Summary: So specific is our call to follow Christ as a sheep follows the shepherd, we’re even told to walk in His footprints.
“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, 22 WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.”
“Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise;
in all His words most wonderful,
most sure in all His ways!
O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
A second Adam to the fight
And to the rescue came.
O wisest love! That flesh and blood,
Which did in Adam fail,
Should strive afresh against the foe,
Should strive, and should prevail”
Praise to the Holiest in the Height
John H. Newman, 1866
In his book, “Preaching & Preachers”, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones made the statement that the preacher’s message should rise up out of the Scriptures, not out of the preacher.
The context in which this legend among preachers made that statement was in advising preachers in their preparation to look for the message in the Bible and preach that rather than coming to their preparation time with a point they want to make and finding a Scripture passage upon which they can build their argument.
There is a slightly different application that can be legitimately made from Dr Lloyd-Jones’ counsel without violating his original intent, I believe, and that is to say that if the preacher finds the message of the text and preaches it and avoids preaching from out of himself as it were, he may avoid the error of preaching his own biases and prejudices; better even than this, he may preach the truth even knowing and knowing that his congregation knows that he, like they, need growth and spiritual development in that very area.
A prime example of what I’m saying and this application I make of Lloyd-Jones’ words can be found right here in our text for today. Because I will assure you today that if the message was coming out of the preacher and not out of the Scriptures, I would never teach you that you or I were called to suffer for Christ’s sake; a message coming out of this preacher would never counsel you to keep silent while being wrongly accused or persecuted.
No, in fact, it is one more point to prove the divine inspiration of the Scriptures that they would call us to do something – to live in some way – diametrically opposed to our nature and even require the preacher, himself sharer of a fallen nature, to preach it, whether he is it or not.
My humanity would never allow me to call you to such a high standard as that to which I myself would then be called by you, for we would only continually and mutually disappoint one another.
On the other hand, since we believe that the Scriptures are God-breathed and profitable for teaching, reproof and correction and training in righteousness, and since we understand and believe that the living Word of God Himself is the one who is exalted as our example to follow, then we can receive these words of our text as both a challenge and a comfort knowing that He who calls us and helps us had trod that path He calls us to tread.
And we can finish the song I quoted in opening, singing with the hymnist,
“And in the garden secretly,
and on the cross on high,
should teach His brethren, and inspire
to suffer and to die.” - Newman
Let’s begin with an observation which comes at the end of our text but is really the basis for all New Testament exhortation. These letters are written to a people gone astray and brought into the fold, as it were, and in need of redirection.
It is said clearest and best by the prophet Isaiah:
“All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” Isa 53:6
The prophet equates going astray, not with ignorance and cluelessness, but with iniquity. Iniquity means wickedness and injustice. It is an act and it requires a decision of the will. The prophet says that we all have gone our own way – followed our own destructive path, “but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him”