(408) 779-0697 | info@westhills.org

Tetelestai (It Is Finished) Week 5 Study Guide: The Example of Jesus

Community Group Study Guide — Tetelestai (It is Finished): The Example of Jesus
1 Peter 2:18-25

Study Information:
One characteristic of the Christian church in the Roman empire was their commitment to doing good, not only to one another but even to their enemies. Where did they learn this? Why did they sacrifice to care for the poor, sick and fatherless? In the face of persecution, why did they return cursing with blessing? It is natural to want to return hate for hate and opposition with opposition. Yet we have historical records of how Christians cared for the poor, adopted children who were abandoned and how they loved and welcomed people into their midst who were from the lowest of the low in society. A 4th century Roman emperor named Julian complained about this in a letter saying, "[Christian faith!] has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through their care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar, and that the godless Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.” 

Doing good flows from the example of Jesus’s selfless and sacrificial love for us. Right knowledge of God leads to right actions in our personal fight against sin and how we show kindness to others. The point is not to be good for goodness sake, rather it is to allow Christ to be our example in showing good. This is not without danger; we have seen many examples in our culture of organizations that started out with solid Christian beliefs and then drifted to just being a institution focused on social actions. Yet, we should not throw out the biblical principle that Jesus is our EXAMPLE because of some groups that lost a commitment to sound theology along the way.  

We’re in our series on the atonement, asking the question “what did the cross of Christ accomplish?!” In the last study guide we explored how Jesus suffered for our sin as our substitute. God the son took our sins to the cross as the perfect priest and perfect sacrifice! And this week we’re exploring how that selfless death stands as a model for how Christians ought to live their day to day lives. 

Let’s explore how Peter connected the example of Jesus’s suffering to how we live as Christians. 

Following Jesus is Costly
1 Peter 2:21
There is irony that Peter wrote so much about suffering given that he was the disciple who most opposed Jesus’s teaching that on suffering.  When Jesus taught that he had to suffer and die, Peter opposed Jesus! But notice now how Peter talks about what Christians should expect as they follow Jesus; Peter uses the word “called” in relationship to our suffering. As Christ suffered for us, so too we follow him as an example. This word example is the Greek word used for what we’d think of as tracing paper or a sheet where someone learns how to writer letters. The idea is that there is a pattern laid out for us that we follow and imitate. The Christian life will include opposition from people based on our commitment to Jesus and because of the life we live in a hostile world. The scripture reminds us over and over again to not be surprised by suffering, probably because we are so shocked by it when it happens. Hardly any of us start following Jesus expecting things to be challenging, we typically start to follow Jesus because of some felt need in our life we want relief from. Praise God that he uses those felt needs to bring us to a place of humility and need where we confess our sin and trust in him. Yet usually soon after that many of us start to feel the challenge of opposition from friends, family, co-workers and people hostile to the gospel. Peter wanted us to understand that this is normal and expected and in the face of hostility we should look to Jesus as our example. 

Why did Jesus suffer and how did he respond to his enemies? First he suffered for doing good and second, he loved his enemies. 

Following Jesus Involves Doing Good
1 Peter 2:18-20
Peter reminded these Christians that they were not at the top of the social food chain, rather they were “Servants.” Some in the church were literal slaves in the culture, but mainly Peter was recalibrating their thoughts to understand that they were the lowest of the low in society and they were called to be like Jesus taking the low place and humbling themselves in how they thought of themselves. Notice the reason for their suffering, it was because they were committed to “doing good” (1 Peter 2:15, 2:20). It was not because they were arrogant or committing sins. They did not suffer because they cozied up to Caesar or pursued a life like the world around them. Rather, they suffered because of how they stood out. The early Christian cared for the poor and adopted abandon kids. They elevated the status of women, slaves and foreigners and educated them in the ways of Jesus. The early church was committed to a biblical sexual ethic and did not engage in promiscuity like the Roman empire. All of this made them a target for persecution. If you follow Jesus you will be committed to caring for those in need and to living out personal righteousness and that will draw opposition, but it is a gracious thing when mindful of God to suffer for doing good; which means God sees and you are not alone (1 Peter 2:19).

Following Jesus Includes Loving our Enemies
1 Peter 2:22-25
Finally, we see how Jesus modeled how we ought to love our enemies in the face of opposition. Jesus did not fall into the trap of returning hate for hate, rather he blessed instead of cursed his enemies. Peter wrote that he did not threaten or return reviling for reviling. To be reviled is to be harshly insulted. When this happens our natural reaction is to respond in kind and yet Jesus responded with love by laying down his life for his enemies and calling for their forgiveness. The cross was transformed from an instrument of death to an instrument of life (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus himself bore our sins on the tree (this is substitutionary atonement) and that led to our death to sin so we can live out righteousness. The Bible described us as hostile to God and as enemies of God before coming to faith in Christ. But Jesus died for us, because he loved us and that empowers us to love one another (1 John 4:10-11). Jesus selfless and sacrificial death became a path forward for how to live, especially in relationship to our enemies. 

This is difficult to do since everything in us usually wants to return evil for evil (Romans 12:14, 21). How does someone get the power to love their enemies? That is the beauty of the way of Jesus, he not only took our sin but gives us his righteousness and empowers us to show grace to our enemies. Jesus was wounded so we could be healed. It is not easy to show grace when pressured, but God can give us the strength to do so through the Holy Spirit and the example of Jesus. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read 1 Peter 2:18-25

Why do you think Peter open this section talking about servants and masters? Do you think he is trying to connect that image back to Jesus and if so, why?

What are some reasons Peter made the distinction of being opposed for doing good vs being opposed because you deserve it? 

How does Jesus shine as an example of suffering, doing good and loving our enemies?

What are some ways you can be tempted to return evil for evil and how does God give us the grace to be different?