Expository Sermon on the First Epistle of Peter | Living to Righteousness | 1 Peter 2:24-25

Living to Righteousness (1 Peter 2:24-25)

On April 12, 1981, Dad woke me up to watch John Young and Robert Crippen launch on STS-1, the maiden voyage of the Space Shuttle Columbia. As I watched that orbiter soar to the heavens, I was hooked. I watched every shuttle launch and landing. And I wanted to be an astronaut so badly. I planned to live in Houston, work at the Johnson Space Center, and be the commander of several shuttle flights.

If you had followed your childhood dreams, what would you have done with your life? Would you have been a professional athlete? Would you have run a huge corporation and earned millions—if not billions—of dollars each year? Would you have been a schoolteacher? Would you have been a professional musician singing for thousands in an arena? An airline pilot? An American president? What would you be?

While I dreamed of being an astronaut, I never dreamed of growing up to be righteous. Making doing right my life’s focus never entered my mind. Did you ever think, “When I grow up, I want to spend my entire life doing right?”

But God has called you to righteousness. In this morning’s text, Peter called on Christians to live righteously, that is, to do right; he also explained why Christians live righteously. He said: “Jesus died for sin; you live for righteousness.” Jesus died; you live.

Scripture (1 Peter 2:24-25)

verse 24:

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”

Jesus took your sins to the cross. His death was a substitute for your death. You deserve death for your sins: “The wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23); you merit a horrendously painful physical death and eternal damnation. But, on the cross, Jesus took your penalty.

“That we might die to sin and live to righteousness.”

Through Jesus’s death, sin has been conquered, and you must remove sin from your life. Your baptism signified that you were leaving a sinful life: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4). You are in Christ, so you no longer live in sin: “You also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” (Rom 6:11-12).

Instead of living in sin, you live to righteousness. “Righteousness” means to be upright. The Greeks used the word to describe a judge’s right and just decisions. The righteous person actively does right; he doesn’t do the right thing on accident, but he makes doing right his life’s goal.

verse 25:

“You were straying like sheep.”

First Peter makes clear the epistle’s recipients were Gentiles who had lived profanely before their conversion. They wandered from Jesus just like a sheep wanders away from the shepherd.

“But [you] have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

The one walking faithfully in Christ is no longer a straying sheep, but he is in the flock and follows the direction of the Shepherd.


Jesus died for sin; you live for righteousness.” People frequently say that God wants them to be happy; No! God wants you to be righteous. People frequently say that they should live their truth; No! You must live God’s truth. People frequently say that they want to be their authentic selves; No! You must live who Jesus is!

I would be wrong to tell you to abandon what you want in life and live for righteousness because Jesus died for you without telling you precisely how you can do that. Well, how can you live for righteousness because Jesus died for your sin?

One: Regard Righteousness.

You must regard your righteousness. Shortly after the beginning of the Babylonian Captivity Jeremiah said, “Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD!” (Lam 3:40). That’s still wise counsel.

Test your righteousness. A couple sentences before he said to live righteousness, Peter held up Jesus as an example for those who suffer: “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Pet 2:21). Jesus is perfectly righteous; Jesus “committed no sin” (1 Pet 2:22).

How much do you act like Jesus? Look at how Jesus lived on this earth and ask yourself:

  • Do I resist temptation like Jesus?
  • Do I pray like Jesus?
  • Do I treat others like Jesus?
  • Do I use my tongue like Jesus?
  • Do I live like Jesus in this world?

That’s how you can regard your righteousness.

Two: Ready Righteousness.

You must get ready to live righteously; you plan to be righteous. Jesus taught the value of planning: “Which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? What king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?” (Lk 14:28, 31). In context, the Lord said you need to get ready to follow him and plan whether or not you will truly follow him.

You need to plan whether or not you will be righteous. When you wake up in the morning, think about how you will live righteously during the day. Think about what you will do that day—housecleaning or work or recreation or lunch with friends. How will you live like Jesus in those situations? Before you get out of bed:

  • Say to yourself, “I will live righteously today because Jesus died for my sins.”
  • Pray to God for the strength to live righteously.

Three: Reside in Righteousness.

It doesn’t do any good to regard righteousness, ready righteousness unless you will reside, that is, live in righteousness. Righteousness must be the cornerstone of your life: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt 6:33).

You must be righteous. “I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:20). “As for you, O man of God. . . . Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness” (1 Tim 6:11).

How will you reside in righteousness this week? This morning’s text doesn’t simply command you to be righteous; Peter explained why you must be righteous—Jesus Christ died for your sins. Jesus took all your sin, all your guilt, and all your punishment on himself at the cross. He suffered agony you cannot imagine to free you from sin. Since Jesus died for you, won’t you live for him?

This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.

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