1 Peter 3:8-17
Stephen Caswell © 2000
The Child Apostle
When the late Bishop of Madras was visiting Travancore, there was introduced to him a little slave girl called The Child Apostle. She had won this title by the zeal with which she talked of Christ to others. Her quiet, steady persistence in this had won several converts to Christ. But she had suffered persecution too brutal to relate. When she was introduced to the Bishop, her face, neck and arms were disfigured and scarred by stripes and blows. As he looked at her, the good man’s eyes filled, and he said, My child, how could you bear this? She looked up at him in surprise and said, Don’t you like to suffer for Christ, sir?
Peter continues the theme of submission that he started in chapter 2. Today his focus is on the Christian assembly. Peter encourages believers to submit to one another and to the Lord. He wrote this letter to prepare Christians for a fiery trial of persecution, yet his approach was optimistic and positive. Prepare for the best! was his message. In this section, he gave them three instructions to follow if they would experience the best blessings in the worst times.
I. Unity - Oneness II. Purity - Holiness & III. Opportunity - Witness
Firstly Unity - Oneness
The first thing Peter asks believers is to do is to work towards unity. True unity requires Christians to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Peter has been emphasizing submission in regards to the ordained authorities like our government, the workplace and marriage. Now he addresses the Christian assembly. Unity would enable the Church to make a united stand against the world. Unity requires believers to think and feel the right way about each other.
a. One Mind
1 Peter 3:8a Finally, all of you be of one mind,
Wisely, Peter encourages believers to be of one mind. The words one mind o&mofrwn means to be like minded, or of the same mind. Paul encouraged the Philippians to do the same thing to overcome their disunity. Philippians 2:5-8 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. Who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and came in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Jesus didn't consider service, submission and sacrifice bellow His position. This is the mind that we must all have. Unity does not mean uniformity; it means cooperation in the midst of diversity. The members of the body work together in unity, even though they are all different. Christians may differ on how things are to be done, but they must agree on what is to be done and why. If believers would only submit to the Lordship of Christ how much more could be accomplished? Philippians 1:27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,
b. One Heart
1 Peter 3:8b having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; We have noted that love is a recurring theme in Peter’s letters, not only God’s love for us, but also our love for others. Verse 8 says that we should begin with love for God’s people. True unity requires us to love. Love as brothers translates the Greek word filadelfia. It means brotherly love. Another evidence of love is compassion, a sincere feeling for and with the needs of others. Our English word sympathy comes from this word. We dare not get hardhearted toward each other. We share both joys and trials. The basis for this is the fact that we are brethren in the same family. God teaches us to love one another.
Be courteous involves much more than acting like a lady or gentleman. Be humble-minded is a good translation; and, after all, humility is the foundation for courtesy, for the humble person puts others ahead of himself. Jesus demonstrated His love for people through kind words and deeds. When Lazarus died Jesus ministered hope to Mary and Martha. He grieved with them and wept at the graveside. When the Jews testified of Jesus, they said, see how He loved Him.
The Eleventh Commandment
Archbishop Usher was once wrecked on the coast of Ireland, and almost destitute of clothing he wandered to the house of a clergyman. The ecclesiastic was quite wary and somewhat cold and incredulous. How many commandments are there? he suddenly asked, thinking to detect an impostor. I can at once satisfy you that I am not the ignorant impostor you take me for, replied the archbishop, there are eleven commandments. No, was the sneering comment, there are but ten commandments in my Bible. Tell me the eleventh and I will give you all the help you need. There it is, said the archbishop, pointing to this verse: A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Peter encouraged unity in the Christian assembly by exhorting them to be of one mind. Only a united Church can effectively stand against the world. Then we can focus on reaching the lost. Are you willing to submit to God's will even if it means service and sacrifice? This is the first step. We will never be compassionate to others unless we see them through the Savior's eyes. Do you show brotherly love to your fellow believers? Do you show them compassion?
Secondly Purity - Holiness
Peter has already commanded Christians to be holy because God is holy. The word good is used five times in today's passage. If people want to know good days, they should live good lives; lives that God can bless. So Peter commands believers to watch over their words and their works. The things we say and do will display either holiness or sinfulness.
a. Good Words
1 Pet 3:9-10 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. For He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.
Patient’s Tongue In Place
After telling his fair patient to put out her tongue, the doctor continued writing out the prescription. When he had finished he turned to her and said: There, that will do. But, doctor, protested the lady, you never even looked at my tongue. And the M.D. replied: It wasn’t necessary. I just wanted you to keep quiet while I wrote the prescription.
