Last time we started to look at 1 Peter 2v22-25 and considered Jesus as “The Suffering Saviour” from verses 22 to 24a. Those verses say: “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”. From that statement, we noted five things that Peter had to say about Jesus:
- He committed no sin
- He suffered
- He did not retaliate
- He trusted
- He bore our sins
Now we’re going to continue on to the end of the chapter and we’ll consider what Peter went on to say about “The saved sinners”.
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. (1 Peter 2:21-25 NASB)
Notice that, having said of Jesus that “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree”, Peter then went on to say: “that we might”. Without looking at the passage, I wonder how you would finish that sentence. If someone was to ask you to tell them what you considered to be the purpose of Christ’s death for His people or the effect of Christ’s death on His people what would be the first thing that you would mention? I expect you would probably say something like “the forgiveness of their sins” or “being made right with God” or “being made righteous in the sight of God” and, of course, all of those things are wonderfully true and Peter does mention them. However, it’s interesting to note that that is not the first thing that Peter went on to concentrate on here.
Having said of Jesus that “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree”, Peter went on to say: “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”. From that we will consider what Peter had to say about the effect of Christ’s suffering for us as His people. Initially, I was going to do so under three headings beginning with “R” so I was going to say that we have the three “Rs” in these verses but they’re not “reading, writing and ‘rithmatic”. Then I thought of a fourth point beginning “R” so now we have the four “Rs”! They are REVITALISATION, RECOVERY, RESCUE and RELATIONSHIP.
So, let us begin by considering the fact that, for saved sinners, there has been a:
You see, Peter said that Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the tree that we might die to sin and live to righteousness”. That word “live” speaks of a revitalisation or a new life. The purpose of Christ’s death was not only to provide forgiveness for us but also to bring about a new life for us. It was to enable and empower us to “live to righteousness”. That speaks of a revitalisation.
The first thing that we need to recognise from that is that it tells us what every human being is like by nature. They are alive to sin and dead to righteousness. That’s the status quo. Sinning comes naturally to people. Being righteous does not. We don’t naturally “live to righteousness”. That has been the case Ever since Adam rebelled against God in the garden. That’s now the way we are. It takes nothing less than the death of Christ bearing our sins to change that. It’s His death on the cross that makes us die to sin and be able to live to righteousness. Apart from His death on the cross we would remain alive to sin and dead to righteousness. There would be no revitalisation.
Now, before we consider that revitalisation further we need to be aware of the grammatical construction of the phrase that has been translated as “that we might die to sin and live to righteousness”. The translations that we find in both the ESV and the NIV are misleading. They both make it sound as though Peter is saying that Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the tree” in order to make two things possible. Firstly, to make it possible for us to “die to sin” and, secondly, to make it possible for us to “live to righteousness”. However, the verb “die” in the text is in the aorist tense so it is something that has already happened before we can “live to righteousness”. Also, the word “and” does not appear in the Greek text. So, the proper sense of the phrase is: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree so that, having died to sin, we might live to righteousness”.
You see, if Jesus has borne your sin on the cross then you have died to sin. It’s not that in bearing your sin on the cross Jesus had made it possible for you to die to sin. It’s not that He’s given you a fighting chance. No, you are dead to sin. Now, you might say that I’m reading too much into the fact that the verb “die” is in the aorist tense. Well, look at what Paul says in Romans 6v1-3: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”
There Paul is addressing ordinary believers in Christ and he makes it quite clear that he and they had “died to sin”. How come? It’s because they were “in Christ” and so they had died with Him. Now, this having “died to sin” doesn’t mean that we are now sinless. It doesn’t mean that we don’t need to bother about sin any more. We know all too well from personal experience that sin is still a present reality that we have to struggle with. But, this having “died to sin” means that Jesus has not only brought about forgiveness for our sin through His death on the cross; He’s also freed us from slavery to sin. He’s not only delivered us from the guilt of sin, He’s also delivered us from the power of sin. Through Christ’s death, sin’s dominion over us is broken.
It’s that being dead to sin that is the basis for being able, in Peter’s words, to “live to righteousness”. So long as you are alive to sin you have no chance of living to righteousness but if you have died to sin then living to righteousness in no longer an impossibility. Paul says the same thing in different words as he continues in Romans 6v4 by saying: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death”. Again, he’s talking about having died with Christ or having been included in His death and then he says: “in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life”.
