By Benjamin H. Liles
"For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His footsteps: 'He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth. When they heaped abuse on Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats, but entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His stripes you are healed.' For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls" (1 Peter 2:21-25, Berean Study).
If we look at everything Peter is saying here about Jesus Christ, we find a few things he's saying: 1) Christ suffered in our place, becoming an example as we ought to live our lives; 2) We are to follow after Him; 3) No sin, no deceit was found in Him--Jesus Christ--and through it all He trusted God who judges justly; 4) This same Jesus Christ bore in His body, on the cross our sins, so that when we die--in baptism by water--we no longer operate in sin and live by a righteous faith; 5) before Jesus came into our lives we are like going our own way, but we have been brought to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.
Now, to be honest, I could very much stop here as everything is self-explanatory. However, I think we need to see the whole extent to what Peter is saying. Jesus Christ suffered in our place so we ought to live blameless lives. I love how Paul puts it in the letter to the Ephesian church: "Be imitators of God, therefore, as beloved children, and walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant sacrificial offering to God" (Ephesians 5:1-2). In other words, if we say we belong to Jesus Christ then love is the hallmark of our faith. Such faith means we live for God, sacrificing ourselves for others, regardless of how we are treated.
When we follow after Christ we are, in effect, to "deny [yourself], take up [the] cross, and follow Me" (Matthew 16:24, New American Standard). Following Christ means we do as He has done. From a purely unselfish place, everything done in love is about "Falling on the sword," proverbially speaking. By taking up our cross and going where Jesus goes we become a visible reminder of what He did on our behalf.
To say we trust God means we do what He would have us do, and in this sense we put off all sin and deceit. When Jesus Christ died on the cross in our place, Jesus never once spoke out against those who were crucifying Him. No, rather, we see Him saying thus: "Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34, Holman Christian Standard). I believe this means when we do as Jesus did, following after Him as His heirs we keep our mouths shut, loving and counting our lives as He did--a sacrifice which God will use to judge and vindicate. I have often heard the phrase "Kill them with kindness." In other words we let love be our guide, not loving our lives in the least bit, laying it down so that God raises us up when He sends His Son to return for us.
By having died to sin, in water baptism, we are saying we have followed Jesus in the likeness and manner of His death. When we are brought up out of the waters, which have cleansed and purified us from sin and death, we now have Him and His life in us--meaning we are no longer under the effects of sin and we have His righteousness. Again, we turn to the words of Paul: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20, American King James). By having been crucified by Christ we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved and gave Himself for us. His righteousness is now ours by faith, and we can live a faithful life pleasing and holy to Him.
Jesus Christ told His disciples: "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:27-28, New American Standard). When we do live our lives, having counted the cost to follow Jesus, finding we have something far better in living for Him, and as such live life His way we have done everything He has called us to do. Since He is our Shepherd and we follow after Him, we can live our life knowing true rest and peace: "He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake" (Psalm 23:2-3, New King James).
So, truly, when we say we are dead to sin no longer to live therein and live life in faith following after Christ doing the will of God the true hallmark of our faith is by the love we show. It is by this the world knows and sees Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. His word tells us, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). Our lives should show that Jesus Christ is at work and active within us and through us by our faith in Him who has been raised from the dead to everlasting life. I pray this in Jesus' name for you, and may you be richly blessed. Amen.