1 Peter 2:21-25 For to this you were called, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps. 2:22 He committed no sin nor was deceit found in his mouth. 2:23 When he was maligned, he did not answer back; when he suffered, he threatened no retaliation, but committed himself to God who judges justly. 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we may cease from sinning and live for righteousness. By his wounds you were healed. 2:25 For you were going astray like sheep but now you have turned back to the shepherd and guardian of your souls. NET
Last week, we looked at Christ’s responses to temptation and how this aspect of His humanity is a practical help to us in our struggles against sin. This week we turn to another angle of His humanity: His suffering. First Peter is a packed book with much to teach us as we face human struggles.
Meet my Cambodian friend, Lydia1. The youngest of eight children, she was born two years before the Khmer Rouge came to power. During their reign of destruction and killing, five of her siblings died of starvation. Lydia survived as her mother slipped her extra food portions. Her parents and all her older-generation relatives were murdered before she was five. After the death of her parents, Lydia was ‘adopted’ by Khmer Rouge foster parents, a practice of the regime employed to re-educate the youngest children. She quickly learned to hide in the forest in the day time and live in the homes of the deceased at night. At age 22, Lydia became a Christian through a missionary family who came to serve God in her village. Because she spoke English, the missionaries soon asked for her help with translation materials, and provided Lydia with a foundational understanding of her faith. During her final year of seminary education in Singapore, Lydia turned down opportunities for better paying jobs and determined to return to Cambodia. She now serves God in a Christian ministry organization in her home country, convinced her fellow Cambodians are in great need of the hope she found through the gospel in the midst of her suffering.
Though I cannot begin to fathom the traumas of her childhood, Lydia exudes a contagious joy and confidence in Christ. How does she do it? How has she learned to draw strength from Christ’s sufferings? How can the injustices Christ faced in His lifetime and on the cross make a difference in our daily struggles?”
Suggested Study Timeline:
Day 1: Read the whole book of 1 Peter, noting all forms of “suffer”, “trial”, etc…
Day 2: Read 1 Peter 1:3-9, thinking about our living hope.
Day 3: Read 1 Peter 2:13-3:12 to see some of the injustices the readers were facing
Day 4: Read 1 Peter 4 & 5, noting Peter’s encouragement to them in light of Christ.
Day 5: Read other passages emphasizing Christ’s suffering (see below)
Day 6: Answer the “meaning” & “application” questions
Day 7: Spend time in prayer and praise!
Background for the book of 1 Peter
First Peter is written by Peter to “those temporarily residing abroad” offering hope and encouragement in the midst of suffering. Suffering is the primary theme of First Peter. The letter uses the word suffering and its forms 14 times, as well as other words such as “trials”, “testings”, “fiery ordeal”, etc… It is thought to be written around 65AD during the persecutions of the Roman emperor Nero, who accused the Christians of burning Rome2. The culture of Peter’s day was an ‘honor-shame’ culture which esteemed people who adhered to societal values3. Believers were shunned as they rejected Roman values to follow Christ. (Look for the language of honor, shame, insult, glory, etc.. throughout the book.) It also feels Peter must have had the Lord’s directive to him in John 21 (“shepherd my sheep”) when he wrote this epistle, as this imagery is also strong in his writing.
Context of 1 Peter 2:21-25
This passage is sandwiched between two sections where Peter tells believers how to act when treated unjustly—(servants treated poorly by masters in 2:18-20; and wives treated poorly by husbands in 3:1-2.) In this context, Jesus stands as the supreme example of one who endured the suffering of injustice. In light of Christ’s example, 1 Peter 4 & 5 offers practical exhortation and hope to those facing suffering of many different kinds.
Discussion Questions: Grasping the Meaning
1. What are some injustices and trials the audience faced (1 Peter 2:13-3:12)?
2. We have been called for what purpose (1 Peter 2:21-23)? How did Jesus respond to injustice?
3. How does Isaiah 53:7-9 reflect on this passage?
4. Compare 1 Peter 2:23 and 1 Peter 4:19. What parallels are drawn there? Why do you think Peter refers to God as the one “who judges justly” and “faithful Creator” in these verses? (Helpful word: “entrust” in 4:19 means turning valuables over to a trusted friend for safe-keeping4.)
