Note that in the first instance this text is addressed to servants who are to be obedient to their masters, verse 18, whether the masters be good or evil. But the text applies to all Christians as well, as becomes very clear as the text proceeds.
Philippians 2:6-11 has been called an early Christian hymn. Likewise, 1 Peter 2:21-25 has been called an early Christian hymn by Hans Windisch (1881-1935), a German higher critical scholar. Some versions print this portion as a poem. Fortunately, our English versions do not print it as poetry. If the "early Christian hymn" idea in any way detracts from the principle that the Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture, this idea must be abandoned and opposed. The form critics like to use this "hymn" idea.
It is remarkable that both Philippians 2:6-11 and 1 Peter 2:21-15 are ethical in nature (showing us how to live) and yet lead us right to the heart of Christology and the vicarious atonement for sin.
Note the many references to Isaiah 53, in verses 22, 24, and 25. There are many allusions to Isaiah 53 in the text. By all means read Isaiah 53 before preparing for this text.
"It is commendable" or "This causes favor."
Rienecker: The word is used here in the sense of that which is admirable . . . Slaves, like school boys, sometimes vied with one another in demonstrating the ability to endure corporal punishment without flinching. . . . To show patience in the face of injustice is true evidence of Christian character.
Bengel: On account of the consciousness of a mind which does things good and pleasing to God, even though they please no man. If his conscience can only have God's approval, unmixed delight remains.
Stoeckhardt: A thing well-pleasing to God, a thing which brings God's approval, good will. Not the suffering in itself but patiently bearing the undeserved suffering . . . Because he did not want to violate his Christian conscience an upright Christian slave willingly bore all perversity, all unjust treatment.
On the word "conscience" look at Acts 23:1; 1 Peter 3:16; and 3:21.
The translations are truly interesting here. We list some of them, though we don't necessarily agree with all translations. But, perhaps, some of them make the texts clearer:
The three conditional sentences, arranged as they are, are very thought-provoking and very emphatically assure the Christian that God's favor and approval rest on the Christian who endures unjust suffering patiently.
Bengel: 'Credit' denotes praise, not so much from many, as from the good, and here from God Himself.
In the first instance doing wrong results in being punished. In the second instance doing right results in suffering. In both cases there is endurance. But in the first instance, by implication, there is no commendation either from God or man. In the second instance there is commendation and approval.
Rienecker: It could be that Peter is comparing the beating of a slave to the suffering which Christ endured.
Stoeckhardt: A corrupt master who punishes his servant because he does good and obeys, just does not exist on earth. The intent can only be that the servant suffers, endures punishment while or in spite of doing what is good and is truly doing his duty.
Only by the grace of God, through faith in Christ, can a person uncomplainingly endure injustice which results simply from doing that which is right. By the way, democracy does not do away with suffering injustice after doing what is right. So long as we live in this world of sin we can constantly expect this to happen to us. In such cases we must endure, stand up under adverse conditions, without complaint and feelings of vengeance. Look at Hebrews 10:36 and Luke 8:15.
Rienecker: The patient and cheerful endurance of maltreatment when you least deserve it . . . God calls us to do the exercise of this patient endurance of suffering when we have done nothing to deserve.
Bengel: 'Calling' is a heavenly calling which found you in a state of slavery.
That's right. We were slaves of sin and death. But when God called us, converted us, He did not call us to a bed of roses.
Stoeckhardt: It belongs to the calling of Christians to go this way, to suffer unjustly and patiently. . . . the 'also' expresses similarity between the suffering of Christ and that of the Christians.
"In your place" denotes the vicarious atonement. The next line introduces Christ as example. But first comes the vicarious atonement.
Selwyn: The Christian calling and character are grounded in Christ's deed of atonement.
Very well put. You simply cannot suffer for His sake correctly until you believe that He suffered in your stead.
Meyer: The obligation to suffer under which we who are Christ's people are laid, from the very fact that Christ also suffered, is for us all the greater that the sufferings of Christ were 'more' and therefore, such as enable us to follow the example which He has left us in his suffering.
"More" is the dative of advantage. His suffering serves not only the redemptive purpose but also the good purpose of an example.
Rienecker: 'Copy, example.' It is also used as the model of handwriting to be copied by the school-boy and then figurative of a model of conduct for imitation.
Stoeckhardt: You are obligated to obedience to Christ since He has suffered for you . . . You are as a result called to patient suffering, also without guilt because Christ also, when He suffered for us, suffered innocently and it was to this purpose that you should imitate Him. Look at Isaiah 53:9.
It is not Christ's life in general that is here presented by way of example, but the patience which He showed in the midst of undeserved sufferings. The verb reminds us of a little boy following his father in deep snow. The little boy steps in the tracks of the father, doing exactly what the father does.
Verse 22 denotes the exemplary nature of Christ's sufferings, His innocence. In verse we find the patience of Christ and His total lack of vengeance. In verse 24 Peter presents the vicarious, innocent and patient suffering of Christ, but here He is not example, but Savior.
Bengel: He committed neither open nor secret sin.
That is a good observation. We are often deceitful in that we sin secretly but not openly. Christ was not that way.
