Guarded Christian Living: A Strong Faith at the Right Time
1 Peter 2:21-25
Turn to 1 Peter 2. Peter has been methodically going through various relationships that we have in life. One was with society (2:12), where he said to keep “your conduct excellent among the Gentiles.” Then, of course, last week was the submission to authorities. And then in a few weeks, he says (3:3) “In the same way, you wives, be subject to your own husbands.” And as we learned last week, this is so counter-cultural. That the Christian is being asked to do a task which is so unusual, to submit to those authorities and governments who often go against God, while at the same time we are submitting to them, we must always obey God. And making ourselves willing to be subject to those we may not necessarily desire to be subject to, yes, difficult, but, extremely clear. Submission to government, always obey God, always be respectful to authorities, and know there are times when we must consider our conscience. And as we learned a few weeks ago, that as priests of God, we also must speak truth into the culture. So, I would encourage you to understand this clear role, though challenging, of the Christian, and be encouraged because though we might lament all that is going on, God is in control and has given us a special task at a special time. And there must be an excitement to that, that God has entrusted us to such a responsibility.
Now as to today’s passage. For me, after studying 1Peter 2:21-25, I would suggest that it is likely one of the most underrated passages in all of the Scriptures, if we could say that; as it gives an outstanding description of the suffering of Christ, the example of Christ, and the comfort of Christ. So let’s pray, then we will read this inspiring passage, and then discover three amazing gems about Christ from Peter’s words. Lord, there are times when we open up the WOG and must say, wow! For when we realize our weakness and helplessness and are reminded of such truth and Your greatness, our response must be wow and why have You done such great things for us? So may we be encouraged this morning, as look at these truths. And if there is any indifference in our hearts, anything that we would elevate over such eternal blessing, forgive us. For we ask these things in the name of Christ, amen.
“For to this you have been called, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps, who did no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; who being reviled, was not reviling in return; while suffering, He was uttering no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously. Who Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that having died to sin, we might live to righteousness; by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
- Pet 2:21-25 (LSB)
Verse 21, “since Christ also suffered.” (notes)
- The Suffering of Christ
Jesus suffered, not for His own sin, Jesus did not suffer for Himself, No, Jesus suffered for us. And as we have been asking almost every week now in our study of Peter, who are the “you” or the “us” in these verses? Well look at the beginning of verse 21, “to this you have been called.” He again is addressing the “called.” Yes, Christ suffered for the “called.” There is much theological discussion of the topic regarding: for whom did Christ die? Certainly, there is the understanding that the Scriptures call the world to Christ, the general call, the whosoever wills. And anyone who rejects that call (for all our responsible for that call) will have to give an account in eternity before God.
Yet it is also hard to read the Scriptures and not see the specific mission of Christ. That our Lord came to save the elect, and that He will accomplish everything He desired and set out to do. Verses like Matthew 1:21, “He will save His people from their sins;” Ephesians 5:25, “Christ gave Himself up for the church;” and John 10:11, “Jesus laid down His life for the sheep.” And in John 17:9, Jesus says, “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours.” The reformers often referred to this as “limited atonement.” Yet this does not really give a proper understanding to what Christ has actually done. John MacArthur has called what others also refer to as “actual atonement” or as some have called “definite atonement.”
See, what we must understand about the gospel is that Christ came to suffer for a people, a specific people, as Jesus was given an assignment from the Father to save those who were called, and Christ fulfilled that assignment. And I hope that throughout this series, I have emphasized over and over again our responsibility to receive Christ, because we are responsible. But our theology can quickly become too man-centred, and we lose the awesome accomplished work that has been done by Christ. Therefore, though the gospel call is to all the world, meaning not only to the Jew, but to every man, woman, and child or every people group, and man’s rejection of that call will ultimately condemn him before God; yet, when Jesus died on the cross He was dying for a people, a people whom the Father had given to Him. And when Jesus said on the cross prior to His death, it is finished, He had accomplished everything that He was to accomplish.
Now, I know this is hard theology, depending upon what denomination you may have grown up in church, but when we begin to understand Christ-centred theology, we then realize that Christ knew exactly for whom He was dying for. MacArthur will often say, “Christ died for every sin, ever committed, by every person, who would ever believe.” And this theology forces us to comprehend that if you know Christ this morning, He what? He suffered for you. He didn’t die for every sin, no, He died for your sin. If Christ had died for every sin, no one would be condemned. See, this is the power of the death of Christ, that your sin, every sin, last week’s sin, that sin twenty years ago, today’s sin, tomorrow’s sin, were all that sin was dealt with by Christ, because Jesus knew exactly what He was doing on the cross.
I know some of these things might be difficult, but the longer we study here together each week, I trust that some of these things will become more part of your consideration in thinking deeply about biblical things. And I know that we will never fully understand all that God has done, as some theology, will never be completely understood; still must make us stand in amazement of the Lord’s depth, and His love and grace toward us.
