1 Peter 3:17-22 (Part 1)

1 Peter 3:17-22

In the preceding verses Peter had spoken of submission to authority:

  •  To civil governments
  • To the boss
  • To husbands

And then he speaks of suffering — suggesting, perhaps, that submission does not necessarily bring an easy life, even though it is the right thing to do.

Why is it better to suffer for doing what’s right than for doing what’s wrong?  More particularly, why is it better to be a Christian when suffering this way?

Firstly, suffering is not good, suffering does not make a person noble or morally superior to others who have not suffered.

Suffering is the result of sin in this world.

But God can and does bring good out of evil. The supreme example of God bringing good out of the evil of suffering is the death of Jesus Christ.

Peter points us to the Lord Jesus Christ, who always did good, never evil, yet he suffered more than any human being.

Jesus suffered once for sins, referring to his death on the cross, but this was not the only time Jesus suffered.

  • The Eternal Son of God humbled himself to become a human being.
  • He suffered hunger, thirst, fatigue, physical pain.
  • He suffered abuse from sinful human beings, living in a world that we had blighted with sin.

Yet on the Cross the Lord Jesus paid once, for all time, the debt of sin for unjust, unlovely people like us. The Just One died once in the place of unjust ones.

Jesus was not treated unjustly by God, as he is God himself, and he came for this precise reason, to give his life a ransom for many.

  • Jesus was treated unjustly by us, the evil ones he came to save.
  • He healed the sick, fed the hungry, befriended marginalised people, forgave sins, raised the dead, told the truth.
  • He did all this for the ‘evil and unthankful’.

How did we respond to his goodness? We

  •  mocked and reviled him
  • told lies about him
  • formed a kangaroo court and condemned him, an innocent man
  • nailed him to a cross as if he were a criminal

These things were done to the Lord Jesus in his life here on earth, and human beings have done similar things to his reputation ever since.

When Peter preached his first sermon (Acts 2), he said that what we intended for evil, God intended for good. What we did with wicked hands, God had pre-determined for good.

The suffering of Christ Jesus on the cross, Peter tells us, was the means God used to bring ‘us’ to back to himself.

We were once on good terms with God, because that is how he had made us.

We rebelled against our creator, and have made war with him ever since. Only a free and merciful act on God’s part would ever redeem us. We were justly condemned, but the one we wronged came to suffer at our hands to restore us and save us from judgement.

In his life, death and resurrection, the Lord Jesus represented humanity. What he did, what he suffered, he did and suffered for ‘us’.

Who are the ‘us’ that Peter refers to?

Not every single human being on earth — see v.19

Not those ‘good’ or ‘clever’ enough to choose Jesus. We are all, by Adam’s sin and our own, made utterly unresponsive toward God, except for our hatred toward him.

The ‘us’ in this passage refers to people whom God chose to save — a huge number from every age, but only those God selected.

  •  John 1:12-13 “Those who did received [Jesus] were born … of God”
  • John 3:3-5 “Unless you are born again, you cannot see … [or] enter the Kingdom of God”
  • John 6:65 “For this reason I said to you, that no one is able to come to me unless it is given to him by my Father.”
  • John 10: 11 “I am the good shepherd. I lay down my life for the sheep”
  • John 10:26 “But you are not able to believe because you are not from my sheep.”
  • John 17:9 “I do not pray for the world, but for those you [Father] have given me, because they are yours”

It is most important to see this. Our safety depends utterly on the God we offended. God was pleased to save, but if he had only sent his son to earth to live and die and rise again and left it at that, no one would put their trust in him.

Without the particular work of the Holy Spirit moving people to repent and believe, not one sinner would ever repent and believe.

Our problem is not merely intellectual. It is not the case that given enough information a person will say, ‘Oh, I get It’, and trust Jesus.

A miracle similar to that which raised Jesus from the dead is needed for any individual to trust in the saving work of Jesus Christ.

