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6. Motivations For Holiness (1 Peter 1:17-21)

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Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
1 Peter 1:17–21

Why must we be holy? In 1 Peter 1:15 and 16, Peter calls the believers that are scattered throughout Asia Minor to be holy as God is holy. He then in the following verses gives them motivations to be holy. These motivations would especially be important in the context of suffering for the faith.

Sometimes persecution or hardship can make people throw away their morals; they can often go into survival mode. In survival mode, people have a tendency to not care about holiness. A person who is starving sometimes will resort to stealing in order to live. A person who is about to lose their scholarship because of poor grades sometimes will cheat in order to make it.

I think we often see this in our societies, even without persecution. There is often so much pressure to succeed and be a success that people will do anything, at any cost to attain it, including lowering their integrity or commitment to God. No doubt, with this in mind, Peter exhorts these Christians who have lost homes and jobs for their faith, to be holy as God as holy.

How do you respond when there is pressure?

I love seeing how Christ responded on the cross—as he was mocked and pierced, Scripture began to flow out of him. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” is from Psalm 22, and “Into your hands I commit my spirit” is from Psalm 31. Christ under pressure demonstrated holiness as he maintained communication and focus on his father, even speaking Scripture.

Now in 1 Peter 1:17–21, Peter tells them, “Why they must be holy?” Listen to what he says: “Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially.” “Since” refers back to verse 16’s call to be holy like God. In this lesson, we will answer the question, “Why should I be holy? Why should I be different?”

Many Christians succumb to the pressures of the world in the areas of drunkenness, sexual immorality, foul language, and the pursuit of the things of the world. The church is in desperate need of some motivation. In this text, Peter gives us five reasons to be holy.

Big Question: What motivations for holiness (cf. 16) does Peter give us in 1 Peter 1:17–21?

Be Holy Because of a Reverent Fear of God’s Impartial Judgment

Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.
1 Peter 1:17

Peter is telling the Christians in Asia Minor that they must be holy because God is their father and judge. Now often when we hear the word “father,” we immediately think about a father’s love and how a father will do anything to bless and protect his child. However, Peter’s focus in this passage is not so much about the Father’s love, but the Fathers discipline, which is also an outworking of his love.

When these Christians were tempted to sin or compromise with the world in order to escape persecution, Peter wanted them to know that their Father was always watching and that he is going to judge each man’s work impartially.

In our society, judgment is often partial. If a rich man goes to a court, he is more likely to be set free than a poor man. The rich are more likely to escape the death penalty than someone who is poor or from a minority group. The judgment in our culture is often partial, but with our God, it is not. It doesn’t matter if you are rich, poor, black, white, yellow or purple. Our God does not operate like our justice system; there will be no favor on the basis of your family background or bank account and for that reason we should live our lives in reverent fear of a just God, who will judge all mankind.

Interpretation Question: What are different aspects of the judgment of God that should motivate the believer to fear God, and therefore, become holy?

Now this judgment has two aspects to it.

1. There is the present judgment of the Father on his children that the believer must also be aware of in order to fear God.

Listen to what Paul says about God’s judgment in 1 Corinthians 11:30-32.

That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.

Here in this context, Paul is telling the believers who were abusing the Lord’s Supper that some of them were sick, depressed, and had died as a judgment of God.  He says: “When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.”

In this life, God brings discipline upon his children in order that they will stop sinning and not be condemned with the world. He says something similar in Hebrews 12:8: “If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.” The writer of Hebrews says if God does not bring discipline on your life, specifically for sin, this is proof that you are not a child of God. What good father does not discipline his child?

Peter is saying Christians should live a holy life because they fear God’s discipline over sin. Listen to what happened to Ananias and Saphira:

At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
Acts 5:10–11

In this text, God killed Ananias and Saphira because they were lying to the church, and thus to God, about their offering. God killed them on the spot, but look what it says in verse 11: “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.”

After this discipline happened, the early church and even unbelievers feared God. This helped them live a life of holiness. They understood there was a God who was zealous for holiness. The early church lived with this reverent fear and we are called to fear God as well. Look at what 2 Corinthians 7:1 says: “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

This can also be translated “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” as in the KJV. One of the things that kept me holy as a child was a healthy fear of my father. I knew my father loved me, but because he loved me, sometimes he would spank me. This same type of motivation is given to us in Scripture about God.

Unfortunately, this is something that has often been lost in our day and age. Most people have no true fear of God, and for that reason they live a life of sin and compromise. Solomon said this: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov 9:10).

Fearing God is necessary to live a wise life and to not live a life of sin. It is very possible that Peter is reminding the people in Asia Minor of this because they were neglecting, or losing the fear of the Lord. Listen to what commentator Alexander Maclaren said:

I suppose in Peter’s days, as in our days, there were people that so fell in love with one aspect of the Divine nature that they had no eyes for any other; and who so magnified the thought of the Father that they forgot the thought of the Judge. That error has been committed over and over again in all ages, so that the Church as a whole, one may say, has gone swaying from one extreme to the other, and has rent these two conceptions widely apart, and sometimes has been foolish enough to pit them against each other instead of doing as Peter does here, braiding them together as both conspiring to one result, the production in the Christian heart of a wholesome awe (Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture [Baker], “Father and Judge,” [1 Pet. 1:17], p. 69).

Alexander Maclaren surmised that among these believers, there were those who were focusing on one of God’s character traits in exclusion of another. Maybe they were saying, “God is a God of love, and therefore he will not judge us. God is our friend, and he will forgive me anyways.”

I have met Christians who have told me they feel that way about God. He will forgive them, and so they sin and just ask for forgiveness. Throughout history, we have seen pendulum swings—swings where the church focuses on God being a God of wrath and judgment, and swings where it focuses on God being a loving God. There are Bible curriculums that don’t give a balanced view and often focus on one over the other.

We must worship God in spirit and in truth. He is a God of love and forgiveness, but he is also a God of wrath. And because of this reality, a child of God cannot walk in sin without the discipline of a loving father.

2. There is a future judgment of the father on his children that the believer must also be aware of in order to fear God—the future judgment at the judgment seat of Christ.

Paul said this:

So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
2 Corinthians 5:9–10

Paul said this prospect of a future judgment pushed him to holiness—to make it his goal to “please” God. Listen also to what Christ said:

But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned (emphasis mine).
Matthew 12:36–37

Jesus said God will judge us over every careless or idle word. Now this won’t be a judicial condemnation, for Christ has paid the penalty for our sins on the cross, but it will be a judgment for reward or loss of reward in heaven. There will be those who will be rewarded at this judgment and those who will suffer loss of reward. Listen again to Christ’s words:

Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (emphasis mine).
Matthew 5:19

Christ said there will be those who are called least in the kingdom of heaven. By their lives, they have broken the commands of Scripture and caused others to do the same. And, therefore, they will be called the least. In contrast, those who practiced the Scripture and taught others to do the same will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

In heaven, Scripture teaches, we will all be identified by our works. We see in Revelations 6:9 the “souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.” These people were identified by their works; they were known for how they had lived on the earth. In the same way, we will be known for our works on earth.

Now this is something that has been lost in our churches; we don’t have much preaching on heaven or hell, and judgment certainly has been lost. And for this reason, much of the church has lost a reverent fear of the Lord and a fear of judgment. We say, “Oh well I’m going to heaven, and that’s all that matters. God has forgiven my sin.” Yes, but there still remains a future judgment, and Scripture says this judgment should motivate us (2 Cor 5:9, 10).

There will be those who get into heaven as escaping the fire, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:15, and those who will be abundantly rewarded. Fear of God is a biblical reason to pursue holiness, and unless you understand the Father who judges our works impartially both now and at the judgment seat, you will be lacking one of the greatest motivations to be holy.

Do you fear God? It is the beginning of wisdom!

Application Question: Do you feel that our generation has lost the concept of the fear of God in lieu of focusing on God’s love and forgiveness? How do we regain a fear of the Lord if we have lost it?

Be Holy Because of God’s Reward

Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.
1 Peter 1:17

Another implication of God’s impartial judgment is desire for reward. Not only will there be discipline on the earth for sin and loss of reward at the judgment seat but there will be present and future reward in heaven. Look at 1 Peter 3:9–12:

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 3:9–12

This passage talks about a present blessing that comes from the God who judges us. Peter essentially says don’t repay evil with evil so you can “love life and see good days.” Be holy because there is a present blessing that comes with this type of life.

A lot of times, we think riches or even revenge will make us happy, but it won’t.  “Loving life” is something that God gives to those who are holy. He talks about seeing “good days.” No doubt, this refers to favor. In fact, the final present blessing for holiness described in this passage is God hearing our prayers. It says he is “attentive” to the prayers of the righteous (v. 12).

God doesn’t hear everybody’s prayers in the sense of answering them. James says, “The prayer of the righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). David said, “If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me” (Psalms 66:18). One of the reasons to be holy is because of present reward. It brings a blessing on the life of the believer.

In addition, a motivation for holiness is not only present reward but future reward. Listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:12–14,

If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward (emphasis mine).

When Paul is talking about the “Day,” he is again talking about the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10). Not only does he focus on the loss of reward but on receiving reward. Both of these are given as motivations for holy and righteous living. Paul says the same thing in 1 Corinthians 9:24 about running to win the crown.

Charles Stanley, in his book Eternal Security, told the story of his preaching on spiritual reward. In the audience was a student who was really apathetic in his spiritual life and, in fact, got in trouble a lot. After hearing Charles Stanley preach on heavenly reward, he was motivated to change. He approached Charles Stanley and told him about how he was now more motivated to serve God at the prospect of eternal reward.

Christ taught the same thing in Mathew 6:19: “Store up riches in heaven and not on earth.” In Matthew chapter 6, he tells his disciples that when one fasts, prays, and gives, they shouldn’t do it like the Pharisees so that they will not lose their reward.

Application Question: Are you motivated to live a holy life at the prospect of eternal reward? Why or why not?

Be Holy Because You Are a Sojourner and Pilgrim on the Earth

Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.
1 Peter 1:17

One of the things Peter does in verse 17 is remind these Christians that they are strangers and aliens. Essentially, he is reminding them that earth is not their home. They are citizens of another place--heaven. This is also an important concept for us to understand in order to be holy.

A citizen of a country has a unique language, unique culture norms, unique views and these should also be true of Christians who are heavenly citizens (Phil 3:20). This is a very important concept because typically when a person moves into a culture as a stranger, they assimilate to the culture. The nation of America is called a melting pot for this very reason, because everybody blends together. Typically, a foreigner moves to America and starts to lose their language and their culture, as they begin to assimilate.

I really loved visiting Toronto, Canada, because it felt like the most diverse place in the world. I felt like there was no majority. I went to the mall and the Africans were in traditional dress and so were the Indians. It was amazing. They call it a salad bowl, instead of a melting pot. This is more of the image Peter is getting at. He says, “You are strangers, and you are different. You have a different speech, a different worldview, and you should not assimilate to the world because this is not your home. You are citizens of heaven.” In fact, later on, Peter again challenges them directly to be different because they are pilgrims. Listen to what he says:

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
1 Peter 2:11–12

One of the things that marked Abraham when he moved into the promised land was that he considered himself a stranger. It was not yet his land; it was inhabited by pagans and people living in sin. Even though he lived in Canaan many years, he resided in a tent because it was not his permanent home. Look at what Hebrews says about him: “By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise” (Heb 11:9).

Abraham lived in tents. In fact, the only thing he owned of the promised land was his wife’s burial spot. He lived like a stranger and a pilgrim in that land.

I love living in Korea because it helps me understand how to live better as a pilgrim in this world. We go shopping and I’m like, “Nah, we don’t need that. This is isn’t our home. One day, we will move and we have to leave it all” (especially since it costs so much to ship things from here). It doesn’t make sense to make that type of purchase. We have to remind ourselves of this truth when we see things that might be nice to have at the house.

This is in some sense how we should live on this earth. Remember, Christ said, “Don’t store up riches on this earth” (Matt 6:19). See there was a difference between Abraham and Lot.  Abraham lived in Canaan with his family, it wasn’t his home; but Lot’s family lived in Sodom and made it their home. It became part of their heart. When it was time to leave, his wife disobeyed God’s command and looked back because of her attachment to it and became a pillar of salt. After they had left, Lot’s daughters slept with Lot to have children. Sodom had become part of their hearts, it was their home.

Are you living as a stranger in the world, or are you making it your home? I love what is said about Abraham and other heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11:16: “Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

Most Christians don’t long for a better country because this is their home. They have adopted the culture, they have stored up riches, and they’re not longing for anything heavenly. Look at the result of these early saints faithful lifestyle; it says, “God was not ashamed to be called their God.”

I think there are Christians God is ashamed of. He’s ashamed because they are living like this is their home. They have assimilated into the culture; their language has changed—they look just like everybody else. Even unbelievers can’t tell the difference. One motivation for holiness is that we are strangers and heaven is our real home.

Are you motivated by the fact that heaven is your real home? This is a motivation to be different.

Application Question: What are your thoughts about the concept of a Christian being a pilgrim or alien in this world? What are practical applications of this to apply to our lives?

Be Holy Because You Are No Longer Slaves

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers.
1 Peter 1:18

Another motivation in this text for holiness is Christians remembering the bondage and emptiness of sin that each believer once lived in and was redeemed from. The word redeemed means “to purchase someone’s freedom by paying a ransom.”1 These Christians who were part of the Roman Empire would have immediately understood this word. There were literally millions of slaves in the Roman Empire. Though some slaves were respected and treated well by their masters, a slave legally had no rights and was regarded as equivalent to a donkey. The master could severely mistreat his slave if he wanted to because the slave was considered property.

This was the same motivation Moses gave to Israel after they had left the promised land. Look at what he commonly says to them:

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and follow carefully these decrees.
Deuteronomy 16:12

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
Deuteronomy 5:15

Israel forgot they were formerly slaves in Egypt and, at times in the wilderness, wanted to go back. They said, “We had better fruits and bananas back in Egypt.” In their mind, they thought it was much easier being a slave of Egypt than being a follower of God. Therefore, they wanted to go back to slavery. This often happens with Christians as well. When following Christ gets hard, when persecution comes, many want to go back to their former lives forgetting that it was indeed slavery. In fact, we see this very clearly in the Parable of the Sower with the seed that fell on shallow ground.

The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away (emphasis mine).
Matthew 13:20–21

Peter is calling them to holiness on the basis that they were redeemed from slavery and no matter how hard it gets, no matter how much they are harassed or persecuted, they should not go back.

The question then is, who were we a slave to? Scripture says we were slaves to sin (John 8:34). When Adam sinned in the garden, he transferred his submission and that of all men to sin. Mankind became in bondage to sin which indwells the flesh of man. Listen to what Jesus said:

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (emphasis mine).
John 8:34–36

Listen to how 1 Peter 1:14 calls believers to not go back: “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance” (emphasis mine).

Those in the world do not understand they are in slavery; Peter says they are in ignorance to it. The world runs around as slaves to their desires. Many are slaves to the desire of becoming wealthy. Christ said in Matthew 6:24 that we cannot have two masters; we will hate one and love the other. We cannot serve God and money.

