COMMENTARY ON FIRST PETER
" Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." (1 Pet 2:22-25, NKJV)
In his strong exhortation to live godly and bear up under persecution and hardship, Peter takes us back to Christ. He shows us that the Gospel contains all of the incentives required to live honorably before the Lord. The secret to godliness and lives that are brightly shining lights is not found in human discipline, but in faith in the Lord. Thus he bases his exhortation upon the Gospel-specifically what occurred when Christ died, and what happened when we believed that Gospel. Godly preaching, teaching, and exhortation never get far from the Gospel of Christ. That Good News is the seasoning agent for all proper stimuli. At the point our reasoning fails to make much of the Gospel, it becomes futile and spiritually powerless. God has no word for us that is not connected to the Gospel. There are no effective exhortations that do not have an obvious and immediate association with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
HE COMMITTED HIMSELF TO GOD
" 2:23 Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously." NKJV Our text is a strong exhortation to refrain from avenging ourselves, or retaliating when unjust suffering is leveled against us. With great care, the Apostle avoids philosophizing about the matter. Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, he brings us back to the supreme example-the Lord Jesus Christ. In Him, and in Him alone, dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Col 2:9). In Him, therefore, the manner in which Divine life reacts in this world is revealed.
To "revile"is to assail, rail at, or abuse in words. It is to speak against someone, deriding them and speaking harshly against them. It involves hurling insults at enemies, and speaking derisively of them. When Jesus was crucified, people reviled Him. "And they that passed by reviled Him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save Thyself. If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross" (Matt 27:39-40). At one point, even the thieves "that were crucified with Him reviled Him" (Mk 15:32). Jesus did not respond with abusive words-something flesh is prone to do. Instead, He cried out, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Lk 23:34). Following the Lord's example, Paul confessed, "being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we entreat" (1 Cor 4:12). Jesus taught, "bless them that curse you" (Matt 5:44). Elsewhere the Spirit says, "Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not" (Rom 12:14). Later Peter will exhort us to not "render railing for railing" (1 Pet 3:9). We also have the example of Michael the archangel, who did not even rail against the devil himself. "Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee" (Jude 9). Reviling is never in order. Far better to calmly bear wrongs and refuse to revenge injustices against us, particularly when they are "for righteousness sake."
Our Lord did not "threaten" His oppressors, even though He was superior to them, and was going to judge them. He refused to do battle in the flesh. A classic example is when He was arrested in the garden. Although He could have asked the Father for "more than twelve legions of angels" (Matt 26:53), He "threatened not." He would not do combat in the flesh, or take matters into His own hands.
The fact that Jesus did not revile or threaten His enemies, however, is not to be taken as meaning He did nothing. Their cause was unjust, and their vituperations against Him were sinful. He was not complacent about the matter but "committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously." This was fulfilled when Jesus cried out, "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit"NKJV (Lk 23:46). The Living God would adjudicate His cause, and do so righteously. No transgression or sensitivity of heart would be overlooked.
It is ever to be remembered that God Himself is our Defender. As it is written, "My defense is of God, Who saves the upright in heart . . . I will wait for You, O You his Strength; For God is my defense . . . To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises; For God is my defense, My God of mercy"NKJV (Psa 7:10; 59:9,17). Jesus reminded us that God will "avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" (Lk 18:7-8). That faith is expressed in committing ourselves to Him.
Vengeance belongs to God, and to God alone. As it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord. And again, The LORD will judge His people" (Heb 10:30; Psa94:1). To take matters into our own hands, therefore, is intruding into things that belong to God. This does not mean the matter will be ignored, or that it is being overlooked by the Lord. It does mean it will be judged righteously by God Himself, who will handle our case for us. When the wicked heap harsh treatment upon us, we are to "leave room for God's wrath" (Rom 12:19), not taking matters into our own hands. This is an aspect of faith that Satan will tempt us to think is not necessary. However, when we consider our Lord, and His reaction to His enemies, it will strengthen our hearts to follow His example.
" Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed." NKJV The Spirit avoids teaching us in a cold and heartless manner. There is life in the words of the Lord (John 6:63). Now the Spirit will show us the results of Christ's sufferings, and how God righteously brought fruit from them.
If we are tempted to think too much of our suffering as unwarranted, let us ponder the sufferings of our Lord. Were it not for Him being a sin-bearer, He would not have suffered at all! Here is one of the most concise expressions of atonement in all of Scripture. Jesus "bore our sins in His own body on the tree." Isaiah said, "Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows . . . the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isa 53:4-6). This was a very real transaction. This was sin in its totality-all of it. It was placed upon Christ, or carried in His body, in order that He might take it away. When Jesus was born, He was "God manifest in the flesh." When He died, He was the incarnation of sin, for God "made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin" (2 Cor 5:21). God localized sin in Jesus in order that He might judge it, condemning it in the flesh of His Son (Rom 8:3).
This is vicarious, or substitutionary, atonement. It is one Person bearing the blame for the whole race, taking the responsibility for the sins of the world. As Isaiah said it, "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him" (Isa 53:5). The sins of humanity were not dealt with one by one, or person by person. Rather, they were addressed in their entirety, or in the aggregate. Jesus literally took "away the sin (singular) of the world" (John 1:29).