If you are trusting Jesus Christ, as he is offered to us in the Bible, then God has done an extraordinary thing for you. He has brought you to himself.

(continued in Part 2)

1 Peter 3:17-22 (Part 2)

1 Peter 3:17-22 (continued from Part 1)

If you are trusting Jesus Christ, as he is offered to us in the Bible, then God has done an extraordinary thing for you. He has brought you to himself.

  •  put to death by flesh — we killed him
  • raised to life by the Spirit — God raised him from the dead

‘By which Spirit, Christ went and preached to the spirits now in prison, to those who were disobedient in the days of Noah, when the patience of God waited while the Ark was being prepared.’

This is a difficult passage, but I invite you to think of it this way.

Noah, Peter tells us in 2 Peter 2:5, was a preacher of righteousness. In other words, Noah would have spoken to the people about how they might be saved if they trusted themselves to the message of judgement and mercy that God had given Noah to preach.

Noah might have said something like this:

‘Our sins have offended our creator, and he will bring a terrible judgement — a deadly flood. But he has given a way of escape — an ark is being prepared. Believe God’s assessment of your behaviour. Repent of your distrust of God and come to him. Come into the ark and be saved.’

 It was Christ who, by his Spirit, spoke through Noah long ago. It was the same sort of message that Peter and the Christians of his day heard and believed.

Many in Noah’s day heard that message but ignored it. They most likely made fun of Noah and his sons as they built a huge boat far from the sea. They died in the flood and their spirits are now in prison awaiting the resurrection and their final condemnation.

Those who believed the message were saved, but they also endured the mockery and other sufferings associated with trusting God and trying to do good in a sinful world.

Remember that Noah, as much as anyone else in his day, deserved to die for his sins. But God was pleased to show mercy to Noah and his family. Noah found grace from God.

Eight were saved, but the mere presence of the ark saved no one. The gift of saving faith was needed to get any human being into the ark before the flood came.

They were saved through water, which is an antitype (a picture) as baptism now saves us.

It is not water baptism that saves anyone, just as it was not the water that saved Noah.

Safety did not come through the action of water as if water could remove guilt as easily as it can take dirt off our skin. No, rather Baptism is a sign that we are in Christ (Romans 6). If we are in Christ (by God’s goodness, through faith) then we are saved from sin and condemnations.

Just as Noah was saved by being in the Ark (sprinkled by the rain — a sign of baptism), we are saved because we are in Christ (of which baptism is a sign).

We have our real guilt dealt with by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Jesus’ resurrection points back to his faultless life that he lived in our place, to his death on the cross by which he removed from us our sin and its judgement.

By his resurrection the benefits of forgiveness and righteousness are now available to his people — those for whom he died, those to whom the Holy Spirit gives faith and new life.

Because of these things that Jesus alone has done for us, we can have a clean conscience before God. We can know that God is no longer angry with us, if we are trusting his Son.

And this Jesus is trust worthy. He is at the right hand of God. He has all authority in Heaven and on Earth. The world is in his control. Nothing happens without his command.

Remember where we started.

Why is it better to suffer as a Christian than for being an evil doer?

God brings his good out of evil. This might not mean we experience that good ourselves in this world, but God is served when his people do what pleases him in difficult situations.

  • No matter what evil we may suffer here and now, it cannot take from us that good which God has stored up for us in heaven.
  • The suffering of this life is nothing compared to the sufferings of the next if we go on in our rebellion against our Creator. Remember the spirits in prison. They have nothing to look forward to but continually experiencing the consequences for their unchanging rebellion against God.
  • Christ has saved his people and they can never be lost. Their safety depends on the victory and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. It does not depend on us. We are simply to trust him.

1 Peter 3:1-7 (Part 1)

1 Peter 3:1-7

There is enough matter in these seven verses to offend most people today.

These words were addressed to husbands and wives who were not perfect people living in a perfect world.

Rather, these words came to Christians (saved people who still do wrong things) who were living in very difficult circumstances.