For many, the desire for money and wealth tells them what school to go to, what career field to pursue, how much time to devote to God. Many people are being ruled by their desires—they are enslaved to them and do not realize it.

Many are enslaved by desires for pleasure. I remember being in college and students lived for thrill of getting wasted, getting buzzed in the evening. Many of our men were driven by the desires of lust; they fulfilled these desires through pornography and sex. They were living in ignorance. Listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “‘Everything is permissible for me’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’—but I will not be mastered by anything” (emphasis mine).

Paul said, “I am free from sin, because Christ has set me free. But I will not do anything that is sinful, and I will not be mastered by anything. I will not be mastered by money, by lust, by a cigarette, by alcohol. The only master I have is Christ.”

What is controlling your life? Remember that Christ came and set you free.

One of the reasons that we should be motivated to be holy is remembering that we were once slaves to sin and slaves to the desires of the world. Not only were we slaves that needed to be redeemed, but we were living an empty life. Look at how 1 Peter 1:18 again describes it: “You were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers” (emphasis mine).

Solomon described life “under the sun,” which means life apart from God, as vanity or meaningless. Look what he says in Ecclesiastes 1:14: “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (emphasis mine).

Solomon describes his pursuit of seeking meaning and joy in life throughout the letter. He says, “I tried knowledge, gave myself to endless study. I tried wealth and gathered great riches. I tried pleasure and gave myself endless enjoyment of them, only to find out it was all meaningless. I was a fool, chasing after the wind.”

Solomon summarizes his search at the end of the book, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl 12:13). In fact, Solomon speaks to youth in Ecclesiastes 12:1. He says, “Remember the Creator in your youth.” He essentially says, “Don’t go off living an empty life like I did: seeking pleasure, education, or money as the chief goal of your existence. It’s like grabbing the air—it will leave you empty.”

Many Christians, like Solomon, go back to the slavery of sin and live an empty life. Fear God and keep his commandments. This is the purpose of life: devotion to God.

Remember, you were empty and a slave to sin before coming to Christ. Christ came that you may have life and life to full (John 10:10). He came to set you free from slavery. Satan wants you to think that sin is the good life but don’t believe the lie. Declare today that you will not go back but that you will go forward in the pursuit of God and the holiness he desires.

Application Question: In what ways is the image of slavery and an empty life an accurate description of life without Christ? What ways have you experienced this?

Be Holy Because of the Lavishness of God’s Love

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
1 Peter 1:18-21

Application Question: What are qualities of a great gift?

What’s another motivation to holiness?

The next motivation for holiness is the lavishness of God’s love. In talking about our slavery, Peter says God didn’t redeem us with silver or gold but with something much more precious. He redeemed us with Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

Observation Question: What makes the gift of our redemption through Christ so special in verse 19–21?

1. The gift is special because Christ was a lamb without blemish. The gift was perfect.

He gives the picture of a worshiper giving a sacrificial lamb in the Old Covenant. When the worshiper would give a sacrificial lamb to cover sins, he or she always was called to give one’s best—a lamb without blemish.

Peter says you should be holy because God gave his best. A lamb without blemish, the lamb God had lived with throughout eternity and enjoyed. He gave his best for you. Essentially, he says you should not show contempt for God’s kindness and goodness by going back to your slave master.

2. The gift is special because it was planned for you before the foundation of the earth.

I don’t know about you, but there are certain gifts that are more precious than others. I am person who doesn’t like to think a lot or put a lot of thought into gift giving. I give gift cards to a book store, and that is a standard gift from me. Everybody needs books, right?

But the best gifts are those that take planning, time, and our personal touch. Good gift givers discern what might be most useful to that person. They go through a lot of work in searching and figuring out what this person would like. My wife has a thing where instead of buying a card for somebody, she likes to make the card with various types of decorations.

Let’s be honest. When somebody gives you a card, you smile and say, “Thank you.” You feel compelled to keep it for a few days just to be nice. You do your duty, but then you finally throw it away. But the cards my wife makes actually take creativity; they take time, and when you receive one, it feels more special, especially, when it comes with baked homemade cookies.

Well God’s gift for you was planned thousands of years ago, which makes it even more special. It was no haphazard accident. It was part of God’s sovereign plan to redeem you. Listen to what Peter said about Christ in Acts 2:23: “This man was handed over to you by Gods set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (emphasis mine).

Christ’s death was no accident. It was planned before time for you.

3. The gift is special because it is personal. Peter says he was revealed for “your sake.” This gift is personal for you.

It has been said that Christ did not die just for the sins of the world. Christ died specifically for you because you are one of his elect (cf. 1 Peter 1:1). He was thinking about you. If there was no one else, he still would have given his life because he died for you specifically. This makes this gift even more special. Jesus said this to those who were following him:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. (emphasis mine)
John 6:37-39

You were chosen before time and given by the Father to the Son. The Son came for you and everybody else that was given to him before time. Each of us were on his mind as he offered his life on the cross and he will keep us for the day of his coming (cf. John 10:27-30, Phil 1:6). Christ died for your sake.

4. The gift was precious because of what it did for believers—it secured access to God.

First Peter 1:21 says, “Through him, you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God” (emphasis mine). It was “through him” that we believed and now have a relationship with God. Christ said this:

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.
John 10:9

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 14:6

Many gifts have a short usefulness, but the greatest of gifts just keep on giving. Each day we are receiving from God’s gift to us. His son’s death secured access to the Father for us. We come to God each day through the veil of Christ’s body. This is a motivation for holiness.

Conclusion

What are motivations for holiness?

  1. Be holy because of a reverent fear of God’s impartial judgment.
  2. Be holy because of God’s reward.
  3. Be holy because you are a sojourner and pilgrim on the earth.
  4. Be holy because you are no longer a slave of sin.
  5. Be holy because of the lavishness of God’s love.

Chapter Notes

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Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.


1 Grudem, W. A. (1988). Vol. 17: 1 Peter: An introduction and commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (88). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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7. I’m Saved…Now What? (1 Peter 1:22-2:3)

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Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you. Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 1:22–25; 2:1–3

What should happen in the life of a believer who has truly believed and responded to the gospel?

In this passage, Peter talks about the proper results of salvation. Look what he says: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth” (1 Pet 1:22).

When he says we have been “purified” by “obeying the truth,” he is talking about our salvation through faith in Christ. Peter seems to be calling our “faith” obedience. God has called us to believe in the Son as our Lord and Savior (Rom 10:9, 10), and therefore, our “faith” is obedience. It is God’s will that none should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9). God calls all men to “repent” so they may be saved and those who respond are obedient.

This obedience to the gospel leads to purification. When we are saved, God washes us from our sins and cleanses us with the blood of Christ. Christ told the disciples each one of them were clean because of the Word spoken to them (John 15:3). It was not only because they heard the Word but because they had obeyed it. They obeyed and were purified by Christ’s blood (Heb 9:14).

Well, in this passage, Peter says, “Now what?” What should be the result of our salvation? Some people get saved and tend to continue to live their lives the same way they used to before accepting Christ. For them, salvation is just fire insurance to keep them out of hell. However, Scripture would say true salvation is not just mental assent without the corresponding works. True faith always leads to works which essentially prove the validity of our faith (Jas 2:17). In this passage, Peter shows us three works that should happen as a result of our salvation.

Big Question: What should be the results of a believer’s salvation according to 1 Peter 1:22–25 and 1 Peter 2:1–3? How should we apply these truths?

As a Result of Salvation, Believers Must Love the Brethren

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:22–23

Peter says a result of our salvation is love for the brethren. He demonstrates this by the preposition so in verse 22. It gives the purpose or result of something. We should realize that loving believers is a fruit of true salvation. If a person who claims to be a Christian does not love believers he is not truly saved. Look at what John says about this:

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.
1 John 3:14–15

John says anyone who does not love the brethren has not passed from death to life. They are not truly born again, and there is no life in them. Christ said the same thing, but not in reference to us knowing we are saved, but the world knowing we are. Look at what he says in John 13:35: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

What should be the believer’s response to salvation? The answer is to love the church. God has called you to love the church and honor him by that. In fact, he more clearly says this is a result of our salvation in the following verse. First Peter 1:23 says: “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (emphasis mine).

The addition of the preposition for or it can be translated since, in 1 Peter 1:23, is meant to show us the reason we love. We love because we have been born again. He saved us for this purpose, and it should identify us to the world and give assurance to our spirit that we are saved.

Here is the next question that he answers, “In what ways should we love one another?”

Observation Question: In what ways should we love the brethren as demonstrated in verse 22?

How should believers love? Look again at verse 22: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart (emphasis mine).

1. Believers should love like a family.

When he says “love for your brothers,” the word he uses here is phileo, or “brotherly love.” It is the type of love you give to a family member. We see this taught about believers throughout the Scripture. Remember what Christ said of his disciples when his family was trying to stop him from preaching.

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
Mark 3:33–35

When Christ said this, he began to exalt the “family of God” even over natural family to some extent. When his family was trying to pull him away, he says, “I have a responsibility to my spiritual family--those who follow the ways of God.” In fact, Paul taught Timothy this is how the church should function--like a family. Listen to what he said:

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.
1 Timothy 5:1–2

He told Timothy to treat older men as fathers in the church, to treat older women as mothers and younger women as sisters. If your mom was in the hospital, would you call and check in on her? If your younger brother was making wrong decisions, would you not rebuke him in love? If you were trying to make a decision about the future, would you not call your parents and seek wisdom? If you got in a fight with your family, wouldn’t you endeavor with all your heart to work it out? This is how we treat people who are part of our natural family.

This is what Paul teaches every believer should do to one another as a result of salvation.

Application Question: What ways is God calling you to show familial love to members in the church? How can you grow in this?

2. Believers should love one another sincerely (without hypocrisy).

The English word sincere comes from the Latin word sin cera, meaning “without wax.” In ancient times, when people would sell clay pots that had small cracks in them, they often would put wax on the cracks in order for them to appear new. The only way a person could tell if it did not have wax was by putting the pot to the sky and allowing the sunlight to shine through it. By doing this, you could tell if it was sin cera, without wax. Sincere in this text means to be honest--without ulterior motives.

In the church, our love must be honest and without hypocrisy. He probably is reiterating this at the end of verse 22, when he says “from the heart.” Much love in the church is not from the heart—it is hypocritical; it is two-faced. We shouldn’t bless the pastors and members at church but talk bad about them at home.

Also, sincere love is never given with ulterior motives in order to receive something from others. This would define most of the world’s love. It is hypocritical. The world gives love for the purpose of receiving, instead of loving simply to give. When people have served their purpose or no longer can benefit them, they move on. It is not sincere. However, the believer’s love should be sincere, without wax.

3. Believers should love like God.

The second love in verse 22 is the Greek word agape. It means to love like God: unconditionally and sacrificially.  This is a very difficult challenge because agape is a love of the will. It is not necessarily a love of the emotions. God loved us while we were still enemies of his (Rom 5:10). He loved us when we were in rebellion, when we did things to hurt his glory. He loved us because that’s who he is in his being. God is love (1 John 4:8).

This love forgives our sins and separates them as far as the east is from the west. In fact, the command to agape is really Christ’s command to his disciples. He says, “I give you a new command to love one another like I have loved you” (John 15:12). To agape someone means to even be willing to die for them. It’s a sacrificial love.

Remember what the early church did when they first were born again? The wealthy sold all they had in order to give to the poor in the church (Acts 2:45). This is a sacrificial love of the will. It is even shown to our enemies and to those who harm us (Matt 5:44). That is what it means to agape. Our salvation should result in not only family love and sincere love, but agape love.

4. Believers must love fervently or deeply.

The final way Peter describes the love of a believer is with an athletic term. The word deeply, or fervently, is a term that means “to stretch to the furthest limit of a muscle’s capacity. Metaphorically, the word means to go all out, to reach the furthest extent of something.”1 The believer’s love for one another should be fervent. It should always be stretching itself; it should always be pushing itself to its capacity.

As a former personal trainer, I believe the word picture of a muscle stretching itself is a perfect analogy for love. In training someone with weights, it was my philosophy to always go to “failure.” This means that in each set, you lift a weight until you fail, which essentially means until the muscle says “I can’t do one more rep.” See, when you take your muscle to failure, the muscle says to itself, “I must grow, I must get stronger,” or “I must develop more perseverance in order to push this weight for an extended time period.” Because of this, the muscle adapts to the stress by growing so it can more effectively push the load in the future.

It’s the same with love. Love needs to always be stretched to its capacity in order to grow. Paul said in Galatians 6:2: “Carry one another’s burden and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

God often will be stretching your love in caring for a family member, a sister, or a brother who is struggling in the church. And yes, it is hard. Yes, sometimes we want to give up under the pressure, but as we stretch that love to capacity, God will equip you to love further and deeper. He is equipping you to love more like him.

I would even say that many times, heartbreak is just a door to love more. The flesh will respond to heartbreak by loving less and withdrawing. God often uses heartbreak and heart pain to deepen the reservoir in our hearts so that God’s love can more easily flow through us.

Maybe you have been praying to be able to love God more or love your neighbor more. It is possible God is already developing this by stretching you to love someone who is difficult such as a friend or co-worker. God may be using this “hard time” as a means to enrich your love and make it deeper.  “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9).

Peter says our love should be sincere. It must be familial, it must be god-like, and it must be deep or fervent.

Interpretation Question: Why does Peter talk about the Word of God as an imperishable seed right after commanding believers to love in verses 23–25?

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:23–25

Someone might look at the command to love and say that it is too difficult to do. “How is it possible to love that way?” Because of this, Peter reminds the believers again of their new birth and how they have been saved by the Word of God. He describes the Word of God as a seed.

In a seed is great power. A seed may not appear that powerful if you just look at it, but if you put it in the ground, water it and give it sunlight, there is tremendous life in it. It can grow into a large tree with fruits that feed and bless many. It’s the same with the Word of God in our new birth. Peter mentions this to encourage believers with the power that is within them to love.

Jesus said in John 3 that no one can be born again except by water and the Spirit of God (John 3:5). Scripture often is pictured as water. Paul said that husbands should wash their wives with the water of the Word of God (Eph 5:26). The Word and Spirit come together in someone’s life as they hear the gospel and they are changed. They are made new by the power of the Spirit.

To be able to love as Christians are commanded is not something that comes through man’s flesh. Man’s flesh and glory is fading. The glory of man is like the cherry blossoms—here for today and gone for tomorrow. But the glory and the power of the Word of God is eternal. This is how we have been saved and this is how we will love. It is through the power of this seed that has changed us. Let us remember what Paul says:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:17

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Romans 5:5

We are a new creation in Christ. We have the Holy Spirit who has given us the power to love as God does. Look what Scripture says about the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

In the believer is a tremendous capacity to love. This love is especially cultivated as we live in the Spirit (Gal 5:16) through time in the Word, prayer and fellowship. This is one of the ways we stretch and grow our love.

Application Question: In what ways has God stretched your love or is stretching your love in order that it may be more familial, sincere, god-like and fervent?

