I want to start by continuing to lift high the name of Jesus.
Oh, there are glorious things in our passage this morning! “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds we are healed.” As Peter draws these words out of Isaiah 53 where God foretold through the prophet Isaiah that He would send His Servant to bring us peace, Peter is saying He has come and has done it for you.
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:18-25
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
The story told in the pages of Scripture is a true story about the glorious triune God and His abundant grace in saving, rescuing, redeeming an utterly unworthy people out of the darkness and destruction they so deserve and bringing them to life and light and fullness of joy through Jesus Christ the righteous sin bearer.
Sometimes we get the idea that the Bible is written just to help us get along a little better in this world. But it isn’t. We need so much more than a little help because all our problems that we think we only need just a little help with are truly rooted in one immense problem. All our problems (of which there are so many) are truly only symptoms of one horrifying reality: we do not honor and adore God. We have abandoned Him. We have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way. In other words, we are sinners.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ … by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:4, 5, 8, and 9).
This is our great hope and joy and song. But take special note of that fact that both Paul and Peter understood Christ’s work for us as having a result. In Ephesians Paul says, “For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Peter here in our passage says, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds we are healed.”
There is a result to the glorious work of our Lord in our lives. It is the result that we might “die to sin and live to righteousness,” that is that we might “be healed,” or to say it as verse 21 does, “that we might follow in His steps.”
Oh how we should rejoice and rest in the glorious news that all our guilt is gone. Our sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and we bear it no more – praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh my soul!
But this good news is not intended to be something we take out every once in a while to admire, like a beautiful painting, only to be put it away again. Neither is this good news intended to be like a fire insurance policy, something to be grateful for on judgement day – like a kind of “get out of jail free” card that we have safely tucked away, but which has no present effect.
Do we grasp that the gospel – the good news about what the Lord Jesus has done to bring us from death to life – has immediate and present effects in our lives? Christ is not a beautiful painting to hang on the wall, nor an insurance card to tuck away, He is the only sure foundation, in a world of shifting sand, upon which we must build our lives.
He must be our strong tower and our place of safety and our very great reward. The gospel commands us to return to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls, to return and trust Him for forgiveness and righteousness and life and joy and peace and blessing.
If He is that, there will be effects in our lives. Our conduct and way of life will begin to change.
You will recall that Peter told us in verse 9 that God rescued us by the Lord Jesus Christ so that we may proclaim the excellencies of our Savior in this world.
So catch how this all fits together. You were once a God dishonorer, but God rescued you, removing your iniquity and has set your feet upon the Rock. That is, He has called you out of darkness and death and into light and life and so that you have come to Christ and seeing Him as precious and strong and trustworthy you have put your trust in Him – not simply as hell insurance, but as the strong, wise, gracious Shepherd and Overseer of your life.
And the reason He has you here now, is so that you can live before other God dishonorers as salt and light – to proclaim the strength and wisdom and kindness of your God and Savior.
Our aim as saved people in this world should be to draw attention to Christ our King while we are here and the way Peter said that we are to do that is by keeping our conduct among the unbelieving world so honorable, so godly, so built upon Christ that they take notice and ask for a reason for the hope that we have.
Last week, Peter, began to unpack one way our hoping in Christ is to make a difference in our lives. He said we who have received Christ as Lord and Savior are to submit ourselves to the governing authorities. We were called to be subject to the governing authorities for Christ’s sake. One of the contexts in which we show that Christ is our treasure and foundation is in our relationships to the governing authorities whom God has raised up. We are called to honor them and submit to them.
We said last time, that, truly, it is only when the governing authorities command what God forbids or forbid what God commands that we should disobey them.
Writing to Encourage a Church Mistreated
This week we continue to hear from Peter what our lives should look like as Christ’s people.
First of all, we need to take note of who Peter is talking to. Last time He broadly addressed everyone who finds themselves under governing authorities. Here he is addressing slaves and the next group he will address is wives. In each of these cases Peter selects people who are in hard circumstances, circumstances were they are not in charge, where they are under someone else’s authority.
I believe Peter does this strategically. Truly Peter is speaking to the entire church, but he is using specifically difficult circumstances to teach all of us what being a Christian really means as we live as aliens waiting for our Lord to appear.
In this case he turns to servants or slaves and their relationships to their masters.
The question Peter wants to answer here is: How does a Christian conduct himself as a slave?
Now, this question strikes us in this culture as a strange question. “Shouldn’t Peter be answering the question, how does a Christian work to liberate the oppressed and eradicate injustice in the world? Shouldn’t the Christian be aiming to abolish all forms of slavery? People ought not own other people.”