Just before this section of Peter are words about the duty of Christians to submit to the laws of the land and to employers. The main reason for this was to silence the voice of foolish prejudice. Christians are not to give people any legitimate ground to criticise their Lord and Saviour or that way of life to which he calls people.

By living good lives we are to silence their ignorant talk about the Lord Jesus Christ and about our of trusting him.

Faith in Jesus Christ is not a licence to do whatever we like, but rather, by doing real good, by suffering for doing what is right, we open a way to tell others about our Saviour.

The life of faith in Jesus Christ is one of service.  Peter says we are to live as slaves of God.

In this, the Lord Jesus Christ gives us his own example of doing good and suffering for it.

How he did not bad mouth those who mistreated him.

  • He did not deceive anyone to avoid responsibility.
  • He did not threaten anyone who threatened.
  • He committed himself to God who judges justly.
  • He bore our sins; he took punishment we deserved, He healed us.
  • We had done wrong, he brought us back to God.

It is in this context that Peter then writes:

‘Likewise (in the same way) wives, keep on submitting to your own husbands’

A wife who submits to her husband is imitating Christ in that he submitted to his father for our salvation.

I make this point up front to let you know that submission is not a mindless or weak thing.

The Greek word for ‘submit’ literally means to ‘arrange under’. From the ‘arrange’ part of that word we get our idea of ‘tactics’.

Military tactics, to be successful, require intelligence and courage.

Christian submission, to bring about its desired end, also require intelligence and courage.

Peter says that wives are to keep on submitting to their own husbands. They are to keep on using their intelligence and courage to arrange themselves under the authority of their own husbands. Here he implies perseverance.  Submission is not a one-off, “I’ve-done- my-duty-and-I’m-over-it” sort of thing.

It is a long-term, day by day thing, just like everything else in the Christian life.

We read of the Lord Jesus, how he submitted to his parents as a child, how he submitted to the Law of God daily, without fail, his whole life long. He submitted to the cross and shame of bearing our sins. He completed the job that the Father had given him.

Submission is hard work, but Peter says that it is pleasing to God — even if it is not necessarily always pleasing to husbands.

One of the big disincentives for a wife to submit to her husband is often the very husband to whom she is to submit. But the Holy Spirit says that EVEN IF some husbands are disobedient to the word, their believing wives might, without a word, gain their husbands.

Men, we might have thought we were safe in the first six verses of this chapter, but it is not so.  We have as much responsibility to be obedient to the word as our wives do.

If we think your wives are struggling to submit to our leading in anything, we need to ask ourselves how well we  are leading by example.   Are we obedient to the word — are we trusting Jesus Christ for now and eternity?

Are we submitting to his word regarding our responsibilities as a husband? We’ll get to the details of this in a moment or two, but in the meantime, we husbands are not to make the lives of our wives burdensome because we are disobedient to the Word of God.

Firstly, how might a Christian women find themselves married to a husband who is disobedient to the word?

  • the marriage occurred before the woman became a Christian and the husband remains (at the moment) without trust in Christ.
  • the man deceived the woman regarding his true attitude toward Jesus until after the marriage and had now thrown off any pretence of obedience.
  • a Christian woman might decide to marry a man who is not a Christian in the hope of influencing him toward faith in Christ. This is not recommended, but it sometimes happens.
  • they both believe in Christ, but for whatever reason the husband is in a bad place in his Christian walk. Though a Christian, he has become disobedient to the word.

But what does it mean that wives might gain their disobedient husbands without a word?

Does it mean that a wife is never to speak to her husband about Jesus. No. Of course wives may and ought speak to their husbands about Christ. But Peter seems to be saying that wives are to make their actions speak louder and longer than their words.

What Peter does not want is the message of Christianity to become a point of bitter argument between husband and wife.

By her submission, by following her husband’s lead in daily affairs, and by respecting him, wives display the fruit of a Christian life. When a husband sees this day after day, he sees Christianity in action.