There are two commands concerning our speech, a positive one and a negative one. Firstly, we must refrain from speaking evil or deceit. Secondly, we must share a blessing with those round about us. Christians mustn't retaliate when people mistreat them. God wants us to return good for evil, blessing for cursing. We are to treat others with kindness regardless of their treatment of us. Jesus practiced this Himself when He was tried and crucified. And he commands His disciples to do the same thing.
Matthew 5:43-47: You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?
How can we use our words to bless others? By seasoning them with God's Word! We can encourage those in despair by sharing a promise from God's Word. We can pray for those who mistreat us. We can share the love of God with those who are lost. We can build each other up with insights gleaned from the Scriptures. We can turn away wrath with a soft answer. Three questions we need to ask ourselves before we say something. Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?
Power Of Words
A careless word may kindle strife.
A cruel word may wreck a life,
A bitter word may hate instill;
A brutal word may smite and kill,
A gracious word may smooth the way;
A joyous word may light the day.
A timely word may lessen stress;
A loving word may heal and bless.
b. Good Works
1 Peter 3:11-13 Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?
There are two commands that relate to our works. Firstly, Christians must turn away from evil. The words turn way aren't really strong enough. The Greek word ejkklinw means to hate, to avoid at all costs, to eschew. God wants us to hate evil not just turn away from it. Secondly, we must do good deeds. This is not a new concept by any means. Christ said the same thing many times in the Gospel. Matthew 5:16 says: Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. When Christians do good works people notice them and glorify God for their loving service. Christianity is more than just avoiding evil as important as that is. Jesus Christ avoided evil while He was on earth. But He spent His time doing good deeds to men as a servant. If we truly submit to Christ's Lordship it will lead us into good works.
Paul emphasized the importance of avoiding evil and doing good when he wrote to Titus. Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
Needed: Third - Class Passengers
In the days of the stagecoach, a man undertook a journey. He was informed that there were first, second, and third-class passengers. However, all the seats on the coach looked alike to him, so he purchased a third-class ticket. All went well for a time and the man congratulated himself for saving some money. Presently they came to the foot of a very steep hill, when the driver stopped the horses and shouted. First-class passengers, keep your seats, second class get out and walk, third-class get out and push behind. What we need in the Kingdom work is third-class passengers. Those who will push! Not first-class, who are contented to sit and look on while the others are working, not second-class passengers who are willing to walk away when real work comes; but third-class passengers who are willing to bear the burden and heat of the day. What sort of passenger are you in God's work?
As Christians live holy lives marked by good works God is pleased. He watches over them and listens to their prayers. He delivers them from their trials. Generally speaking people don't persecute those who help others. Although this principle doesn't work out every time and Peter discusses that next. Nevertheless God wants His people to be known for purity. The Lord will deal with evildoers in His own time.
In this section Peter emphasized purity once more. Christians should be known for holiness. How do we show holiness to the world watching on? By our good words and good works. Do you guard your tongue from corrupt speech? Do you bless those that curse you and pray for your enemies? Or do you retaliate with your tongue? Do unsaved people identify you as a Christian by your good deeds for others? Do they glorify God because of your service to the needy? Or is your Christianity all talk?
Thirdly Opportunity - Witness
1 Peter 3:14-15 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
Cape Of Good Hope
The southern tip of Africa used to be called Cape of Tempests. Its swirling seas and continuously adverse weather conditions caused sailors great anxiety and took many lives. But a certain Portuguese, determined to find a safer route through those seas to the renowned Land of Cathy, discovered a safer passage round this promontory. And the area was renamed the Cape of Good Hope. In a similar vein, humanity has always been looking for hope. We, believers have the opportunity to share our hope in even the worst trials of life!
a. A Good Defense
As Christians, we are faced with crises, and we are tempted to give in to our fears and make the wrong decisions. But if we sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts, we need never fear men or circumstances. Our enemies might hurt us, but they cannot harm us. Only we can harm ourselves if we fail to trust God. Generally speaking, people do not oppose us if we do good; but even if they do, it is better to suffer for righteousness’ sake than to compromise our testimony. Instead of experiencing fear as we face the enemy, we can experience blessing, if Jesus Christ is Lord in our hearts.
When Jesus Christ is Lord of our lives, each crisis becomes an opportunity for witness. We are always ready to give an answer. Our English word apology comes from the Greek word translated answer, but it does not mean to say I am sorry. Rather, it means a defense presented in court. Apologetics is the branch of theology that deals with the defense of the faith. Every Christian should be able to give a reasoned defense of his hope in Christ, especially in hopeless situations. A crisis creates the opportunity for witness when a believer behaves with faith and hope, because the unbelievers will then sit up and take notice.
