Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 July 9, 2017
“In His Steps”
Text: 1 Peter 2:21-25
Today’s sermon is the second part of a two-part sermon from 1 Peter ii.18-25 on unjust suffering—or, alternatively stated, suffering for doing good. Last week we learned, paradoxically, that such is God’s gracious gift. This week we see our Example of unjust suffering high and lifted up, and we draw strength from Him as we face our own sufferings—especially the unjust ones. Once again, let us hear God, via the ministry of the Holy Spirit, as we hear His written Word.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
The Apostle Peter, led by the Holy Spirit, tells us that Jesus’ suffering is an example to us (21-23). In fact, like our Savior, we are called to unjust suffering at times—and, though this fact dismay us for a season, God would have us strengthened by this. After all, His Son—our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ—is the example par excellence of unjust suffering. Sinful men perpetrated upon Him the grossest miscarriage of justice in history—a perfectly innocent Man receives the capital sentence from woefully negligent and prejudiced court. Yet the endurance of this unjust suffering is what it means, among other things, to follow in Jesus’ steps. The servant of Christ—the like of you and me who believe—is not above the Master Himself, Christ Jesus. Since He suffered, and that unjustly, from time to time so will we.
Notice how Jesus acted when subjected to His unjust suffering. He committed no sin—He neither committed nothing worthy of condemnation to suffer, nor did He provoke His accusers to inflict righteous suffering on Him. True, He endured suffering, but it was most unjust. Jesus uttered nothing deceitful while suffering—or at any other time. When His accusers demanded answers at trial, He responded not with deceit, but with sober truth. When Jesus spoke this sober truth—and was reviled for it—He reviled not in turn. Thus, being caused to suffer the agony and ignominy of the Cross, He threatened not. Rather, Jesus entrusted Himself, amid unjust suffering, to His Father—to Him Who judges justly. This must be, by God’s grace, our posture as well.
Jesus’ suffering not only serves as an example for us, but it also redeems our very souls (24-25). He bore our sins in His body on the Cross, and that while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8) and still dead in our sins and trespasses (Ephesians 2:1). Jesus did this for a number of reasons (His Father’s honor, to reconcile us to God, etc.), but we learn in today’s text that Jesus suffered unto death on the Cross in order that we may die to sin and live to righteousness. In an earlier era of Church history this was called mortification of the flesh and vivification of the Spirit.
Formerly, before meeting Christ in a saving way, we found ourselves bound in miserable servitude to us—unable to break free of sin’s clutches, even if we so desired (and, being dead in sins and trespasses, we didn’t). Now we have power to forsake sin—and, over time, God by His Spirit weakens our very desire to sin as we walk with Him. This is mortification of the flesh. Now God causes the Holy Spirit dwelling in us to live out the risen life of Christ in our mortal flesh. We increasingly desire the things that God desires—and that He desires for us—even as we increasingly desire to flee sin. This is vivification of the Spirit. May the Lord, in His powerful mercy, enable us more and more to die unto sin and more and more to live unto righteousness.
Peter next reminds us that by Jesus’ wounds we are healed. This hearkens back to Isaiah 53:5, where God heals His covenant people via the stripes laid upon His suffering servant. Hence, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah is Christ Himself—and Peter, led by the Spirit, declares it explicitly. We had a condition, incurable apart from Christ, for we strayed like sheep—with no sense of direction and no ability to restore ourselves to the fold. Now, in Christ, we have effective treatment. We, at conversion, were returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls—the Lord Jesus Himself. In the unjust suffering of the perfectly Just One, we have healing, we have life, we have Him—and all His other benefits besides.
Let’s now return to the question we left hanging last week: “How can unjust suffering be a gracious thing?” Now, after today’s exposition, we have some answers. First, unjust suffering is a gracious thing because we follow in Jesus’ steps when we endure thus. Hence, this unjust suffering is not entirely unfamiliar terrain, for our Savior already trod where we tread when we suffer this—this is no little consolation. Second, we find Jesus’ presence and power more than enough when we suffer—and that unjustly. This leads us further away from self-dependence onto God-dependence. This leads us to glorify our Lord Who sustains us in the hour of trial and delivers us either from it or through it. It is indeed a gracious thing when we endure suffering for doing good. We find the footprints of Jesus already lain as we walk through the suffering, and we feel His strong, gentle hand upon our shoulders as He walk with us in the vale of unjust suffering.
Jesus calls us, through the Spirit, to follow in His steps. His steps mark the way of suffering, especially unjust suffering. His steps mark the way of holiness—a way we simply must tread, for without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14)—as we increasingly die unto sin and live unto righteousness. The steps of our Savior, though they mark ways many will not go and that even we may prefer to shun, mark the way of profound, even unspeakable blessing—a gracious thing indeed. May the Lord keep us each and all at all times—and especially when His loving best for us involves unjust suffering.