This Christian submission might be used by God to

  • lessen a husband’s bad attitude toward the wife’s desire to go to church and actively serve others for Christ’s sake.
  • bring a husband to a point where he is ready to listen to the Gospel
  • remind the husband of what he himself ought to be doing as a follower of Christ.

(Continued in Part 2)

1 Peter 3:1-7 (Part 2)

1 Peter 3:1-7

[From part 1]

In verse 3, Peter is not giving fashion tips. He is not telling Christian woman to wear a sugar-bag and sandals.

What he is doing is pointing out the obvious.

Real beauty is found in one’s attitude — the hidden person of the heart — not in physical appearance. If you want to enhance your attractiveness, don’t spend all your time working on a facade.

Just think about some Hollywood marriages — all the outward beauty you could ask for, but ‘partners’ stay together only until the next pretty man or woman comes along.

So when Peter commends an incorruptible life that is characterised by ‘a gentle and quite spirit’, which is pleasing to God, he is commending the imitation of Christ, who

did no sin, or was there deceit in his words, who when reviled did not revile in return, did not threaten but committed himself to God who judges justly…

We men need to recognise true beauty when we see it. And we are to see this beauty in the lives and persons of our wives who trust and follow Jesus Christ.

So, husbands, when a super-model or some starlet or whatever appears suddenly on the TV, our attitude of mind ought to be something like — ‘none of my business’.

Now Peter, I think, uses a very pointed example to press this whole matter of submission home. That of Abraham and Sarah.

‘For thus once (i.e., in the past) did the holy woman who hoped in God keep on submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him, Lord.’

This is a very interesting example for Peter to have chosen. Notice that Sarah respected and submitted to Abraham who was not a perfect husband.

  • He almost gave her away twice to save his own skin
  • He fathered a child by a woman not his wife

And these three incidents occurred after God declared Abraham to be justified by faith.

In other words, as a Christian man, Abraham messed up big time.

The mess ups occurred, not because they failed to have Christian marriage counselling, but be because Abraham particularly failed to keep in mind who God is and what the good news is.

He was not obedient to the word.

The message that Abraham was given was that he and Sarah would have a child. This child would bring a blessing to the whole world. The reference was ultimately to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The almighty one who made heaven and earth had told him so.

Yet, before he had a child, he became afraid that he might be killed by an Egyptian King and then by a Canaanite king and, so he tried to bribe each of them with his wife.

God rescued Sarah, twice, from Abraham’s foolish behaviour.

Again, after waiting years for a baby that didn’t come, Sarah suggested that Abraham could father a child for them by her maid. Abraham ought to have said ‘NO WAY’.

Abraham ought to have taken the lead in light of the Good News, but He didn’t, and trouble came of it. Nevertheless, Sarah, that holy woman, respected and submitted to her own husband despite his many serious failings.

She is an example of a sinner/saint following the pattern that Jesus has left us.  Peter says that Christian wives are to follow Sarah’s example like daughters.  They are to do good and trust themselves to God, not fearing any terror.

Why? Because Jesus Christ has lived and died and risen for your eternal safety.

Another, less certain, reason is that her husband ought to be obedience to the word.

(Continued in Part 3)

1 Peter 3:1-7 (Part 3)

1 Peter 3:1-7

[From part 2]

Wives are to do good and trust themselves to God, not fearing any terror.

Why? Because Jesus Christ has lived and died and risen for your eternal safety.

Another, less certain, reason is that her husband ought to be obedient to the word.

‘Likewise (in the same way — i.e. as followers of Jesus Christ who suffered for us) men, keep on dwelling with your wives according to knowledge, as with the weaker vessel.’

Husbands are not to stray from home. They are to dwell with their wives according to knowledge.

Now Men, our wives submission is not an excuse for us to be rat-bags.

My parents were not Christians. My mum and dad divorced when I was five years old. Mum told me years later that there was a time before the divorce, while dad was in full employment, during which the Salvation Army provided food for herself and five young children.

