February 9, 2020
This has been a challenging time in the book of I Peter. Some challenging verses with unsettling, against the grain commands. If we’re honest, things that don’t set well. Now, this past couple of weeks have certainly come at a good time – reminding us to honor all people, even those in governing authority – kings and governors, presidents and houses of congress. Perhaps I should send a copy of I Peter to our federal government. I would suggest we do not follow the examples of those in the highest offices in the land – the way vitriol, attack, sarcasm, tweets, disrespect, and dishonor are being displayed for all to see. It is quite disappointing.
We remember Peter is writing to encourage suffering believers, who no doubt wanted to fight back. Get some payback. I mean, those make all the best movies, right? He reminds them, in the midst of persecution, to live beautiful lives. Why? So we can make Christ and His gospel attractive. Don’t lower yourselves, don’t be like the culture around us, that applauds payback – live beautiful lives of humble, gentle submission. The challenging part has been this – honor and submit to the very people who may be opposing you. So, submit to those ungodly Roman Emperors who saw themselves as divine – as gods. Now to be clear, we don’t submit if they require immoral, illegal or unethical actions. If they command us to do something God says don’t do; or, they command us to not do things God says do. God is the highest authority, so there is a place for civil disobedience. But even then, our actions and attitudes should be respectful. Peter tells us to honor those in authority.
Well, that was challenging enough, but then it got a bit more personal. Servants, be submissive to your masters. While we may feel like servants, most of us aren’t. And yet the application for us is obvious – submit to those in authority in the workplace. Okay, I can do that, I guess. If I feel like I’m being respected, paid enough, treated well, good benefits, etc. But Peter had to meddle a little. Submit not only to those who are good and gentle, respectful and kind, but also to those who are unreasonable. The word is scolios – crooked, perverse. Unkind, ungentle, unreasonable. And perhaps you left here the last couple of weeks, scratching your heads, hanging your heads, shaking your heads. How can I do that? This command seems unreasonable.
Don’t we have labor laws to protect us? Yes we do, and I’m glad. I don’t have to put up with such abuse, right? This text must not apply to me. After all, Peter told us governing authorities are there to punish evildoers. And my boss qualifies, you say. And yet, Peter says, be submissive to those who are challenging – those who are unkind, even crooked. Again, this does not mean we submit to employers if their directives require illegal, immoral or unethical actions. God’s authority trumps those. But please notice the distinction – we do not have the biblical right to disobey if the master himself is immoral or ungodly. We still submit.
And so, we shake our heads. How can we do that? Put up with unjust treatment. Don’t we fight fire with fire? Don’t we treat others like we’re treated? I’ll get that evil boss; I’ll get that unbelieving, unkind husband. He’ll get his. He disrespects me, I’ll disrespect him. I want you to think about that – in doing so, you are following the example of the unjust boss, of the unkind husband. Is that what we’re supposed to do? Be like them? Well, then we remember the words of Paul in Romans 12:
18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. [notice how he holds out the promise that God will make all things right – you don’t have to – let Him take the vengeance, He’ll do it right]
20 “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.”[meaning either you will heap burning coals on his head in judgment, or you
will light the way to truth]
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Wow. That’s challenging. Is that what your flesh wants to do? How do we do that? How do we possibly put up with ungodly leaders, with ungodly masters/employers? With ungodly husbands? If we don’t lower ourselves to their standards; don’t become like them, who do become like? Who do we follow? Great question – Peter gives us the answer in a stunning text today, I Peter 2:21-25.
You say, nobody knows what I have to put up with – at work, at home, with my family, my husband, my wife, my kids, with my teachers or professors, my roommates, my neighbors, with my coworkers, my boss. No one understands. There is one who knows. And in fact, He put up with much more – in so doing, leaving an example to follow. Who are we to be like? Jesus. We are to follow Him.
This is one of the clearest passages in the New Testament on the vicarious substitutionary atonement in the sacrifice of Christ. Why do I say that? Even as we start, I want to remind you, regardless of your station in life, your circumstances of life – Jesus took on flesh, and suffered the ultimate, undeserving abuse and death, because of you, and for you. The outline is simple but glorious:
- The Example of Christ (21-23)
- The Sacrifice of Christ (24-25)
I am not suggesting your mistreatment, your abuse, your circumstances are unimportant – to be dismissed or disregarded. Quite the contrary. If you are living as a fully devoted follower of Jesus, it will cost you – likely has cost you in some way. And I believe it is only going to get worse. So, how do we respond? We follow our Savior Jesus, who endured so much for us.
