Commentary on First Peter
" 2:20For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. 21For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: 22Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth" KJV (1 Pet 2:20-22)
The life to which we have been called is one of life more abundant in the Spirit. It is not so in the body, however. Because we are strangers and pilgrims in the world, it cannot receive us. Although we submit to every form of ordained power and do good, still the world rejects us. We are not to be surprised when we suffer for righteousness' sake. Nor, indeed, are we to so structure our lives as to reduce the suffering that righteousness brings. The Spirit now reasons with us concerning the preceding statement: "For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully." He will show us how reasonable it is for God to recognize the value of unjust suffering, while not commending one for suffering justly. It is apparent that the Spirit desires that we understand the Kingdom principle that is now being declared. His teaching will confirm that we are, indeed, foreigners in this world, and thus must endure its hostilities. Whether they come from governments, associates, family, or even the church, we are not to be overcome by them. At this point we come into a vast fellowship of saints before us, other believers who have endure such things, and to the greatest of all, the Lord Jesus Himself.
WHEN WE ARE BUFFETED FOR OUR FAULTS
" 2:20For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently?" KJV Men tend to boast when they are able to hold up under punishment or affliction that is due them. Thus men say "Take it like a man," or "Grit your teeth and bear it." But the Spirit is quick to apprize us that this is not virtuous, nor indeed, are we to recoil against such suffering, fighting back as though it was unjust. The word "buffet" means beating, or being whipped. It is not a pleasant word. The NKJV reads, "For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently?" The NIV reads, "But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it?" Peter is not asking for an answer. This is a rhetorical question. That is, the answer is obvious. It is of NO glory, or credit, to us if we patiently endure the harshest punishment for doing wrong, or sinning.NASB This does not agree with the world's view of things.
The word "faults" refers to sins, transgressions, and things we should NOT have done. It is not referring to weaknesses or infirmities. Being the sons of God does not mean we never are punished when we do wrong. The love of God does not always include passing over sins as though they did not occur. The nature of God is seen in His word to David concerning Solomon. "I will be his father, and he shall be My son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men" (2 Sam 7:14). The "buffeting" of which Peter speaks comes primarily from "the rod of men" and the "children of men." Punishment is not always meted out by congenial spirits and kind-hearted brethren. Sometimes God raises up a heartless Nebuchadnezzar to punish His people. The Scriptures speak of the time "when the LORD carried away Judah and Jerusalem by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar" (1 Chron 6:15).
Taking due punishment, chastening, or buffeting "patiently" is enduring it without objecting, complaining, or fighting back. It is suffering it in a state of silence, laying, as it were, our hands upon our mouths. It is reacting like Job when he endured affliction. "Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth" (Job 40:4). David expressed the same spirit when he became aware that God was chastening him. "I was mute, I did not open my mouth, Because it was You who did it"NKJV (Psa 39:9). Solomon also spoke of a proper response when we are confronted with our wrong doing. "If you have been foolish in exalting yourself, or if you have devised evil, put your hand on your mouth"NKJV (Prov 30:21).
Keep in mind, this is speaking of suffering for wrongdoing, and patiently enduring such suffering, miserable though it may be. Men account such an attitude to be meritorious and commendable. God does not. "For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience?"NASB Heavenly records are maintained with heavenly values in mind. It is understood that believers are not excluded from paying the penalty for wrongdoing. Even though our sins are forgiven, there are often grievous results to be borne because of them. David is a classic example. After being convicted of his sin with Bethsheba, the prophet Nathan told him, "The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die." That was not all. He was also told the sword would never depart from his house, and evil would rise against him from his own household (2 Sam 12:9-14).
No reward will be given to us for bearing up under such punishment, whether it comes directly from the Lord or through the hands of men. It should be apparent that those who go from one trouble to another, recovering from one error after another, are not the closer to heaven for it. With everything that is within us, we must run to win the prize. It will not be given for enduring suffering and hardship because of our own foolishness or disobedience. To be sure, the Lord does forgive, but He also chastens. Too, He often uncovers our wrong doing to men who are over us, like He did the sin of Aachan. When that occurs, let us take our just deserts patiently, knowing we will receive no credit for it. Then, strive to avoid wrongdoing and the just penalties for it.
DOING WELL AND SUFFERING FOR IT
" 20b. . . but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God." KJV Practically speaking, the context of spiritual life is "doing well," or "good works." It should be noted that "good works" are never deprecated or downplayed in the Word of God. They are mentioned sixteen times in the Bible, and always in a commendable way (Matt 5:16; John 10:32; Acts 9:36; Rom 13:3; Eph 2:10; 1 Tim 2:10; 5:10,25; 6:18; 2 Tim 3:17; Tit 2:7,14; 3:8). Those in Christ are the product of God's own work, and have been "created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them"NKJV (Eph 2:10). The Spirit speaks of a faithful saying that is to be constantly affirmed: "that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works" (Tit 3:8). While it is fashionable in some circles to speak derisively of good works, God always speaks favorably of them, urging us to continue in them.