So, with that in mind, let’s consider His suffering. Verse 24, “He bore our sins in His body on the tree.” This word “bore” means to offer or to take upon one self. Think of that, this punishment for the sins of all believers, Christ offered to take upon Himself, and the punishment for that sin would have been eternal punishment in hell, and Christ bore that same grief, an eternal grief during those three hours on the cross. And notice again it says that he bore our sins. Therefore, we see the specific action here of Christ, as it was our sins that He bore.
I also see, verse 24, that he bore our sins in His body. There is a tendency to forget the humanity of Christ. True, we know that Christ was both deity and human, but we often look more upon His deity. But no, Christ had a body like ours. A body that experienced pain and sorrow. For this was not some supernatural event in the sense that somehow Christ died without experiencing the pain of being crucified. For He experienced physical death, agonizing death. He experienced everything that we would experience: if nails were driven into our hands and feet; if a sword was thrust into our side; if we were placed on a cross, thrust into the ground, our flesh ripped apart; and we were gasping for breath. Therefore, because Christ was both God and human, does not mean that He would have not suffered in the same way, that we would have suffered. However, I also want to stress here that it was even more than human suffering. For in His deity, the Father turned against him, and He did suffer eternal punishment for sin in a supernatural way as well, as He suffered the anguish on the cross the same anguish we would have experienced if we suffered in eternity for all our sin.
I also notice, verse 24, “who bore our sins in His body ‘on the tree,’” or on the cross, a real event which happened in history, an event that was seen and observed by people. Acts 2 states:
“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God did through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of lawless men and put Him to death.”
Acts 2:22-23 (LSB)
A real event, real flesh, a human life, a real Man. A Man that did suffer, and that suffered for a people, and who suffered for you
- The Example of Christ
It cannot be without notice that immediately after Peter teaches about our interaction with the culture (2:9-12) and authorities (2:13-20), he then shows the example given by Christ. There are certain things about the death of Christ that we cannot emulate. For we cannot die for sin, for we have our own sin and Christ dying for sin is the purpose of His death. Yet, while He is dying, Peter says, we are able to learn something about our own living, because we must understand that there may be times when life gets hard for us, and therefore we might dismiss our actions because of our circumstances. Yet, Christ suffered far greater than we will ever suffer and we see from Him a response of perfection.
So, these valuable lessons become the example for us in life: (vs 22) – He did not sin; (vs 22) – there was no deceit found in His mouth (true, He did say some things, but nothing sinful or wrong); (vs 23) – He was reviled (a word which means “abusive language”), yet He did not revile in return; (vs 23) – He uttered no threats; and (vs 23) – He kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously. Now a contrast to this would be Job, would was considered a righteous man, yet not sinless like Christ. And his response to suffering was tainted, Christ’s was not, so He becomes the example. Peter has been speaking about society and authorities, and now really gives to us a perfect example of how we are to conduct ourselves in regards to our position within society under human authorities, and these lessons come to us while He is dying. Three examples of Christ:
- Spiritual Depth
Here we see in the suffering of Christ the truth that he did not sin, nor did He sin in His language. And during suffering, He had such a depth to His spiritual life, because the Christian life as we grow in our faith, should be a life that is characterized by those who think deeply and sincerely about biblical things. I said a few weeks ago, that I do not consider myself a theologian, but what all of us should be as Christians are studiers of biblical things. Not, there I did my Bible reading today, but a deep study of God’s Word, and thinking deeply about God’s Word on a daily basis. And then a real sincerity in living out God’s Word in our daily lives, a sincerity that effect first not so much our actions, though it does, but a sincerity that affects our hearts. A real sincerity, See, when we watch the spiritual depth here of Christ, we see here from Christ an understanding of the purposes of God. So, when we face disappointments, setbacks, and trials; spiritual depth helps us to understand that these things are part of the purposes of God. Now Christ is well-aware of what He must go through while He was hanging on the cross. But so too, you and I also have been given trials from God that we too must go through. And spiritual depth helps us to see this in our lives. True, we may not know the outcome or the results, but we do know that it is the Lord’s intent that we would go through some hardships. But this understanding cannot come unless, unless, we are studiers of God’s Word, studying God, and thinking deeply about the things of God. Because if we do not, everything roadblock will become frustrating for us. Therefore, the importance of spiritual depth. The next character quality as demonstrated by Christ is:
“… who being reviled, was not reviling in return; while suffering, He was uttering no threats.” (vs 23a)
This has likely been one of the weaknesses of the Christian argument. As too much of it over these days has included yelling and belittling. Yet what the spiritually blind need is a deep well-thought-out argument from those who have been enlightened spiritually. Internet posts, Facebook statements, can never take the place of speaking and disagreeing with someone in person, with a legitimate love and care for that person. Having the last word on a Facebook post does nothing for the person who does not agree with you. Don’t think it does. In fact, it likely distances them further from us, for the Bible speaks about “correcting opposition with gentleness.” Again, sometimes we like to take extremes here, as we are not saying that we should not get angry. For sin should anger us, our own shortcomings should anger us, that someone might abuse someone else should anger us. But this means not to be abusive, that we would not abuse someone physically or with words. But we can be gentle, yet firm.