5. 1 Peter 2:24-25 shifts from Christ as ‘example to follow’ to Christ as ‘unique redeemer’. What reasons does Paul give for Christ bearing our sin? What relationship does this have to our suffering?
6. Unpack these phrases from vs. 25:
a. “cease from sinning”
b. “live for righteousness”—
c. “By his wounds you are healed”—Healed in what sense?
7. Read 1 Peter 4:12-19. Here, Peter ties the suffering of Christ together with the suffering of the original readers. What is the ‘fruit’ of suffering given in these verses?
8. What is the repeated pattern; the ‘fruit’ of suffering offered in these verses?
a. 1 Peter 1:7-8
b. 1 Peter 5:1
c. 1 Peter 5:4
d. 1 Peter 5:10
9. How does our patient endurance during suffering “proclaim (his) virtues” (2:9)? Why does our suffering make God look good to others?
10. If you have time, read through the whole book and list all of the ‘fruits’ of suffering and responses Peter encourages in those suffering. (Note 1 Peter 1:6-7; 3:13; 4:1-2; 4:12-19; 5:9-10.)
Application Questions: Grasping the Heart
1. Reflect on the Christian ‘call to suffer’. We usually use this word calling in a different sense. What does it mean that we are called to suffer? How do you think Christians from other cultures would answer this question5? (Ask them!)
2. This passage might create conflict between the idea of ‘doing nothing’ while injustices occur, and actively standing against ungodly injustices in our society (such as abortion, slavery, abuse of women/children, etc…) How do you reconcile these two in your mind? (Do you tell a wife to ‘patiently endure’ an abusive husband? Those who justified slavery during the Civil War times did so from these passages. Would you have told a slave to patiently endure an abusive master?)
3. We have all endured sufferings and injustices of various kinds throughout our lives. What are your heart’s natural tendencies in these circumstances? In what ways do you tend to turn away from God and from His people when you are suffering6?
4. How have you found the example of Christ’s sufferings to be a personal encouragement to you in the face of trials? How can you purpose to turn from your natural tendencies towards drawing on the hope Peter relates through the life of Christ? What experiences have deepened your understanding of this?
5. Question #8 above presents a pattern we have already seen—suffering now will be followed by glory later. Does this pattern truly encourage you in the face of struggles, or does it feel more like theory? How can you grow into an expectation of coming reward?
6. Beyond Christ’s identification as we share with Him in suffering, how does His unique suffering on our behalf speak to your heart?
Once we’ve looked at our own hearts as we face suffering, we can begin to help others ponder this question meaningfully.
7. You may have heard someone say that when people suffer, it must be due to their own sin. How does this passage speak to this teaching?
8. In tragedy we commonly hear people ask, “Why would God allow this?” We see many possible answers reflected in these passages, though let’s turn the question around. What does the question possibly reveal about the person asking it? What possible beliefs, stages of grief, and/or expectations might they be thinking or feeling? How might you guide a struggler towards the beauty of Christ?
9. Share with one another what truths have been most meaningful to you. Spend a moment writing down the insights you have heard from others during this study that have enriched your own perspective.
10. What truths about Christ’s suffering have made Him appear more glorious or beautiful to you this week? Write a prayer praising Christ for His example of how to suffer ‘well’ and asking His help to face your struggles with His resources. Include your personal application in your prayer.
Group prayer requests
When we consider the severe injustices you faced, it is shocking that you did not sin in any way. Your beautiful example gives us strength to face our struggles with hope. Thank you for your unique suffering on the cross on our behalf. Because you faced the cross alone, we will always have a Shepherd to walk beside us in our trials. Help us by your grace to struggle well in our own difficulties, and offer words of true comfort to those in need.
Her name has been changed to protect her identity.
3 Steve Bechtler, Following in His Steps: Suffering, Community and Christology in 1 Peter (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1998), 182.
Robert Mounce, A Living Hope: A Commentary on 1 & 2 Peter (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 34.
5 Like my friend Lydia, Christians from different backgrounds, especially those from countries which have faced severe persecution, can add a great deal of insight to our own limited perspective.