Peter why are you not addressing that question?
It may be remarkable to some of us to realize that the New Testament is not aiming at mobilizing the people of God to revolutionize governments or overturn the practices of the world. The New Testament does not specifically highlight political activism or global reform or even cultural restoration. At least not in the way we might imagine. At best those things may be one result of the New Testament’s mission.
But if those things happen they must happen as we pursue what God has explicitly called us to, namely being such a radically godly people that those in darkness see it and ask for a reason for the hope that we have and we tell them of our glorious Lord and they come to trust Him and join us as salt and light.
When we think about what God is up to in the world, we need to recognize that He is in the business of creating a people of holiness, a people who are genuinely godly in every part of their lives. Radically Godward. Radically Christ treasuring. Holy in all their conduct.
That is what the New Testament is aiming at.
Now, what Peter was addressing, namely the cultural institution of slavery, should not be equated with the race based slavery of our own history, neither should it be seen as parallel to the underground human trafficking that is rampant today in this nation and around the world. The slavery Peter is speaking about was a part of the social structure of the culture and at its best it served as a kind of social safety net, but at its worst it brought with it all the horrors and abuses that come when a sinner wields great power over another.
Peter’s words should not be taken as an endorsement of slavery – as if God had instituted it. God did not institute slavery. Rather Peter was speaking into his historical context where slavery was a very present reality. And he is simply applying the great aim of the Christian life to that specific context of his readers.
Visions of Grandeur
Now we find ourselves with the great responsibility in this nation to advocate and promote good laws and institutions in this society. So as we think about what laws and structures will promote the good of all we should not take Peter to be endorsing or condoning slavery.
But let us note that he did not call the people of God to overturn social structures – instead, he called them to suffer well under the difficult circumstances that then existed.
Hear me, I believe that as God gives us gifting and influence and opportunity Christians ought to seek to relieve those who are suffering in the world and help those who are mistreated in the world, as an expression of love for them – yes. But that large, broad, far reaching vision for institutional, systematic, legal reforms in the world is not what Peter is focused on.
He is speaking to Christians who find themselves out of the seats of power and in places where they are vulnerable to mistreatment and abuse. And he does not say, seek to be liberated and seek to bring these scoundrels to justice. Instead, he says, respect them, endure suffering, and entrust your life to God. Just like Jesus did.
I am going to linger on this contrast for a moment more.
I think we tend to think that the truly worthy life, the life that really counts in this world is the life that accomplishes big things, the life that influences lots and lots of people, the life that many notice, the life that changes the course of kings and kingdoms – that is the life that really counts. Its when your name shows up in the history books, that your life is truly worth something.
But Peter does not go there. Peter has said we have been called out of darkness and into light for a grand purpose: to proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us. We are here to draw attention to God – what a grand purpose! But how does Peter go about applying what this looks like in our lives? Does it look like far reaching, institutional, systematic, and legal reform here in the world?
Well, maybe that will be a result of the gospel taking root in our hearts, but it is not even whispered here by Peter. No, there is something far more fundamental. Before it looks like far reaching, institutional, systematic, and legal reform it must look like personal godliness.
It looks like a person with no power and no resources and no far reaching influence and no plan for revolutionary reforms respecting those in authority over them, enduring unjust suffering, and trusting God through it all.
It is all too easy to be consumed with the grand, the grand political issues of the nations, the grand social issues of the culture, the grand global issues of the world and give little attention to our truly grand calling.
We are called FIRST to personal holiness, to live upon Christ in every moment of our small lives, in our homes, in our jobs, in our neighborhoods, in our church. This is where the proclamation of the glory of God must start. The FIRST expression of the gospel taking hold of your heart is godliness.
And what does godliness look like in verse 18?
Be Subject With All Respect To The Unjust
Verse 18 says,
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.
When we find our selves under someone else’s authority we are to be subject to them, that is not bucking or resisting them but submitting to them, and we are to do it with all respect – even if they are not good and not gentle and not just.
Peter says in verses 19 and 20 it is because God is pleased by it.
For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.
That word “gracious” might also be translated “commendable.” So it’s a commendable thing a praiseworthy thing in the sight of God and it is to your credit when you endure sorrow while suffering unjustly.
So why show respect and submit? Because it pleases God.
But what exactly pleases God? Is it that God just loves to see His people suffer unjustly? Does God just like to see us in pain? No. Notice the crucial phrase, “when, mindful of God.”
It is commendable, when, mindful of God, one endures injustice and suffering.