This witness must be given with meekness and fear or respect, and not with arrogance and a know-it-all attitude. We are witnesses, not prosecuting attorneys! We must also be sure that our lives back up our defense. Peter did not suggest that Christians argue with lost people, but rather that we present to the unsaved an account of what we believe and why we believe it, in a loving manner. The purpose isn't to win an argument but to win lost souls to Christ. What does it mean to sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts? It means to turn everything over to Him, and to live only to please Him and glorify Him. It means to fear displeasing Him rather than fear what men might do to us. This approach simplifies our lives tremendously!
Relay Games In Corinth
In ancient Corinth there used to be staged the Isthmian Games, the forerunner of the modern Olympics. There were many events, but the one which received the most attention was the relay race. The competitors lined up side by side at the starting line, each bearing a torch. In the distance waited still another line, of men, and still farther on other lines. When the signal was given, the men started to run, bearing their lighted torches. When a runner reached his partner in the next line he would pass on his light, and so on from man to man until the finish line was reached. With the famous relay race in mind, the Greeks coined a phrase: Let those who have the light pass it on.
This is what witnessing is all about. We pass on the light that God has graciously revealed to the runners before us. We're here today because faithful runners passed on the light.
b. A Good Conscience
1 Peter 3:16 Having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
The conscience is that internal judge that witnesses to us, that enables us to know with, either approving our actions or accusing. Conscience may be compared to a window that lets in the light of God’s truth. If we persist in disobeying, the window gets dirtier and dirtier, until the light cannot enter. This leads to a defiled conscience. As a believer studies the Word, he better understands the will of God, and his conscience becomes more sensitive to right and wrong. A good conscience is one that accuses when we think or do wrong and approves when we do right. It takes exercise to keep the conscience strong and pure. If we do not grow in spiritual knowledge and obedience, we have a weak conscience that is upset very easily by trifles.
How does a good conscience help a believer in times of trial and opposition? For one thing, it fortifies him with courage because he knows he is right with God and men, so that he need not be afraid. When believers honor the Lord in their words and works their conscience will not trouble them even if others persecute them for their faith.
Martin Luther's Stand At Worms
Inscribed on Martin Luther’s monument at Worms, Germany are his courageous words spoken before the church council on April 18, 1521: Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me. Amen. His conscience, bound to God’s Word, gave him the courage to defy the whole established church!
A good conscience also gives us peace in our hearts; and when we have peace within, we can face battles without. The restlessness of an uneasy conscience divides the heart and drains the strength of a person, so that he is unable to function at his best. How can we boldly witness for Christ if our conscience is witnessing against us? A good conscience removes from us the fear of what other people may know about us, say against us, or do to us. The apostle Paul had a good conscience when he stood before the council. They accused him of sin, but his conscience confirmed his actions. Acts 23:1 Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. When Christ is Lord and we fear only God, we need not fear the threats, opinions, or actions of our enemies. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?
Peter shared with the early Church that persecution was really an opportunity to share our faith. When Christians stand firm in unjust affliction people see our hope. They see that we have something they don't. Do you see persecution as an opportunity to witness? Are you always ready to give an account of the hope that is in you? Do you have good conscience when people speak evil of you? Or do you compromise your faith to get out of the heat? I trust that you will sanctify the Lord in your heart and seek to witness for Him in times of trials! God wants us to use these opportunities to reach the lost!
Peter gave encouragement to suffering saints with three things:
I. Unity - Oneness II. Purity - Holiness & III. Opportunity - Witness
Firstly Unity - Oneness
If believers are to stand firm in persecution we must to stand together. Do you seek to have the mind of Christ? Will you put the concerns of Christ's kingdom first? Will you show the love of Christ to your brethren? Will you strive towards Christian unity?
Secondly Purity - Holiness
God commands His people to be holy. Peter emphasized both words and works. Do you keep your tongue from speaking evil of others? Do you use your words to build others up through prayer, blessing and edification? Do you hate evil? Is your life filled with good deeds for others? Or do you retaliate when wronged? Peter emphasized both aspects of holiness. Firstly, we are to hate sin and avoid it. Secondly we are to do good!
Thirdly Opportunity - Witness
Peter also shared how persecution can provide an opportunity to share our faith. Are you ready to give a defense of the hope that is in you? Do you seek to have a good conscience before God by faithfully witnessing for Him? Let's make the most of the opportunities to witness for Christ! Let us sanctify the Lord in our hearts and share the hope that we have!
1 Peter 5:10-11 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.