“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ’ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow in his steps:
Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:
Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead-to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. “
For even hereunto were ye called!
The reference is evidently twofold. In the first place, the apostle has in mind the preceding context, in which he gave exhortation to Christian servants to be in subjection to their masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the forward. All thatthe apostle writes in our text is related to that. It is especially thankworthy, and we conduct ourselves beautifully when, walking consciously before the face of God, we endure grief, suffering wrongfully. But, in the second place, the reference is also to what the apostle is now about to say, namely, that when we suffer wrongfully, having a good conscience toward God, we are to emulate Christ,—to follow in Christ’s steps. Christ also suffered wrongfully. Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; and when He suffered, He threatened not, but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously.
Christ is the unique example!
O, let us be careful not to conceive of Him as an example in the modern sense of that term!
Surely we must have nothing of the philosophy of those who would have Christ be an example for every man, including the natural man, to follow. These philosophers assume that Christ wishes to be an example for every man, and they assume that every man is capable of following Him as an example. Not only is this philosophy absurd and impossible, but it is at the same time also very wicked. Absurd it is, because, very plainly, Christ never intended to be an example to all men. Impossible it is, because no man can, nor can he will to follow Him as he is by nature. And wicked is this philosophy, because it exalts man, leaving us with the conclusion that Christ ought to be very pleased when men consent to follow Him.
It must be clearly established that Christ cannot be our example unless He is first our Mediator!
No one has the right to follow Christ except he is first justified by His atoning sacrifice. And no one has the ability to follow Christ, unless Christ first enables him by His grace and Spirit to do so.
That is why the apostle in the text emphasizes, first of all, that the suffering of Christ was in our behalf. He suffered for us. Not, we must understand, merely to be our example, but to be our Saviour.
Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree of the cross!
Our sin and guilt was heaped upon Him. God laid on Him the iniquity of us all, by Whose stripes we were healed.
He is Jesus, Who would save His people from their sins! Because of our sin and guilt, we were wholly unrighteous. We stood in a wrong relationship to God, contrary to His will, and according to His judgment. Because of our sin and guilt, we were worthy only of eternal condemnation, worthy to experience forever the outpouring of His holy wrath.
And here is the good news of salvation,—God sent His Only Begotten Son into the world, assuming our nature, taking upon Himself the burden of God’s wrath over our sins in His own body, and bringing it to Calvary and the tree of the Cross. There on that tree, He became a curse for us. There God poured over Him all the vials of His wrath due to our sin, and He bore that wrath in our stead until it was completely burned out. There He satisfied God’s justice for us, and so completely was this satisfaction made, that henceforth God could look upon Him, and us in Him, as being perfectly righteous. So perfect is the salvation He wrought, that henceforth we should live unto righteousness. Consequently, too, we are also dead to sins.
Don’t you see, then beloved reader, how that only when Christ is first your Mediator and Saviour, that only then is it possible for you to follow in His steps? Don’t you also see how utterly absurd and wicked is that modem philosophy which denies the vicarious atonement, which has no room in it for the satisfaction for our sins in the blood of the cross of Christ; which proudly boasts that mere natural, carnal, guilty, damnable, hell-bound sinners can of themselves choose to follow in the footsteps of the Saviour? Unless you first stand under Him at the Cross, where His atoning blood covers you, you cannot follow Him anywhere.
Only after He bears our sins in His own body on the tree, and only after by His atoning death He makes us dead unto sins, and alive unto righteousness; only after He heals us by His stripes, is it possible to walk in His steps.
Only the redeemed can come after Him, no one else!
And to them, and to them only, is He the unique example!
And unto them He is the most worthy example!
He did no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth!
That He did no sin evidently refers to His outward walk while He was in the flesh. He did not commit any evil before God or before men. He never missed the mark of the high calling of God. He always, from the manger to the tomb, acted from the love of God and from the love of the neighbor for God’s sake, so that He -never, in all His, life and walk, did anything in respect to which men could lay a finger of accusation upon Him. He could, indeed, stand before men, as once He actually did, and say unto them: “Which of you convicteth Me of sin?”
