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Two Benefits of Christ’s Obedience

December 27, 2015 Speaker: Kit Johnson Series: 1 Peter

Passage: 1 Peter 2:21-25

Introduction

Several years ago, I was offered a position as a theology professor, and the opportunity was very appealing. I would be able to give all of my time to teaching, study, and discipleship. And frankly, the position seemed to have the potential to bring with it some notoriety and the opportunity for broader influence. But I also loved ministry in the local church, and I really enjoyed my ministry to teens and the church where I served. I was torn because the opportunity was appealing but I had pretty much concluded already that I wanted to be a pastor. One afternoon I sat down with my pastor, and I was laying out all of the factors that were shaping my thinking. As we were talking, I was very much on the fence, and if I were leaning one way it probably would have been toward accepting the position. It seemed like the logical thing to do. Pastor Doran had said very little and was mostly listening. After a while, he jumped in and simply asked, “What are the ministry passions that God has given you?” It was such a simple question, but it instantly cleared the muddy water in my mind. I knew that my passion was to be a pastor and to preach in a local church setting. I didn’t cut the conversation off immediately, but I really could have just said, “that settles it; thanks for your time” and walked out of his office. All of you have probably had a similar experience. You are in an argument with someone, or you are debating a question in your own mind. It seems to be an even debate, and then someone raises a point that outshines every other argument and settles the issue. Suddenly, there’s no debating what’s right.

Within the argument of 1 Peter, our text for today has this kind of bombshell effect. Peter has just challenged Christians to obey some very imperfect authorities—the government and slave masters. I’m guessing that some of his readers really cringed at these commands, and I know some of you have too. I think the loudest “amen” I’ve received since I’ve been here was when I said three weeks ago, “I know our government is corrupt.” And while none of us are slaves, I’m sure many of you cringed two weeks ago thinking about submitting to an imperfect employer or some other authority. You may have responded to both sermons by mounting all sorts of counter-arguments or excuses as to why these texts don’t apply to your situation. And the next passage on submission in marriage can be just as difficult to take. Peter knew these are hard commands, and so right in the middle of this difficult section, he drops a bomb that obliterates all our excuses. For the sake of context, let’s read 1 Peter 2:18–25 as we prepare to study vv. 21–25.

This is a marvelous passage of Scripture that describes two incredible gifts Jesus provided through his death. The first gift is…

Jesus provided an example of suffering through injustice (vv. 21–23).

The Assertion (v. 21): Verse 21 builds directly off vv. 18–20 and the discussion about slaves submitting to cruel masters. We talked at length two weeks ago about how difficult it would be to endure what some slaves facing when they had done nothing wrong. But even in the face of unjustified suffering, God commanded these slaves to endure out of obedience to God and faith in his reward. But our text also builds off the previous text about submitting to government even when it acts unjustly and the following text about submitting to husbands even when they reject the gospel. All three of these scenarios could be extremely difficult, and the temptation in all three is to wiggle your way out of suffering even if you must sin to do so. But rather than running from suffering, Peter tells us that God has called his people to suffer. This call is a reference to God’s effective call that brings about conversion. Therefore, Peter states that God’s call to salvation includes a call to suffer. The path to glory includes hardship. This is the consistent teaching of the NT. Jesus said that the world will hate you because it hated me first. Second Timothy 3:12 states, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Peter’s point is that we must embrace suffering as God’s purpose. Peter does not mean that we should look for suffering or that we shouldn’t try to avoid it when we can do so within the bounds of obedience. But when doing right means that we suffer, we shouldn’t be surprised or run. Rather, we must embrace suffering as part of God’s ordained path. But of course, this can be an intimidating thought to digest; therefore, Peter offers encouragement and instruction by noting that Christ cut a trail ahead of us.