As a Result of Our Salvation, Believers Must Take Off the Clothes of Sin

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 2:1–3

The word therefore in 1 Peter 2:1 points us back to the previous verses. Peter is saying get rid of all sin as a result of your salvation and because of the power of the Word of God, the imperishable seed that brought you the new birth. Because of this great work, get rid of sin and “crave” the Word of God that changed you.

The Greek word used for “rid yourselves” gives us the picture of taking off clothes (cf. Acts 7:38). This image would have reminded them of the common practice in ancient baptisms. The new believers were instructed to wear old clothes to their baptism, and they would exchange them for white baptism robes. After their baptism, they would throw away the old clothes, representing their old life of sin. The word picture of throwing away clothes of sin is used commonly by Paul. He uses the same word in Ephesians 4:22 translated “to put off.”

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (emphasis mine).
Ephesians 4:22–24

One of the things we must do as believers is take off our old clothes and put on new ones. This is a continual process in the life of the believer. We are getting rid of old mindsets as we renew our minds (Rom 12:2). We are changing our habitual practice of certain sins in response to our salvation.

In fact, the Apostle John says that a change in our relationship to sin is a proof our salvation, just as loving other believers is. Look at 1 John 3:6-8:

No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.

John says that knowing God, being saved, will always change your relationship to sin. You cannot go on living the way you previously did. Therefore, a necessary step after salvation will be working to continually get rid of wrong attitudes and actions. We will never be completely free of sin while living on this earth, but it will be our labor until we get to heaven.

Observation Question: What characteristics does Peter tell us to get rid of in 1 Peter 2:1 and what does this mean for our lives?

“Therefore, rid yourself of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind” (1 Peter 2:1).

This call to get rid of sinful attitudes and actions fits with the previous call to love (1 Pet 1:22). If we are going to love our brothers, we must get rid of everything that is uncharacteristic of love. Again, this makes perfect sense in the context of the believers in Asia Minor who were being persecuted. When people are under duress, even the simplest thing could potentially start a conflict and begin a chain of unloving actions.

Imagine these believers getting mistreated by their bosses and having more work put on them because of their faith. Often, when one would come home, his patience would be already spent and it would affect his relationships with family and friends. This pressure would even affect the relationships in the church.

When Israel was in the wilderness undergoing stress, what happened? They started pointing fingers at Moses, Aaron, and God. They complained, and they divided into factions.

If we are going to love, we must get rid of any divisive attitude or action. Malice is a general word for evil generally directed at someone else. Deceit is the desire to trick or deceive someone for gain. Hypocrisy is to be two-faced and not genuine. Envy means to desire or be jealous of what someone else has. Slander means to defame somebody’s character or person through words. If you are going to love someone with God’s love, these things are incompatible. In order to put on love and righteousness, you must take off some other things.

Application Question: What are necessary steps in the life of a believer in order to “rid” oneself of the sins mentioned in 1 Peter 2:1?

Here are some necessary steps we must practice to get rid of these sins.

  1. Recognize these attitudes and actions are sin.
  2. Confess them before God (1 John 1:9).
  3. Confess them before others (Matt 5:23, 24; Jas 5:16). If we have slandered, deceived, or done evil toward someone else, then we would need to confess that to them.
  4. Repent by forsaking these types of actions.

It is good to remember that sometimes, confession of sin before God is not enough. We must also confess to others. Listen to what Christ said:

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift (emphasis mine).
Matthew 5:23–24

To put off the clothes of sin means to make things right, and for some, they need to reconcile with people not just God.  When we sin we have offended God and we may have offended others. If we have offended or harmed others, we must make reconciliation with them.

In this text, it should be noted Jesus is not even talking about whether it was our fault or why the person is mad at us. It simply says if “your brother has something against you,” go and be reconciled. Love is not about pointing fingers—it is about itself. It is about demonstrating love to someone else.

As a result of our salvation we must take off the old clothes of sin.

As a Result of Our Salvation, We Must Desire the Word of God

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 2:2

Here Peter commands the believers to “crave,” or desire, the milk of the Word of God like an infant. It is very interesting that Peter doesn’t say study the Word of God, read the Word of God, or even memorize it. These things are commanded in other parts of Scripture, but here he focuses on the desire for it. If you really “crave” the Word like a newborn baby you will read, memorize, and meditate on it.

It is the most natural thing for a believer to desire the Word of God. It is one of the results of our salvation. Jesus said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). Job said, “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread” (Job 23:12). David, in Psalm 119, spends the largest chapter in the Bible primarily talking about his love for the Word of God. “Your law is my delight” (v. 77), “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (v. 18), and “How can a man keep his way pure? By living according to your word” (v. 9).

This is one of the things that happens as a result of our spiritual birth. In the same way, a true believer loves other brothers (1 John 3:14) and seeks to get rid of sins (1 John 3:6), a truly born-again person desires the Word of God like a newborn. That’s why Peter puts this phrase after talking about our new birth through the Word of God (1 Pet 1:23).

We have been saved by the Word of God, and now we have to grow up into what Christ has called us to be through the Word of God. He says, “Grow up in your salvation.”

Let us hear this: there are many Christians who never grow up. The church is full of spiritual babies that never reach maturity. Why is that? Because the primary way we grow is through the Word of God. It is interesting to note that the Greek verb grow in this passage is passive, literally meaning “it may grow you.”2 This means as you study the Word of God, it bears fruits in your life; it gets rid of sin. It helps a person walk in the righteousness God made them for.

However, the majority of the church never reaches spiritual adulthood and never bears the fruits they have been called to produce. Why? Part of the reason is because they don’t have a healthy “desire.” They don’t enjoy studying the Bible; they don’t enjoy hearing sermons. Why do so many Christians lack this desire?

Application Question: Why are so many Christians lacking a desire for the Word of God?

1. For some, it is because they never have been born again.

Some Christians who have been raised in the church their whole lives have never truly desired the Word of God at all. They have attended Bible studies and read the Bible out of necessity or because they were made to, but never really craved it. Some in the church do not love the Word of God because they are not saved.

Listen to what Paul said about the nonbeliever:

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned (emphasis mine).
1 Corinthians 2:14

The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.
Romans 8:7

The natural mind—the person without the Spirit of God whom has not been born again—does not desire the Word of God. He cannot truly understand it; it is foolishness to him and he doesn’t have the capacity to obey God’s Word.

But the believer does, because he has been born again.

What about those who are saved? How come they sometimes lose a desire for the Word of God?

2. A believer can lose a desire for the Word of God because of sin.

This is why in 1 Peter 2:1 they are commanded to get rid of sin so they can “desire the word of God.”

Did your mom ever tell you to not eat sweets before dinner because it would ruin your appetite? It’s the same thing with sin. It has been said, “Sin will keep you out of the Word of God, or the Word of God will keep you out of sin.” It’s one or the other. James says the same thing. “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” (Jas 1:21).

We must get rid of sin so we can accept the Word of God. If you are not in the Word and you don’t desire it, you can be sure wrong attitudes have crept into your mind and heart. Malice has showed up. There will be wrong attitudes toward God or wrong attitudes toward others, but when the Word of God is there, you will find that you have peace and a right relationship with God and others.

Some have lost desire for the Word of God because of sin. Sin will ruin your appetite. Are you still desiring the Word of God? This is the proper response to one who has been saved by the imperishable seed of the Word of God (1 Pet 1:23).

Application Question: How do we develop a healthy desire for the Word of God?

1. Get rid of sin. Sin will quench your desire for the Word, so you must get rid of it.

2. Begin to force feed yourself the Word of God. This is what the doctors would do to any sick baby that hadn’t eaten all day. Because they need to eat to live, the doctor will force feed a baby through an IV.

Listen to Job: “I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread” (Job 23:12). Job desired the Word more than food. I read a story about a famous pastor named Derek Prince. During a tumultuous season of his life, he began to eat the Word of God day and night just like he would his meals.

This would only make sense for a person who desired it more than their daily meals. A normal diet is about three meals a day. Daniel use to pray and meet with God three times a day (Daniel 6). David said: “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws” (Ps 119:164).

When I used to bodybuild, I would eat six to eight meals a day, which was about every two to three hours. Since the Word of God is more important than food, reading the Word of God multiple times a day is a valid spiritual discipline. I personally am not into the “Read the Bible one-time-a-day thing,” we often tell young Christians. I don’t see support for it anywhere in the Scriptures. A better challenge might be, “How can I practice meditating on the Word of God all throughout the day?”

David talked about the blessing of the one who meditated on the Word of God day and night in Psalm 1. Joshua was called to meditate on the Word of God day and night as well in Joshua 1. Many theologians believe that “day and night” is not referring to the actual morning and night times. It probably was a literary device meaning “all day.” This would be like Christ saying “Forgive seventy times seven,” which really meant all the time.

These are disciplines that will reap tremendous fruit in the believer’s life. I always challenge people to do the least quotient, meaning practicing “day and night” as a literal “twice a day.” Sometimes, it is good to practice what Daniel did three times a day, especially when life is really hard. Or even try seven times a day, like David, through listening to worship music, sermons, etc., strategically at work or during breaks.

The Bible declares there are tremendous blessings for people who develop a lifestyle of this. God said that those who do, in the books of Psalms and Joshua, prosper in everything.

Application Question: What are some good disciplinary routines in order to eat the Word of God more faithfully so we can grow? What is your personal practice?

Conclusion

An anecdote from the early 1900s beautifully illustrates how Christians ought to be grateful for what Christ has done for them. While on a three-story scaffold at a construction site one day, a building engineer tripped and fell toward the ground in what appeared to be a fatal plummet. Right below the scaffold, a laborer looked up just as the man fell, realized he was standing exactly where the engineer would land, braced himself, and absorbed the full impact of the other man’s fall. The impact slightly injured the engineer but severely hurt the laborer. The brutal collision fractured almost every bone in his body, and after he recovered from those injuries, he was severely disabled.

Years later, a reporter asked the former construction laborer how the engineer had treated him since the accident. The handicapped man told the reporter: “He gave me half of all he owns, including a share of his business. He is constantly concerned about my needs and never lets me want for anything. Almost every day he gives me some token of thanks or remembrance.”3

This man responded by tremendous service to the person who had saved his life. How much more should we respond to Christ who has saved not only our bodies but our souls?

Here Peter says the response of a believer to salvation should be:

  1. loving other believers
  2. getting rid of evil desires and actions like old clothes
  3. desiring the Word of God.

Are you still grateful for your salvation? How are you responding because of its effect on your life?

Chapter Notes

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Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.


1 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter. MacArthur New Testament Commentary (90). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

2 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter. MacArthur New Testament Commentary (100). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

3 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter. MacArthur New Testament Commentary (87–88). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Discipleship

8. Privileges Of Believers (1 Peter 2:4-8)

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As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
1 Peter 2:4–8

What are some of the privileges or honors that believers have as worshipers of God?

Throughout Scripture, God seeks to inform believers about how truly special and privileged they are. In Ephesians 1:3, we have every spiritual blessing in heavenly places. In Romans 8:17, we are co-heirs with Christ. In the beatitudes the Kingdom of Heaven is ours and ours alone (Matt 5:3-11). After the beatitudes we are called the salt and light of the earth (v. 13, 14). God wants his children to know how special they are, so they can live out this high calling and these high privileges. We must continually renew our minds to know what God has done in us (Rom 12:2). This is especially important in a world that cannot properly evaluate our worth and in fact persecutes us.

First Peter 2:4-8 is no different. This passage trumpets the honor and privileges of Christians. In fact, when it says in verse 7: “Now to you who believe this stone is precious”, almost all commentators disagree with this translation. It is better translated: So the honor is for you who believe as in the ESV.

There are many honors and privileges that come to those who believe in Christ. No doubt Peter wrote this to encourage the saints who are being persecuted for their faith. Peter not only describes the believers privileges in Christ but also talks about those who reject Christ and stumbled over him. The beauty of these believers is shown as more glorious against the backdrop of those who stumble and dishonor Christ. Believers should stand in awe at the overflowing grace in their lives from God.

In fact, the privileges that are talked about in this passage would be even more wonderful to Jewish believers who would see the Old Testament analogies of Israel being shown in the church.

Big Question: What are some of the honors and privileges we have as Christians according to 1 Peter 2:4–8?

Believers Have the Privilege of Continually Coming to Christ

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him.
1 Peter 2:4

The phrase “as you come to him” is a present participle that has the meaning of “as you continually come to him.” This is not just salvation, but coming to Christ in worship, prayer, and through the Word of God on a daily basis.

We have the right to come to “the living stone” that was rejected by men, but was chosen by God and precious to him. The word precious really means “there is nothing like him.” That is our privilege. We have the right to continually come to Christ and God through him. Listen to what Hebrews 4:15-16 says:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (emphasis mine).

Because our Savior can understand and sympathize, this should encourage us to continually approach his throne to receive mercy and grace.

This is a tremendous privilege. Let us not neglect times of prayer, for they are not a burden but a great privilege. It is at his throne that we find mercy, forgiveness for our sins, and grace to help us. What is keeping you from enjoying this precious privilege?

Application Question: What things commonly keep you or other believers from using this privilege of continually coming to Christ?

Believers Have the Privilege of Being Built into the House of God

You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 2:5

In this text, we are compared to living stones that are being built into a house. We are living stones because Christ is the first living stone—the foundation of the house (v. 6). The paradox of a “living” stone is seen simply in comparison to the Old Testament house of God, the temple that was made of dead stones.

In the New Covenant, God’s temple is the living people of God. This is what 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 said:

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (emphasis mine).

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and God lives in you?

Application Question: What applications can we take from believers being living stones “being built into a spiritual house” or the temple of God?

There are several applications we can take from this privilege of being the temple of God.

1. Because we are the temple of God, we need one another.

The Scriptures does not support the concept of lone-ranger Christians. We were never called to walk this life alone. We need one another. Paul says the same thing in 1 Corinthians 12. He says: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’” (1 Cor 12:21)

A brick is of little use by itself. It can only be used for minimal things, however its usefulness is maximized when used alongside other bricks. Similarly, apart from one another, we cannot complete the mission God has called for us either individually or corporately. Are you walking apart from other living stones in the house of God?

2. Because we are the temple of God, we must recognize that the building of the temple is not complete yet; it is a continual process.

We are being built up into the house of God (v. 5). The word being in this passage means we are not where we need to be yet. This reminds us that this work is a process like the building of any house. We should not be discouraged when we see sin or failure in the church. We should be careful about the desire to quit or to give up on ourselves. We should be careful about the desire to quit or give up on others. It’s a process. God is not done with us yet. We are being built into a spiritual house.

How does this process of being built into a spiritual house work, especially as we constantly see the disunity in our families and church bodies?

We are growing into this spiritual house as we continually “come to him” (v. 4). This process of growing more unified can be seen in the illustration of the triangle. Individual members of the church are on both sides of the triangle, with Christ at the peak, and as we continually come to Christ, we get closer to one another.

