But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9 ESV)
What the apostle Peter is doing in this letter is teaching how we live so that the praises of Jesus are proclaimed in the world. The point of being a Christian is to show the world how glorious Christ is. We live to show the goodness and glory of Jesus to everyone. We exist to display Christ. For far too long Christian morality has been completely misunderstood. We do not exist to do good so that we can look down our noses at everyone else who is not doing good and try to shame them into doing good. We do not communicate, “I’m doing good. What is the matter with you?” We do good so that people see Jesus. We do not do good to try to bring about a facade of moral conformity. We do good so that people will desire Jesus, glorify Jesus, and then be transformed in their lives by Jesus. Jesus made this point in the Sermon on the Mount.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 ESV)
The apostle Peter made the same point in the very text we are in.
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:12 ESV)
The focus of this series called Faith In The Furnace is about understanding how we are to live as God’s people who show the glory of Jesus while the world resists the Lord and his followers. In today’s lesson we are going to observe what it means to follow the example of Jesus.
Your Calling (2:21)
Peter says that Jesus left us an example. We understand this idea. A Christian is someone who is a disciple of Jesus who follows the teachings and the examples of Jesus. Peter tells us that Jesus left us an example. What is the example that he left for us? Look at verse 21. Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. The example left for us to consider is the suffering of Jesus. Now I want us to notice what Peter is saying. Peter is saying that you were called for this. The calling of the Christian is follow Jesus which means following his example of suffering. Jesus did not walk around telling people to take up their couches and follow him. He did not go around telling people to pick up their comfortable beds and follow him. Jesus did say to follow him you must take up your cross. The calling is to carry the cross just as Jesus did. The calling is to suffer just as Jesus suffered. For a long time we have been able to live in a culture that did not require much suffering to follow Jesus. There has not been much resistance from our society for following Jesus for many, many years. But that is shifting and we have to be mindful that our calling to follow Jesus was not one of comfort, but one of suffering because society and culture are going to reject us. Christ suffered, not only to save you, but to leave you an example so that you would follow in his steps.
Your Calling Lived Out (2:18-20)
In verse 18 we see Peter calling for servants and slaves to submit to their masters with all reverence and respect. Understanding what this looked like in the first century can help us properly apply this teaching. It is estimated by scholars that in the Roman Empire slaves made up between 25-40% of the population. There are a number of parallels that can be made between these first century servants working for their masters and our situation where we work for our employers. But there is one key difference. Our employment is voluntary. Their servitude was involuntary. What I mean is whether they were slaves because the Roman Empire conquered a group of people or if they were slaves because they needed to pay off their debts, they did not have the ability to give their two week notice to their master and then leave. So Peter is giving directions to a people who have masters and they cannot leave that situation.
Listen to what Peter tells them. Submit with respect to your masters. Notice Peter makes clear that you do not do this only for the masters you like or the masters who are good and gentle. But you are to do this even with those who are unjust or harsh. Verse 19 makes the picture clear. You are enduring grief and sorrows by suffering unjustly. Your suffering is not deserved. It is not that you sinned. It is not that you broke the law. It is not that you did something foolish. It is not that you did something worthy of consequences. You are suffering unjustly. You are enduring pain and grief and it is not right.
Now Peter wants us to set aside a category in life that we can experience. Peter is not talking about suffering for our mistakes, sins, or foolishness. You see this in verse 20. There is no credit for enduring suffering when you have done wrong. Do not think that because you are suffering for your sins and enduring it that you have any gain. Do not think that because we ran our mouths and experienced consequences that we have brought about favor with God. This is not what Peter is talking about. Peter is not talking about experiencing consequences because you broke the law, was disobedient, was disrespectful, or the like. There is no gain in this. Your suffering is deserved in those circumstances.
Look at verse 20. Peter has in mind doing good and suffering for doing good. Your suffering is not right. Your suffering is not fair. Your suffering is unjust. This is what Peter is talking. This is what Peter is saying that you have been called to experience. You were called to this. You were called to experiencing suffering for doing good. You were called to endure suffering and griefs for doing what is right. This is the picture Peter gives. These slaves are working for their masters and they are doing good, but they are suffering as they do good. They are beaten even though they are being submissive with all respect. Their pains and sorrows are not justified. They are being mistreated and it is unjust and not right.
But notice what Peter says about this. As we endure mistreatment, Peter twice says that when we endure being mindful of God, we find God’s favor. We see this in verse 19. We find favor for enduring for doing right for the Lord’s sake. We see this again in verse 20. It brings God’s favor when we suffer for doing good, and endure it. Now many are beginning to experience difficulties in the corporate world. June was a difficult month as employers are beginning to require their workers to show their approval of sexual sins as pride for sexual sins continues to gain more traction in our society. I am aware of Christians who had their jobs threatened because they did not wear the pins and stickers that approve of these sins. You may have noticed that in Major League Baseball that players had patches sown on their jerseys. There were five players on the Tampa Bay Rays who refused to wear those patches. Pressure was put on them and the media made them answer for this. They answered that it was because of their faith in Jesus and that they were not trying to be hateful at all. The patch did not conform with their faith. I use these examples to show that we are at the start of the pressure that is going to come in the world against those who practice faith. We must be ready to apply what Peter is speaking about here. We are going to do right and understand that we will endure suffering and sorrow for doing good. So how can we endure sorrows for doing what is right? Listen to how Peter brings in the example of Jesus for us to follow.
Your Calling Exemplified (2:22-25)
The first example for us from Jesus is that we do not sin (2:22). Jesus did not sin and there was not even any deceit in his mouth. We cannot sin just because we are suffering for doing good. We do not have the right to sin against the people who are sinning against us. In all that Jesus endured, he did not sin. We cannot slander. We cannot be malicious. We cannot have outbursts of wrath. We cannot show hatred and anger. We cannot fall into the temptation of committing the works of the flesh when we are mistreated unfairly. There is a great temptation to sin when suffering.
Second, Jesus did not retaliate with his actions or words (2:23). When he was insulted, he did not insult in return. When he suffered, he did not threaten to make them suffer. He did not retaliate. He did not threaten. Retaliation is a great temptation. It is our natural self that rises up and wants to retaliate against those who harm us. We want to make them pay for what they have said or done. We want to be the executor of vengeance and justice. But Jesus did not retaliate. There is a great temptation to retaliate when suffering. How can we keep from sinning and keep from retaliation? Look at the third picture in verse 23.
Third, Jesus entrusted himself to the Lord who judges justly (2:23). Jesus left his mistreatment in God’s hands. We believe that the Lord is a just judge who will make right all wrongs in the final judgment. Unjust suffering does not mean God has abandoned you. God sees what you are experiencing and he judges righteously.
Finally, Jesus lived for righteousness (2:24-25). Peter says in verse 24 that Jesus lived how he did so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. Jesus carried our sins away in his death so that we would live different, not return to sinning. Jesus died so we would live different and not retaliate with our words or actions. Jesus died so that we would live different by entrusting our lives to the Lord who will judge righteously. Notice the emphasis in verse 24. You have been healed by his wounds. You have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (2:25).
You have a calling that has been exemplified by Jesus. He suffered for doing good and so will we. He suffered unjustly and so will we. He suffered without retaliation and so we must. He suffered and endured it and so we must. It is to your credit and favor before God to suffer for doing right and enduring the sorrows that come from following Jesus. Grace does not prevent pain.