Look at the example of Christ. For you have been called for this purpose – stop right there. Peter uses the word called in this book to speak of God’s effective call on our lives. In chapter 1, he said, “but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves…” God called us to Himself. In chapter 2, he wrote that God called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Now we like that, don’t we? He called us from the darkness of our sin, into the light of His glory and grace. But here, Peter says God called us for this purpose. For what purpose? It goes back to verse 20, “But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.” For you have been called for this purpose – to suffer for doing right. Really, is that what it says?
Well, look at what he goes on to write. You have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered. Part of the calling in the Christian life is to suffer as Christ suffered. Now, to be clear, our sufferings don’t produce what His did – as we’ll see in our second point. But if we are going to follow Jesus, it will mean suffering, as Jesus suffered. His suffering was to redeem us, ours is to grow us – and further, to live beautiful lives in suffering so others are drawn to Christ. One of my favorite verses is Philippians 1:29, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,”
I call that the fine print of the Christian life. Yes, it is true, the Christian life is the best life – both now, and the life to come. But Jesus promised if they persecuted Him, they will persecute His followers. All for His glory, and our good.
For you have been called, just as He called you to Himself, you have been called for the purpose of suffering, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps. Now, many of you know, there was a famous book written by a pastor, Charles Sheldon. It sold over 50 million copies, one of the best-selling books of all time. But its subtitle helps us know what the book is about – “What Would Jesus Do?” The minister encouraged his people, before making any decision, ask and answer that question. The book is fictional and follows the lives of people who do and don’t ask the question. The book no doubt gave impetus to the popular, WWJD fad a few years ago. It’s really a good question to ask before doing anything – it will help you to obey chapter 1, to be holy as God is holy.
But here, Peter puts a different slant on it. If we are going to follow in His steps, what will we do? Well, we will do good – that’s what verse 20 said, and it will cost us, and we will follow in the steps of Jesus’ suffering. After all, He suffered for us, leaving us an example. Again, to be clear, our suffering is not redemptive – it doesn’t contribute to our salvation. But is does our sanctification – our growing to be like Jesus.
By the way, the word example here is very specific word. It doesn’t mean we just sort of follow Jesus on occasion, when the situation demands it. Oh no. The word was used to speak of teaching children how to write. You would write the letters, as an example, and the child would trace your letters with his or her own hand. That’s how closely we are to follow Jesus – we are to emulate His every move – to include suffering as He suffered.
In fact, let me say this. Any time you avoid suffering, and there are lots of ways to do that. You hide your faith to avoid ridicule. You don’t share when you should because of potential offense. You give into the crowd to fit in – because we want to fit in at almost any cost. You gather around the water cooler or the friend’s apartment or the lunch table and listen to things you shouldn’t, or dishonor those in authority – governing officials, teachers, bosses. There are lots of ways to avoid suffering, by fitting into culture rather than following in His steps. And every time you do, you’re lifting your pencil from the paper – you’re not following Jesus as your example. You’re on your own – you’re just making up your own lines.
And look at the example Jesus left. Peter here quotes or paraphrases Isaiah 53 a number of times. Which is interesting – think about who wrote I Peter. Do you remember that time when Peter and the disciples were up in Caesarea Philippi? Jesus asked them, who do the people say that I am? Well, some say you’re Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the prophets or John the Baptist raised from the dead. Jesus then asked them – who do you say that I am? And Peter answered rightly, remember? You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. You got it right Peter. And on this truth, that I’m the Christ, I will build My church. But know this – it will require a trip to Jerusalem, where I’ll be handed over to the religious authorities, and I will be crucified. How did Peter respond? No way, Jesus, not while I’m around. There’s no way you’re going to suffer and die. To which Jesus, of course, responded, get behind Me Satan.
You see, Peter didn’t understand this was the very reason He came – to die for the sins of His people. That was the first of three times He told them what would happen when they got to Jerusalem. Did Peter figure it out? Not really. Remember in the Garden of Gethsemane, when they came to arrest Jesus – what Peter did? He drew a knife and cut off the servant of the High Priest’s ear. He was going for his head. No way, Jesus, you’ll not suffer. But that’s exactly what Jesus did. You see, the way of Jesus is the cross before a crown. And here, in I Peter, he seems to have finally figured it out. No one in the NT more clearly ties Jesus to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 like Peter.
