Sunday 7 March and 14 March
Sunday 7 March
Called to Be Righteous
1 Peter chapter 2 verses 13-25
"Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor.
Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls".
When I introduced the book of 1st Peter, I mentioned that it was intended to be heard by Christians, but of course ever since, others have become hearers too. We’ve been looking at how Christians are to grow in their spiritual living and last week we ended with verse 17 telling us to show respect to everyone, to especially love our fellow believers as well as showing respect to our raised-up leaders. Last but not least to reverently fear God.
In verse 18 slaves are mentioned. Thankfully most of us are not officially slaves; so, in today’s context it is appropriate to think of employer and employees’ relationships here. We are charged to respect and work hard for our employer; and all those who hold authority over us, for what kind of witness will we be if we are poor or lazy workers. This even stands when our employer is harsh or mean. The key words and phrase here are “submit” and “for the sake of the LORD” as ultimately all authority is permitted by God.
Our work gives us dignity, permits us to contribute to society and it gives us some funds to pay our bills etc. Yet employers can test our faith too when they want us to tell lies or forget about our time with family and work longer hours unpaid to finish projects etc. If we are negligent – that is our fault but unjust suffering is more difficult to accept verse 19.
This raises some questions.
Of course, some people will resent harsh and unfair treatment and possibly look for revenge if the opportunity arises. However, verses 19 and 20 tells Christians what to do; “it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 …But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.” Of course, we must never put our lives on the line or turn our back on illegal practices or the like. Most important though is, our words and actions ought to glorify God.
As Christians we can put on our armour (Ephesians 6) and remember that spiritual forces often drive harsh and wrong behaviour in others and within us too.
As we learn to focus on pleasing God, we will begin to notice when something more that earthly abuse is being dished out.
Next Paul encourages us to consider what Jesus endured unfairly verse 21-25 He asks, how did Jesus react and he quotes from Isaiah 53 verses 7, 9 and 23. They hurled insults at Him; He did not retaliate; as He suffered, He did not speak out against them; instead, He prays “Father forgive them”
Jesus did not deserve to die but willingly went to the Cross to take our sins upon Himself – The human purpose for the crucifixion is overshadowed by God’s purpose in it. It was not the end of Jesus though as they may have thought otherwise. It certainly is not an easy task being righteous but that is what we are to aim for.
Instead of reacting in verse 23, we read “Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly”. Did He do that? After asking His Father to forgive them, He prayed “into Your hands I commend my spirit”. He knows God judges justly and can always be fully trusted. And as verse 22 says, He committed no sin and there was no deceit on His lips. Now that is rock solid faith in action – it is truly awesome.
Now the work done on the Cross is priceless, but Jesus’ work was more than simply that alone. His work on earth was “finished” in one sense but it also goes on in another – “by His wounds you have been healed” verse 24. Christ’s awful suffering turned out to have spectacular benefits for those who truly follow Him and all others who will do in future. That is of far greater significance that any angry words could have achieved.
We can learn to utilise suffering and harsh treatments in a similar way by seeing God’s higher purposes at work – and being thankful that God considers us worthy of suffering for His cause.
This can apply in work situations but also in other areas too: - when people are hurt in personal relationships, broken marriages, family squabbles, to name a few. So how we react and share our pain with someone we can trust and of course our Saviour can be really helpful.
It is the same even in bereavement – instead of being overwhelmed by the loss, we can look to Jesus who died and rose again – He never leaves or forsakes all who have given their lives to Him.
This other phrase in verse 24 “die to sins” is explained by Paul in Romans 6 verse 2 – sin no longer has any sway upon us once we are in Christ Jesus. We sing about sin and death no longer having any hold on us. e.g., In Christ alone which we sang last week are the lines, “Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me, and No guilt in life, no fear in death”.
This leads us nicely to the significant issue we need to know about today, that is we are called to be righteous. To react like Jesus does, to think like Jesus does, to walk even in harsh treatments or sufferings with our focus heavenwards deeply desiring that our lives with bring glory to God through all the circumstances life throws at us. That is nicely touched on as verse 25 talks about us letting Him be the shepherd of our souls. Mankind can damage our bodies, even our minds, but in Christ they cannot destroy our souls when we are in Christ – we are not hemmed in and defeated, but in Christ we are more than conquerors and by His wounds we are healed…take the time to pray to the shepherd of your soul today especially if you are suffering in any way and ask Him, the one who we read about, by His wounds we are healed, to bring healing to you and anyone else you are concerned for today.
It’s a High calling, this righteousness, but its rewards are clear when experienced and by living each step with our Saviour. May we all have returned to the shepherd and overseer of our souls and help others to do so too - amen