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God, Grief, and Suffering
1 Peter 2:18-25
God, Grief & Suffering
1 Peter 2:18-25
Intro: Hebrews 12:1 tells us to "run with endurance" the race set before us. George Matheson wrote, "We commonly associate patience with lying down. We think of it as the angel that guards the couch of the invalid. Yet there is a patience that I believe to be harder then patience that can run. To lie down in the time of grief, to be quiet under the stroke of adverse fortune, implies a great strength; but I know of something that implies a strength greater still: it is the power to work under stress; to have a great weight at your heart and still run; to have a deep anguish in your spirit and still perform the daily tasks. It is a Christ-like thing! The hardest thing is that most of us are called to exercise our patience, not in the sickbed but in the street." To wait is hard, to do it with "good courage" is harder!
Peter is sharing with other believers what the Christian life is all about. We are to run the race that God has set before each of us. Beginning in chapter one Peter states that believers are Elect according to the foreknowledge of God. Then he moves to the price that was paid for our redemption, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Next, we see the work of the Holy Spirit in each of us to mold and shape us into the image of Christ. As we travel this path that God has called us to there will be trials along the way. Peter points out that the trial of your faith is much more precious than gold (1:7). Peter then moves to our personal holiness, the putting off the old ways and developing new patterns of behavior. This new attitude is directed to civil authorities, Kings, governors, masters and other people. The interesting thing to consider is the fact that when we start obeying the Word of God people take notice. Not everyone will like what we are becoming in Christ Jesus. The result will be persecution and suffering due to our testimony as a child of God. Peter is now warning us that trials will be intense and to prepare for them. When Peter wrote this letter, Nero was starting to move against the church. The attack on the church and its members started about 64 A.D. The persecution grew and Christians living in Rome were in daily danger of being executed for their faith. Nero went so far as to burn Christians alive on crosses to illuminate his gardens at night. This was a terrible time to be in Rome as a Christian. Peter knew that the "fiery trial" (4:12 ff) would spread from Rome to the Roman provinces, and he wanted to encourage the saints there. These believers had already been faced with local, personal persecutions (1 Peter 1:6-7; 3:13-17), but Peter wanted them to be ready for the severe trials now on the way (4:12 ff, 5:9-10).
T.S. The persecution can and does come from many different sources. Last week we looked at obedience to Civil Authorities. Now we are looking at employers.
I. Submission to Employers (2:18-20)
18. Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.
1. It appears that Peter is addressing household slaves who were saved and members of local assemblies (Eph 6:5-8 and Col 3:22).
2.The issue here is not slavery, if in fact you are a slave you still have a responsibility to respond according to God's command. Even Slaves had the ability to impact their masters by their Christian conduct. That is important to understand that perhaps God allowed certain believers to be enslaved to reach the household they were serving.
3. It is interesting that neither Peter nor Paul attacked slavery as an institution. Rather, they encouraged slaves to be devoted Christians and to obtain their liberty if they could.
19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully.
Servants must show submission and reverence to their masters, even if these masters are unreasonable and hard to get along with.
The submission is self-imposed
The submission is to be continuous
The submission to be consistent
The submission is to be commendable
A little boy finally sat down after first resisting his parents’ command to do so. He said to his parents, “I’m sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside.” While we would commend the little boy for his obedience still his inward rebellion is a problem.
We are to submit because God has called us to do so. It is our faith in the word of God that produces our response. Any lack of response gets back to unbelief on our part as to our responsibility.
Important lessons are given by this alternation of the two ideas of faith and unbelief, obedience and disobedience. Disobedience is the root of unbelief. Unbelief is the mother of further disobedience. Faith is voluntary submission within a person's own power. If faith is not exercised, the true cause lies deeper than all intellectual reasons. It lies in the moral aversion of human will and in the pride of independence, which says, "who is Lord over us? Why should we have to depend on Jesus Christ?" As faith is obedience and submission, so faith breeds obedience, but unbelief leads on to higher-handed rebellion. With dreadful reciprocity of influence, the less one trusts, the more he disobeys; the more he disobeys, the less he trusts.
20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.
