Summary: Christians are called to follow Christ's example in suffering even while doing what is right. Christ Himself suffered unjustly & left us an example of how to suffer & that good can be brought about through suffering.
1 PETER 2: 21-25 [Renewing Hope Series]
THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST'S REDEMPTIVE SUFFERINGS
In Peter 2:21-25 God redirects the attention of suffering Christians to the sufferings of Christ. By looking to Jesus the Christian who suffers unjustly receives direction, comfort and strength. By looking to Jesus the Christian experiences a renewal of motivation and a change of disposition in their suffering. God knows the injustice which believers endure and has given Himself that they might have the empowering to overcome sin, both within and without by continued obedience.
Christians are called to follow Christ's example in suffering even while doing what is right (CIT). Undeserved suffering is not to be thought of as alien to Christianity. Christ Himself suffered unjustly and left us an example of how to suffer and that good can be brought about through suffering.
What should be the attitude of Christian men and woman in a world where suffering occurs? Christians need to have a Christ-like attitude of redemption in their social relationships. Christians need to understand that Christ suffered in their behalf and that their lives are to be lived redemptively for others (CIM) even if it involves suffering. The three main points of the message are:
I. Since Christ Suffered for You, 2:21.
II. Christ Entrusted His Life to God; 2:22 & 23.
III. Christ's Redemptive Suffering, 2:24 & 25.
First let's look at what is expected of the believer since Christ suffered for him as is found in verse twenty-one. "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps."
In writing "for you have been called for this purpose," Peter states that suffering is an integral part of the Christian's calling. The call to follow Christ is not only to imitate Him in doing right but to be willing to suffer in the doing of it. The implication of the phrase since Christ also suffered is that suffering is part of the Christian's calling only because it was first part of Christ's. Jesus had taught His disciples that He must suffer according to the will of God because He was the Christ (Luke 24:25-27; 44-47).
The next understanding of Christian suffering comes from the phrase "for us" which means on behalf of and for the benefit of us. It describes an agent acting for the benefit of or in place of another. Christ suffered to secure redemption from sin as will be further seen in verse twenty-four. Jesus' suffering was for others to provide a ransom for, and remission of, sins (Matt. 20:28; 26:28). The supreme motive for enduring the undeserved suffering Christians have been called to is stated in verse twenty-one as the believers indebtedness to Christ. A sense of gratitude develops when Christians understand what Christ has done in their behalf. The implication is that Christ's sufferings were much more than an example, which they definitely were. His sufferings were vicarious. Jesus suffered as a substitute, in our place for our sin.
Why must Christ suffer that I might be set free? How is it that the ground has to be wounded by spade and plough before it will produce corn or wheat for us? How is it, that, when the corn or wheat is produced, it must also be subjected to torture, must be crushed under millstones, ground and ground again, before it will make bread for us? How is it, that, even then, the bread is not committed to the stomach before it has been further bruised and mangled by the teeth. Why is vegetable life sacrificed for us? Why is animal life sacrificed for us? Why does every child come into the world through the gate of pain? How is it that things are secreted within chaff or skin or shell, and that violence must be done to chaff, skin, and shell in order to reach the hidden good? Finding the answer to these questions may help to open up the higher question of Christ’s sufferings for man.
Christ not only suffered as our substitute but also for an example. The fourth teaching in verse twenty-one is that Christ set a precedent or an example to be followed. All true Christians in this world that would walk with Christ must expect to share the sufferings of Christ. To follow in Christ's footsteps is to follow the way of suffering (Mark 8:34; 10:38). [The prospect of suffering is to be intentionally faced with joy and thanksgiving to God (4:13,16)]. The word "example" is hupogrammos which is a master to be copied or traced over. This is a picture word "meaning a copy set by writing-masters for their pupils” [Vincent, Marvin. Word Studies in the New Testament. Vol. 1. 1946. Eermans. Grand Rapids. P. 648]. It indicates a writing or drawing that is placed under another sheet and to be traced on the upper sheet by the student. The original writing was a perfect model and was intended to be used as the master trainer by the copier to develop his skill. Christ lived out the perfect model for the Christian to copy in suffering.