You see, Peter says “that we might live to righteousness” and Paul says “in order that we might walk in newness of life”. They are different ways of expressing what Peter had previously referred to in verse 21 as following in the steps of Jesus. To “live to righteousness” is to be Christ-like. That is to “walk in newness of life” because it is completely different from our old, natural life before we came to faith in Christ.
So, Peter is emphasising that the purpose of Christ’s death was not only to procure our forgiveness but also to bring about a radical change in our lives. Believers in Christ are not only forgiven people, they are also new people. How we need to constantly remind ourselves of that. Oh, we like the idea of being forgiven because that costs us nothing but living out a new life in this sinful, hostile world is another matter. That’s tough. It takes effort. But, our Saviour “bore our sins in his body on the tree so that, having died to sin, we might live to righteousness”. Do you believe that Jesus died for you? Well, be in no doubt that He died so that you can live a new life for Him. Becoming a Christian isn’t just a matter of adopting a new set of beliefs. It changes your life. Jesus died “that we might live to righteousness”.
Peter’s next words show that. He goes on to say: “By his wounds you have been healed”. Once again, he’s basing that expression on words from Isaiah 53. Verse 5 of that chapter says: “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”.
So, Peter says to believers in Christ: “you have been healed”. Once again, the first thing that we need to recognise from that is that it tells us something about the state we were in before we came to Christ. We were sick or wounded and needed to be healed. That is what every human being is like by nature. Ever since the fall, there has been an inherent sickness in humanity. It’s what the Bible calls sin. That’s why people are naturally alive to sin and dead to righteousness. That’s why they need the revitalisation that we’ve been thinking about. They are infected with the disease of sin and that manifests itself in all sorts of ways. There’s the big stuff that makes the headlines such as wars, child abuse, terrorist attacks and so on. Those are the sorts of things that we’re ready to deplore because it’s invariably other people who are the perpetrators. But, this sickness in humanity manifests itself in less newsworthy ways too. The sickness is so severe that things such as pride, greed, dishonesty and the like are so commonplace as to seem to be the norm. The fact is that as Paul says in Romans 3v23: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. There are no exceptions. Apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, every man, woman and child is infected with the disease of sin.
There is a huge army of people employed in trying to cure the disease of sin: the police, the probation services, educationalists, psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists – the list is endless, but the fact is that they are all equally ineffective and powerless. At best, they scratch the surface or tinker at the edges but they can’t change human hearts.
So, how have believers in Christ been healed? How has a recovery been brought about? Well, Peter says that “By his wounds you have been healed”. What does he mean by “his wounds”? It’s very clear from the gospel accounts that Jesus had terrible wounds inflicted upon Him. His back was lacerated as He was scourged. His hands and feet were wounded as the nails were driven through them. His head was wounded as the crown of thorns was pressed down upon it. Even after He was dead a further wound was inflicted as a sword was thrust into His side. However, it’s hard to see how those wounds as such have brought about our healing. Peter has just been saying that Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the tree”. That was clearly speaking of His death on the cross and Jesus’ wounds were all associated with His crucifixion so when Peter says “By his wounds you have been healed” he’s saying that we have healing through the death of Christ on the cross. He’s healed us from the disease of sin by bearing our sin for us. He’s healed us by taking the disease away and He’s taken the disease away by taking it upon Himself.
It’s very important to notice that Peter says that “By his wounds you have been healed”. He doesn’t say: “By His wounds healing is offered” or “By his wounds healing is a possibility” or even “By his wounds a healing process has begun”. No, he says: “you have been healed”. So, unlike that army of professionals that we mentioned, Christ’s death on the cross is efficacious. It provides a certain cure. No wonder Paul said in Galatians 6v14: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”. It is through “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” that we are healed.
So, saved sinners have been revitalised so that they can live a new life of righteousness. That is because they’ve recovered from the sickness of sin by being healed through Christ’s death on the cross.
Now, for any physical cure or remedy to be effective, it has to be taken. Looking at a Paracetamol tablet in the packet won’t cure your headache. You have to take the tablet and ingest it. Likewise with Christ’s death on the cross. Just knowing about it won’t do you any good. Reading about it won’t achieve anything. Thinking about it won’t cure the disease of sin. There has to be a coming together.
Next week: RESCUE and RELATIONSHIP