Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Gospel Pattern of Practice Rooted in Doctrine

Tonight in my weekly Bible study we'll be looking at 1 Peter 2:18-25. As I've studied this passage this week, I've been struck again by how often the NT authors explicitly root their ethical instruction in specific aspects of the gospel. For example, here in 2:18-20 Peter exhorts servants to be submissive to their masters, even if it means suffering unjustly. Then in 2:21-25 Peter roots this endurance of unjust affliction in the example of Christ, leading him to make six statements about Christ did or did not do:

1. Commited no sin
2. No deceit found in his mouth
3. Despite being reviled did not revile in return
4. Despite suffering did not threaten
5. Entrusted himself to the one who judges justly
6. Bore our sins on the cross

This leads then in 2:24 to a purpose statement: so that having died to sin you might live to righteousness.

So note the gospel pattern here: (1) exhortation to specific actions; (2) foundation in some aspect of the gospel. I think this pattern underlies all of the ethical instruction of the NT, even where the gospel foundation is not explicitly stated. In those cases, though, I believe we are required to make the connection in order to truly understand how to live out the commands of Scripture.

And as one final note, I have once again been struck by oour amazing Savior, who did all of this. Who among us can be sinless for even one day, or perhaps even one hour? Who among us never deceives with our speeh? Who among us does not return insult for insult? Who among us does not offer threats? Yet Jesus perfectly embodied these impossible traits. How can our hearts be cold towards one who is so amazing in his sinless perfection?

3 comments:

Scott said...

Great thoughts. Thanks for the thoughtful reflection. I taught on Colossians 3 earlier this year and found the same concepts there.

I have a question, since you're studying 1 Peter...Peter seems to reiterate an "example" idea in his letters. For instance: 1:15; 2:21 (which you commented on); 3:18 (sort of); 4:1.

How would you briefly explain the balance and intertwining of Christ's life and work as both example 2:21) and substitution 2:24)? Does that make sense? Any thoughts?

Matt Harmon said...

Scott,

I do think that 2:21-25 provides the key to your question. In 2:24 Peter stresses that Christ's substitutionary death is what frees us to die to sin and live to righteousness. Based on that freedom we as Christians are empowered to follow Christ's own example of holy living (specifically in this passage enduring unjust suffering).

BTW, I think this is important in light of efforts by some today to emphasize the exemplary function of Christ's death to the neglect of the substitutionary aspect. I think the substitutionary element of the atonement is central, and the other elements mentioned in the NT tend to flow outward from it.

Hope that helps

Matthew Morizio said...

Appreciate what you mentioned here, Matt; particularly: “So note the gospel pattern here: (1) exhortation to specific actions; (2) foundation in some aspect of the gospel. I think this pattern underlies all of the ethical instruction of the NT, even where the gospel foundation is not explicitly stated. In those cases, though, I believe we are required to make the connection in order to truly understand how to live out the commands of Scripture.”

I find you spot-on concerning the *imperative* flowing from the *indicative* just as grace flows from the Throne! To reverse the principle— which is well established in Scripture—is to re-establish something of a works-righteousness orientation that will tend to obscure the Gospel itself (the very power of God unto ALL of salvation, including sanctification).

Unfortunately, we too often fail to get beyond the surface where a richer understanding of redemption can be relished. Thanks for sharing your findings!