1 Peter 2:21 MEANING

1 Peter 2:21
(21) For even hereunto were ye called.--Namely, to the combination of suffering and well-doing. To this they "were called" by the Gospel which St. Paul had preached to them; it ought not to be a surprise to them when it comes. (See 1 Peter 4:12.) It was a special point in St. Paul's preaching to forewarn fairly of the tribulations attending all who wished to enter the kingdom of God. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:3-4, and Acts 14:22, which latter passage refers to preaching in the very homes of some of the recipients of this Epistle.

Because.--This justifies the last assertion. It appeared on the very face of the gospel message that we should all (slave and freeman alike) have to do well, and at the same time suffer, because the gospel told us that it was so with Him, the subject of the gospel. Notice what a fine assumption lies in this "because"--viz., that Christ's experience must needs be that of every Christian.

Christ also suffered.--It is to be carefully observed again that he does not say "Jesus suffered;" the whole point is that these Hebrew Christians have given in their adhesion to a suffering Messiah. (See Note on 1 Peter 1:11.) And the true reading immediately after is "for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow His steps;" not, of course, that St. Peter exempts himself from the need of the atonement or the obligation of following Christ's steps, but because it is his accustomed style to give a charge (as it were) rather than to throw himself in with those whom he addresses. (See Note on 1 Peter 1:12.) There is one important point to be observed. Christ is said to have suffered "for you," but this does not mean "in your stead" but "on your behalf, for your good." Christ's atonement for us is not represented in this passage as vicarious. He did not, according to St. Peter's teaching, die as a substitute for us, any more than He rose again as our substitute. So far as the words themselves go, the death of the Messiah "for us" might have been such a death as that of the hero who, in the battle of Murgarten, gathered the Austrian spears like a sheaf into his own bosom, "for" his fellow-patriots, clearing the way for them to follow. The addition "for you" conveys the thought that in gratitude we ought to suffer with, or even for, Him.

Leaving us (you) an example.--This clause seems added as a kind of explanation of the abrupt "because" just before. "You were called to suffering, I said, because Christ, too, suffered; for in so suffering He left ("as something to survive Him" is implied in the word) an example to you." (This last "you" stands very emphatically in the Greek). The curious word for "example," nowhere else used in the New Testament, means primarily the "copy" given to a child to write from, or a "plan" suggested for carrying out in detail, a sketch to be filled in. It is used in this literal sense in 2 Maccabees 2:28-29, and in the metaphorical sense it occurs repeatedly in the Epistle of St. Clement; in one passage (chap. 16) apparently with a reminiscence of this place, for the author has been quoting the passage of Isaiah to which we shall come presently, and then adds, "See then, beloved sirs, what is the copy which has been set us; for if the Lord was so lowly-minded. what shall we do who through Him have come under the yoke of His grace?" The leaving us of this copy was one of the benefits of His passion implied in "suffered for you."

Follow his steps.--In all probability St. Peter used the word rendered "example" without any sense of its containing a metaphor, or else it would accord badly with the metaphor here. The word for "follow" is a strengthened form, and in 1 Timothy 5:10 is rendered "diligently follow;" in 1 Peter 2:24 of the same chapter it is "follow after"--i.e., "dog;" the only other place being Mark 16:20. It means (as in 1 Timothy 5:24) rather "to follow up," made still more vivid by the addition of "His steps" (Romans 4:12; 2 Corinthians 12:18). St. Peter could remember the day when he was called to follow, and he did so literally (Matthew 4:19; John 21:19); but the Pontine Christians, who had believed without having seen (1 Peter 1:8), could only "follow Him up" by the footprints which He had left.