First, he quotes Isaiah 53:9, follow in Jesus steps, “who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth.” I want you to remember that – Jesus never sinned – in word or in deed. He was perfect. Over and over, the NT declares that to be true. He simply did miracles – fed a lot of hungry people, healed people of every imaginable disease, to include leprosy and blindness – only God could heal blindness. He raised the dead. He taught like no one else. So He asked the Pharisees one day, for which of these good deeds do you oppose Me? He did good – unlike any other – and it cost Him. And when they arrested Him, accused Him, reviled Him, mocked Him, beat Him, and killed Him, He did not open His mouth. He did not allow their sinful behavior to draw Him to sin. It was the reason for which He’d come.
And so, when we are reviled and mocked and scorned – maybe even beaten and killed for our faith, Jesus left us an example – a letter to trace. Don’t seek vengeance – allow God to make things right – return evil with good.
Verse 23 tells us, Jesus did that. While being reviled, He did not revile in return. He certainly could have – all they accused Him of was false – He could have laid them bare with truth. He did not. While suffering, He uttered no threats. By the way, they would not have been threats, they would have been promises. But He didn’t. The closest He came to it was when He was talking to Pilate. Pilate was frustrated, because Jesus did not open His mouth in defense. This was unusual. Pilate had faced many hardened criminals – this one, uttered no threats, begged for no mercy, gave no defense, He wasn’t violent. He was humble and gentle. Pilate blurted out, what’s wrong with – don’t you know who I am? Don’t you know I have power to release you, or power to crucify you? And Jesus said, in essence, don’t you know who I am? You would have no power over Me at all if it were not given you from above. Don’t you know that I could at this moment call twelve legions of angels and be done with this whole thing? Don’t you know who I am?
But He uttered no threats – Pilate, Annas, Caiaphas, Herod, Pharisees, Sadducees, you’ll get yours. No, He simply entrusted Himself to Him who judges rightly. The one who will make all things right. How frustrating – how glorious that must have been. And the example for us? We don’t retaliate when wronged – we simply entrust ourselves – we simply trust God.
Which brings us to why He did what He did – the Sacrifice of Christ. If you are here today and not a Christian, not a believer in Jesus, I want you to pay careful attention. Because this is what Jesus did for you – when you reviled Him by your sin. Again, Peter quotes a number of verses in Isaiah 53, five of them actually. Let’s read Isaiah 53, to be reminded:
4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
9 His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
10 But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.
11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.
Peter says it this way in verse 24, He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross. You must understand, the Scripture is clear – the reason we die, is because of sin. But the Bible tells us over and over, Jesus was perfect – He never sinned. So why did He die? He bore our sins in His own body on the cross – literally, the tree, reminding us of Deuteronomy 21, which tells us those who are hanged on a tree are cursed by God. And indeed, Jesus was cursed, because He bore the sins of the world in His body. In fact, that’s reason He became a man. Hebrews 2 tells us:
14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,
15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives…
17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
Don’t miss it – Jesus took on flesh so that He could take our sins in His flesh, and die for the sins of His people. And through His death, the end of verse 24 tells us, by His wounds you were healed. As a quote of Isaiah 53, Peter is talking about being healed from our sinfulness. Forgiven of sin. And having been forgiven, the result is we might die to our sin, and live to righteousness. Jesus saves us by His death, dying in our place, taking our sin, so that we too can die to sin, and live righteous lives. Good lives, beautiful lives.
Paul tells us, having believed in Christ, we are no longer slaves of sin, but slaves of righteousness. Meaning, we are no longer mastered by sin – we can actually say no to sin, and live in righteousness for Christ. To be clear, that’s not saying we will always be perfect – sinless. Remember, He told us to keep on putting aside – putting to death the sins of our flesh. We still live in broken bodies in broken world surrounded by sin, with the enemy of our souls seeking to do us harm. But we have the God of the universe by His Spirit living in us, so that we now have the power to say no to sin, and yes to righteousness. The old bumper sticker is true – Christians aren’t sinless, but we should sin less.
Verse 25, before we came to Christ, healed from our sin, we were continually straying like sheep – all we like sheep had gone astray. But now, we have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian – or, Overseer of our souls. Interesting, Peter says of Jesus, He is the Shepherd. Jesus said that Himself – He is the good shepherd, who lays down His life for the sheep. Shepherd is the word for pastor. He is the Overseer – it’s the word for bishop, used interchangeably with Elder. Get that – Jesus is the Chief Pastor and Elder of His people. Yes, in chapter 5, Peter will remind elders to shepherd the flock of God, exercising oversight. Same words. But we do so under the Chief Shepherd, so that when He returns, we will receive the unfading crown of glory.
So, how do we do it? How do we live beautiful lives – wanting to see people saved and suffer for it – unjustly? We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. He is our example. We trace our lives on Him. Remember Hebrews 12:
2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.