That makes Him unique, doesn’t it? He is the exception among all men. No matter how holily they have walked, or how far advanced the saints may be in the way of sanctification, they still are all defiled with sin, and must continually pray for forgiveness and exclaim from the heart: “O God, be merciful unto me, the sinner.” But Christ did no sin, and is therefore the perfect example in Whose light we must walk.
Nor was there guile found in His mouth!
Never in all His speech was there found any deceit, falseness, hypocrisy. If anywhere sin is apt to be found, it is in the speech of man. But nothing of sin could be found in the mouth of Christ. He spoke only the truth. That the text says: “there was no guile found in His mouth, is much stronger than if it had said: “He had no guile in His mouth.” It stresses the point that men thoroughly examined His speech; they analyzed His teachings, His doctrine, and they could never detect in Him a lie, deceit, or falsehood.
And when He was reviled, He reviled not again!
It means that when men said evil things about Him, or called Him evil names to His face, He remained perfectly silent. He did not reciprocate. O, that cannot mean, that when wicked men confronted Him that He always remained silent. The contrary is true. Openly He charged His wicked adversaries with being hypocrites, white-washed sepulchers, full of dead men’s bones. He told them in no uncertain terms that they were of their father, the devil. Many more such condemnations He pronounced upon them, for He could judge them righteously, because He knew their hearts. But none of this was said in self-defense. Meekness was the attribute He demonstrated, when His person or His work was attacked.
When He suffered, He threatened not!
Watch Him in the halls of the praetorium, when Pilate and his men of war opened furrows on His back, when the whip-lashes of cruelty beat down upon Him. Behold Him as He is stretched out to be nailed by wicked hands with hands and feet to the accursed tree. Never did He threaten to retaliate. Only He prayed: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Always He lived out of the doctrine He had taught His disciples: “When they smite thee on the one cheek, turn to them the other also.”
But He committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously!
Always He was aware of the truth of God: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.”
What a most beautiful example then is given unto you who have been made to live unto righteousness through the atonement He has made!
That you should follow in His steps!
For even unto this were ye called!
For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls!
Tenderly the apostle informs the elect strangers to whom he is writing of what they were, and of what they are now by the grace of the Good Shepherd, Who is the Bishop Who has the oversight of their souls. Once they had no inclination to follow that Shepherd, but were like dumb sheep which are always bent on going astray. But now so it is no longer. That Shepherd has atoned for their sins, and has made them alive unto righteousness. He has brought them by His Spirit and grace under His control. And it is He Who calls them to follow in His steps.
When you by His grace respond to this efficacious calling, then you walk where He walked, and as He showed you how to walk.
What precisely, then, is that calling?
It is to walk honestly in the midst of the world, always revealing what we essentially are by the grace of Christ, namely, that we are the children of light. It is to let our light shine before men.
Moreover, when men shall hate us, because they cannot endure the light; and when they shall speak all manner of evil against us falsely; and when they shall revile and persecute us and cause us to suffer perhaps even unto death; then we shall walk precisely as the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls taught us.
Our outward conversation will be the manifestation of our new man in Christ. Out of the love of God we shall keep His commandments. In our walk among men we will not sin so that they can rightly condemn us, nor shall falsehood or deceit ever be found in our mouth. As we live by the truth, so we shall speak it:
And when, in spite of this good conduct, we are nevertheless falsely accused, shamefully mistreated, we shall commit our case unto God, Who judgeth righteously.
And we shall be faithful unto death!
Such faithfulness shall also be rewarded. For the Good Shepherd and Bishop of our souls shall not leave our souls in death, but He shall lead us on to a life of righteousness, which shall be realized perfectly in the city which has foundations, where righteousness shall dwell.
Unto this were ye called, my brethren, in order that He may lead you and all the redeemed unto everlasting glory!