There are different ways in which to discipline our children. If someone ask me, I would teach that the Bible gives liberty to spank our kids when they are young for disobedience. But that is a far cry from spanking them in anger and saying abusive things about them. For we need to be very careful of the words we choose when speaking to anyone. This follows with how we respond to our accusers and those who disagree with us or the authorities that the Lord has placed over us. It is one thing to say to someone that you disagree and that you believe otherwise, but that is a far cry from belittling them and using words to abase them. Yet there is something about humanity that it makes us feel good if we are able to get in the last word. “So there!” (not sure what “so there” means or accomplishes in an argument, but humans like to use it). Listen! End of discussion! Yet the example we receive from Christ while He is dying is a controlled deep concern for the truth and a self-control for everything He says. This becomes our example.
- Confidence in God
Jesus understood that He was not alone before His accusers, as He (end of vs 23), “kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” In the original Greek the passage actually says, “kept entrusting to Him.” This is the tightness that Jesus had with His Father, that as He knew that He would have to face a horrific chain of events, yet He knew that ultimately He was under the authority of His Father and not under Rome, or Pilate, or the Jewish leaders. That word entrusting means to “give over power.” Example, we are in a difficult situation, yet we are willing to give over to God power or control. Why? Because we have a complete confidence in God. I am finding the older I get, that greater spiritual victories do not come because I have mastered many things in life. But it is the realization that, Lord, You know what I am going through, therefore I trust You in this. In fact, I don’t even know how this is going to turn out, could be good or bad from my perspective, but I am committing to trust You through it.
For this is what we are learning as believers isn’t it? Isn’t this what we need to learn? Young person, this is what you are learning as a younger believer, that more and more, you can trust Christ with all areas of your life. In other words, you are convinced that He is more than able to tackle your situation. And you might be thinking, Mark, you do not know what I am going through. True, but this is not my truth, this is the truth of the Bible. Ephesians 3:20, “now to Him [Christ] who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or understand.” True, we may not be able to understand all of the Lord’s outcomes He orchestrates, but we can trust the One who controls those outcomes. The example of Christ. Finally:
- The Comfort of Christ
“For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (vs 25).
Why can we have this confidence? Because Christ is the Shepherd and Overseer of our eternal souls. See, Christ isn’t just watching over such things as your home today, family today, your job this week. No, He is your Overseer for the rest of your eternity. He is not just over the physical things we go through. No, for He has a watch of the spiritual things. Not just your body, but your soul. As our bodies may deteriorate, or as we might get a bad report from the doctor, Christ is watching over our eternal soul. See, this is the message the world needs to hear. As much of society is concerned with their present well-being, present-day health, income, leisure, comforts; and that preoccupation with all those things basically monopolizes their thinking, that they have not even considered their eternities. Yet when they encounter the Christian, when we interact with our children, and we too enjoy much of what the world enjoys, as we too enjoy our homes, holidays, leisure, and work. But we also think deeply about the spiritual, about the truth of the Bible. And when we place such a high priority on the eternal things, what a blessing to know that Christ oversees them all.
You know the Bible is not always that becoming to us as humans. As (vs 25) it describes us here as it often does as sheep, and sheep are not known as the brightest of animals. They are quite helpless, and stupid. Therefore, we tend to be dumb, stray and wander off. This is why you need to be in church every Sunday because we need to be reminded often of the truth. This is why Peter says here that (vs 25), “you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd.” The Apostle John wrote:
“They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will shepherd them and will guide them to springs of the water of life. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
Rev 7:16-17 (LSB)
Christ is the eternal Comforter to those who have been called, to those who have returned to the Shepherd.
I notice in this passage one more instance of the tension that is often in the Bible. Again, we have been chosen by God, but we also must return.
“For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (vs 25).
This passage teaches both a calling by Christ (vs 21) and the returning of man (vs 25). It reminds us a little of the story of the prodigal son, who strayed from the Father, yet returned. I would suggest there is a two-fold application here. Maybe there are some here this morning that have never truly given their heart and life to Christ. True, you have been absorbed with all the important things in life. But these are all the temporal things in life, and you have not thought deeply about eternal things. I have been meeting with a gentleman (a little older than me) in Wyoming who came to see me about 6-7 years ago, and who was concerned about eternal things. And though we met a number of times, his life never changed. However, seven years later, he is dying of cancer, and has placed his faith and trust in the Shepherd, the One who can oversee his eternal soul. Not everyone is given that opportunity that he has been given. I call him the “thief on the cross,” a conversion at the end of life. Because when we are healthy and busy, eternal things sometimes do not matter. Maybe this is you and you need to come to the Shepherd.
But you could also be here this morning and know you are a Christian. Yet you would admit Mark, I am continually straying, and I need to return to the Shepherd. Can I challenge you to do that this morning? Would you come and talk to me or speak with someone who would pray with you? Maybe you are here in church physically this morning, but you know that spiritually in your “heart” you are far from the Shepherd. Return to the Shepherd today. (pray) Lord, would You place these truths from Your Word deep into our hearts? That we would live lives close to the Shepherd, the Overseer of our eternal souls. And all God’s people said, amen.