice - that is, upon the heart and life of Christians. For whilst it has a relation to God and his government, it has also a relation - and one naturally more comprehensible by us - to our own moral life and conduct. "That we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness." Now, you need not to be told that these poor Galatian and Cappadocian bondmen must have been, before their conversion, in a position very unfavorable for the formation of a just and pure character, for living a blameless and benevolent life. They must have been alive to sin and dead to righteousness, No power but that of the cross could be "the power of God unto salvation" to such men. And in this they were representatives of mankind. The gospel of Christ both kills and makes alive. It slays the principle of sin; it quickens the principle of obedience to God. Those who are pardoned and justified by the grace of God, and through faith in that Christ who "loved us, and gave himself for us," are brought under the power of new and spiritual motives - the motives of gratitude, devotion, and love. Righteousness thus becomes the atmosphere the Christian breathes, the element in which he lives. It is for Christ's sake that he aspires to participation in Christ's character. And by fellowship with Christ he grows into what his Lord would have him be. The two motives thus coalesce. Believing in Jesus, the Christian comes to live, as a ransomed being, a life of devotion to his Redeemer and Liberator. Honoring Jesus, pondering his character, studying his will, he is "changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." Thus is verified the exquisite and figurative language of Peter, "By whose stripes ye were healed." He walked in darkness, that you might walk in the light. He was vanquished, that yon might conquer. He suffered and stooped, that you might reign. He tasted the gall and the wormwood of the crucified, that you might drink the wine of the kingdom and share the banquet of the blessed. He entered the prison-house, that you might go forth into glorious liberty. He died, that you might live. He gave himself up to the blows and stripes of the smiter that your wounds might be healed, that you might come to spiritual strength and soundness. Christian people! the practical lesson of the text is plain for you to read. Whether by persecution, or by opposition and enmity, or by misunderstanding or calumny, you must needs have something to bear in this world of probation and discipline. Remember what this Apostle Peter says, "This is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully." "If when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called." When distressed by the treatment you receive from wicked, unjust, or unreasonable men, forget not this. Then is the time to prove the reality of your religious principles. Flee to the mediation and sympathy of Christ. Ponder the example, and cultivate the spirit of Christ. Act as a friend, slave, of Christ. Revile not again. Commit yourselves to him that judgeth righteously. Fret not yourselves because of evil-doers. Trust in the Lord. He shall bring out your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday. Hearers of the gospel! the principles of life now unfolded must appear to you the noblest, the purest, and the best in the universe of God. Yet, as sinners, you have not acted under the influence of those principles. Understand that you are in need of the blessings of that redemption which Jesus wrought, in order that you may die unto sin, and live unto righteousness. It is good- news for you that Christ died for you, that the past of sin and anger and hatred may be slain, and that yours may be the new creation, which is the incorruptible seed of the new, spiritual, and endless life. - J.R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: