Strangers And Aliens (12c): 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.

vv. 22–23: Our Sinless Savior
We should not pass over quickly Peter’s teaching that Jesus was sinless. “He committed no sin” (ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ ἐποίησεν). We know from 1 John 3:4 that sin is lawlessness (ἀνομία). John says, “Everyone committing sin commits lawlessness and sin is lawlessness.” He uses the same basic construction as Peter. Contrary to the assumption held by many moderns and late-moderns, sin is not an environment or an external social structure of which we are the victims—that is not to say that social structures are not affected by sin, quite to the contrary—but that sin is something that each of us does, by nature after the fall. It is something for which each of us is personally responsible. Each of us was in Adam and each of us is guilty in him and corrupted as a consequence. Further, each of us actually transgresses God’s law. Note too that there is a fixed, objective definition of sin: transgression of the divine law. There is not one definition of sin for you and another for me. We are all under the same law. By nature, after the fall, we all transgress (violate) that same law. We do it repeatedly. We do it almost constantly. Left to ourselves, we are, to borrow an image from Cornelius Van Til, like a man of water, climbing a latter of water, in a sea of water. Left to ourselves, outside God’s favor to sinners, in Christ, we are utterly lost.

Thus, it is no small thing for Peter to declare that Jesus committed no sin. He committed no transgression of the divine law. Consider that breathtaking announcement for just a moment. He never sinned. As John says, that cannot be said of us. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). One difference between believers and unbelievers is that believers confess their sin (ὁμολογῶμεν) and receive forgiveness (1 John 1:9). Jesus had no sin to confess. He had only righteousness to confess. Jesus guarded his people. (John 17:12). He kept the commandments perfectly (John 15:10). He was conceived by the Spirit (Luke 1:35), born without sin (Heb 4:15), of the Virgin, for us, under the law (Gal 4:4) for us, as our obedient substitute. Scripture nowhere teaches that he had to obey to qualify himself. Rather, it repeatedly teaches that all that he did was for us and for our salvation. All that he did is credited to us. Thus, for Peter to say that Jesus was without sin, is to say that he is our righteous substitute.

There is more, however. Peter appeals particularly to Jesus’ righteousness, his conformity to the law, to set a pattern for us. He continues, “neither was guile (δόλος) found in his mouth.” Peter is quoting from Isaiah 53:9. Jesus, not Israel, is the Suffering Servant. In particular, Peter appeals to Jesus’ conduct during his humiliation before religious and civil authorities. As the Suffering Servant, he was like a lamb led to the slaughter. Isaiah 53:7 says,

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth (ESV).

When Jesus was reviled by the authorities, he did not revile in return. He accepted his suffering as part of that substitutionary obedience to which he had agreed with the Father from all eternity in the covenant of redemption (pactum salutis). He accepted it as our substitute. He accepted it as something ordained by the Father. When he suffered, Peter writes, he did not respond with threatening (ἠπείλει). He did not defend himself. Rather, in contrast to our sinful inclinations, he “was delivering (παρεδίδου) [himself] to the one judging justly.” He could do that because he knew he had nothing to fear from the judgment. He stood before the judge as righteous. He knew that he must suffer for us but he also knew that because his Father is just and that he himself is righteous, that he would be vindicated and he was.

Peter is teasing out the implications of what it means to turn the other cheek (Matt 5:39), what it means to give your cloak to the one who demands your tunic, to walk two miles instead of one. Jesus was not an Anabaptist. He did not tell Peter that it was sinful to own a sword (John 18:11). Are we really to suppose that was the first time Peter ever carried a sword or that our Lord was ignorant of the purpose of swords? He did not tell the Centurion that his vocation was wicked (Matt 8:13). Indeed, it was he who ordained the civil magistrate to bear the sword (Romans 13). There is no hint of irony in Luke’s noting the “devout soldier” (Acts 10:7) nor in Paul’s use of military figures for the Christian life (1 Cor 9:7; Phil 2:25; 2 Tim 2:3, 4). Here it is evident that Scripture simply assumes that we understand that Christians live in what Calvin called a “twofold kingdom,” that we serve God in two spheres simultaneously, the sacred and secular (common). As citizens of common, earthly sphere we have common duties, the defense of the realm and the execution of civil justice among them. As citizens of the heavenly kingdom, however, sometimes we are called to set aside the sword. We need to be able to discern when we are called to suffer for the sake of Christ. It is this sort of instance that Peter has in mind.

It seems likely that he is thinking of the sort of humiliation that Christians were suffering through much of we know today as Turkey. They were harassed and abused because of their faith. We might say that they were singled out and picked upon. In other words, they were called by God to suffer manifest injustice for the sake of Christ. It was essential for them to understand, as it is for us, that, in such cases, we are privileged to follow in the footsteps of Christ. As he was unjustly arrested and beaten, and has he did not respond in kind (as he might have done) so too we are to accept such slights, embarrassments, and humiliations for the sake of Christ. This is a powerful witness that we are seeking a heavenly city, that we really are different, that we really do believe that Jesus was raised from the dead and that, by his favor alone, through faith alone, we seek to follow him as we live in union with him.

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One comment

  1. We need to remember that when Calvin talked about a “twofold kingdom”, Calvin was talking about a Christian city state with one involuntary Christian church. But since Jesus did not live in Christendom, it would perhaps make no sense to call Jesus a “Calvinist” . Before we could possibly say that Jesus was (or was not) Reformed or “Anabaptist, we would have to define what those terms mean. Can a Reformed persons revise their Confessions in order to distance themselves from Calvin’s Constantinianism? Can “Anabaptist” persons be anything other than those who accepted Menno’s unorthodox Christology or the revolutionaries who took over Munster and attempted to set up their own version of Christendom?

    if a Reformed church ceases to produce Christian police and Christian soldiers, does that church cease to be Reformed?. if a Reformed person at all times (not only sometimes) acts only in loyalty to their citizenship from heaven, do these persons by their nonviolence set aside being Reformed?

    But if Jesus in His context was neither Reformed nor Anabaptist, was Jesus more Jewish or more Christian?

    To say that Jesus is in more continuity with Christianity than with Second Temple Period Judaism can make many uncomfortable or even angry. Rather than wanting to raise the divide between Judaism and Christianity, Paul Zahl contends that heightened Christology not only places Christianity in the position to be good news to all people, recognizing that Jesus identified the universal human problem (sin) which trumps “gender, race and power”, but also is the honest thing to say about Christianity to the Jewish person. If Jesus were only a “good rabbi” then does this not denigrate the 2,000 years of Jewish resistance to him? Zahl asks.

    In another newly published book, Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine, Yale’s anti-Christian literary critic, Harold Bloom, concludes that “Jesus, with his deep connection to the uncanny Yahweh, can seem like the last real Jew, rather than the first Christian.” Paul Zahl’s book, The First Christian, take the opposite tact.

    Zahl says that the fact that Jesus is Jewish is a given. But Zahl presents questions, such as, is Jesus so much a man of his time that he is indistinguishable from a Second Temple Period rabbi? Especially if that era of Judaism was marked by what Zahl characterizes as “semi-Pelagian” in its soteriology? Zahl contends that Jesus broke radically from the definition of man needing God’s grace plus his own efforts to be saved – that Jesus’ was a more pessimistic view of man who was in fact completely helpless to save himself without God’s grace, Is Christianity just Judaism for gentiles? Zahl asks. While standing against two-covenant theologies that say Jesus is good for gentiles but unnecessary for Jews, Zahl explores the question of where the continuities and the discontinuities of Jesus and Judaism lie. Zahl stands against the mainstream “liberal” Christian scholarship that writes in the post-Holocaust style which often “is involved in suppressing difference for the sake of unity.”

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