1 Peter 2:21-23

“For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth; when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.”

In this last paragraph of 1 Peter 2, he shows us the example that we are to follow in Christ, who suffered for us. Peter draws heavily on Isaiah 53, which is a prophecy about the Suffering Servant. Peter shows here how Jesus meets these prophecies. I am only going to cover verses 21-23 in this post, then I will wrap up the chapter in my next one.

Peter starts with this phrase, “For you were called to this…” In the verses preceding this, Peter had been addressing Christian slaves. Wayne Grudem, in his commentary on 1 Peter, says this. “Although the specific focus of Peter’s concern is ‘servants’, the general principles regarding suffering in verses 19-25 apply readily to all others under higher authority, whether in business, in marriage or family, in education, or in respect to government…” So this calling pertains to all Christians. Peter uses the word ‘called’ five times in this letter. We are called to be holy, as God is holy (1:15); we are called out of the darkness and into his marvelous light (2:9); we are called not to pay back evil for evil or insult for insult, but instead give a blessing (3:9); we are called to his eternal glory in Christ (5:10); and here, we are called to suffer (2:21).

Edmund Clowney writes in The Message of 1 Peter: The Way of the Cross, “A life of suffering is our calling, not our fate. It is our calling just because we are God’s people. It is our calling because it was Christ’s calling. He calls his disciples to follow him.” I think this is profound. We live in a world that wants to avoid suffering at all costs. One of the fastest growing movements in Christianity today teaches that God wants us to have health and prosperity. They misuse verse 24 (which I will get into in my next post). But that is not what these verses say. We do a great disservice to new believers if we teach them that a life with Jesus is going to be easy. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours” (John 15:18-20). In Acts 14: 21-22 we read, “After they had preached the gospel in that town and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch, strengthening the disciples by encouraging them to continue in the faith and by telling them, ‘It is necessary to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.’” And lastly Paul writes, “In fact, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Clowney writes, “To be sure, suffering is a flame to burn away the dross so that our tested faith may shine as gold.”

Peter goes on to write “…because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” The word example is one that was used for a pattern that a child would use to copy his letters. Peter uses another analogy in the second section where he says, “follow in his steps.” This would be like a disciple following closely after his rabbi. I thought of the verses in Philippians 2, where Paul writes, “Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross” (2:2-8).

Peter goes on to show us what that suffering looked like, and here we see the first allusion back to Isaiah 53. It is amazing to me that a book written 700 years before Christ could so accurately predict his life and death. Peter writes, “He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” In Isaiah 53:9, we read, “He was assigned a grave with the wicked, but he was with a rich man at his death, because he had done no violence and had not spoken deceitfully.” Jesus was sinless. He was innocent of the crimes he was punished for. His death paid the price for our sins as we will see in verse 24.

Peter goes on, “…when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.” Our natural inclination is that when we are abused, we want to get even. We want to return insult for insult, injury for injury. But Jesus showed us another way. He trusted God was in control. We can also trust that God is in control of every situation and that he judges justly. Grudem writes, “When Peter calls God the one who judges justly, it suggests that Jesus was conscious that God as Judge would either repay the wrongdoer justly, or would forgive because the punishment would be taken by Jesus on the cross.” Paul also knew this. Paul Barnett writes this in 1 Peter: Living Hope. “Few things have changed the world’s values in the way Jesus’ patience under unjust suffering has done. Formerly Paul had been a violent zealot but as a man ‘in Christ’ he wrote, ‘Never avenge yourselves… (Romans 12:19). Many now think this way, thanks to the influence of Christ over 2 millennia.”

We see further allusions to Isaiah 53 at the end of these verses for today. Isaiah 53:7 says, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, he did not open his mouth.” The important thing to remember here is that this suffering was through no fault of his own. In the same way, verse 20 is clear that there is no benefit in suffering because of your own wrongdoing! The second half of the verse- “But when you do what is good and suffer, if you endure it, this brings favor with God”-is how we are to follow Jesus’ example.

I will end today with a quote and some verses. Grudem sums up this passage beautifully. “Peter here emphasizes that Christ’s obedience through unjust suffering has left us an example to imitate, an example of the kind of life that is perfectly pleasing in God’s sight. When one is suffering unjustly, trust in God and obedience to him are not easy, but they are deepened through undeserved affliction and God is thereby more fully glorified…” Lastly, these words of wisdom from Paul.

“Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Our suffering is temporary. But what it is producing is eternal!

Grace be with you!


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