If we focus on getting closer to Christ, we will continually find more intimacy and joy with the members of God’s house. But the person who focuses less on his time with God, will find more to complain about, more to be upset about. Often, in counseling believers in discord, all one has to ask is, “How is your time in the Word and prayer?” If you are not aiming at the pinnacle of the triangle who is Christ, then you will find yourself farther away from other believers. Instead of building the house of God, you will find yourself breaking down the house. We must continually come to Christ in order to properly build the house of God.

3. Because we are the temple of God, everything we do can be worship.

One of the things that being the temple of God remind us of is our capacity to worship. In the Old Testament, Israel had to travel to the temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to the Lord; they were restricted by time and space. However, in the New Covenant, we are not. We are not restricted by time and space—everything we do can be worship because we are the temple of God. In fact Paul says this: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God. Even our eating and drinking can be worship to God.

4. Because we are the temple of God, we must be holy.

In the Old Testament, everything in the temple was set apart as holy, even the drinking cups. Now that we are the house of God, we also must be holy in every regard. We learn a little more about this concept from Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:16, 17: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (emphasis mine).

I think this text reflects our need of to be holy. Paul prays for them to be strengthened in the inner man so Christ “may dwell” in their hearts. The interesting thing is that Christ was already dwelling in their hearts because they were Christians. What then is he referring to?

There are two words for dwell in the original language. One means “to dwell as a visitor,” and the other means “to dwell as a resident.” In this passage the word dwell is referring to the latter—Christ being at home in them.

I think in many churches and in the lives of many believers, Christ is not at home. He feels like a visitor. That’s why Paul prays for them so Christ could be at home. In the lives of many Christians, Christ feels like a visitor because their lives aren’t fully under his control. He isn’t consulted about their entertainment or their friendships. He isn’t treated as an owner but as a visitor. That’s why Paul commands them later in the book to not “grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30).”

We can grieve the Spirit by our language, our thoughts and actions. Therefore, we must seek to make Christ at home in our lives and our churches by the practice of holiness. This is a proper application to the church being the household of God. Let Christ be at home in our lives and our fellowship.

Application Question: What things is Christ calling you to do in order for him to be more at home in your life and in your local church?

Believers Have the Privilege of Being Priests and Offering Sacrifices to God

You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 2:5

Peter says one of our privileges is to be priests of God. The primary audience of Peter was probably Jewish Christians since he was an apostle to the Jews, and therefore, them being called priests would have been especially significant to them. Priests came from the line of Levi, specifically the lineage of Aaron. They were chosen by God to pray for the people and to offer sacrifices for their sins. Anyone who tried to do the job of a priest without being one, was judged by God. We see this with King Uzziah, whom God smote with leprosy (2 Chr 26:16–21), and King Saul, whom God judged by removing the monarchy from his family (1 Sam 13:8–14). The priesthood was a special office.

Interpretation Question: What similarities are there between Christians as priests and Old Testament priests?

  1. Christians are chosen by God just as the priests were in the Old Testament. Aaron and his sons were chosen to be priests for Israel.
  2. Christians, as priests, have been purified by the sprinkling of blood of Christ (Eph 1:7) just as the Old Testament priest was sprinkled by the blood of animals (Lev 8:23). This symbolizes being set apart and cleansed to serve God.
  3. Christians are called to offer prayers for the church and the world in the same way Old Testament priests offered prayers on behalf of the people (1 Tim 2:1–4). Samuel declared it was a sin to not pray for the nation of Israel (1 Sam 12:23).
  4. Christians are anointed with power by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). Similarly, the Old Testament priests were anointed with oil and the Holy Spirit (Lev 8:30).
  5. Christians have access to God in a similar way to Old Testament priests. However, Christians have continual access, where in the Old Covenant only the high priest could enter God’s presence and only once a year.
  6. Christians are called to offer sacrifices to God (1 Pet 2:5), even as Old Testaments priests offered sacrifices. However, Chritians offer “spiritual” sacrifices such as worship and prayer instead of physical ones like animals and grain.

As priests of God, one of the tremendous privileges we have is to offer spiritual sacrifices to God. What are these spiritual sacrifices?

Interpretation Question: What are the spiritual sacrifices we offer to God?

1. The surrendering of our bodies in service to God is a spiritual sacrifice.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Rom 12:1).

2. Praise is a spiritual sacrifice to God.

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name” (Heb 13:15).

3. Righteous acts are spiritual sacrifices to God.

“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Heb 13:16).

4. Giving is a spiritual sacrifice to God.

“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Heb 13:16).

5. Evangelism of the lost is a spiritual sacrifice.

But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit (emphasis mine).
Romans 15:15–16

6. Sacrificial love for the saints is spiritual sacrifice.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma (emphasis mine).
Eph. 5: 1–2

7. Prayer is a spiritual sacrifice.

Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.”
Acts 10:4

Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.
Revelation 8:3–4

Are there any other applications to the priesthood of believers?

Many times in Christian churches, ministry is reserved for those who are “ordained” such as pastors and deacons. However, the priesthood of believers means that we should all be doing the work of ministry. In fact, pastors are given for the very purpose of preparing the church for the work of ministry (Eph 4:12).

There is nothing in Scripture that forbids each believer from doing such things as baptism, the Lord’s Supper, public prayer or teaching one another the Word. In the New Covenant, these are not reserved for any special class of believers. They are given to disciples. The church is often hindered from being as effective as it can, because ministry is left to the few—the “ordained.” The priesthood of believers denies this common practice.

Now this doesn’t mean anybody can serve in the role of pastor or deacon. There are specific qualifications given for those types of roles as seen in 1 Timothy 3. But as a general principle, the priesthood of believers means that each believer should be offering the spiritual sacrifices that Scripture commands.

Application Question: What practices, if any, should be left only for those who are “ordained” to ministry? How would you support your conclusion with Scripture?

Believers Have the Privilege of Sharing in the Honor of Christ

For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame. So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 2:6-8 (ESV)

Another privilege we have as believers is sharing in Christ’s honor and that we “will never be put to shame” (v. 6). What does this mean?

Certainly, as believers and pilgrims in this world, there will be times when we are mocked for our beliefs and persecuted. This verse is not a promise that we will not have trials or times when people mock us. However, it does promise that we will never be ultimately put to shame. God will always use everything we go through for our ultimate good (Rom 8:28). In fact, the believer will have honor instead of shame. The ESV says “So the honor is for you who believe (v.7).

However, there is considerable debate over verse 7. It can also be translated “Now to you who believe this stone is precious” in the NIV.  Listen to what Wayne Grudem says about this passage:

The rsv translation To you therefore who believe, he is precious (based on the av and followed, surprisingly, by the niv, and apparently nasb), is an extremely unlikely understanding of the Greek text and is criticized by almost every major commentator. The Greek sentence contains no verb and rather literally says, “Therefore the honour to you, the believers.” It is quite natural to understand the verb “to be” (as commonly in Gk. sentences), so that the sentence reads, “Therefore the honour is to you, the believers”1

Not only will believers never ultimately be put to shame, but when Christ comes, we will be honored before all. We will share in his glory. Listen to this story about two missionaries returning from Africa, which helps illustrate this truth.

An old missionary couple had been working in Africa for years and were returning to New York to retire. They had no pension; their health was broken; they felt defeated, discouraged, and afraid.

As the trip began, they discovered they were on the same ship as President Teddy Roosevelt, who was returning from one of his big-game hunting expeditions.

No one paid any attention to them. They watched the fanfare that accompanied the President’s entourage, with passengers trying to catch a glimpse of the great man. As the ship moved across the ocean, the old missionary said to his wife, “Something is wrong.”

“Why should we have given our lives in faithful service for God in Africa all these many years and have no one care a thing about us? Here this man comes back from a hunting trip and everybody makes much over him, but nobody gives two hoots about us.”

“Dear, you shouldn’t feel that way,” his wife said.

He replied “I can’t help it; it just doesn’t seem right.”

When the ship docked in New York, a band was waiting to greet the President. The mayor and other dignitaries were there. The papers were full of the President’s arrival. No one noticed the missionary couple. They slipped off the ship, disappeared in the crowd, and found a cheap flat on the East Side, hoping the next day to see what they could do to make a living in the city.

That night the man’s spirit broke. He said to his wife, “I can’t take this; God is not treating us fairly.” His wife replied, “Why don’t you go in the bedroom and tell that to the Lord?”

A short time later he came out from the bedroom, but now his face was completely different. His wife asked, “Dear, what happened?”

The Lord settled it with me. I told Him how bitter I was that the President should receive this tremendous homecoming, when no one met us as we returned home. And when I finished, it seemed as though the Lord put His hand on my shoulder and simply said; “You’re not home yet.”

(Author Unknown)

Here on this earth, we may suffer for our faith, we may be mocked, but we will never ultimately suffer shame. We will be honored before all when we get home to heaven. We will be honored before the world and before all creation. Listen to what Paul says in Romans 8:19: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” When it says creation waits in “eager expectation,” it gives the picture of creation “standing on their tippy-toes.” Creation, who has been subjected to the curse, is waiting for the sons of God to be revealed so it can be set free.

As a dog lover, when I read the word picture of creation standing on their tippy-toes, I think back to my dogs at my parent’s house. My mom was a breeder, so we always had about five small dogs in the house. Every time we would come home, the dogs would literally be on their tippy-toes at the door, barking and smiling. They were standing on the tippy-toes waiting for us.

In the same way, creation groans and waits for us. One day, there will be honor and privilege when we stand before God and creation. This was important for these suffering Christians to hear. Yes, they were being despised by society, hated without cause, and it would seem that their lot in life was shame. However, those who put their faith in Christ will never ultimately be put to shame. One day, they will be honored before all and share in the glory of Christ.

Application Question: How does it make you feel to consider the honor that awaits believers? How can we apply this reality on a daily basis?

Dishonor for the Unbelievers

Next, Peter spends some time talking about those who do not believe. In the same way a diamond’s beauty is most clear against a dark surface, the glory of Christ and believers is most evident against the destiny of unbelievers. Peter says for those who believe, there is honor, but for those who have not believed in Christ, the capstone, there will be dishonor. Listen to what he says:

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone, and, A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 2:7–8

The picture is of an ancient building construction site. Often the rocks were chosen before they were even brought to the site. The builders would look at each rock and if the dimensions were not perfect, it was discarded. This is what the world did with Christ. However, this rock that was rejected, later became the cornerstone, the most important stone.

The cornerstone is the stone ground between two walls. It is used to get perfect angles for the rest of the house. You build off of the cornerstone; it sets the direction for the entire building. Christ was the rock that was discarded which became the rock that was needed most. The world has rejected this rock which everyone must build their house upon in order to withstand God’s judgment.

Interpretation Question: Why does the world discard Christ the cornerstone?

The world rejected him because he did not come in the manner they desired him to. The Jews rejected him because he came as a suffering servant, instead of a conquering king. The Greeks rejected him because a God that became man and died for the world was utter foolishness to them (1 Cor 1:23).

Many in the world today often reject Christ simply because he declared there is no other way to heaven and because he demands total lordship of their lives. Following Jesus Christ is too narrow a path and they refuse to follow it. They want a god who submits to their will, and therefore, reject the Savior on which they are called to build their lives upon. For them, Peter declares only dishonor waits, because they have not properly valued the capstone. Without this capstone no building can stand (Matt 7:24-29).

Finally, Peter gives a further reason why unbelievers cannot properly appraise Christ and instead stumble over him. He says they stumble because they were “destined” for this (v. 8). They were destined to reject Christ.

Interpretation Question: What does the phrase “they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for” mean? Did God elect some to be eternally damned?

The Doctrine of Reprobation

It is very clear that God chose some to be saved before time who will receive honor. The doctrine of election and predestination are seen clearly throughout Scripture. Look at what Paul says:

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves (emphasis mine).
Ephesians 1:4–6

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified (emphasis mine).
Romans 8:29–30

The doctrine of election is communicated throughout Scripture but not without controversy. The primary controversy has been the question, “Why did God elect some? Did he elect simply based on his sovereign right or because he knew the elect would believe?” I believe Scripture clearly communicates that God elects because of his sovereign right (Romans 9:19, 20). However, as if election wasn’t controversial enough, another aspect of election is reprobation. Did God, in the same way, choose for some to be eternally damned?

By necessity, the doctrine of God electing some to salvation means that some had to be passed over. This is called reprobation—God passing over some for salvation. But the question is, “Did God elect these people to be damned?”

There are those who believe that in the same way God elected some to eternal life, he elected others to be eternally damned. This is called double predestination, or some may call it hyper-calvinism. Is there any support for this?

First of all, Scripture never uses the word elect for those who were passed over in salvation. Therefore, double predestination is not a helpful term because it necessitates that God handles election and reprobation in the same way. The term elect is used for those who were chosen for salvation before the beginning of time and not for those who were passed over. Therefore, Scripture doesn’t teach that God elected some to damnation.

There is no need to elect the lost, for all mankind is under the judgment of God’s wrath for sin. But, there is a need to elect some people to salvation from those who deserve judgment. With that said, there is obviously a sense in which those who were passed over were predetermined before time. Look at what Romans 9:22 says: “What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction (emphasis mine)?” This text clearly says that there is a way in which these people were “prepared for destruction.” Listen to what Jude said:

For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord (emphasis mine).
Jude 1:4

Jude talks about these false teachers whose condemnation was written about long ago. This seems to be referring to a time before creation. Look again at 1 Peter 2:8: “And, ‘A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for (emphasis mine).”

Peter also talks about those who stumble over the message of the gospel, which they were destined for. Therefore, we must recognize that there is some sense in which even those who choose not to obey God are part of his plan before time.

Paul teaches God works all things in conformity with to the counsel of his plan in Ephesians 1:11: “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (emphasis mine).

Does “everything” include the destruction of the lost? Proverbs declares that even the destruction of the wicked is part of God’s plan. “The LORD works out everything for his own ends—even the wicked for a day of disaster” (Prov 16:4).

Interpretation Question: Why would God plan to allow sinful men to disobey him as part of his plan in the first place? What is the benefit or purpose?

It seems the purpose is for his glory. There is a sense in which God brings glory to himself by showing his mercy to those who have sinned and yet are elected, while in another way he receives glory by bringing his wrath on those who have sinned. Look at what Scripture says about Pharaoh in Romans 9:17: “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth (emphasis mine).”

In the case of Pharaoh, God hardened his heart for the purpose of God’s name being proclaimed throughout the earth. Listen to what else Paul says about God’s “objects of wrath” in Romans 9:22: “What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction (emphasis mine)?

Paul says God chose to show his wrath and make his power known by his destruction of the wicked. Ultimately, everything he does is for his glory. In fact, it should be noted that with the fallen angels, he did not choose to show grace to any of them. They all received justice—his wrath. If we consider what is fair, it must be realized justice would require that he show mercy to none. But because God is a God of justice and mercy, he elects some and sovereignly passes over others in order to show his glory.

This is a very difficult doctrine, but there is scriptural support for it. By necessity, when God elected some before time, he passed over others. However, the process is different. The lost are not elect; they are sovereignly passed over in the counsel of God’s will. It may seem unfair to us, but what is ultimately fair resides in the counsel of God because he defines justice and goodness (Psalms 100:5). The best thing is for God to receive glory.