Christ’s Example: Christ suffered “for you.” This is a simple phrase that points to the profound reality of Christ’s substitutionary death. When Jesus went to the cross, he took on himself the punishment that I deserve so that I could be rescued me from God’s eternal judgment. This fact ought to put to rest any reservations we may have about following the difficult path of discipleship. Sometimes, we can be very whiny about how hard the Christian life is. Sometimes, we excuse disobedience because we claim obedience is too hard. But when you put our excuses up against what Christ did for us, they are simply ridiculous. Christ will never ask you to give more to him than he gave to you. Peter cites the example of Christ to exhort us to go on but especially to instruct us in how to suffer. He states that Christ’s life is intended to serve as an “example.” This term is rooted in a school setting where a student is taught to write using a pattern he traces. And Peter states, we are to trace the pattern of Christ by following in his steps. Jesus set an example of how to live in a fallen world, and we are to follow his pattern.

So what pattern did Jesus provide? Verse 22 tells us that…

Jesus was perfectly innocent (v. 22). This verse, and the rest of the text, draws language from Isaiah 53, which is a significant OT prophesy about the suffering of Messiah and his substitutionary death. Peter notes that in fulfillment of prophecy, Jesus “committed no sin.” This statement affirms Jesus’ perfect life, and it comes from an eyewitness who spent three years closely observing him. Peter observed Jesus in some very difficult circumstances. He saw Jesus remain calm in the face of intense hatred. He saw Jesus continue to love and serve people even when he was exhausted from service. He saw Jesus heal the ear of a man who came to arrest him. Jesus never sinned, and he never was deceitful in his speech. Peter brings up speech because speech is a telling gauge of what is in our hearts. Jesus said in Matthew 12:34, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Jesus demonstrated a pure heart through always being honest and sincere in everything he said. Verse 22 brings up Jesus’ innocence primarily to challenge us to follow his example of obedience and innocence. We live in a dark world, but we must not sink to its level; rather, we must be careful to do what is right all of the time. But he also brings this up to highlight the fact Christ suffered unjustly. He never sinned, and he did not deserve what he endured. His suffering was entirely unjustified. This would have been a great encouragement to these slaves who were being treated harshly for no reason. It must have been awful to live at the mercy of a cruel master, but Christ knew exactly what they were facing. He has been there himself. If you are suffering unjustly, then be encouraged as well. I know that some of you are facing slander and hardship that is very unfair. Take comfort in the fact that Jesus knows exactly what it’s like to do nothing wrong and to still endure grief. Look to him for comfort and guidance.

Jesus was perfectly innocent. Verse 23 then highlights that…

Jesus responded obediently (v. 23a). Peter makes two contrasts between how Jesus was treated and how he responded. Both of these descriptions apply to his entire life, though Peter especially has in mind the cruelty Jesus suffered during the Passion Week. Jesus was “reviled.” This is a reference to the verbal abuse Jesus endured. Imagine how difficult it would have been for Jesus during the “trial” he had before the Sanhedrin. They hurled all sorts of serious but ridiculous charges against Christ. I can’t imagine enduring the kind of hatred that wants you dead even though you have done nothing wrong. The Roman soldiers then mocked Jesus as they beat him and put a crown of thorns on his head. Then as he hung on the cross bearing the sins of the world he continued to be mocked by the Sanhedrin, various observers, and even by the two scoundrels being crucified alongside him. But even in the face of such unjustified abuse, “he did not revile in return.” Jesus never sunk to the level of those who sinned against him. It’s worth noting that all of the verbs in v. 23 indicating ongoing action. Jesus was constantly reviled, but he continually resisted the temptation to respond in kind. As well, Jesus “suffered.” This refers to the physical suffering he endured. Jesus was beaten beyond recognition, his beard was pulled out, and he died an excruciating death. But “he did not threaten.” This one has always amazed me. It’s one thing to suffer when there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s something entirely different when you are infinite God and a bunch of punks are sticking their chests out in defiance as they abuse you. Jesus easily could have put them in their place or at least let them know what was coming. But he did not utter any threats. Peter was thinking of Isaiah 53:7 when he wrote this. It states, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” Again this statement would have had tremendous significance to the slaves in Peter’s audience. Verse 20 noted that some of them were being beaten unjustly. Jesus knew exactly what this was like, and he set an example by remaining above the evil of his persecutors.

