Sunday, 3 November 2019
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 1 Peter 2:21
Peter has just shown that patient suffering, especially when it is suffering unjustly, is commendable before God. He now says something not often taught in the modern church, “For to this you were called.” Believers are called to numerous things – holiness, righteousness, being examples to non-believers, and etc. But believers are also called to suffering wrongly for their faith. The expectation is that, in this suffering, they are to bear up under it and patiently endure it.
As a reminder, Peter is writing to Jews. However, this is not a message unique to Jews. Paul says the same to Gentile believers in Romans 8:17 and elsewhere. In fact, Paul uses the same word as Peter now when writing this to the Gentiles at Philippi –
“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Philippians 1:29
This is not a concept unique to Jewish believers who were expected to suffer while Gentiles could expect wealth, prosperity, and ease. Such a message is contrary to Scripture. Peter says this is so, “because Christ also suffered for us.” A few key points are seen here. First, believers are expected to suffer because Christ suffered. The word because will be further explained in the next clause.
Secondly, it is Christ who suffered. It doesn’t simply say that Jesus suffered. The name Yeshua, or “Jesus,” was a common name at the time. But more, even if speaking of the correct Jesus, it wasn’t just that He was a person who suffered, but He is the Christ – the Messiah – who is the Anointed One of God who suffered. His suffering was prophesied in advance so that it would be known without a doubt that this was a part of God’s plan, and that His suffering was not an accident, but a predetermined part of what God was doing.
Thirdly, it says that Christ “also suffered for us.” The word “us” is possible, but it is more rightly translated as “you.” Peter is directing His words to believers who need to be trained in what he already knows. This then follows with his earlier words, stating “you” and “your” when conveying such truths.
Christ’s suffering was not for Himself, but for others. And His suffering was not just a vicarious act, as if believers are exempt from suffering because He suffered in their place. Instead, He suffered so that they could become believers and follow Him in the suffering which the gospel, at times, necessitates. This becomes fully evident with the words, “leaving us an example.”
Peter uses two words unique to Scripture here. The first, translated as “leaving,” signifies “to leave behind.” The notion of His suffering was left behind for us to see and fully understand. The second word, translated as “example,” is a compound word which would literally be rendered “underwriting.” It is as if a written copy of what He did is left as a print for believers to follow. As Vincent’s Word Studies describes the word, it is “a copy set by writing-masters for their pupils. Some explain it as a copy of characters over which the student is to trace the lines.” We as believers have what Christ left behind to carefully emulate so “that you should follow His steps.”
The word translated as “follow” means to “follow upon.” We are not simply to follow Christ, but to step in the footprints which He has walked. He is the Guide, the writings have been left to carefully follow, and the footprints have been set in the ground which has now solidified to stone so that our steps are completely in accord with His.
Life application: The evidence for the Christian to expect and accept suffering in this life is overwhelming. The modern prosperity gospel is a false teaching brought about by a misunderstanding, misapplication, or misuse of the message of the Bible.
This is not to say that we should not hope for blessing, work for prosperity, or be born into wealth, but these things are not to be expected. Christianity is not an entitlement society of wealth and ease. Instead, it is a commitment to following one Lord and to be willing to set aside our own personal gain, our earthly desires, and even our family relationships when they interfere with our responsibilities to Jesus.
If you have been told to claim a blessing in Jesus’ name, you have been counseled incorrectly on what you should anticipate.
The gospel message is the central theme of the Bible, and Jesus is the center of that message. He lived faithfully, bore pain and suffering quietly, and prevailed over this temporary life of earthly passions and lusts. This then has become our example to follow.
What is commendable? Missionaries who give their lives away for Jesus’ sake; people who preach on Sunday and are willing to work a second job, if necessary, during the week; congregants who praise Jesus on Sunday and continue to praise Him morning and night throughout the week – even if they face trials, poverty, cursing, or abuse. For most of the world, following Jesus is a life-threatening commitment, and yet one which they gladly accept.
Let us never lose sight of Jesus’ example; let us never fail to follow it when called to do so.
Lord, many times we have been promised ease, abundance, prosperity, and wealth by preachers, but Your word proclaims a different reality. Help us to accept blessing and ease, or hardship and trial, as You choose for us. No matter what, though, give us the desire and ability to follow Jesus through thick and thin. Amen.