Stoeckhardt: Peter interweaves freely words from the great sermon in Isaiah 53.
"Deceit" etymologically means "bait." You deceive a fish by using bait. The fish thinks it's food. It is anything but that. The deceitful person wants others to think that his words are edifying and good. They are not.
There are six verb forms in this verse. All are either present or imperfect.
Rienecker: Christ was confident of vindication before God.
People made fun of Him under the cross and said: "He trusted in God." HE SURE DID. So much that He was in no way vengeful. He left it all to God.
Bengel: 'He threatened not' means how much more should servants exercise patience!
Stoeckhardt: Christ left His affairs, His case in the hands of Him who judges righteously.
Even Christ remembered the Word which says: "Vengeance is mine. I will repay says the Lord."
Meyer: The announcements of divine judgment on unbelievers, to which Christ more than once gave expression, are of a different nature, and cannot be considered as 'vengeance,' in the sense in which that word is used here.
Correct. Look at the woes in Matthew 23:13-29. They are scathing words of judgment. There Christ is warning them of their doom. They are not words of vengeance.
Meyer: Luther's translation is good: 'He left it to Him' . . . Christ left it to the God who judges justly, to determine what should be the consequences of the injustice done to Him on those who wrought it.
It takes real and true Christian courage to believe that God is judging justly right at the time when we are suffering unjustly. It is a great paradox and seems so contradictory but the grace of God in Christ can cause us to comply with verse 23.
Bengel: Jesus Christ himself undertook the part of others. He did not substitute others for himself. . . . the expiation of sins, properly so called, was made on Christ's cross, since its fruit alone frees from the slavery of sin.
Stoeckhardt: That Christ has borne our sins is not identical with the other statement that Christ has suffered the punishment for our sins. The latter follows from the former . . . In our passage Christ is both the Priest and the Lamb . . . Peter called the cross a 'tree' (Acts 5:30; 10:39), just as the pole on which evildoers were hanged is called 'a tree.' Deuteronomy 21:22ff; Joshua 10:26 . . . We have been set free from sin. Redemption from sin, from the guilt, punishment, and power of sin, the redemption which is made know to sinners in the Gospel, has this effect that they now serve righteousness.
Selwyn: The dominant implication in all these passages is that of criminality.
That is correct. God permitted Christ to suffer as a criminal, between two criminals. He was cursed. He became sin. Note the sharp contrast between "sins" and "righteousness" in this verse. "Sins" is what causes death and damnation. "Righteousness" is God's will. Christ has freed us completely from the guilt and power of sin. Now we can do His will.
In this context it means especially to suffer uncomplainingly even when we are punished unjustly.
The great paradox. As Theodoret, an ancient commentator wrote: "A new and strange method of healing; the doctor suffered the cost, and the sick received the healing."
Meyer: Here the part stands for the whole, to denote the whole of Christ's sufferings, of which His death was the culmination point. The apostle declares that through the suffering of Christ the Christians are translated from the sickness of a sinful nature into the health of a life of righteousness.
It is time well spent to read Ezekiel 34 at this point.
Stoeckhardt: Christ bore our sins, thus foreign sins, and thereby had our conversion in mind. So also Christian slaves, Christians in general, should bear and endure foreign sins, the injustice heaped upon them by the adversaries of their faith, and to this end that some of their enemies might possibly be converted.
By nature man is a wandering, helpless, defenseless sheep. The pity of it is that, in his spiritual blindness, he denies this and claims and tries to help himself. But he cannot. Only Christians agree to the first line in verse 25. but they are as wandering sheep no longer.
All the forces of evil both from without and within work on them to mislead them even more. The more secure they consider themselves, the more pitiful their condition.
But now comes the "but." Everything has been changed. I have been converted. I am no longer a wandering sheep. God has turned me toward Christ. The translations are interesting here:
NASB, RSV, JB, NEV, Phillips and LB read "Shepherd and Guardian." TEV has "Shepherd and Keeper." NIV and NKJV have "Shepherd and Overseer." AAT has an interesting translation: "The Shepherd who takes care of you."
Bengel: Shepherd and bishop are synonymous words.
For Christ as Shepherd look at 1 Peter 5:4; John 10:11ff; Hebrews 13:20; and Revelation 7:17. In Psalm 23 God Himself is the Shepherd.
We Lutherans speak about pastoral care, or pastoral practice. Well, there can be none unless you truly know Him Who is the Shepherd and Caretaker of your soul.
Peter does not mention the body. That does not mean that He does not care for your body. But, if you seek first the Kingdom of God, for your soul, all other things, for the body, will be provided by God Himself. People who are always worrying about money, image, fame, things, cars, etc, etc, betray the fact that they don't really believe in verse 25, nor in the rest of the text for that matter.
In conclusion, like it or not, in this life I will suffer. Becoming a Christian by no means necessarily lessens that suffering. But, Christian faith gives me a totally new perspective on suffering: Christ went before me and suffered IN MY PLACE. I live in a world of sin where there is much suffering. God wills that I endure that suffering without complaint and without feelings of vengeance. Only the Gospel can equip me to do that.