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?”
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!
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.
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.
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.)
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.
1 Her name has been changed to protect her identity.
2 Thomas Constable, Dr. Constable’s Bible Study Notes: 1 Peter, at , accessed January 27, 2007.
3 Steve Bechtler, Following in His Steps: Suffering, Community and Christology in 1 Peter (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1998), 182.
4 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.