The nations of the earth feared God because of his destruction and judgment upon Pharaoh (Josh 2:9–11). God raised him up for that purpose so that many could see God’s glory and fear him. In the same way, even though there is sin and evil in the world, our God will ultimately use this for his glory as well.

Application Question: Is it fair for God to choose some for salvation and to pass over others? What are your thoughts about the doctrine of reprobation?

Conclusion

Peter writes this section on the honor and privileges of the believer in order to encourage the saints. Oftentimes as Christians we accept what the world says about us, to our discouragement and demise. However, God continually shows us in Scripture how special we are. Zephaniah 3:17 says, he will take great delight in us and quiet us with his love, he will rejoice over us with singing. Believers are special and God has given us many great and wonderful privileges.

What are our privileges as saints of God?

  1. Believers have the privilege of continually coming into the presence of Christ. Let us avail ourselves of this daily through prayer, study of the Word, and the Christian community, for it is our greatest honor.
  2. Believers have the privilege of being built into a house of God. We need one another, a brick has very little usefulness by itself. Also, because we are the house of God, we should be a holy place, set apart for God’s worship. Everything we do can be worship because we are his temple.
  3. Believers have the privilege of being priests that offer spiritual sacrifices. We should labor in prayer for others; we should serve others as priests in order to please and honor our God.
  4. Believers have the privilege of sharing in the honor of Christ. The glory given to Christ by God has been given to us (John 17:22). Though rejected by the world, along with Christ, we must rejoice in the coming honor and glory. We are co-heirs with Christ, and therefore, recipients of the coming kingdom. This honor shines even brighter against the destiny of the lost.

Let us give glory to God for our great and awesome privileges. Thank you Lord.

Chapter Notes

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Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.


1 Grudem, W. A. (1988). Vol. 17: 1 Peter: An introduction and commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (110). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Discipleship

9. Marks Of The People Of God (1 Peter 2:9-12)

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But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
1 Peter 2:9–12

What are distinguishing marks of the people of God which separate them from the world?

Peter has just been talking about how Christ is the capstone, the foundation of the house of God. The world did not receive him; they stumbled over him. He came like a servant when they were expecting a king. He came to suffer when they were expecting a conqueror. As the Jews rejected him at his coming, so has the rest of the unbelieving world rejected and stumbled over him ever since. Listen again to what Peter says:

And, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 2:8–9

However, this is not true for believers. In verse 9, Peter begins with “but.” “But you are a chosen people.” Christians should be drastically different from the world. Christ taught the same thing in Matthew 5:13, he said you are the salt of the earth. You preserve the world from decay. You have tremendous value. He said you are the light of the world (v. 14). Among the people of the earth, there are a people who are radically different.

Because of this radical difference, Christians often will be mocked and persecuted as was happening to the believers in this context. Peter writes to encourage them but also to reinforce why they should continue to be different. In the midst of persecution and suffering for our faith, there can be a tendency to dull the light and the witness of our lives in order to avoid offense. There can be a tendency to begin to compromise.

This seemed to be happening here in this context. That is why Peter “urges” them in 1 Peter 2:11 to live as strangers and abstain from sinful desires. Continue to be different, continue to be salty, continue to be light, and do not compromise with sin in the face of persecution. Peter reminds them of who they are and what distinguishes them.

For some of us, this text will be a challenge, as it was to this church, to continue to remain different, to continue to not compromise at the work place or amongst friends. For others, it may be a call to repent from ways we have compromised and conformed to this world.

Can the world tell that we are different? In this passage, we will see five marks that should distinguish us as believers in this world. As we go through these marks, we should ask ourselves are we living out these realities in our lives.

Big Question: What marks distinguish believers from the world in 1 Peter 2:9–12?

Believers Are a Blessed People

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
1 Peter 2:9-10

Observation Question: What are some of the blessings and privileges that distinguish Christians from the world according to 1 Peter 2:9–10? What ways are these privileges similar or different to Old Testament Israel?

Here Peter begins to talk about all the blessings and privileges these suffering saints have received from God and that separated them from others. He wants them to know how special they are. They have a call and they are in the center of God’s will even in the midst of persecution. He writes to encourage them as they, no doubt, were discouraged by how they were being viewed and persecuted by others.

Chosen People

He calls them a chosen people. Peter uses terminology commonly used in reference to Israel. Look at what Deuteronomy 7:6 said about Israel: “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession” (emphasis mine).

In the same way, Israel was called to be God’s chosen people on the earth and to be witnesses for him, the church is now God’s chosen people. This choosing is not because we are better than others or because we would respond to him. This choosing is a work totally of God’s grace. Look at what Paul says:

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves (emphasis mine).
Ephesians 1:4–6

This choosing is all to the praise of his glorious grace, his unmerited favor. This was important for these Christians to hear because they were deemed by others to be the scum of the earth, and therefore, treated as such (1 Cor 4:9–13). This choosing represented their salvation. They were chosen by God to receive salvation and to enjoy him forever.

What were they chosen for?

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
1 Peter 2:9–10

The text can be interpreted to mean because you are a chosen generation, you are also a royal priesthood, a holy people, a peculiar people. Their election is first, and election is the source and fountain of all the other blessings and characteristics that distinguish them from others who are appointed to destruction (emphasis mine).1

Royal Priesthood

These chosen believers were called out from the world to be a royal priesthood. For an audience that was probably primarily Jewish, this would have stood out. In the Old Testament, the monarchy and the priesthood were strictly separated. Priest came from the lineage of Aaron from the tribe of Levi. Only they could approach God at the temple; only they could offer the sacrifices. The rest of the Jews could not.

In addition, the king was special in Israel because he was anointed with oil by the priest. This means he was equipped and empowered by God to do the task of ruling Israel and fighting the battles of the Lord. We see the Holy Spirit coming upon the kings to win battles. Similarly, the priest was anointed, and therefore, empowered by the Holy Spirit to minister to God and the people. But again, these privileges were not for regular Jews and they were strictly separated.

We see the strict separation of these two roles in two kings that were judged by God for trying to combine the priesthood and the kingship. King Saul was anxious to go to battle, and instead of waiting for the priest Samuel to come and offer a sacrifice to the Lord, he decided to do it himself. In 1 Samuel 13:8–14, God told him that because of this, he had sought a man after his own heart to rule. Saul was judged for trying to merge the priesthood and the kingship.

We also saw this in 2 Chronicles 26:16–21 with a king named Uzziah. Uzziah became very successful, and therefore, prideful. He felt that because he was so great he could burn incense in the temple—again a work specifically for the priest to do. The priests gathered together to confront him and said, “You will not be blessed by the Lord because you have been unfaithful.” King Uzziah became angry at this and reached out to burn the incense, and leprosy broke out on his head because God judged him. He then stepped down from being king and passed the kingship to his son. He died a leper.

Therefore, the privilege of being a royal priesthood would have stood out to the original audience. A royal priesthood, a merging of the two lines together? The line of Judah was for the kings, and the line of Aaron for the priests. How is this reality possible?

The only way this is possible is because under the New Covenant, there is no longer a priest who must come from a specific tribal line. The writer of Hebrews argues in Hebrews 7:17 that in the New Covenant, Christ, our high priest, comes from the “order of Melchizedek”, who was the former king and priest of Salem, whom Abraham paid tithes to (Gen. 14:18–20). This was something prophesied about the coming Messiah in Psalm 110:4. He would be a priest according to the order of Melchizedek, a kingly priest.

Christians being royal priests represent the fact that we have been united with Christ. We are his body, and whatever glory Christ receives we receive as well. Romans 8:17 calls us coheirs with Christ. It means we will reign with him eternally, and here on earth, our role is to draw men unto himself and to lead people in the worship of him as priests.

This should stand out. Peter wants them to realize that they are different from the world because they know Christ.

Application Question: What ways can we apply the role of believers being kings and priests?

It means we will rule with Christ. Scripture clearly proclaims we will rule in the coming kingdom. We see this in many texts. As mentioned, Romans 8:17 says: “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

Paul declares that this rulership will include judging this world and even angels. In the ancient world, coming to the king was like going to court. They would often rule over cases. We see that with Solomon as he decides between two women claiming to be the mother of a child (1 Kings 3:16-28). Look at what Paul says:

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life (emphasis mine)!
1 Corinthians 6:2–3

In fact, with this kingship that comes in Christ, there is also a measure of authority that should be seen presently in the life of a believer, especially in the area of ministry. We see this in the Great Commission as Christ sends the disciples out to minister in his authority. Christ commissions them saying, “All authority has been given to me therefore make disciples” (Matt 28:18).

But also as royalty in Christ, we fight wars on behalf of the kingdom. Ancient kings would go off and fight battles in the interest of their kingdom. What battles do we fight?

Christ said, “The gates of hades will not prevail against the church” (Matt 16:18). The church is seen tearing down the fortresses and strongholds of Satan. When you preach the gospel, you go into enemy territory. When you minister to those in depression and habitual sins, you trample on enemy ground. Paul in Ephesians 6 shows the church as a soldier putting on the armor of God, the armor of the King.

But, we are also called priests. One of the unique roles of the priest was to have an intimate relationship with God. In fact, the high priest was the only priest who could enter into the presence of God once a year on the Day of Atonement. No other person could do that. Well, on this earth, one of the things that distinguishes us as believers is the fact that we can walk and live in the presence of God. You talk to God, and he talks to you.

But not only that, the priest would pray on behalf of the people for the forgiveness of their sins and bring their requests before God. We see the priest Samuel says to Israel that he would not sin by ceasing to pray for them. Listen to what he said, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right” (1 Sam 12:23).

Not only did the priest have to pray for people, but the nation of Israel was called to pray for people because they were a “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6). When Israel was exiled in Babylon, God called them to pray for the prosperity of Babylon because when Babylon prospered they would prosper (Jer 29:7). Even though Israel was no longer in their land, that did not change their identity. They were still a priestly nation called to intercede for the nations.

Similarly, wherever God has placed you, in a nation, a work place, a church, or a family, they are to be places that you intercede for. You are to intercede for the leaders to make godly decisions, for strongholds to be broken, and for the light of the gospel to go forth.

First Timothy 2:1–2 commands believers to make intercession for everyone, for kings and all authorities that we may live peaceful and godly lives. Praying for everyone is a tremendous amount of work. It’s a job for priests, whom we have been called to be.

The priests were also called to teach the people. We specifically see this with Ezra who devoted himself to the study and teaching of the law of God (Ezra 7:10). Similarly, for the New Covenant believer part of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19 is to make disciples by teaching them everything Christ commanded.

The believer’s job as a priest is to learn the Bible, to never let it depart from their mouths, to talk about it at dinner, to talk about it at work. One of the reasons you have been chosen to be a priests is to be a teacher of the Word of God. Most of the world will never read the Bible, but they should see and hear the Bible coming out of your mouth all the time. God told Joshua, “Never let it depart from your mouth” (1:8). God told Israel the same thing.

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:6–9

When they lied down, when they got up, when they walked along the road, they were supposed to be biblical. Israel the nation was called to be a nation of priests, even though the specific priestly role was reserved for the family of Aaron.

You, as a follower of Christ, have been chosen to be a royal priesthood. You minister with authority, you will one day rule and judge this earth; you fight the battles on behalf of the kingdom. You, of all people, have an intimate relationship with the Father. You intercede for people and teach them God’s Word. Christians have the privilege of being a royal priesthood.

Holy Nation

Peter also says they are a holy nation. This again was terminology used of Israel. In Exodus 19:6, they were called a holy nation. They were set apart by God for good works, to serve him and worship him. In the same way, we have been chosen and set apart for good works. This separates us from the world. Look at what Paul said about believers: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10).

The word he uses here for workmanship is the Greek word poema from which we get the English word poem. We are God’s poem—his artistry. Similar to the way a poem is carefully crafted and constructed with each verb, adjective, adverb, noun, and preposition to achieve a desired goal. God has and is carefully crafting and constructing us through various events, teachings, and even trials for the purpose of producing good works for his glory. God chose us to display his beautiful artwork—his character and good works to the rest of the world.

Holiness has the positive element of righteousness or good works, but it also has the negative element of staying unspotted or free from the pollution of sin. James 1:27 says this: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (emphasis mine). The church is a holy nation separated from sin and set apart for the purpose of good works. Are you staying unspotted, unpolluted from the world and the things of this world? Are you practicing a faith that helps and serves others, especially the less fortunate?

A lot of Christians have a religion that does not create holiness in their lives. It essentially makes no difference for them or others. This is not a religion that our God accepts (James 1:27). Cain and Abel both practiced religion, but Cain’s religion was rejected because it was not pure and spotless. God has chosen to call out a holy nation to represent him and to serve others.

People Possessed by God

Peter declares that the church was a people belonging to God. Again, this was something said about Israel: Deuteronomy 7:6 says, “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession” (emphasis mine).

What does this mean? It means not only are we here to serve God, but we are here for his pleasure. Whatever you own, you own for your pleasure because it gives you joy. Well, God chose you for the purpose of his pleasure.

This was a phenomenal concept that would drastically change how these persecuted believers looked at themselves. They were mocked, abused, and rejected and yet, owned and treasured by God. Therefore, it was important for these believers to know how special they really were, because if they didn’t, they would adopt the mindset the world had about them. They needed to know they were chosen as God’s special possession in the earth.

We also see this reality taught in the book of Ephesians. Look at what Ephesians 5:18 says, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (emphasis mine).

Paul prays that their eyes may be enlightened to know the riches of God’s glorious inheritance in the saints. It’s interesting because you would think he would say “our inheritance in God,” meaning how special he is to us, how rich we are in him. But Paul says “his glorious inheritance in the saints.” We are his wealth and his pleasure. It’s a very powerful concept that Paul prays for the church to grasp.

Look at what Zephaniah says about the people of God: “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph 3:17).

Zephaniah talks about the people of God in a language we are not used to hearing. He says God takes great delight in us; he rejoices and sings over us. This is a phenomenal concept. We are God’s inheritance, his own possession.

This is something I have never truly understood, but I think I’ve started to get a better understanding as I have become a parent. When I see my daughter, I often just shower praises over her. “You are a cutie; you are so cute. You are just a cutie. Yes, you are.” And I just get giddy being around her. It’s like I’ll be singing to her about how wonderful she is.

One of the things that I have found most interesting about being a parent, is that I sometimes enjoy my baby the most when she is mimicking me. I shake my head, and she shakes her head. Or I clap my hands, and she claps her hands. Or I walk in a room, and she can’t take her eyes off me. It does something to me inside. My joy is then fulfilled as I praise her.

I think this helps us understand the concept of us being God’s possession. Typically, your possessions are used to bring you joy—your TV, your internet, your pets, your family, and your friends. Well, God, who is independent and needs nothing, has chosen to create you for his pleasure. You are his treasured possession. He gets great joy over you, and no doubt, he gets the most joy when you imitate him as well--when you enjoy him, and when you walk like him.