A sophist might imagine that God would so bless the individual doing good that all men would respond favorably to it. But that is not at all the case. Remember, we are in a condemned world, and it has no love for "good works" or "doing well." Frequently, men do what is good and right, and suffer from the world because of it. Thus, when Paul refused to be treated as a god, and declared the goodness of the true God, "they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead" (Acts 14:19). Also, when Paul and Silas delivered a woman from a spirit of divination, and preached the Gospel of Christ, the authorities in Philippi "tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely" (Acts 16:22-23).
The Lord Jesus is the ultimate specimen of the truth of this text. For example, after Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, it is said of His enemies, "from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death" (John 11:53). Because the next verse will develop this more fully, I will save further comments for that section.
And what is to be the response of the people of God to such harsh and unjust treatment? They are to "take it patiently,"not threatening, not complaining, and not losing their grasp of the truth. They are to endure it knowing it is actually "momentary" and "light" in view of eternity (2 Cor 4:17). The recollection of other suffering brethren will also assist us to bear the burden, "knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world" (1 Pet 5:9).
Those who are not disoriented by unworthy suffering will be blessed. Has not Jesus said, "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you" (Matt 5:11-12). The persuasion of this brings strength to the soul, to bear up under great grief.
When we suffer for doing well, we have a confirmation that we are not of this world. The suffering itself is our proof. Our Lord affirmed, "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:18-19). Thus, our suffering becomes precious evidence of Divine acceptance.
In bearing up when we suffer wrongfully, we are actually casting our burden upon the Lord, trusting in Him to correct the situation. Our faith enables us to fulfill this word of the Lord: "Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you" (1 Pet 5:7). Thus Paul and Silas could pray and sing in the cell (Acts 16:25), and the Apostles could depart from prison "rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name" (Acts 5:41). It is our faith that makes enduring unjust suffering commendable before God. That is why Stephen could pray for those who stoned him (Acts 7:60).
The people of God need much encouragement in this area. We live in a world that promotes self-interest and avenging ones self. Such things are not acceptable to God. We need to hear of the value God has placed upon suffering wrongfully.
WE HAVE BEEN CALLED TO SUFFER
" 2:21-22For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: 22Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth." KJV Here we come to the core of the matter. We have been called to suffer! That is the appointed path to glory, taken by the Lord Himself. It was through His own suffering that Jesus "learned obedience" (Heb 5:8)-and all of His suffering was unjust! In the crucible of suffering a more keen sense of the Lord and His will is developed. Obedience is not cultured in a happy room, but in a suffering one. Even our blessed Lord occupied that room, doing so unjustly-not for His wrongdoing, but for ours.
To emphasize suffering when good is done, it is added, "because Christ also suffered for us." The bitter agony and wrenching of soul that He experienced, was strictly for us. When His soul was "exceeding sorrowful, even unto death" (Matt 26:38), it was "for us."
We have been called to suffer-brought into the "fellowship of His sufferings." Seeing this, Paul abandoned all competing pursuits that he might experience "the fellowship of His sufferings" (Phil 3:10). It is true, "the sufferings of Christ abound in us" (2 Cor 1:5). We experience the world's attitude toward our Lord, "bearing His reproach" (Heb 13:13). It is actually not our good works the world is responding to, but the life of Christ that is made known through them. Our works, or well doing, are but a window through which the character of an unknown God is perused by the world.
But why are we called to suffer? Were not Christ's sufferings sufficient? From one standpoint they are, and from another they are not. From the view of reconciling us to God and taking away our sins, they are wholly adequate. As it is written, "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" (1 Pet 3:18). No further suffering is required to atone for sin or reconcile us unto God. But there is another aspect of Christ's suffering. A measure of it has been left behind for us. Paul expressed it this way, "I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church" (Col 1:24).
Here is an aspect of the Christian life that is not often declared. To the suffering Thessalonians Paul wrote, "no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know"NKJV (1 Thess 3:3-4). You cannot go to heaven without experiencing, to some degree, the rejection of this world. It is spiritual travail that attends leaving this world and entering the world to come. As we are being "changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another"RSV (2 Cor 3:18), suffering is involved, just as it is in childbirth. The suffering, in fact, confirms the process is taking place, praise the Lord.
The way to the throne leads through the valley of suffering. As it is written, "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together"NKJV (Rom 8:16-17). Should you not be able to bear up patiently under unworthy suffering in prospect of being an heir of God and joint heir with Christ? Indeed, we can say with Paul, "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Rom 7:17).
Now, look to the Lord as your example. He left a pattern for us to follow. He "did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth." He was led like a Lamb to the slaughter, yet "He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth" (Isa 53:9). Again it is written, "He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not his mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth" (Isa 53:7). That is what it means to "take it patiently." And consider Jesus now. Is He oppressed any longer? Indeed not, for God has highly exalted Him. That confirms His regard for "suffering wrongfully." Because Jesus did the greatest good and suffered the greatest wrong, He was exalted to the highest position. Remember as you suffer for doing what is good, your time is coming also. You too will be exalted in due season. Believe it.