How was he able to do so? Verse 23b notes…

Jesus trusted the Father to bring justice (v. 23b). This verb also pictures an ongoing activity. Imagine Jesus standing before the Sanhedrin while they are making all sorts of hateful accusations and reflecting in his heart on the fact that the Father is faithful, and he sees me truly even though these people do not, and he will bring justice even though there is no justice in the world. Imagine him thinking the same thing as he was beaten. This is not right, but I must obey my Father and trust him to bring justice. Then as he hung on the cross, Jesus knew that perfect God taking the punishment for my sin was the worst injustice of all time, but he continued to trust the Father to bring justice. What a testimony.

Application: And Peter cites the example of Christ in order to challenge us to follow in his footsteps. There is a lot of injustice in the world. You may endure injustice at the hands of authorities like the government, another authority, or even in your own home. You may think that doing the right thing in these contexts is just too hard or that it is unreasonable. You may never say it, but you believe in your heart that God is asking too much of you, and you cannot go as far as his Word demands in obeying his will. But aren’t you glad that Jesus didn’t make the same excuses? Aren’t you thankful that he obeyed the Father even when it was terribly difficult? Otherwise, we would all be hopelessly condemned to hell. Folks, I don’t care what your excuses may be; Jesus had more of them and bigger ones. But he stayed on that cross with his mouth shut because he trusted the Father and he loved us. How dare we dishonor our Savior by rejecting his will through our petty excuses? As I mentioned in my introduction, the argument ought to be finished because none of our excuses can stand up to the example and the significance of Jesus’ obedience. Jesus example is very rebuking, but it is also very encouraging. Jesus knows what it’s like to face temptation, and if you are struggling to obey, he understands. He’s been there, and he has provided the power for you to be victorious just as he was. Follow Christ’s example. Keep trusting the Father that he judges righteously. God sees your heart even if others do not, and he will honor your obedience. Keep that focus just as Christ did.

Praise the Lord that Christ provided an example of suffering through injustice. But Jesus did far more than provide an example. Verses 24–25 add that…

Jesus provided new life for his people (vv. 24–25).

There is a sense in which vv. 24–25 interrupt the thought flow of the passage because they don’t concern submission to imperfect authorities. But Peter couldn’t bring up the suffering of Christ without parking for a moment on its ultimate significance.

Jesus' death was not ultimately about providing an example; rather v. 24 notes that…

Jesus became our substitute (v. 24a). This is an incredibly rich statement of the center of faith. What does it mean that Jesus “bore our sins”? The idea is that the Father placed the weight of our guilt on his own Son. In the courtroom of God, the sins of humanity were counted against Christ. Again Isaiah 53 describes this idea well when it says in v. 4, “He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” and in v. 7, “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” As Jesus hung on the cross, the Father viewed him as the worst of sinners because he saw in him my sin and your sin. He saw the sins of the world on Christ. And because of that, he turned his back on Christ and poured out his wrath on him. Peter doesn’t use the normal word for “cross”; rather he uses the word for a tree because hanging on a tree had great significance under the Law. When we observed the Lord’s Supper in November, we studied Galatians 3:13, and we saw that under the Law someone who was hung on a tree after being executed was considered cursed. And so by dying on a tree, Jesus became a terrible curse. He was such a curse that had his body continued to hang into the night he would have become a curse on the land. Jesus suffered like no one else has ever suffered, because he didn’t just endure excruciating physical pain; he endured God’s wrath against sin. This is a dark picture, but it is also filled with hope. Remember that all of the actions in v. 23 are continuous, but the verb “bore” in v. 24 is definitive. Jesus bore the wrath of God once-for-all so that those who believe on Christ will never have to endure God’s wrath. This concept is what sets Christianity apart from every other religion. Our faith is not founded in my ability to pay for my sins and to please God through my works but in the fact that Christ already paid for my sins and pleased the Father. Christianity is built on grace. It might be that someone here is trying to earn a relationship with God. Maybe you came to church today to make up for something bad you have done. You hope that you can be good enough to avoid God’s wrath and to earn his favor. You need to understand that you are on an impossible mission. The Bible teaches that you can never measure up to the standard of a holy God, but you don’t have to. Jesus already bore your punishment, and if you believe on Christ alone for salvation, you can be saved. If you have never done that, I want to urge you to do so today. Cry out to God for mercy, and he will not disappoint.