Like me praising and enjoying my daughter, he praises and sings over us. We see him bragging even before the angels in the book of Job. “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). Yes, you were not only made to enjoy God. You were made so God could enjoy you.

You are a people on the earth whom God enjoys. You are his possession… If you truly understood this, if the eyes of your heart could really grasp this, it would deliver you from all your insecurities and fears. The world says you’re too short, too tall, not smart enough, not a great enough leader, not a great enough speaker, you don’t have enough money. No, you are perfect. You are perfect because you were created by God (cf. Psalm 139:13-14) and he can use even your weaknesses for his glory (cf. 2 Cor 12:9-10).

Paul prays similarly in Ephesians 3:17-19:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (emphasis mine).

Paul prays that the church may comprehend his love so they could be filled with the measure of his fullness. What does that mean? When you understand how much God loves you, when you truly comprehend it, it will change you. You will be filled with his fullness, transformed by his grace. Let us pray as well, that we may have power to grasp this. These persecuted believers needed to understand this, and so do we.

Application Question: What does the concept of the church being God’s possession and that he enjoys us make you think of? How should we respond to this reality?

People Who Have Received Mercy

“Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet 2: 10). Here in this passage, Peter says the church has received mercy. They were a people whom God did not give the judgment and punishment that they deserved.

It has often been said grace is when God gives us what we don’t deserve. Mercy is when God does not give us what we deserve. As the church, we were once a people under God’s wrath because of our sin and rejection of Christ. But because of God’s grace, we have now received mercy, forgiveness of sins and have become the people of God. Listen to what Paul said:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved (emphasis mine).
Ephesians 2:1–5

Scripture declares that we were dead in our sin, and therefore, separated from God. We followed this world, we followed Satan and we followed the desires of our hearts. We were going our own way, and were objects of God’s wrath (Eph 2:4). God is angry at sin all the time, and therefore, we were under his wrath and on the path to being separated from him eternally in hell. But because of God’s love and mercy, God removed the wrath we deserved and gave us undeserved mercy and salvation instead. Believers have received mercy.

Peter teaches this by using another analogy with Israel from Hosea 1:9-11. He says: “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet 2:10).

In chapter 1 of the book of Hosea, God gave names to the Prophet Hosea’s children in order to display Israel’s rejection by God--how they would no longer be his people, and how they would no longer obtain mercy. However, at the end of chapter 1, God declares that though this may be true for a season with Israel, ultimately they would again be his people and would again receive mercy (Hos 1:9–11). Israel is still waiting for this mercy, which will be fulfilled at Christ’s coming (Rom 11:25, 26).

Peter, in this analogy, says the church is similar—the church was not deserving of mercy, but God gave us mercy and called us to himself. He sees a picture of the nation of Israel’s ultimate restoration to God in how the church, who formally was separated from God, now is a people united in worship to God. This makes the church unique in the world—they are a people who have received mercy.

Interpretation Question: Why does Peter emphasize this mercy after talking about all the other blessings and responsibilities of the people of God?

1. Understanding God’s great mercy would be very important in order for them to not boast in God’s sovereign choice of them but to instead boast in God.

Paul said the same thing about the believer’s salvation. Listen to Ephesians 2:8–9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast (emphasis mine).”

It is necessary to remember the depths of our sin in order to properly view Gods mercy and grace. We were separated from him and under his wrath, but God saved us by his grace.

2. Understanding God’s great mercy would also be necessary in order to be effective priests and ministers of God.

This is an important revelation we must have in order to be effective at any type of ministry. When we have lost the realization of our sin, it is then that we have become unequipped for the priesthood. It was right after Isaiah saw the depth of his sin in Isaiah 6 that God called him to be one that spoke for him (Isa 6:5–9). We also see the importance of this in God’s words to Israel about serving the alien. Look at Deuteronomy 24: 17–18,

Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this (emphasis mine).

Israel is called to care for the alien in the land, the fatherless, and the widow on the basis of remembering they used to be slaves in Egypt. In order to properly minister, they must first remember the mercy they themselves had received from God. Certainly, we see this in Paul as well. He declared in 1 Timothy 1:15 that he was “chief of sinners.” Paul remembered how he received mercy. This recognition of his own sin prepared him to be a proper minister of God.

However, when we have lost this reality of our state as a sinner, it is then that we are prone to pride and being judgmental. We are unfit for ministry. This was the problem of the Pharisees. They did not see themselves as sinners, and therefore, misjudged everybody else (Luke 18:10–24).

In this passage, Peter tells these people and us how privileged we are as the church. Though mocked and at times persecuted, we must remember that we have been chosen by God and given great grace. We have been called to be a royal priesthood as we minister to God and the nations. We are a holy nation called to be separate from sin and also called to a life of righteousness. We are God’s possession made to be enjoyed by him. We are a people who have received mercy.

Do you realize this? Like Paul, I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened to understand God’s inheritance in the saints. I pray that you may have power to grasp the power that is working in you as people who believe (Eph 1:18, 19). I pray that you may know the depth and height of God’s love so that it may change your life (Eph 3:18, 19). This is something we often forget and need to hear again and again, we are recipients of God’s amazing grace.

Application Question: What way were you encouraged or challenged by looking at the blessings we have received as the people of God? How can we apply these truths?

Believers Are a Worshiping People

That you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:9

Another privilege of believers is their commission to declare the praises of God. I have chosen to separate this verse into a point since it marks the first responsibility given to the believer in this passage. Believers have been saved from the darkness of sin and out of this world, in order to be a unique people who worship God.

Again, this would have stood out to a primarily Jewish congregation or Gentiles familiar with the Old Testament. It mirrors God’s original call on Israel. He called them out of Egypt for the purpose of worshiping the Lord. Look what Moses said,

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: “Let my people go, so that they may worship me” (emphasis mine).
Exodus 9:1

Israel was called out of Egypt to worship God in the wilderness. This would distinguish them from all the nations of the earth. Similarly, one of the things that should distinguish the life of a believer is a life of worship. This should separate us from all other people groups on the earth; this is a spirit of gratitude to God for what he has done and will do in our lives. In fact, we see this distinguished even more when Paul talks about God’s judgment on the unbelieving world in Romans 1. Listen to what he says:

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened (emphasis mine).
Romans 1:20–21

When Paul describes the unbelieving world, he describes them as people that neither glorified God nor gave thanks to him. They are distinguished as a people whose hearts are darkened, ones who do not worship or give thanks to God. In fact, listen to the instructions Paul gives the children of God in Philippians:

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe (emphasis mine).
Philippians 2:14–1 5

He says do everything without complaining and arguing. For what purpose? So you may become blameless children of God. See, Paul sees doing everything without complaining and arguing as something that should distinguish the children of God. It marks them as different from the world.

Paul also pictures this world as dark and the children of God as lights and stars in the sky. They are lights in what way? They are lights because when things go wrong or are difficult, instead of being found in the garments of complaining and arguing, they are found in the garments of praise and thanksgiving. That marks them as different from the world. They are a worshiping community.

Don’t we see this with Job? When Job had lost family, job and health, how did he respond? He says, “The Lord giveth and he taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). He doesn’t curse God or the raiders who killed his children; he instead praised God. That type of worship and praise is a light in a dark world. See in the world system where people don’t see God as in control, they are prone to point fingers, complain about bosses, the government, the weather and everything else. However, for the believer who sees their Father in control of everything (cf. Eph 1:11, Rom 8:28), it should be drastically different.

Listen again to what Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

How is your worship? How is your thanksgiving? Are you holding forth your light as a child of God? This should distinguish us as believers. What circumstances is God calling you to give thanks in and worship right now?

You can imagine these Christians in Asia Minor who are being persecuted for their faith. Some are probably saying to themselves, “Worship? Worship? How can we worship in this circumstance?” “Yes,” Peter says, “That’s one of the reasons that God called you out of the world. He called you to worship him.” They needed to be reminded of this message, and we need to be reminded as well. He called us out of the slavery of sin to worship him, whether on the mountaintop or in the wilderness.

Application Question: What ways is God calling you to worship in your current circumstance? Do you often struggle with complaining and worrying? How can you remedy this?

Believers Are a People Away from Home

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.
1 Peter 2:11

Next, he talks about another distinguishing factor that separates them from the world, he calls them “aliens” and “strangers” in this world. The reason Peter uses these adjectives is to help them recognize that this is not their home. The word strangers can also be translated pilgrims. Pilgrims were a nomadic people traveling in search of their own country. They often left their previous land for religious reasons. Because they were seeking another country, they would not buy a home or settle down. They were a transient community looking for their home land.

In a similar sense, this is not our home. We are different from everybody else and we should not look like the world because this is not our home. There should be extreme differences between you and the world because you are from another place with a different culture, language and norms.

Application Question: What differences should mark the life of a believer because this is not their home?

Look at what Christ said about pagans in Matthew 6:31-32,

So do not worry, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or What shall we wear? For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them (emphasis mine).

“Run after” can actually be translated “eagerly seek,” meaning the world is on a frantic search for material. Jesus said that one of the things that mark the culture of this world is being materialistic. They are running all over the place for food and clothing. Listen to what Paul says about how believers should be in1 Timothy 6:6–8,

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that (emphasis mine).

Paul says that with food and clothing, we should be content. The word clothing just means “covering” and could refer to housing and clothes. But contentment should be the norm for a Christian, instead of “Oh I’ve got to get new shoes, new phone, the new iPad, etc…” The world is in a frantic search for these things. But the believer is to be like a pilgrim. John describes how this should distinguish the believer as well. Look at 1 John 2:15: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

What’s another thing that should distinguish the believer from the world? Look at what else Peter says:

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 3:3–5

Peter later in the letter tells the women to not be consumed with outward adornment. The Greco Roman culture was consumed with the outward appearance. We see this in the artwork of muscular men and scantily clad women. In fact, even plastic surgery was common in the Roman culture. We have ancient documentation of the removal of scars, breast reduction on overweight men, and also nose surgery.

There is nothing new under the sun; the world culture really hasn’t changed. People are pretty crazy. If they don’t like their noses, they buy a new nose. Like the Greco Romans, the world today is consumed with the outward appearance. But Peter tells these women that because they are God’s children they should instead be consumed with their inward beauty instead of outward.

Many Christians are insecure and depressed because their focus is the same as the world. They have been pressed and molded into the customs of the world (Rom 12:2). I must be skinnier, I must be voluptuous, I must be more muscular, I must look like him, I must look like her. We live in society much like the Greco-Roman system consumed with the external.

Again, Peter says this is not true for holy women. Why? Listen to what he says:

Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 3: 4–5

Christians are different because they put their hope in God. Their focus is God, and they think like God. Beauty is internal. When God chose David to be king over his brothers, God said the reason he chose him was because he was not like man. Man looks at the outside, but he looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7). Christians are consumed with their inner person, not their outer person. This makes them strangers in the world.

I fear this type of mentality of being a pilgrim in this world has largely been lost in the church, and therefore, the church has become very ineffective and looks just like this world. Much of the church has settled down in this world instead of being pilgrims in it. The world culture is their culture. They are frantic after material. They are consumed like the world with beauty and their outward appearance. Many Christians struggle with tremendous strongholds and insecurities because they have bought into this idol of outward beauty instead of having the mind of God who is consumed with inward beauty. That’s what makes you beautiful.

Does anybody know what the most-sold Christian book is outside of the Bible? It is called The Pilgrims Progress. It is a book by John Bunyan written while he was in prison. He wrote about how we are pilgrims on this earth just passing through, our home is in heaven. It’s very interesting we do not see many sermons on our identity as pilgrims anymore, not many books. The reason there are very fewer books on this is because the world is in the church, and therefore, it is difficult for the church to affect the world.

I cannot but be in awe that one of the bestselling Christian books of a few years ago was Your Best Life Now. I have never read the book so I cannot speak with confidence about the content. My problem, however, is with the title. If you are a Christian, it is impossible for you to have your best life now. I cannot but think this is a commentary on the state of Christianity. Everybody is living for their riches now on the earth, their honor now on the earth. When they don’t get honor, they want to fight and sue everybody. However, many years ago, Christians had an understanding that this was not our home; we are just passing through, and because of this, we should expect persecution and being misunderstood because we are different. We are pilgrims just passing through.

Application Question: Do you feel the concept of being a pilgrim has been lost in the church? Why or why not?

Believers Are a People at War

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.
1 Peter 2:11

The major difference that makes us pilgrims, or strangers, on the earth in this passage is a war that we fight in and the world does not. One of the bad things about a lot of evangelism in the church is that sometimes the evangelist promises that your life will get better if you accept Christ. It will be easier; you will hit more home runs and make more money. And maybe some of that is true, but for most Christians, we would say our life actually got harder in following Christ.

One of the ways it gets harder is because you enter into a battle, not even focusing on the spiritual battle with demons and principalities, but the daily war with our inner desires. Look at how Paul describes it in Romans 7:15–23,

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members (emphasis mine).

We see here that Paul was in a battle with a nature inside of him. He says in his inner being, he delights in God’s law, but inside his body, he sees another law at work, waging war and seeking to make him a prisoner of the law of sin. Paul declared what he wanted to do, he didn’t do, and what he did not want to do, he did. He had a war going on inside of him. Many of us have experienced this as well with our anger, lust, anxieties, etc.

David talks about his battle also; he says, “Oh soul why are you disquieted within me, I will trust in God” (Ps 42:5). He repeats this throughout the Psalm as he is wrestling with himself to trust God. You will often find yourself battling with your flesh to not worry about the future but to instead trust God. This is our war.

This is one of the things that should mark you as a believer and make you different from the world. The world just accepts their lusts, their desires and seeks to satisfy them. They fill up their lusts for pornography, their lusts for materialism, addictions, etc., and they don’t understand why you are not seeking to do the same.

Before you were born again, you only had one nature—the sin nature. But now you have two; Peter says we “participate in the divine nature” in 2 Peter 1:4. There is now an inner war happening inside you that is not happening in those who are part of the world.

Listen to what Paul says in Galatians 5:17,

For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

Interpretation Question: How do we get victory over these inner desires to sin that try to enslave us? How do we win this battle?

How do we have victory? Listen to what Paul says in Galatians 5:16: “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (emphasis mine).

How should a person win this victory? He says “live,” or make your home in the Spirit of God.

This battle has often been pictured as two starving dogs fighting in the believer. If there are two starving dogs that are fighting, which one will win? It’s the one you feed. If you feed your new nature the Word of God, prayer, small group, fellowship, service, and worship, then you will find the Spirit will start to dominate. But if you feed your flesh television, ungodly movies, music, ungodly conversations with friends, ungodly thoughts or ambitions, you will find that you have no power. Your flesh is big and muscular, but the new nature inside you is anemic and weak.

If I find myself stumbling in the area of lust, anxiety, or depression, for me I have begun to look at it as a “hunger pain.” A hunger pain is a signal to eat. In the same way, these struggles with our flesh are signals for us to feed our new nature more.

How do we live by the Spirit or walk in the Spirit?

We do this primarily by living in the Word of God and obeying God. The Spirit is the author of the Scripture, and we walk in him and live in him by living in his Word.