My dad hadn’t got into husband mode. He still wanted to live like a single man going out with the boys. He failed to provide adequately for his family.

We who are husbands are to dwell with our wives. To support them as best we can.

We ought to know them better than we know any other human being. We shouldn’t have a best friend outside of our home. Every other human being must come second after our wives.

We are to live with them as with the ‘weaker’ vessel.

This does not mean ‘weaker’ in mind or character or morals as some unhappy people used to imagine. Why the ‘weaker’ vessel?

First ‘weaker’ refers to the physical fact that men tend to be stronger than their wives. We men are to understand this and to keep ourselves under control.

Men can be angry people sometimes. We are to control our tempers. We must not give way to out-bursts of rage. Some men are violent toward their wives. This must not happen with us. A man who trusts Jesus Christ must not do such a thing. Paul tells us that a husband is to treat their wives as Christ did the church.

Christ died to ensure the safety of his beloved.

Husband ought to have the same determination in supporting and protecting their wives.

Now, our God is not ignorant of the fact that some husbands are more obviously dysfunctional than other husbands.

The example of Abigail, the wife of Nabal, is to the point (1 Samuel 25).

David, before his became king, was an outlaw. He was chased all over the country-side by Saul who wanted David dead.

David in the meantime was doing what Saul ought to have been doing. Protecting Israelites from their enemies.

David had been protecting Nabal and his large household for months, but Nabal was a drunkard and a fool. He refused to give David any supplies in return for all his help. David was on his way to visit Nabal, and he wasn’t happy.

Abigail disobeyed her husband’s command, and took enough food and wine for David and his men and by that act prevented a disaster. Abigail, the bible tells us, was an intelligent woman.

She was commended for her actions.

Abigail protected her family but it involved an act of disobedience. An act of defiance to an unjust and foolishly abused authority.

There are times when wives are now placed in similar situations today by foolish husbands.

Submission is an act of intelligence and courage. But sometimes a wife needs to use those same qualities in resisting unjust and dangerous misuse of authority for the safety of herself and her children.

A second way in which the wife is a ‘weaker’ vessel is because of passages like 1 Peter 3. God has placed men in a position of power. Wives are told to submit to their own husbands.

Our saviour God placed our wives under our authority. We must keep this in mind.  We are not to take advantage of our wives just because ‘I’m the Boss, God says so’.

Our wives’ safety, needs, and desires must be extremely important to us. We should listen carefully to what our wives say to us.

Husbands are not founts of all wisdom. Wives deal with things each day that we know little of, things about which we need to know if good decisions are going to be made.

We are to dwell with our wives according to knowledge.

We are to support, protect and love our wives, or die in the attempt (repeat that)

We also need to recognise that we are heirs together of the grace of life.

Christ Jesus has lived a life of submission, has died our death for us, and has risen again to give everlasting life to sinful people like us. We have this promise before us. We are to live as people who have hope, who have everything in Christ.

Wives are not to submit to their husbands because their husbands are so good, nor are husbands to love and support their wives because their wives are submissive.

It is not a tit for tat arrangement. Wives are to submit to their own husbands because Christ, who is their saviour and example, has called them to it.

Husbands are to love and protect their own wives because Christ who is their saviour and example has called them to it.

Peter says that husbands and wives are ‘heirs together of the grace of life’. Husbands and wives are brothers and sisters in Christ and so are under double obligation to care for and love one another.

This love is to be nurtured so that ‘our prayers might not be hindered’. Trouble in the house can mess with our spiritual life as nothing else can.

We have every reason to respond to the mercy of God in the ways he reveals in his word.

God help us.

1 Peter 2: 13 – 24 (Part 1)

In this section of his letter, Peter talks about submission, and why it is what Christians ought to do.

