It is a gracious matter to endure suffering, while acting out of one’s desire to be obedient to God (1Peter 2:19), or to behave in a manner pleasing to him. Often, this suffering comes at the hand of others. When Peter addresses the plight of the servant in 1Peter 2:18-20, application can be made to other walks of life, for example one is able to act out Peter’s argument at one’s place of employment. Yet, it needs to be remembered that the primary application is to the one who has no freedom, like slaves and conquered peoples.
It was expected that even a good and kind lord would discipline his servant in some manner, if that servant did wrong. The more gentle authority figure may very well have been much more lenient than the more severe lord, but he would still punish wrongdoing (1Peter 2:20). If the servant endured this discipline patiently, what honor was in that? It was expected for him to endure discipline patiently, when he didn’t behave correctly. However, if that servant behaved righteously, as though serving Christ, and was disciplined for the good he had done, this sort of matter is distinctive and worthy of praise. Why so? Because, Peter claims that suffering is involved in our calling (1Peter 2:21). That is, God has called us to endure life as it comes to us without complaint, and no matter what our lot, we are to do good works.
This is because Christ suffered (1Peter 2:21), and it is a fact of life, that if we choose to follow in his steps—become his disciple—we shall suffer, as well. It was God’s will that Christ suffer in our stead. Therefore, suffering (in some way and for various lengths of time) is the pattern or life we choose by choosing to follow Christ. No matter what we choose in life, the choice brings consequences. Since Christ suffered for us, suffering is involved in following Christ. His suffering brought our salvation. Our suffering for Christ’s sake brings shame and guilt upon those who inflict such suffering (2Timothy 1:8; 1Peter 3:16). This unjust picture sows a seed in the consciences of those promoting the injustice, which eventually results in consideration for the Gospel and repentance toward God on the part of the unrepentant (1Peter 2:12, 19).
Christ has given us an example that we must follow, if we intend to be his disciple. Not following his example, but claiming to be his follower would be an oxymoron. Jesus never sinned, nor was he deceitful (1Peter 2:22). When he was lied about and defamed, he didn’t engage in the same sort of behavior. Nor, when he suffered at the hands of men, did he forbid them or threaten retaliation (1Peter 2:23). Such a life implies that we, as followers of Christ, need to cease sinning against or offending people (1Peter 4:1; Hebrews 4:10). Neither should we act subtlety toward anyone. We need to be harmless, like doves, but wise like serpents (Matthew 10:16).
If others think and speak evil of us, we should simply take what they say as though we were deaf (Psalm 38:12-14). We must not retaliate in kind. Rather, if possible, we should seek to find something worthy of praise in those who lie and speak evil of us (1Corinthians 4:12).
If those in authority take away our rights or inflict bodily harm on us (1Peter 2:23), the believer is to simply commit his way to God (1Peter 2:23) – praising him for his judgment (Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22; John 18:11). After all, Christ has borne our sins upon a tree (1Peter 2:24). That is, he took all that we inflicted upon him, forbidding nothing and not promising retribution. Rather, he simply endured everything we laid upon him as though he agreed with our judgment against him.
Peter claims his readers had “died (G581) to sin.” The Greek word is used only here in the New Testament. It means they have been removed from the power of sin. It has the sense of Israel’s exodus from the power of Pharaoh. In other words, in enduring the cross in the way that Jesus did, he healed believers and gave them an example of righteousness to follow (Isaiah 53:4-7). His wounds healed us by removing us from one authority (the power of sin) and placing us under that of another (the Kingdom of God, where Jesus is Messiah). We are indeed dead to our sins (removed from them), but now we are alive to good works (Ephesians 2:10), and by quietly enduring the trials and persecution imposed upon us by the world, our example has the power to witness of better things to those who blaspheme and rebel against God, to the end that they might repent and embrace Christ as well.
Peter concludes by implying that, if we do as Christ has done in the face of persecution, our persecutors, who are unconscionable in their behavior toward us, will eventually repent, just as we have done. When they view our righteousness, as we have viewed Christ’s who is the Shepherd of our souls, they will, in due course, conclude it is a better way of living than how they behaved toward us (1Peter 2:25).