This is the only way the power of sin could be destroyed. This is confirmed by the result of Christ's death: "that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness." The matter of our death to sin is a critical one, and is often emphasized in Scripture. It is something that must be grasped by faith, for human reason cannot confirm this to be true. In Romans 6:2, the Spirit reasons, "How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" He reasons that this has freed us from the dominion of sin. "For he who has died has been freed from sin" (6:7). We are further urged to believe this, reasoning in the Spirit. "Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin" (6:11). In a sense, when our sins were borne by Jesus in His body, we also died with Him. As it is written, "if One died for all, then all died" (2 Cor 5:14). And again, "Now if we died with Christ" (Rom 6:8).
The effectiveness of Christ's substitutionary death is seen in its results: "that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness." This is also stated elsewhere. "That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God . . . that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again" (1 Pet 4:2; 2 Cor 5:15). The individual who is not living for God has not been affected by the death of Christ, and is not reconciled to God. If sin was condemned in Jesus in order that we might be freed from its power and live unto God, then those remaining in its power and not living for God cannot claim identity with Christ.
" . . . by whose stripes you were healed." The healing of reference has to do with sin, not bodily health. The cause of the healing is the suffering of Christ, and the result of it is returning to the Shepherd of our souls. Thus the Psalmist cried out, "Heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee" (Psa 41:4). The death of Christ, with all of its attending sufferings, could not be for sickness, for sickness did not alienate men from God-only sin does that. Sickness does not require atonement, and is nowhere so represented. Further, the "stripes" of reference are not those administered by men, but those given by God. It is what GOD did to Jesus that brought atonement, not what men did to Him (Rom 8:32)! The effects of sin were "healed" by the Divine stroke laid upon the Son. For those who believe, it is no longer able to keep them from coming to God and living for Him. This has no bearing whatsoever on the availability of bodily healing to the saints. That remains a blessing for His people. But that type of healing is not related to Christ's atoning death.
THE GLORIOUS RESULT
" 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." NKJV In further justification of the type of healing accomplished in the chastening of Christ for us, the Spirit affirms its results. When we stood in need of healing, we "were like sheep going astray," wandering aimlessly in the maze of sin and transgression. We had no sense of direction, and were getting further and further from God. Apart from Divine intervention, we were in a hopeless condition. As Isaiah said, "All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isa 53:6). Only the resolution of sin could correct our situation. That is precisely why God laid on Jesus "the iniquity of us all." Apart from that decisive action, we could not return to the Lord.
We see how corrupt sin had made mankind. When man turned "to his own way," he was shut up to sin and iniquity. That is what "going astray" means-following our own will. What is even more, sin so dulled the conscience that it forced man into a condition where he had no basic desire to return to God. That is why God intervened. As it is written, "Therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me" (Isa 63:5).
Further emphasizing that the healing mentioned pertains to the soul, the Spirit adds, "but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer [Bishop, KJV] of your souls." Salvation involves voluntarily coming under the direction and feeding of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because all authority is given to Him, He is the "Chief Shepherd" (1 Pet 5:2). Because His shepherding is for our benefit, and is one of deep concern and love, He is the "Good Shepherd" (John 10:11). Because of the extensiveness and effectiveness of His work, He is the "Great Shepherd" (Heb 13:20). The Shepherd of our souls is the Point of entering into the fold, or presence of the Lord (John 10:2). He laid down His life in consideration of the sheep (John 10:11). He knows His sheep, and they know Him (John 10:14).
While the Shepherd supplies our bodily needs, His primary ministry is to our "souls"-the unseen part of our persons. As the "Shepherd of our souls" He pastors, or nourishes our inward parts. As the "Overseer" or Bishop of our souls, He is the Divinely appointed Director or Superintendent of them. "Shepherd" emphasizes feeding and protection, while "Overseer" or "Bishop" accentuates leading, or giving direction. In my opinion, this aspect of salvation has been almost totally obscured by institutional religion. I find relatively few believers in possession of a lively awareness of this role of Christ.
There is an important thing to be seen in this verse. Apart from returning to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, we are confined to going astray-wandering away from the presence of the Lord. Our status before God is not maintained automatically, but by the Lord Jesus. We are not locked into a relationship with God, but directed and nourished into it. That is why the day of salvation is also described as the time when the Lord has "succored," nourished, or helped us (2 Cor 6:2). Spiritual malnutrition will result in a wandering soul. If this were not the case, it would not have been necessary for us to "return to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls." Those who are not ruled and directed by Christ are "out of the way" (Heb 5:2). Those returning from that wayward path are said to be "healed." "And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed" (Heb 12:13).
As elementary as it may seem, it bears repeating. God has nothing to offer us that does not come through Jesus Christ. Too, Christ will not minister those requirements to those who are not in "fellowship" with Him (1 Cor 1:9). Our returning to Christ for protection, feeding, and direction, is said to be "NOW" - "but have NOW returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." It is a present one, not something that occurred in the past.
Thus we learn that neither a return to Christ nor remaining in and with Him were possible without His atoning death. See what marvelous things flowed from the sufferings of Christ! You are to believe that glorious things will also result from your sufferings. In the persuasion of this, you will be able to bear up under the injustices of men, knowing that God determines outcomes, not man.