March 30, 2017 – Follow Christ’s Example

Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.

1 Peter 2:21

Jesus gave us the ultimate example of suffering. The Greek word translated as “example” refers to a pattern that is placed under a piece of paper to be traced. Like children who learn their letters using tracing paper over a pattern, we are to trace our lives according to the pattern Christ laid down for us.

We follow His pattern by walking “in His steps.” We are to walk in Christ’s steps because His was a righteous walk. It was also a walk of unjust suffering, which is part of the walk of righteousness. Some suffer more than others, but if you truly want to follow after Christ, you will practice tracing His example.[1]


2:21 you have been called. The “call,” as always in the NT epistles, is the efficacious call to salvation (v. 9; 5:10; Ro 8:30). Peter’s point is that a person called to salvation will, sometimes at least, have to endure unfair treatment. Commendable behavior on the part of the believer in the midst of such trials results in the strengthening and perfecting of the Christian on earth (5:10; cf. Jas 1:2–4), and his increased eternal capacity to glorify God (cf. Mt 20:21–23; 2Co 4:17, 18; 2Ti 2:12). for this purpose. Patient endurance (v. 20). leaving you an example. The word “example” lit. means “writing under.” It was writing put under a piece of paper on which to trace letters, thus a pattern. Christ is the pattern for Christians to follow in suffering with perfect patience. His death was efficacious, primarily, as an atonement for sin (2Co 5:21); but it was also exemplary, as a model of endurance in unjust suffering.[2]


2:21 to this you have been called … leaving you an example. Suffering is a part of the Christian’s calling (1 Thess. 3:3, 4; 2 Tim. 3:12) because it was first a part of Christ’s vocation (John 15:18–20). Christians are united with Christ in His sufferings as well as in His resurrection (2 Cor. 1:5; 4:10; Phil. 3:10, 11), and the example of Christ provides a pattern by which Christians are to understand their own lives.[3]


2:21 example The Greek word used here, hypogrammos, occurs only here in the nt. The word technically refers to a pattern or model for copying in writing or drawing, but it came to be used figuratively to describe a model for behavior.

Believers should follow Jesus’ example when they respond to unjust suffering. Jesus faced His persecutors without threats or strong words, humbly trusting Himself to God’s justice (vv. 22–23; compare Heb 4:15).[4]


2:21 Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice in which he gave his life for sinners is unique, and yet those he has saved may follow Christ’s example when they suffer unjustly, even though their sufferings do not atone for sin.[5]


21–22 While a revolutionary call to undermine the social structure is not Peter’s emphasis, Jesus’ attitude toward suffering and unjust treatment is. To facilitate this model, the “suffering servant” song of Isaiah 53 is utilized, of which Jesus’ attitudes are reminiscent (cf. also its use by Philip, Ac 8:26–40). This establishes an immediate and obvious link to the readers’ situation—committing no sin, no deceit being found in his mouth, refusal to respond in kind, and not threatening under the heat of suffering but entrusting himself to God. After all, Christians constitute the “community of the cross” (so Davids, 106–8).

Peter is by no means fatalistic about persecution for the sake of Christ, but once more he enlists the language of election: “To this [i.e., suffering for good] you were called [eklēthēte, GK 1721]” (cf. up to this point 1:1; 2:4, 9). The Petrine perspective on suffering is that Christians endure hardship for the sake of Christ precisely because he suffered, as an example (hypogrammos, GK 5681), for us. The words “To this you were called” are a reiteration of the conditions of basic Christian discipleship, and the call of Jesus is to “take up the cross” and “follow” him (Mt 10:38; 16:24; Mk 8:34; Lk 9:23; 14:27). For this reason, the saints are called to “follow in his steps.” In recalling Jesus’ penetrating post-resurrection challenge to Peter to “follow” (Jn 21:19), Peter’s failure earlier in his life to do precisely this doubtless imbues his present exhortation to “follow in his steps” with deep meaning.[6]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 102). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Pe 2:21). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2246). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (1 Pe 2:21). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2409). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Charles, D. J. (2006). 1 Peter. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 324–325). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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