"Follow His steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously" (1 Pe. 2:21-23).
"Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light" (Mt. 11:29, 30).
While the Lord Jesus Christ is the great theme of all Scripture, yet every several portion presents some special aspect of His Person or work. The above passages bring before us, very blessedly, the lowly grace that marked His pathway of suffering as the perfectly subject Man.
In one passage we are exhorted by the Apostle Peter to follow His steps: in the other, believers are invited by the Lord Himself, to learn of Him. Good for each one to heed the exhortation and to respond to the gracious invitation. To do so, however, we need to reverently enquire: What are His steps that we are exhorted to follow? and, What is it that the Lord would have us to learn of Him?
1 Peter 2:21-23
First, let us listen to the exhortation of the Apostle. There came a day in the history of Peter when the Lord had said to His restored disciple, "Follow Me" (Jn. 21:19). Now the Apostle passes on these words to each one of us, as he says, "Follow His Steps." In Christendom, and even by true believers, the words "Follow His Steps" are often used in a vague and loose way. Even unconverted people will seize upon these words, misusing them to convey the false thought that if men carry out the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount they will be very good Christians, and thereby secure the salvation of their souls. Probably those who speak thus lightly about following His steps, would be at a loss to turn to the Scripture where the exhortation is found, and even so prefer their own interpretation of the words rather than enquire the meaning with which they are used by the Holy Spirit.
Turning to the passage in which the exhortation occurs, we at once learn from the context that these words are addressed to believers - those of whom the Apostle can say that they have received the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls (1 Pe. 1:9). It is evident then that in this Scripture there is no exhortation to a sinner to follow His steps in order to obtain salvation. Apart from the sacrificial death of Christ, and faith in His precious blood, there can be no salvation for the helpless sinner. In Scripture God never uses "His steps" to set aside His work.
The exhortation to "follow His steps" is then addressed to believers, and moreover, is used with a very distinct meaning. What this meaning is we learn from the four distinct steps that are set before us. It is evident that a great deal that the Lord did in His marvelous life we cannot, and are not asked to, do. He did mighty works, even to raising the dead; He spake as never man spake. In these ways we are not exhorted to follow His steps. The four steps we are exhorted to follow are possible for all believers, from the youngest to the oldest.
First, we are reminded He "did no sin." We know that He went about doing good; and, in this same Epistle we are exhorted, again and again to "good works" and to "do well." Here, however, the exhortation takes a negative form; we are to follow His steps in the respect that He did no sin. Whatever happens, whatever circumstances may arise, whatever rebuffs we may have to meet, whoever wrongs we may have to suffer, whatever insults we may have to endure, we are to do no sin. It is comparatively easy to do good as a benefactor, meeting the needs of others; but, seeing we have the flesh in us, it is at times difficult to do no sin. It is greater thing to do no sin in trying circumstances than to do good in easy ones. The Lord was perfect in all circumstances, and, whatever the circumstances we have to meet, our first care should be to follow His steps, and maintain His character, in this respect: that we do no sin. It is better to suffer wrong than sin; better to lose your coat than let go the character of Christ.
Secondly, we read, "neither was guile found in His mouth." However sorely tried by wicked men, no question that He asked, no answer that He gave, no word that fell from His lips, was ever marred by any trace of guile. Alas! With us, at times, malice and envy may lurk behind words that are "smoother than butter" and "softer than oil." With Him no evil motive was ever hidden under fair speech. Guile lurked behind the apparently innocent question of the relief us Pharisees when they asked "Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not?" for we read they were seeking to "entangle Him in His talk" (Mt. 22: 15-18). With the flesh in us it is all too possible to seek to entangle one another with smooth speech and innocent looking questions. Alas! We can even covertly attack on another in the very words we address to God in public prayer. How good then, and necessary the exhortation to follow in His steps of the One in whom no guile was found in His mouth.
Thirdly, we are reminded that the Lord was One, "who when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not. In the presence of insults, false accusations, and malicious charges, He remained silent. When falsely accused before the Jewish Council, He "held His peace." To the accusations of the Jews, in the presence of Pilate, "he answered nothing." To Pilate, himself, "he answered never a word." The mocking Herod may question Him in many words, "but He answered him nothing" (Mt. 26:63; 27:12,14; Lk. 23:9). How good for us to follow in His steps and, in the presence of the malicious words of men, come from what quarter they may, to keep silence. From other Scriptures it is clear that the Christian may "entreat," "exhort," and even "rebuke," but never is he to revile or threaten.
Fourthly, He committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously." To do no sin, to speak no guile, to keep silence in the presence of malicious words, have a negative character. This last step is positive. If we keep silence in the presence of insults, it is not that there is no answer to evil and malice, but rather that the answer is left with God.
We are never to attempt to take vengeance upon the wrongdoer. God retains all vengeance in His own hands. He has said, "Vengeance belongs unto Me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge His people" (He. 10:30). Our part then is to follow in the steps of the Lord Jesus, and in the presence of insults to commit ourselves unto Him that judgeth righteously, remembering that word which says, "Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine: I will repay saith the Lord" (Ro. 12:19). Again we may recall the words of the prophet, "Jehovah is good unto them that wait from Him, to the soul that seeketh Him. It is good that one should both wait, and that in silence, for the salvation of Jehovah" (La. 3:24-26).
Here then we have four steps, taken in perfection by the Lord, that we are exhorted to follow. In all these steps there is no word as to ministry, or any form of service, that would make any show in this world, or bring us into prominence amongst the people of God. This being so, we might thoughtlessly say, as we read these exhortations, that to do no evil, speak no guile , to keep silence in the presence of insults, and commit oneself to God, does not seem after all very much, and is a little disappointing. If, however, we put these things into practice, and follow His steps it will assuredly by found that our brethren will not be disappointed in us. Could we but take these steps others would see in us the most wonderful sight that can be seen in this world - they would see A CHRIST-LIKE MAN.