For a person to choose to suffer means that there is something wrong; to choose God's will even if it means suffering is a very different thing. No healthy saint ever chooses suffering; he chooses God's will, as Jesus did, whether it means suffering or not.
Clearly there are times when we suffer because we deserve it, something we did or said prompting a response from others. That is not what Peter is dealing with here. He is making it very clear that there are times when we will be doing all the right things and pay a painful price for our actions.
Peter explains that anybody, saved or lost, can and should bear it if he is being punished for his faults. Generally only a Christian can do good and "take it patiently" if he suffers wrongfully.
Pay attention to that important word "wrongfully," for Peter is not telling us to look for excuses to suffer. He is talking about suffering for the name of Christ (see Matt 5:9-12), suffering when we have done no wrong but have let our light shine.
The Gk. word for "thankworthy" and "acceptable" in vv. 19-20 is actually the same one used for "grace." What grace is shown if we endure suffering for our faults? It takes real grace to endure when you do good but are treated badly for it. See Luke 6:32-36.
Peter gives "conscience toward God" (v. 19) as one reason why Christians suffer wrongfully. In v. 21 he gives a second reason: Christians have been called to suffer. We should not expect our lives to be a bed of roses, nor should we be surprised when trials come (4:12 ff). Jesus promised that His followers would be persecuted for His name's sake.
21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
We are quick to question why we are suffering for doing the right thing. Peter addresses this as well by pointing to Jesus as our example for the right way to respond.
In His sufferings on earth, Christ is our example of how to endure and glorify God.
Peter was a witness of Christ's sufferings (5:1); he knew that his Lord had done no sin and that He was condemned wrongfully. In word, attitude, and deed, our Lord set a perfect example for us to follow.
22 "Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth"; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; He did not argue; He did not fight back; He did not revile His accusers after they had reviled Him. He simply committed Himself to His Father and left the outcome with Him. Since He lives in us (Gal 2:20), He can enable us to act as He acted when the world persecutes us.
24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Again, Peter takes us to the cross vv. 24-25), reminding us that Christ died for us and that we died with Him (Rom 6). Our identification with Christ in death (2:24) and resurrection (1:3) makes it possible for us to live a righteous life.
The picture of the shepherd and sheep (v. 25) would be very clear to Peter, since he had heard Jesus teach about the Good Shepherd (John 10) and since Christ had commanded him to tend His sheep (John 21). The lost sinner is a straying sheep (Isa 53:6; Luke 15:3-7); but Christ, the Shepherd, seeks him out and saves him. The word "bishop" (v. 25) means "overseer"; Christ saves us then watches over us to guard us from evil.
Conclusion: Peter has filled this chapter with striking images of the believer. We are babes feeding on His Word; stones in the temple; priests at the altar; a chosen generation; a purchased people; a holy nation; the people of God; strangers and pilgrims; disciples following the example of the Lord; and sheep cared for by the shepherd. The Christian life is a display of the power of God working in His children to overcome the world and be a witness to the presence of God in the life of His children by the suffering they endure with the grace they endure it.
Thomas a Kempis described suffering this way: "He deserves not the name of patient who is only willing to suffer as much as he thinks proper, and for whom he pleases. The truly patient man asks (nothing) from whom he suffers, (whether) his superior, his equal, or his inferior...But from whomever, or how much, or how often wrong is done to him, he accepts it all as from the hand of God, and counts it gain!"
Suffering is hard and can cause great anguish and fear if the sufferer is not grounded in biblical truth. If we do not have a firm grasp on the principle that God is directing my life and nothing happens to his children apart from God's will for them, then fear and anguish will dominate their life. I believe Stonewall Jackson, that great Civil War General understood this principle and it showed in his life.
Stonewall Jackson in the midst of conflict showed over and over what it meant to trust the Lord. Historian Mark Brinsley wrote: A battlefield is a deadly place, even for generals; and it would be naive to suppose Jackson never felt the animal fear of all beings exposed to wounds and death. But invariably he displayed extraordinary calm under fire, a calm too deep and masterful to be mere pretense. His apparent obliviousness to danger attracted notice, and after the first Battle of Manassas someone asked him how he managed it. "My religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed." Jackson explained, "God (knows the) time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter where it may overtake me." He added pointedly, 'That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave."
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