At times, when my flesh is winning, I have had to implement times of fasting to pray and spend more time in the Word. Sometimes, it means to seek the Lord like Daniel and go on a three-a-day plan of spending time in the Word and prayer. Daniel 6:10 says he got on his knees three times a day to give thanks to God. This is a great discipline for your spiritual life or to especially add in times of trial.

It seems David at times sought the Lord seven times a day. He says in Psalm 119:164 that he praised the name of the Lord seven times a day for his statutes. Seeking the Lord seven times a day is not unrealistic; it takes discipline, but it is not unrealistic. When I used to body build, I would eat six to eight times a day; I would eat every two to three hours. I was eating to put on bulk. How much more important is it for us to at times go into a routine like this to break a battle with lust, anger, depression, etc?

This is what it means to “live in the Spirit.” It essentially means to make our home in the things of the Spirit all day long, staying away from sin and things of the world and living in the things of God. This is the way we battle. When someone comes to me with a besetting sin, the first thing I ask them about is their devotional life, which includes church attendance, small group, prayer, worship, etc. We have a promise that if we live in the Spirit (sometimes translated “walk in the Spirit”) we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

I was ministering to a person who was having anxiety attacks every hour on the hour. He had sweats, fear of dying, etc. We put him on a three-a-day Daniel-style devotional plan, and his anxiety attacks were gone in a week—fully gone. Why? It’s because the fruit of the Spirit is joy and self-control, not fear. We simply took the promise of Scripture and applied it. This does not deny the fact that sometimes we should treat things physically through medicine such as depression and anxiety. It does, however, emphasize the promises of the Word of God on areas that are clearly of the flesh. “Live in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”

What way is God calling you to live in the Spirit to defeat the work of the flesh? What is your plan to make the Spirit your home instead of only being a visitor?

Application Question: What ways do you practice a lifestyle of living in the Spirit? What ways have you seen a lifestyle of discipline help bring victory over a besetting sin in your life or others?

Believers Are a Beautiful People

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
1 Peter 2:12

Here Peter says that these chosen people, these strangers, and soldiers should live such good lives that pagans will glorify God on the day he visits us.

The word good can also be translated “beautiful.” Peter says that Christians, even though they are being persecuted and mocked for their beliefs by unbelievers, should respond by demonstrating a beautiful life, which will one day help these pagans glorify God on the day of visitation.

Interpretation Question: What does Peter mean by the pagan glorifying God on the day of visitation because of the believers “good life?”

What does it mean when it says “they may glorify God on the day of visitation?” It could mean two things. It possibly is referring to the time of Gods judgment. They may not recognize the beauty of the believer’s life now, but one day, when God visits for judgment, the beauty of the believer’s life will be undeniable. Or it could mean that the pagan glorifies God on the day he accepts Christ. I have no doubt he is at least referring to this because he gives an example of this in the next chapter. Peter specifically talks about the situation of an unbeliever who gets saved while married to a Christian wife. Listen to what he says:

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 3:1–2

Essentially, he cautions these believing women against nagging, complaining, or even preaching at their unsaved husbands. He says they should win them without words by the reverence of their lives. By submitting to this man—who could be difficult and probably disrespectful about her faith—by loving him and serving him without a complaining heart, she could potentially win this man to Christ. Similarly, these believers who were being persecuted for their faith were called to demonstrate beautiful lives even in an ungodly situation. Look what he tells them to do later in this same chapter describing this beautiful life. He says they should respond like Christ.

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
1 Peter 2:21–23

When Christ was persecuted, he didn’t commit sin. He didn’t lie or become deceitful. When they insulted him, he did not retaliate. He didn’t make threats but instead entrusted himself to the just God.

Christ had a beautiful life. Peter says one of the things that should make you different is your beautiful life. I believe the beauty of this life will shine especially when one is persecuted or accused wrongly (1 Peter 2:21-23). People should be able to tell you’re a Christian because of how you respond to persecution or mistreatment from the world. Look at what Christ said in Matthew 5:43–45,

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (emphasis mine).

Christ said to love our enemies and to pray for them that we may be sons of our Father in heaven. That result doesn’t make sense. Does a person become a child of God by loving his enemy? No, he is manifest as a child of God. He looks like his father who blesses and cares for those who curse him all the time.

Do you respond with cursing, anger, and complaining when unjust things happen to you? Or do you respond with a beautiful life—without complaining, without bitterness, humbling yourself, and entrusting your life to God who is just. This should mark the life of a believer. I have to remind myself of this at times when I’m tempted to respond in a negative way. No, I must live a beautiful life. Jesus responded with a beautiful life, and we should as well.

Application Question: How have your responses been recently to times when you have been misunderstood or mistreated? How can we better practice this beautiful life?

Conclusion

What are some characteristics that should mark the lives of believers and separate them from the world?

  1. Believers are a chosen people with many privileges. They are chosen by God to be royal priests, a holy people, a possession of God, and a people who have received mercy.
  2. Believers are a worshiping people.
  3. Believers are a people away from home—pilgrims who are waiting and seeking the kingdom of God.
  4. Believers are a warring people fighting against the flesh.
  5. Believers are a people with beautiful lives especially when faced with persecution.

Application Question: What marks is God calling you to especially work on or restore in your life? What is your plan to do so?

Chapter Notes

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Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.


1 Hanko, Herman (2012). A Pilgrims Manual: Commentary on I Peter. Reformed Free Publishing Association.

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10. We Don't Elevate Ourselves (1 Peter 5:1-14)

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God is opposed to the proud and promises to bring them down. That's sobering. But God loves the quality of humility so much that He exalts those whom it characterizes. So, we must embrace humility, whether we're leaders or followers, known or unknown by the world's standards. God has called us onto a path toward eternal glory and exaltation. But that path runs through this hostile world where we are unwelcomed aliens and foreigners. We remain humble, we resist the temptation to think too highly of ourselves, we depend on God for grace, and we rely on fellow believers for support. Then (eventually) God will elevate us far beyond our abilities to elevate ourselves.

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10. Submission To Authorities (1 Peter 2:13–25)

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Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover–up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
1 Peter 2:13–25

Why should believers submit even to unjust authorities?

In this text Peter is talking about submission---submission to authorities in government, submission to masters, and all of this is in the context of suffering. When people look at Christians, they shouldn’t find those who are slandering their leaders or starting riots to overthrow government, even in the case of injustice, such as persecution or slavery.

Remember, in this context Nero is on the throne and Christians are being thrown to the lions and burned at the stake. It seems like an ideal time to fight back, but that is not what Peter teaches the Christians to do. He tells them to submit to the unjust authorities in leadership.

In this passage, we will learn why Christians should submit even to unjust authorities and see how they should be known for their submission. They should not be known for complaining, arguing, or starting protests, but by the beauty of this submission.

Big Question: Why should believers submit even to unjust authorities in 1 Peter 2:13–25?

Believers Should Submit to Authorities to Honor God

Submit yourselves for the Lords sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 2:13

The first reason believers are called to submit is because of the Lord. Peter says we should submit for “the Lord’s sake.” This is the reason that believers can demonstrate lives full of submission even amidst persecution. It is because they live a life of submission to the Lord.

Look at what Paul taught in Romans 13:1–2,

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

Paul says believers must submit because there is no authority except that which comes from God and to rebel against the authority is to rebel against God. We see this very clearly in the scenario with David and Saul. David had been anointed as future king, and yet King Saul wanted to kill him. He threw a spear at David, had soldiers come to his house to take him, and chased him through the mountains, and yet David always said this, “I will not touch God’s anointed. Who can touch God’s anointed and be guiltless?” Look at what he says:

But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the LORD lives,” he said, “the LORD himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORDs anointed (emphasis mine).
1 Samuel 26:9–11

See, for David, he realized that if he touched God’s anointed, he would be guilty before God. He saw God as establishing Saul’s leadership even though he was in rebellion.

Do you see God as having established your pastors, your small-group leaders, your bosses, your president, even those who are ungodly?

Many are guilty before God because they have touched God’s authority by their criticism, their abuse and attacks, and not only have they touched these people but touched and disrespected God.

Does this mean we do not recognize wrong? Certainly, we do, but the manner in which we do it makes all the difference in the world. Does our response mock, belittle, disrespect, or encourage rebellion in others? If we have done that, we have dishonored God.

The reason we submit is for the Lord’s sake that we may honor him and also to avoid being disciplined by him. Paul said this in Romans 13:2, “Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (emphasis mine).

Interpretation Question: How can God have established all authorities if some are unjust like Hitler? How does the believer reconcile this?

One author said God understands that even a bad ruler is better than no ruler at all because then there would be total anarchy. Also, it should be noted that God many times gives us the leaders we deserve as a judgment. With King Saul, the people had rejected God and asked for a leader just like the other nations had. God gave them the oppressive king they asked for in order to humble them and teach them to submit to God.

We see this in other Scripture as well. Read Isaiah 3:1–12 where a lack of leadership is shown as a judgment of God. Even the children end up in leadership because Israel had turned their backs on God (v. 4). When there are presidential elections in my country, it is very common for people to feel like they are choosing “the better of two evils.” We are in a stage where it seems God has removed many of our godly leaders even as he did with Israel. Look at Isaiah 3:1-6:

See now, the Lord, the LORD Almighty, is about to take from Jerusalem and Judah both supply and support: all supplies of food and all supplies of water, the hero and warrior, the judge and prophet, the soothsayer and elder, the captain of fifty and man of rank, the counselor, skilled craftsman and clever enchanter. I will make boys their officials; mere children will govern them. People will oppress each other—man against man, neighbor against neighbor. The young will rise up against the old, the base against the honorable. A man will seize one of his brothers at his father’s home, and say, “You have a cloak, you be our leader; take charge of this heap of ruins!”

In Isaiah 3, we see that one of the judgments on Israel for rebelling was taking away leadership. He took away heroes, warriors, judges, prophets, etc. We see that people were crying out for young boys and children to govern them. There were no great leaders left.

I cannot help but notice that in my own country’s elections. Every election, it seems people are voting against someone but not really voting for someone. This is a reflection of the judgment of God on a people who no longer reverence and seek him. He takes away the blessing of godly leaders. However, either way we must affirm that God is in control of government and specifically our leaders. This is why we must submit to them, out of submission to the Lord.

Application Question: In what ways have you experienced ungody leadership and how did you respond to it? How can we seek to honor God better in those situations?

Believers Should Submit to Authorities Because of Their Purpose

Or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.
1 Peter 2:14

In this passage, Peter talks about the reasons God established authorities. He has established them for two reasons: (1) to punish wrong and (2) to commend right. These are the reasons God established authorities on the earth. In fact, we see the first establishment of human government after the flood with Noah. Look at what God says to Noah:

And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.”
Genesis 9:5–6

God says he would establish an accounting for man’s blood whether through animal or man. If a person killed a man, man was to exact retribution through capital punishment. In this covenant with Noah, he essentially establishes our government system, our military system, and our police system in some sense for the encouragement of righteousness and as a deterrent to sin.

This system of government had not been established previously, before God’s covenant with Noah. Remember, Cain did not die for his murder, and neither did his son, Lamech. He had not yet established this system. God judged them directly. But after man’s utter failure to live godly, he wipes them out in the flood and establishes delegated authority in the government.

One of the reasons we should submit to government is because we understand their purpose. They are given for the purpose of deterring sin and for promoting righteousness. They deter sin by discipline and they encourage righteousness through commendation or reward. We see this as presidents will often fly to congratulate heroes or those who accomplish something special in a country.

Listen again to what Paul said:

For he is Gods servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is Gods servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer (emphasis mine).
Romans 13:4

When those in leadership promote good and deter sin, they are acting as God’s servants, his ministers. For that reason, we must submit to them because we understand their purpose.

Application Question: In understanding the role of government, what else should be the Christians response in supporting government other than submission?

Other than submission, the Christian should pray for the government (1 Tim 2:1, 2). The Christian also should consider serving in government. God placed Joseph and Daniel in government positions in order to help promote good in pagan countries. In fact, David and his mighty men essentially all served in the army, which was part of promoting and protecting good in Israel.

Believers Should Submit to Authorities to Quiet Those Who Are Antagonistic Toward Christianity

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.
1 Peter 2:15

Peter tells us one of the reasons for our submission should be to “silence” the ignorant talk of foolish men or those who do not believe in God. Psalms 14:1 says, “The fool says in his heart there is no God.” No doubt, many of these Christians again were being mocked, passed over for promotion, and persecuted. Nero actually cursed the Christians and used them as a scapegoat for the Great Fire of Rome. He accused them of starting the fire and also angering the gods because Christians wouldn’t worship them.

These Christians bore the sting of unjust accusation and slander because of their beliefs and their chaste lives. Instead of responding with disobedience or anger, they were to respond with submission, and it would essentially quiet the mouths of those who cursed Christianity and the God of Christianity.

The word silence is actually the word muzzle. It meant to make a person incapable of responding. Yes, believing in a resurrected Lord, a seven-day creation, etc., may seem foolish, but when Christians live such wonderful lives, it silences the lies and the accusations against them and shows the beauty of Christ. This would be even more important in a society where Christianity is not accepted but rejected as foolishness.

Paul said it this way:

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:19–21

Paul said by submitting to your enemy and serving them, you actually heap burning coals on their head. You make it very hard for them to dislike you and to seek to bring you harm. In fact, you “muzzle” them, making it impossible for them to speak harshly about you.

Have you ever tried this while being mistreated? Submission is a tremendous muzzle, but returning evil for evil actually fuels the fires of animosity. Does submission characterize you? Does your lifestyle muzzle those who criticize the gospel?

Application Question: Have you ever seen acts of good, done in submission to those who have been antagonistic, muzzle those who are foolish? Have you ever tried this with those who did not like you? What happened?

Believers Should Submit to Authorities Because They Are Free from Sin

Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 2:16-17

You can imagine people as they are thinking about Nero and their evil officials in the government. Why should I still pay taxes to a man who is trying to kill us? That is illogical. How can it be possible? Some might even scoff at this exhortation to respect and honor the king.

Peter says it is possible because they were free men.

Interpretation Question: What does Peter mean by Christians being free men in the context of submission?

He is talking about freedom from the slavery of sin. Listen to what Jesus said:

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 8:34–36

See, Peter realizes that true freedom is freedom from sin. Sin enslaves us. It enslaves us to unforgiveness; it enslaves us to bitterness. The one who is truly free is free to obey God, free to love him and free to love others. Listen again to what Paul said in Romans 8:7, “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.”

We often talk about free will. The reality is that the person who is not born again is not free. He cannot submit to God. He cannot believe the gospel. He cannot love his brother as himself. It is only by the Holy Spirit that the chains of past scars, the chains of slavery to lust, the chains of slavery to the sin nature are removed. The natural man cannot submit to God’s law.

How is it possible to live this life of submission? It is possible because we are free. Well, you might say, “Brother, I hear you, but I still feel like I’m in bondage. I’m in bondage to my sin. I can’t forgive my parents who are my authority. I can’t forgive this person who hurt me. How can I have this freedom you speak about?”