Verse 21. - For even hereunto were ye called; that is, to do good and to suffer patiently (comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:3). Omit "even," for which there is no authority. St. Peter is speaking of slaves, but what he says of slaves is true in some sense of all Christians (comp. Acts 14:22). Because Christ also suffered for us; rather, for you, with the oldest manuscripts. You do not suffer alone; Christ also suffered, and that for you slaves, on your behalf. "Christ himself," says Bengel, "was treated as a slave; he deigns to exhibit his own conduct as an example to slaves." Leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps. The oldest manuscripts have the second person here in both places. Leaving (ὑολιμπάνων), leaving behind; Bengel says, "in abitu ad pattern." The Greek for "example" is ὑπογραμμός ( α word which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means a copy set by a writing or drawing master, which was to be exactly reproduced by his pupils (see 2 Macc. 2:28, in the Greek). The life of Christ is our model. In particular St. Peter urges us to imitate the Lord's patience in suffering undeserved afflictions. In the last clause the figure is changed to that of a guide along a difficult route, so difficult that those who follow must put their feet in his footprints. We should follow his steps, one by one, closely following him, as the word ἐπακολουθήσητε means (comp. Mark 16:20; 1 Timothy 5:10, 24).

2:18-25 Servants in those days generally were slaves, and had heathen masters, who often used them cruelly; yet the apostle directs them to be subject to the masters placed over them by Providence, with a fear to dishonour or offend God. And not only to those pleased with reasonable service, but to the severe, and those angry without cause. The sinful misconduct of one relation, does not justify sinful behaviour in the other; the servant is bound to do his duty, though the master may be sinfully froward and perverse. But masters should be meek and gentle to their servants and inferiors. What glory or distinction could it be, for professed Christians to be patient when corrected for their faults? But if when they behaved well they were ill treated by proud and passionate heathen masters, yet bore it without peevish complaints, or purposes of revenge, and persevered in their duty, this would be acceptable to God as a distinguishing effect of his grace, and would be rewarded by him. Christ's death was designed not only for an example of patience under sufferings, but he bore our sins; he bore the punishment of them, and thereby satisfied Divine justice. Hereby he takes them away from us. The fruits of Christ's sufferings are the death of sin, and a new holy life of righteousness; for both which we have an example, and powerful motives, and ability to perform also, from the death and resurrection of Christ. And our justification; Christ was bruised and crucified as a sacrifice for our sins, and by his stripes the diseases of our souls are cured. Here is man's sin; he goes astray; it is his own act. His misery; he goes astray from the pasture, from the Shepherd, and from the flock, and so exposes himself to dangers without number. Here is the recovery by conversion; they are now returned as the effect of Divine grace. This return is, from all their errors and wanderings, to Christ. Sinners, before their conversion, are always going astray; their life is a continued error.For even hereunto were ye called,.... Both to well doing, of which none but those who are called with an holy and effectual calling are capable; and which they are fitted for, and are under obligation to perform, and to suffer for so doing, which they must always expect, and to patience in suffering for it, which highly becomes them. This being then one end of the saints' effectual calling, is made use of as an argument to engage them to the exercise of the grace of patience in suffering for well doing; and another follows:

because Christ also suffered for us; in our room and stead, to fulfil the law, satisfy the justice of God, and make reconciliation for sin; and not only for our good, or merely as a martyr, to confirm the truth of his doctrine, or barely as an example to us, though this also is true: the Alexandrian copy, and some others, read, "for you"; for you servants, as well as others, and therefore should cheerfully and patiently suffer for the sake of Christ, and his Gospel; and the rather, because he suffered,

leaving us, or "you", as the same copies, and the Vulgate Latin version read,

an example that ye should follow his steps: Christ is an example to his people in the exercise of grace, as of faith, love, zeal, meekness, and humility; and in the discharge of duty, in his regard to the commands of the moral law, and positive institutions of religion; in his constancy in prayer; in frequent attendance on public worship; in his submission to the ordinance of baptism, and his celebration of the supper; and likewise in his sufferings; and in his meekness, patience, courage, and resignation to the will of God, which is what is here intended, and in which his people are to fellow and imitate him.

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