Strangers And Aliens (12b): Servants Imitating The Suffering Savior (1 Peter 2:18–25)

1 Peter 2:18–25

18Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20For 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. 21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23When 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. 24He 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. 25For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (ESV). 18Οἱ οἰκέται ὑποτασσόμενοι ἐν παντὶ φόβῳ τοῖς δεσπόταις, οὐ μόνον τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς καὶ ἐπιεικέσιν ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς σκολιοῖς. 19τοῦτο γὰρ χάρις εἰ διὰ συνείδησιν θεοῦ ὑποφέρει τις λύπας πάσχων ἀδίκως. 20ποῖον γὰρ κλέος εἰ ἁμαρτάνοντες καὶ κολαφιζόμενοι ὑπομενεῖτε; ἀλλ᾿ εἰ ἀγαθοποιοῦντες καὶ πάσχοντες ὑπομενεῖτε, τοῦτο χάρις παρὰ θεῷ. 21εἰς τοῦτο γὰρ ἐκλήθητε, ὅτι καὶ Χριστὸς ἔπαθεν ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ὑμῖν ὑπολιμπάνων ὑπογραμμὸν ἵνα ἐπακολουθήσητε τοῖς ἴχνεσιν αὐτοῦ, 22ὃς ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ ἐποίησεν οὐδὲ εὑρέθη δόλος ἐν τῷ στόματι αὐτοῦ, 23ὃς λοιδορούμενος οὐκ ἀντελοιδόρει, πάσχων οὐκ ἠπείλει, παρεδίδου δὲ τῷ κρίνοντι δικαίως· 24ὃς τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν αὐτὸς ἀνήνεγκεν ἐν τῷ σώματι αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τὸ ξύλον, ἵνα ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ἀπογενόμενοι τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ ζήσωμεν, οὗ τῷ μώλωπι ἰάθητε. 25ἦτε γὰρ ὡς πρόβατα πλανώμενοι, ἀλλὰ ἐπεστράφητε νῦν ἐπὶ τὸν ποιμένα καὶ ἐπίσκοπον τῶν ψυχῶν ὑμῶν.

v. 21: You Were Called To Suffer For Christ
In the previous section we considered verses 18–20. This verse deserves its own section. When Peter writes “unto this you were called” the demonstrative pronoun this (τοῦτο) refers back to enduring suffering for doing good. Christians, those who are united to Christ by grace alone, through faith alone, are called to suffering in union with him. This is Paul’s doctrine in Colossians 1:24. His sufferings “fill up” what lacking in Christ’s sufferings. This is an expression of our union with him. It is not that Christ’s suffering was not perfect. It was. Rather, by this expression Paul was indicating that the world continues to lash out at Christ and that we, who are united to Christ, are the substitute. They do to us what they would do to Christ if they could. This is the sort of identity with Christ that Peter has in mind here.

We are called (both outwardly and efficaciously) to this suffering in identity and union with Christ because (ὅτι) Christ already suffered for us (ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν) as our substitute. Our suffering is not propitiatory (i.e., it does not turn away divine wrath). It is not expiatory, i.e., it does not do away with sin. Only Christ’s once-for-all suffering has that power. Christ’s suffering is substitutionary. Our suffering is not. Christ’s suffering establishes a pattern, a paradigm, which now marks the existence of the Christian. Jesus intentionally left behind (ὑπολιμπάνων) for us an example (ὑπογραμμὸν) or a model. This word is only used once in the NT. It occurs only once in 2 Macc. Otherwise it occurs in the Apostolic Fathers. Yes, Peter teaches us to imitate Christ but within limits. On this verse Calvin wrote:

He walked on the sea, he cleansed the leprous, he raised the dead, he restored sight to the blind: to try to imitate him in these things would be absurd. For when he gave these evidences of his power, it was not his object that we should thus imitate him. It has hence happened that his fasting for forty days has been made without reason an example; but what he had in view was far otherwise. We ought, therefore, to exercise in this respect a right judgment; as also Augustine somewhere reminds us, when explaining the following passage, “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.” (Matt. 11:29.) And the same thing may be learnt from the words of Peter; for he marks the difference by saying that Christ’s patience is what we ought to follow. (John Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, trans. John Owen (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 89).

In some contexts the word is used in the context of a teacher giving lessons. Hence the noun paradigm might work. Just as a grammar teacher writes out the declension of a noun or the conjugation of a verb for his students to memorize, so too Jesus left us a paradigm by which to think about suffering and according to which we should behave in suffering. Here is more on imitating Christ.

The purpose (ἵνα) of the paradigm is that we should follow in Jesus’ footsteps (ἴχνεσιν) in suffering. This is not a mystical but a very practical doctrine. For Peter, there is no question whether Christians will suffer but only how and for what reason. His exhortation is that, should Christians suffer, let it be for the sake of the gospel and not for the sake of transgression of civil laws nor for misbehaving under the authority of our superiors. What footprints did Jesus leave us? Peter highlights that when he was reviled, he did not revile in return. When Jesus was arrested, for the sake the gospel, he told Peter to put away his sword—he did not say that Peter should not own a sword, nor did he ever indicate that using a sword is prohibited. He never treated the Jewish authorities they way they treated him. They sought to murder him and, in turn, he preached the law and the gospel. In other words, Jesus loved his Father and his neighbor humbly and completely and it is to that we are here called.

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One comment

  1. David Van Drunen—-“It is significant to note that Jesus does not tell his disciples to ignore and walk away from the person who harms them, but to take a second slap, to give up a second garment, to go a second mile. The lex talionis prescribes a second action that is proportionate to the first action: the person who causes the injury is to receive the same injury in return. Jesus’ words in 5:38–42 preserve the twofold action and the proportionality of the lex talionis. The difference is that he exhorts his disciples to bear the second, retaliatory action themselves.”

    “A proportionate penalty is still borne, but the wronged party rather than the wrongdoer endures it. This reflects the larger Matthean theme that Jesus’ disciples must imitate Jesus in his suffering at the hands of sinners. Jesus has already told them that suffering is their lot in the present age (5:10–12), and later he explains that as he will go to the cross so also they must bear the cross (16:24–26). Matthew’s gospel alludes to, though does not explain in detail, the substitutionary atonement, Jesus’ dying on behalf of his people to secure the forgiveness of their sins (see 20:28; 26:28).”

    “Human beings, as it were, slapped God in the face through their sin, and God responded with the lex talionis—not by justly slapping them back but by bearing that retaliatory slap himself through Jesus. God’s saving action in Jesus satisfies retributive talionic justice once and for all. By bearing in their own bodies the just penalty due to wrongdoers in order to bring healing and reconciliation, Jesus’ disciples are privileged to show forth God’s gracious action toward them in Christ.”

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