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21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.
23 When 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.
24 He 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.
25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:21-25)
God does not have a only one means of exhorting us in live in obedience. He is not a one string banjo which only has one cord to harp on.
You can, however, hear different people try to reduce it down to one. They will do it either in their practice or in their teachings. One will say, “Just preach the gospel of justification.” Others will say, “Work hard to follow the example of Christ.” The list can go on.
Now, such statements are true in part. That is why they can profit an individual. One person has been crushed by their guilt for most of their Christian life. When they hear about living in light of the gospel they start to live in joyous freedom and see so much sanctification in their life. Another never knew the sustaining grace of Christ until they were pushed outside their comfort zone to be obedient in a particular area. They pushed themselves and witnessed power and grace sustaining them.
Now, what these people might be tempted to do is to take their individual experience with the sanctifying work of the Spirit and make it the standard by which all must walk with God. They take the part and make it the whole. So the only thing people need is to know justification by faith alone or to be pushed hard to live out their faith.
But what this section of 1 Peter 2 reminds us is that there are multiple ways that God exhorts us in our pilgrimage as believers to live obediently.
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”
- Here we see the example of Christ given. Christ lived His perfect life “so that” we could strive to walk as He walked. Believers are to be looking to the life of Christ to give instruction as to how they are to live and thus move to live it.
“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When 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.”
- The person of Christ is given as the One we are to look upon in our warfare. Peter does not tell them to look within themselves to find the courage to obey. To the complete contrary, he tells them, and us, to look away from ourselves and fix our eyes up the Christ who went before us. The person of Christ is who we are to look upon so that His beauty can encourage us to endure as we follow after Him.
“He 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.”
- Here we are told to behold the power that is ours over sin because of Christ. His death to sin means that we are dead to sin. His resurrected life raises us up to live a life of righteousness. The wounds which killed His body bring life to both our souls and bodies making us capable to live for Him. We are, thus, given the greatest healing possible! No sin will have dominion over us! Resurrection power is at the believer’s disposal.
“For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
- Finally, in this passage, we are told to remember what God has done for us. To the persecuted believers Peter is writing to he directs the attention to what God has done for them. They were straying but now have be brought back. The Lord is their Sheperd and Overseer. They are now counted as members of God’s flock who are being watched over by the Lord Himself. They are not forgotten, pointless commodities. The Shepherd will not lose one of His sheep. Look at all the Shepherd has gone through to bring them under His care (vs. 21-24)!
Thus we see that the ways the Lord brings sanctifying truth to His people are multiple. We could even find more by exploring others texts in 1 Peter (or the whole bible). We can even see the truths crisscrossing over the above texts. There is not one phrase, one truth that is the silver bullet to press believers on in their sanctification. As this text demonstrates the truths are multiple.
This means for us that we should be as multifaceted as the bible is when we exhort believers to be like Christ. We are in the dominion of grace in Christ. But that grace may take the form of gentle gospel reminding comforts or it may be the hard confrontation of warning. Truth, wisdom, and love are to guide us as we seek to apply biblical truth to individual lives and circumstances.
The hope we offer people is more than a set of strategies. Our hope is Christ! In him alone do lost, confused, angry, hurt, and discouraged people find what they need to be and do what God intends. We are not gurus. We are nothing more than instruments in the hands of a powerful Redeemer. The hope and help we offer is always focused on him. The most important encounter in ministry is not the person’s encouter with us, but his encouter with Christ. Our job is simply to set up that encounter, so that God would help people seek his forgiveness, comfort, restoration, strength, and wisdom.
Paul David Tripp, Instruments In The Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2002), 138.
The most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus. The greatest psychological insight, ability and experience cannot grasp this one thing: what sin is. Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of man. And so it does not know that man is destroyed only by his sin and can be healed only by forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this. In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner. The psychiatrist must first search my heart and yet he never plumbs its ultimate depth. The Christian brother knows when I come to him: here is a sinner like myself, a godless man who wants to confess and yearns for God’s forgiveness. The psychiatrist views me as if there were no God. The brother views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the Cross of Jesus Christ.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 5 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 115.