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1 PETER 2:19-25 ESV
18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.
19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.
20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.
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.
Let’s set the context this morning. The apostle Peter begins the chapter by urging Christians to set a holy example for the world. That example will expose the world to the life of Jesus. Peter then shifts to telling Christians to obey the earthly rulers and authorities. Submission to the powers that be is an act of amazing humility and patience. Such a lifestyle helps Christians to stay focused on God, no matter how bad it gets, and serves to show the world that we’re not going anywhere just because things are tough.
Peter’s driving point is that Christians can inject transforming grace into the system of government they live under by submitting to worldly powers. The apostle Paul was famous for using “the system” in his favor. It was what allowed him to end up in Rome with a royal audience in order to preach the good news of Jesus Christ.
For both Peter and Paul, cooperation was the key to influence. Rebellion was never an option because it would only upset the balance and the influence Christians wanted to have in the world. Rebellions are violent, and Christians are interested in conversion, not destruction. We’re here to win souls, not judge them. It was through working within that Peter and Paul saw the greatest benefit to advance the gospel.
This reality is present in our selection, as Peter transitions from submission to rulers and authorities, to submission of household slaves to their masters. Peter’s context in this passage isn’t like the terrible American slavery of the 19th century. Think more along the lines of an ancient Downton Abbey. Indentured servitude was common but at times was very harsh.
So, Peter uses the widespread understanding of household slaves to make a larger spiritual statement about serving and suffering like Christ. He admits that there is no real honor in enduring discipline or punishment if you deserved it. But what about when you didn’t deserve it? A harsh master who did not worship Jesus would not see a believing servant as a brother or sister in Christ, therefore they would be punished harshly and without grace at the whim of the unbelieving master.
Peter, like the apostle Paul, is asking believing servants to remain in their situation as a witness to Jesus Christ. Through that witness, a very real and powerful picture of Jesus’ sacrifice comes to life, as Jesus suffered unjustly for our sins, testifying to the power and love of God for people.
What does this mean for us? Well, the text tells us. We have been called to follow Jesus’ example in order to win the souls of those who are trapped in sin. Verse 21 tells us we’ve been called to suffer as a witness, following Jesus’ example in how we live. But here’s where it gets interesting. The Greek word Peter uses for ‘example’ is hypogrammos which means “a copy to write after.”
The intention behind Peter’s word choice is not that we would be inspired by Jesus’ life or aspire to be somewhat like Him. This word means to copy Jesus’ life into our own life that we would live AS He lived. Think of the old writings tablets that many of us grew up with in school. The gray paper with the red and blue lines. Some of the books had dotted-lined numbers or letters for us to trace over and over so that we learned exactly how the lines were to be drawn.
Peter is relaying to us that Jesus brought redemption through suffering for us. It was how He freed us from our sins, by suffering and dying in our place. This is revealing because through His suffering we learn in verse 24 why He came. Jesus lived, died, and resurrected, not so that we would be bound by sin and death, but that we would die to sin, or as it is sometimes translated, that we would be free from sin.
Do we think that Jesus suffered so that we would stay in bondage to sin? God did not send His Son so that you would stay chained! Jesus came so that your chains would be broken, that they would fall with a loud, crashing clanking sound; freeing you and alerting the whole world that you are no longer bound! Just as the song says, Jesus is a chain-breaker.
Folks, I long to see the world turn their heads at the sound of sin-stained-chains falling to the ground! The only thing that will unstop the dull ears of a sinful world is the shout of men and women being freed from the tyranny of the devil. The question is, will you let the Victor over sin into your life and dwell within you richly? It very much starts with you, asking the Lord, begging the Lord, to take away the sins that clings so tightly. Freedom comes with your courage to say ‘enough is enough’ and repenting of the things that hold you down. Only Jesus can loosen the white-knuckle grip that sin has on our lives.
This is a decision that Jesus Christ has enabled you to make because of His work on the cross. He has won your ability to say ‘Yes, Jesus’. You can choose freedom through Jesus Christ. Will you choose it? Will you hashtag your life as #nolongerbound? I say do it. Take the leap of faith, come to Jesus. Amen.