Our submission to the Lord Jesus Christ is the reasonable response to his rescuing of us from sin and death. Once we were not the people of God. In fact we were his enemies and we were heading toward a well deserved judgement. But we were brought out of the darkness of our rebellious ways by the obedience of Christ. We were saved from death by the death and resurrection of Christ. Those who trust the Lord Jesus have every reason to love, serve and praise him.

Because the Lord Jesus is the ultimate authority in heaven and earth, because he predestined our situation in life — whether we are prime minister or tax payer, slave or free, boss or employee, married or single — we are to submit to him in whatever circumstance we might find ourselves. And we are to submit in appropriate ways for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The word ‘submit’ is an interesting one.

Literally it means to ‘arrange yourself under’, so it is an act of will. Again, part of the original Greek word gives us the word ‘tactics’, so submission also implies the use of our intelligence in submitting to authority. We are to submit to, bring ourselves into conformity with, every law made by an appropriate authority because our saviour wants us to do so.

The submission that Peter and the Holy Spirit urges us to show is not blind conformity. It is intelligent and willing obedience to lawful commands from Federal and State Parliaments down to local council by laws.

These ordinances include taxes, speed limits, court-orders, registrations, licenses and regulations (like swimming pool fences).

Why is this important?

One reasons is that our God is a God of order and peace. A peaceful and orderly society is a benefit. It is a good thing.  Nothing is more frustrating, debilitating and dangerous than chaos.

Now you might consider some laws and regulations very frustrating in themselves, but this doesn’t mean that the solution to your frustration is to ignore these laws. If everyone did that the problems and frustrations would just get so much worse.

You might remember the riots in the UK several months ago.  Some people believed an injustice had occurred. They were frustrated and took the law into their own hands. The result was that many more injustices occurred which led to much greater frustration, damage and loss.

There are systems in place in society to suggest and accomplish change. But these means of change are themselves the result of laws and regulations.

Another reason is the point Peter made in verse 12 of this chapter.  We are God’s people who are social outcasts — our faith makes us objects of suspicion. People regard our trusting of Jesus Christ to be offensive. Our confession is a message that people are wrong and will face terrible judgement. Christians believe that our only hope is that a man call Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead to save us because nothing else will. So people think of Christians as judgemental and weird.

Our good behaviour within the community, within society, is important because we must not give any ground for just criticism. We are to be careful not to give our Holy and Good Saviour a bad reputation by our bad behaviour. The only thing about us that should give offence, if offence is taken, must only be our following of Jesus Christ.

Peter actually says that our socially responsible behaviour is what God wills so that we ‘might silence the ignorance of unthinking people’.

Our public and private well-doing is to deal with prejudice. It is to correct the wrong thinking of the community. It might even get people thinking about our main message, which is not ‘moral behaviour’ but the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Lord Jesus has made us free, but our freedom is from sin and death. It is not freedom from living responsibly in the world. We are not, Peter says, to use our Christian freedom as a ‘cover’, as a reason for bad or disrespectful behaviour. We are not to say, ‘Well, Jesus has set me free, so get out of my way! I’m not going to be restricted by you (insert name)’.

We need to know that the ‘king’, when Peter was writing his letter, was probably someone like Nero. Nero was a moral monster and probably certifiably mad, if the historian Suetonius can be believed. Yet Peter says we are to honour the king since the king or ruling party is established by God (c.f. Rom 13). In showing respect to the king we are ultimately showing respect to the God who, for his own good reasons, put that ‘king’ in power.

For this reason, we need to show respect. We might not like the Prime Minister or the Premier or the local police officer. That is irrelevant. We are to treat them with respect for the sake of their office. These people hold their office because God put them there, and they will hold that office until God removes them.

We are to submit to these powers for the same reason. We are to use our minds in doing this. We are to be tactical (not tricky, but wise) in our dealings with authority. For the most part, human laws do not require us to do anything that God forbids.

Only rarely do circumstances arise that require Christians to say ‘No’ to authority. Peter himself said ‘No’ to the ruling council in Jerusalem (Acts 4), when they told them not to speak of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ had told Peter to speak. Peter, in this particular, case was right to obey God rather than human beings. It is a rare example. Even laws that we don’t like are usually not the sort that call for civil disobedience.