Jesus became our substitute. As a result, he has provided three incredible benefits. First…

Jesus provided for a transformed life (v. 24b). We already noted that when Jesus died on the cross, he dealt with the guilt of our sin, but Peter adds that he also dealt with the power of sin. The NT consistently teaches that sin is not just bad things that we do; it’s also a power the rules over the lives of unbelievers. It blinds them to truth of God and to a God-centered perspective on all of life. It sets them on a path away from God and deceives them into pursuing a hopeless path of destruction. But when Jesus died and rose again, he broke the power of sin. And when someone believes on Christ for salvation, they “die to sins” with Christ. The blinders come off, and they are made new creatures in Christ. As a result, we are able to “live for righteousness.” We can live a life of eternal significance in light of a God-centered worldview. I want to emphasize that this transformed life does not earn us eternal life, but it is necessary evidence that someone has eternal life. You see, the gospel is not merely an antidote to rescue people from hell, and if someone claims the gospel but continues to live in rebellion against God’s commands, it is very doubtful that they have actually received the gospel.


The true gospel transforms the direction of our lives. If you would say that you have believed on Christ for salvation, but you have no interest in living for him, then you really ought to question whether you have truly received the gospel. You probably need to repent and be saved. For those who are striving for holiness, this thought is convicting. It’s sobering to remember that Jesus saved me to transform me, but it’s also encouraging to remember that I have the power to change and that this change is a good thing. God’s Word is not the slave master; sin is. But the gospel has rescued me and set me on a far better course.

Praise the Lord that Jesus provided for a transformed life. Second…

Jesus provided forgiveness (v. 24c). This statement comes directly from Isaiah 53:5. The healing in view is forgiveness. Because Jesus became our substitute and took on himself God’s just wrath, God is able to justly forgive. Because we are forgiven we will never face the consequences of our sin that we deserve. There is a powerful irony in this statement isn’t there. Jesus was wounded. He endured awful physical pain when he died. And we saw two Sunday nights ago that Jesus will continue to bear those wounds in his body for all eternity. But the only scares in heaven will be on Christ because his wounds brought healing to Gods’ people. As well, the mention of “stripes” or “wounds” in this verse would have born special significance to some of Peter’s readers who as v. 20 states had been beaten unjustly and certainly were scarred by what they had endured. Their lives were hard, and they bore the scares of suffering. But while their bodies had been wounded, Jesus had healed their souls, and because of that they could look forward to the day when he would heal their bodies also. Forgiveness is an awesome gift that is available because of an awesome sacrifice. Praise the Lord today that Jesus was wounded that we might be healed. Third…

Jesus provided reconciliation (v. 25). Again, this verse references Isaiah 53:6, which states, “All we like sheep gave gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” The Scriptures commonly describe unbelievers as lost sheep. It’s a powerful picture because sheep are known to be quite dumb. And when a sheep lost the herd, it would rarely be able to find its way back. It was doomed to wander aimlessly, which was very precarious because sheep are also helpless against predators. They aren’t equipped to survive apart from the care of the shepherd. That’s how we are apart from God. We are wandering aimlessly toward impending death. But Jesus is the Good Shepherd. And in salvation we are returned to the chief shepherd and overseer. Both of these terms are commonly used of pastors, but in salvation, we aren’t just reconciled to a body of people; we are reconciled to the Savior. Verse 25 pictures Christians as being closely related to Christ and enjoying the benefits of his protection and care. Again, what a blessing it is to know that we are protected by Christ form the judgment we deserve, that we receive grace to overcome sin and hardship, and that we can look forward to being united with him for all eternity. We do live in a harsh world but we are safe in God’s hands. Again, I want to appeal to anyone here who has never come to Christ for salvation. Believe on him today and be saved.

Conclusion

Christ has provided some incredible benefits through his death. Christ’s obedient sacrifice provided an example for how we should endure, and it provided new life for sinners. May God help us to learn from his example and to enjoy the blessing of his new life.

More in 1 Peter

May 29, 2016

A Closing Call to Grace

May 22, 2016

Your Deadly Enemy

May 8, 2016

God Loves Humility