So it is not the suffering per se that God loves. It is the mindset or heart set on God that God loves. That is, if you are suffering unjustly because your heart is set upon God – that is commendable in the sight of God.
When you live setting your hope upon Christ as the supreme treasure of your heart so that you do not need to avenge yourself, you do not need to defend yourself, you do not need the praise and approval of men, you do not need recognition from men – when all you need is Christ, that pleases God.
God loves to see the gospel taking root in His people’s hearts so that they are able to endure unjust suffering being submissive and respectful. What he loves is the heart that is willing to suffer for His sake.
“I want to make Christ known. So I am willing to be mistreated in order to display that my hope is in the Lord.”
When we willingly accept mistreatment because we are clinging to Jesus and longing to make Him known – that is when God is pleased.
It Is Your Calling As A Disciple
Peter says, in fact, that this goes right to the heart of what it means to be a Christian. He says in (v 21),
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
Did you known you have been called to endure mistreatment with Christ so that He will be seen as the supreme value and the great trustworthy cornerstone?
Christianity is inextricable tied to suffering. Christianity is about the One who suffer for us, to bring us to God and it is about those who are now reconciled to God through Christ, following the One who suffered into suffering like His, so that others also may see His value be reconciled to God through Him. To be a Christian is to be called to suffer – like Jesus suffered.
Looking to Jesus
If you are a follower of Jesus, than you are called to follow Him into unjust treatment and to behave as He did: committing no sin, not being deceitful, not returning reviling for reviling, not threatening when mistreated, but entrusting ourselves to God who judges justly.
The aim of grand social, cultural, governmental, institutional change should not be the first aim of our lives. Personal godliness, that is personal Christlikeness in all our relationships, particularly difficult and oppressive relationships, should be the grand aim of our lives.
And (catch this), it is as we grow to better and better understand and love the power, wisdom, and kindness of God for us in Christ Jesus (as we love His excellencies) that we will be equipped to follow in His steps. It is as we learn to trust Him that we will become like Him.
So we pursue that Christlikeness by seeing the beauty of Christ in the gospel, by meditating upon His person and work at Calvary, by letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly, by looking to what He endured for us and the good He secured for us.
And this is just what Peter does in verses 22-25.
I want us to walk through this description in verse 22-23 of how our Lord Jesus Christ suffered, which is for us both the reason we are reconciled to God and the patter for our new life in Him.
notice the last phrase in verse 23 because I think it unlocks the way in which we follow our Lord. It says,” …when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
As we walk through how Jesus conducted Himself under mistreatment, I believe the key is the Jesus continued entrusting himself to His Father who judges justly.
So, for example it says in verse 22 “He committed no sin.” When we experience mistreatment, that is, when someone sins against us, why are we tempted to return evil for evil, to sin against them? I think its because we think we are in the place of God. We think we have the wisdom and the power and the right to judge this person and restore order and justice.
But, even Jesus didn’t take the role of judge. It says He entrusted Himself to God. That is, He entrusted His circumstances and His very life to the Father. He believed that God, His Father, was the just judge and would bring justice . Jesus did not take matters into His own hands to take vengeance and to demand His own rights. He left it to God, who is wise and strong and good.
As Paul says in Romans 12:19
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.
When we are mistreated and we respond by sinning we are not trusting God to take care of it.
Verse 22 goes on to say, “neither was deceit found in his mouth.” When we are trusting God, entrusting our lives and circumstances to God there is no need for deceitful, shady, underhanded dealings in order to avoid suffering or gain an advantage. Do you trust God with your life or do you think you are stronger, wiser, better? When we deceive and manipulate to avoid personal mistreatment we are not following Jesus example of trusting God.
“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return.”
When our Lord was insulted and mocked He did not insult or mock in return. There were no harsh, angry, retaliating words. “when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
You were once a God dishonorer, but God rescued you, not just to forgive past wrongs but to set your feet upon the Rock. That is, He has called you out of darkness and death and into light and life and so that you have come to Christ and seeing Him as precious and strong and trustworthy and you have put your trust in Him – not simply as hell insurance, but as the strong, wise, gracious Shepherd and Overseer of your circumstances and your very soul.
And the reason He has you here now, in the difficult circumstances your in, is so that you can live before others as salt and light – to proclaim the strength and wisdom and kindness of your God and Savior as you follow in His steps.
Our aim as saved people in this world should be to draw attention to our King while we are here and the way Peter said that we are to do that is by being so built upon Christ that we submit and respect those over us, even the unjust, so that they take notice and ask for a reason for the hope that we have.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”