To recap, Jesus did not save us so we could become rat-bags.

We are to treat all people with respect, to love our fellow Christian (even those who irk us), to give reverence to our God and to honour the Government and its representatives.

(continued in Part 2)

1 Peter 2: 13 – 24 (Part 2)

(continued from Part 1)

We are to treat all people with respect, to love our fellow Christian (even those who irk us), to give reverence to our God and to honour the Government and its representatives.

Why? Because ultimately we are God’s slaves. We have been bought with a price, the precious life of Jesus. He died to bring us back to God. He rose to give us new life and new attitudes. We serve him, in part, by aiming to be good citizens.

We are to submit to our employers as well.

The people to whom Peter wrote were not socially influential. Some of them might once have been employers, and some might once have been rich and powerful. But as outcasts and strangers because they had come to trust Jesus, some were now slaves and others were perhaps in jobs that just keep body and soul together.

A motive to do what the boss says might simply be to avoid a beating if you are a slave, or to keep the job that you need to survive, but this is not the motive that Peter urges on Christians.

Peter tells the household slaves to submit to their masters for Jesus’ sake, because ultimately we are slaves to the best of Masters, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter knows that some masters can be twisted, harsh, unthinking and uncaring. He knows that some masters mistreat their slaves even when the slaves are doing a good job.

Peter tells Christian slaves to submit to them and patiently bear the mistreatment.

But he goes even further.

Peter says it is better to be treated badly for doing good and taking that mistreatment patiently, than to keep doing the wrong thing and taking punishment patiently.

Why? We are to keep doing good while suffering wrong because we are to imitate Christ. We are not to keep doing wrong and taking punishment patiently, because our bad behaviour brings Christ into disrepute. We need to use our minds — to think of consequences beyond our own preferences.

We are to imitate the example – Christ’s ‘copy book’ — that Jesus has left for us.

The Greek word for ‘example’ literally means to ‘write under’. It refers to the way little children learn to write by copying the letters that someone else had written for them. They followed the example given. We are to see the pattern of the life of Jesus Christ, and do as he did. We might not always get it right (see the copybook above), but we are to make our best efforts for Jesus’ sake.

We are to follow in his footsteps – imitate his way of life (walking is a metaphor for living)

What did Jesus do? He…

  •  Did good
  • Did not speak deceptively
  • Did not bad-mouth those who abused him
  • Did not threaten (he has legions of angels at his command but did not use them in his own defence)
  • Committed his case to God who acts justly – (cf. Rom 12)

Christ suffered unjustly – the rulers killed an innocent man – but when he suffered, he suffered for our sins, so that when he died, he died our death for us. The injustice of Christ’s death came from sinful human reaction to his life of obedience to the God we hated. That is where the injustice lies.

God was not unjust in sending His Son to live and die and rise to save us. Those acts of God were not unjust, rather, they were merciful – a demonstration of God’s goodness to bad people. God himself made himself the legal surety for his people. He would pay their debt for them. What God did was just and kind. What we did to him was unjust, because Jesus did no wrong. He had no case to answer when he was accused. What we intended for evil, God intended for good.

When Jesus died for our sins, we died to sin in Him. Hebrews tells us that for the joy set before him, Jesus went to the cross for our sakes, despising the shame, so we might be saved. In suffering unjustly, the Lord Jesus submitted to the will of God and his submission brought about great good for undeserving people like us. When we submitt to unjust treatment, God intends good to come from it.

We were lost sheep, and our good shepherd came for us. He cares for us. He has brought us back to the God we had offend, and he brought us back forgiven and acceptable to our God.

For the sake of the cross of Christ, we are to live a life of submission to the circumstances God has placed us in. We do this so that Christ might be known as a God worth serving, as a God who saves bad people and changes their out-look on life (v.12).