II. The case of servants wanted an apostolical determination as well as that of subjects, for they imagined that their Christian liberty set them free from their unbelieving and cruel masters; to this the apostle answers, Servants, be subject, v. 18. By servants he means those who were strictly such, whether hired, or bought with money, or taken in the wars, or born in the house, or those who served by contract for a limited time, as apprentices. Observe,
. He orders them to be subject, to do their business faithfully and honestly, to conduct themselves, as inferiors ought, with reverence and affection, and to submit patiently to hardships and inconveniences. This subjection they owe to their masters, who have a right to their service; and that not only to the good and gentle, such as use them well and abate somewhat of their right, but even to the crooked and perverse, who are scarcely to be pleased at all. Learn,
(1.) Servants ought to behave themselves to their masters with submission, and fear of displeasing them.
(2.) the sinful misconduct of one relation does not justify the sinful behaviour of the other; the servant is bound to do his duty, though the master be sinfully froward and perverse.
(3.) good people are meek and gentle to their servants and inferiors. Our holy apostle shows his love and concern for the souls of poor servants, as well as for higher people. Herein he ought to be imitated by all inferior ministers, who should distinctly apply their counsels to the lower, the meaner, the younger, and the poorer sort of their hearers, as well as others.
. Having charged them to be subject, he condescends to reason with them about it.
(1.) if they were patient under their hardships, while they suffered unjustly, and continued doing their duty to their unbelieving and untoward masters, this would e acceptable to God, and he would reward all that they suffered for conscience towards him; but to be patient when they were justly chastised would deserve no commendation at all; it is only doing well, and suffering patiently for that, which is acceptable with God, v. 19, 20. Learn,
[1.] There is no condition so mean but a man may live conscientiously in it, and glorify God in it; the meanest servant may do so.
[2.] the most conscientious persons are very often the greatest sufferers. For conscience towards God, they suffer wrongfully; they do well, and suffer for it; but sufferers of this sort are praiseworthy, they do honour to God and to religion, and they are accepted of him; and this is their highest support and satisfaction.
[3.] deserved sufferings must be endured with patience: If you are buffeted for your faults, you must take it patiently. Sufferings in this world are not always pledges of our future happiness; if children or servants be rude and undutiful, and suffer for it, this will neither be acceptable with God nor procure the praise of men.
(2.) more reasons are given to encourage Christian servants to patience under unjust sufferings, v. 21.
[1.] From their Christian calling and profession: Hereunto were you called.
[2.] from the example of Christ, who suffered for us, and so became our example, that we should follow his steps, whence learn, First, Good Christians are a sort of people called to be sufferers, and therefore they must expect it; by the terms of Christianity they are bound to deny themselves, and take up the cross; they are called by the commands of Christ, by the dispensations of Providence, and by the preparations of divine grace; and, by the practice of Jesus Christ, they are bound to suffer when thus called to it. Secondly, Jesus Christ suffered for you, or for us; it was not the Father that suffered, but he whom the Father sanctified, and sent into the world, for that end; it was both the body and soul of Christ that suffered, and he suffered for us, in our stead and for our good, v. 24. Thirdly, The sufferings of Christ should quiet us under the most unjust and cruel sufferings we meet with in the world. He suffered voluntarily, not for himself, but for us, with the utmost readiness, with perfect patience, from all quarters, and all this though he was God-man; shall not we sinners, who deserve the worst, submit to the light afflictions of this life, which work for us unspeakable advantages afterwards?
. The example of Christ's subjection and patience is here explained and amplified: Christ suffered,
(1.) Wrongfully, and without cause; for he did no sin, v. 22. He had done no violence, no injustice or wrong to any one-- he wrought no iniquity of any sort whatever; neither was guile found in his mouth <Isa. 53:9>, his words, as well as his actions, were all sincere, just, and right.
(2.) patiently: When he was reviled, he reviled not again (v. 23); when they blasphemed him, mocked him, called him foul names, he was dumb, and opened not his mouth; when they went further, to real injuries, beating, buffeting, and crowning him with thorns, he threatened not; but committed both himself and his cause to God that judgeth righteously, who would in time clear his innocency, and avenge him on his enemies. Learn,
[1.] Our Blessed Redeemer was perfectly holy, and so free from sin that no temptation, no provocation whatsoever, could extort from him so much as the least sinful or indecent word.
[2.] provocations to sin can never justify the commission of it. The rudeness, cruelty, and injustice of enemies, will not justify Christians in reviling and revenge; the reasons for sin can never be so great, but we have always stronger reasons to avoid it.
[3.] the judgment of God will determine justly upon every man and every cause; and thither we ought, with patience and resignation, to refer ourselves.
. Lest any should think, from what is said, v. 21-23, that Christ's death was designed merely for an example of patience under sufferings, the apostle here adds a more glorious design and effect of it: Who his own self, etc., where note,
(1.) The person suffering-- Jesus Christ: His own self-- in his own body. The expression his own self is emphatic, and necessary to show that he verified all the ancient prophecies, to distinguish him from the Levitical priests (who offered the blood of others, but he by himself purged our sins, <Heb. 1:3>), and to exclude all others from participation with him in the work of man's redemption: it is added, in his body; not but that he suffered in his soul <Mt. 26:38>, but the sufferings of the soul were inward and concealed, when those of the body were visible and more obvious to the consideration of these suffering servants, for whose sake this example is produced.
(2.) the sufferings he underwent were stripes, wounds, and death, the death of the cross-- servile and ignominious punishments!
(3.) the reason of his sufferings: He bore our sins, which teaches,
[1.] That Christ, in his sufferings, stood charged with our sins, as one who had undertaken to put them away by the sacrifice of himself, <Isa. 53:6>.
[2.] that he bore the punishment of them, and thereby satisfied divine justice.
[3.] that hereby he takes away our sins, and removes them away from us; as the scape-goat did typically bear the sins of the people on his head, and then carried them quite away, <Lev. 16:21-22>, so the Lamb of God does first bear our sins in his own body, and thereby take away the sins of the world, <Jn. 1:29>.
(4.) the fruits of Christ's sufferings are,
[1.] Our sanctification, consisting of the death, the mortification of sin, and a new holy life of righteousness, for both which we have an example, and powerful motives and abilities also, from the death and resurrection of Christ.
[2.] our justification. Christ was bruised and crucified as an expiatory sacrifice, and by his stripes we are healed. Learn, First, Jesus Christ bore the sins of all his people, and expiated them by his death upon the cross. Secondly, No man can depend safely upon Christ, as having borne his sin and expiated his guilt, till he dies unto sin and lives unto righteousness.
. The apostle concludes his advice to Christian servants, by putting them in mind of the difference between their former and present condition, v. 25. They were as sheep going astray, which represents,
(1.) Man's sin: he goes astray; it is his own act, he is not driven, but does voluntary go astray.
(2.) his misery: he goes astray from the pasture, from the shepherd, and from the flock, and so exposes himself to innumerable dangers.
(3.) here is the recovery of these by conversion: But are now returned. The word is passive, and shows that the return of a sinner is the effect of divine grace. This return is from all their errors and wanderings, to Christ, who is the true careful shepherd, that loves his sheep, and laid down his life for them, who is the most vigilant pastor, and bishop, or overseer of souls. Learn,
[1.] Sinners, before their conversion, are always going astray; their life is a continued error.
[2.] Jesus Christ is the supreme shepherd and bishop of souls, who is always resident with his flock, and watchful over them.
[3.] those that expect the love and care of this universal pastor must return to him, must die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
(from Matthew Henry's Commentary)
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