Application Question: How can a believer start to walk in the freedom Christ has given them to forgive, serve, submit or bless those who have hurt them?

Here are two suggestions to help you walk in the freedom Christ gave you:

1. Choose, as an act of the will, to obey God. Choose to forgive and obey.

Look at what Paul says:

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness (emphasis mine)?
Romans 6:16

In speaking about believers who have been set free from sin (6:2), he talks about the possibility of them still becoming enslaved to sin. They could still offer themselves as slaves to sin. However, they should offer themselves as slaves of righteousness. Listen.

I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness (emphasis mine).
Romans 6:19

You must choose to offer yourself as a slave to righteousness in faith. You must act upon your freedom, even though you feel weak in your flesh. We choose to obey God in faith. “I am free from slavery to unforgiveness, and therefore, I will obey God in faith by loving and serving my enemy.”

Here is a second thing.

2. You must give yourself to the Word of God.

Listen to what James says:

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does (emphasis mine).
James 1:25

He calls the Bible the perfect law that gives freedom. It is almost a paradox--a law that gives freedom. We think of laws bringing bondage—”You can’t do this, you can’t do that.” We should think of biblical law as “I can have a godly speech. I can love my enemy.” This law actually gives freedom to somebody who has been enslaved to sin. When you give yourself to studying the Word and obeying it, it frees you. Paul calls the Word “water” that cleanses and washes away our sin (Eph 5:26).

We must give ourselves to study and obedience to the Word of God. Even now as we study, no doubt we feel more empowered to live a life of submission. Why? It is because we are submitting to the perfect law that gives freedom. God sent it to free people. It is a sharp two-edged sword that breaks the chains of sin off those in slavery.

Let us choose to submit, even to those who are unjust, because God has made us free to do so. God has made us free by Christ’s death and resurrection. It broke the power of sin over our lives. We can submit because the Word of God enables us to. It is the law that gives freedom. We also must do it as an act of the will; we must choose to live in this freedom. Study Romans 6 and let the Word of God—the law of freedom—set you free from any bondage you are still walking in.

Application Question: What ways have you seen the Word of God make you free from bondage to sin or give you the ability to submit?

Believers Should Submit to Authorities Because of Reward

Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 2:18-20

What is the next reason Peter gives for submission to authorities?

In 1 Peter 2:18-20, he talks specifically to slaves who are serving harsh masters. He does not tell them to run away or break free. He says submit to them because it is commendable before God. To commend means to praise, honor or congratulate. God will reward those who submit to authorities, especially harsh authorities. In fact, I think he gives us a secret to enable us. We must live with a consciousness of God (v. 19). We must have an awareness of his presence in order to enable us to submit. Listen again to what he says in 1 Peter 2:19: “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.”

This submission in the face of unjust suffering will result in commendation and reward from God. The believer should submit with a consciousness of the God who rewards those who are faithful. Listen to what Christ said:

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (emphasis mine).
Matthew 5:10–12

Christ says you are blessed if you are insulted for Christ or insulted for righteousness. He says great will your reward be in heaven. This should encourage us when working with difficult bosses, employers or families. We submit because of consciousness to God, who rewards the faithful.

Application Question: Does the prospect of receiving reward motivate you, especially in the context of being treated harshly by authorities? Why or why not?

Believers Should Submit to Authorities Because of the Example of Christ

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 2:21-25

Another reason Peter gives for submitting to authorities, especially unjust authorities, is the example of Christ. Let us remember that Christ lived the perfect life of submission. It was submission that sent him to the cross. He submitted to the Father’s will. He did not complain when things got bad or become angry with God. No, he submitted to the Father.

But he did not just submit to the Father; he submitted to the unjust authorities and suffered for us. He did not curse Pilate. In fact, he talked about how God had given Pilate this power, this authority. Look at what he said:

“Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin (emphasis mine).”
John 19:10–11

Christ saw Pilate’s power as from above. He honored him and recognized God as the ultimate authority even over unjust leaders. Christ even taught submission to the Pharisees. Look at what he said:

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach (emphasis mine).
Matthew 23:2–3

When Christ went to the cross under both of these unjust authorities, he submitted to them and suffered willingly. He did not fight back and he did not resist. Why did he do this? It says it was because he entrusted himself to God (1 Peter 2:23). He knew that God would take care of him and fight his battles.

We can submit even to unjust authorities because of Christ’s example. He submitted and suffered in a manner that honored God.

Application Question: Isn’t there a time to defend ourselves? When should we not submit to unjust suffering?

In short, there must be wisdom. Scripture declares that we should turn the other cheek (Matt 5:39) and that we should overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21). We are called to, at times, just accept wrong committed toward us. Look at what Paul says to the churches that were suing one another in 1 Corinthians 6:7: “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated (emphasis mine)?

However, we clearly see times with Paul, where instead of accepting unjust treatment, he appealed to the higher authority. Paul said, “I appeal to Caesar,” while he was awaiting a court case in jail (Acts 25:11).

Also, it should be noted when Christ went into the temple, he pulled out a whip and turned over tables (John 2:13–17). He did not just accept the injustice. How do we reconcile this?

Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Especially in personal offense, the believer should practice submission even to unjust treatment. We should practice turning the cheek (Matt 5:39).
  2. When others are experiencing injustice or when God is defamed, the Christians should seek justice. Christ turned the other cheek with personal offense but responded with a righteous anger when God was dishonored and others were harmed (John 2:13-17).
  3. Since all authority is from God, there are times when we should use these authorities. This may mean calling the police, talking to leadership, writing our congressman, etc.
  4. In all these times, there is a need for wisdom to discern which to do in what circumstance. God often gives this wisdom through prayer (Jas 1:5) and seeking the advice of others (Prov 12:15).

Believers Should Submit to Authorities Because God Judges Justly

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 2:23

When Christ was persecuted unjustly, he did not retaliate, but he entrusted himself to God. The word entrust is a banking term. Christ placed himself in the bank of God and trusted that God would do what is right and just. In fact, we see this right before Christ dies; he quotes a Psalm, saying, “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit (Psalm 31:5).”

Paul says the same thing in 2 Timothy 1:12 while he was in prison: “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (emphasis mine).

Paul is about to die unjustly as well, but the reason he was not ashamed was because he believed and was convinced that God was able to guard what he had entrusted to him until the day of Christ. Paul had put his entire life in God’s bank, and he knew his life was ultimately eternally safe and would produce tremendous interest. Though the world misjudged him and wrongly valued his life and character, God would not. God is a just judge, and in his justice, he would also judge those who had wrongly persecuted him.

Have you invested your life in the bank that will never go under? Any other investment will not prove profitable. It means you will be misjudged by the world, but God will reward you and ultimately bring justice on those who have mistreated you. “Therefore brothers, Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord” (Rom 12:19).

Application Question: What does it practically mean to “entrust” your life into God’s hands, especially during unjust persecution? What are some hindrances to entrusting our entire lives or hard situations into God’s hand?

Conclusion

Why should believers submit even to unjust authorities?

  1. Believers should submit to authorities to honor God.
  2. Believers should submit to authorities because of their purpose.
  3. Believers should submit to authorities to quiet those who are antagonistic to Christianity.
  4. Believers should submit to authorities because they are free from sin.
  5. Believers should submit to authorities because of reward.
  6. Believers should submit to authorities because of the example of Christ.
  7. Believers should submit to authorities because God judges justly.

Application Question: In what ways has God challenged you in the area of submission? How do you plan on implementing this virtue in your daily life?

Chapter Notes

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Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.

Related Topics: Christian Life

11. Characteristics Of A Godly Marriage (1 Peter 3:1–7)

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Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
1 Peter 3:1–7

What are characteristics of a godly marriage? What should we be aiming for when we are looking for a wife or a husband for those who are single? Understanding what a godly marriage looks like is very important so we can prepare for it.

It is good to remember that when God made man in his image (Gen 1:27), he made a husband and wife yoked together as one flesh (2:24). This means that the marriage relationship is a model of God and specifically the Trinity. When a marriage does not function properly, it mars the image of God and it breaks down every aspect of society.

For this reason, from the very beginning of creation, the home has been under attack. Satan attacked the home by tempting Adam and Eve in the garden. He attacks the home because it destroys the image of God, and therefore, our societies become farther and farther away from God, as the family decays and erodes. The family is the foundation of society, so when the home falls, the church falls, and when the church falls, the nation falls. As we look at this text, Peter teaches us the characteristics of a godly home, focusing on the roles of both the man and the woman.

No doubt the stress of persecution happening in the Roman Empire as Peter wrote this text, led to discord and fights in the home, particularly between husband and wife. Peter aims to correct that.

Peter also attempts to correct the common scenario of how a woman should react if she was married to a husband who had not yet come to Christ. This was very important because wives in the ancient world were often viewed as property. If she became a believer when the husband was not, it was perceived as rebellion and made the home life very difficult. On the other hand, if the husband became a believer, the wife and children were expected to follow. Therefore, Peter writes specifically to women whose lives were very difficult as a result of the former scenario.

This message is important not only for married couples, but also for singles who will one day be married. Many of us have grown up with bad models of marriage. These bad models are promoted on television, in the media, and sometimes in our own home. Most Christians do not know what a proper marriage should look like, so when they get eventually married they live out the models they have seen or experienced in the home they grew up in.

Scripture calls us to a higher model which is God’s original plan for the man and the woman. We learn something of God’s design in 1 Peter 3:1-7. It is a powerful remedy, not only for the church, but for our society that is cracked at the foundation as a result of our homes functioning outside of God’s perfect plan.

In this text, we will see six characteristics of a godly marriage.

Big Question: What characteristics of a godly marriage does Peter focus on as seen in the roles of the man and woman?

In a Godly Marriage, the Wife Submits to Her Husband to Transform Him

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.
1 Peter 3:1

In the above passage, Peter starts off with the phrase “in the same way.” This is referring to the third area of submission that should be seen in the lives of believers. He previously spoke about submitting to government (1 Pet 2:13–17) and to masters (1 Pet 2:18), and now he focuses on the home.

He is particularly focusing on the woman when he says, “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands.” The first point is that in a godly marriage, the wife submits to the husband in order to bring transformation in him. This call to submission is a radical concept in our culture and many rebel against Christianity because of it. Even many Christians struggle with this concept. Is the man greater than the women? If not, then why must the woman submit to the man? Many are quite bothered by this.

However, in considering the concept of authority in the home, it has nothing to do with equality. When God called these Christians to submit to the King and to masters in chapter 2, he was not teaching inequality.  An employer and an employee are fully equal; however, in order for a company to function properly, there must be authority otherwise there is chaos. In the same way, when God made the institution of marriage, he placed authority in the home in order that it would also function well. When we look at a society, where up to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, we can have no doubt that marriages have lost their God-given design.

The Beginning of the Problem

In fact, we see God prophetically share this problem with Adam and Even in Genesis 3. The result of sin entering the world would be disorder in marriages. Look at what he says:

To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (emphasis mine).
Genesis 3:16

When it says the woman would “desire” the husband, it actually means the woman would desire to control the husband. We see this same word used of sin with Cain in Genesis 4:7. God said, “Sin desires you but you must master it.” Sin desired to control Cain, but he was called to control it. Sin resulted in the woman seeking to usurp the leadership of the man, and it also resulted in the man trying to dominate and control the woman.

We see these dynamics in many ways throughout society. In some cultures, especially fundamentalist Muslim ones, the wife is like property and the husband can divorce or beat his wife for any offense. The husband controls and dominates the wife. In other cultures, the husband is docile in the home and the wife is the leader. In addition, we see in the feminist movement a continual push for the woman to not only usurp the man in the home, but in the church and in society, regardless of God’s design.

However, we should realize that this was never God’s original design for the man and the woman. Let us remember that in Genesis 1, when God made man in his image, he made them male and female. He made a plurality (Gen 1:27), just as God is a plurality. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27).

Evidence in the Trinity

Paul makes the argument in 1 Corinthians 11 that women should wear a sign of submission and submit to their husbands by calling the women to look at the Trinity. He says that the wife mirrors Christ and the man mirrors God. Look at what it says in 1 Corinthians 11:3: “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman (or translated wife) is man, and the head of Christ is God (emphasis mine).

When Paul is correcting the women in the church who were dishonoring their husbands by removing their head coverings, he says the head of man is Christ. In the home, the man should submit to Christ, and the woman should submit to her husband because he is the head of the wife. Finally, he says the head of Christ is God

Do you see the analogy with the Godhead? In the same way that the man is the head of the woman, God is the head of Christ. Christ is coequal with God, but Christ submits to the will of the Father. He says, “I came to do my Father’s will. I only say what my Father says.” Though equal, there is submission in the Godhead. The woman’s relationship with the husband is called to mirror Christ’s relationship with God. When God made mankind, he made a relationship between the husband and wife that was “one” like the Trinity, coequal like the Trinity, and had authority in it just as the Trinity. Marriage reflects the Godhead.

Now we certainly recognize that this is a hard doctrine. However, we must see that it is God’s established order in Scripture. He is a God of order, and so he created it in the home. We must establish our homes on God’s Word and not what would seem right to us or our culture.

Christ the Restorer

Let us understand that Christ came to reestablish biblical manhood and biblical womanhood. When sin perverted the husband-and-wife relationship, the husbands became either domineering or passive and the wife either became manipulative or a doormat. This was never God’s plan, and therefore, Christ came to demonstrate what the marriage should look like. He demonstrates this clearly in his relationship with the church, who is his bride. Look at Ephesians 5:22–26,

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.

When we see the gospel, we see what marriage should be. Instead of the husband being lethargic while Satan leads the wife into sin, he is active. He is so active that he gives his life for his wife. He serves her by washing her with the Word of God, teaching her Scripture, leading her in holiness. He makes her beautiful. And the wife submits to him as the church should submit to Christ in everything, unless her submission would cause her to disobey God.

When the world looks at the Christian marriage, they should see the gospel. The wife submits to the husband as the church submits to Christ. The husband, instead of being lethargic or oppressive, he actively caters to the spiritual needs of his wife. When the Christian home operates like this, people see the beauty of the gospel. When the home is in disorder, it mars the gospel and it mars the image of God. It draws people away from God. It draws children away from God because it distorts God’s original plan.

When Eve sinned, Adam was supposed to be like Christ and die in her place. Where the first Adam failed, the second Adam, Christ, succeeds. He shows us what biblical manhood is, as he dies for his bride, the church, and purifies her through the Word. Christ came to fix broken marriages and bring them back into the original order of the Godhead.

Power of Submission

Peter espouses the doctrine of submission as he calls the wife to submit to the husband. Let us again hear the transformative power of this life of submission in the wife. It is so powerful it can transform the husband. Peter says a wife who is submissive does not even need words because she lives the gospel. Look at what he says:

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 3:1–2

Here Peter gives the scenario of a wife who probably got saved after she was married and the husband was still an unbeliever. This would have created great strife in the home and possibly oppression since the wife was considered almost like property. This would have made the marriage very tough and sometimes abusive. Often in marriages like this, where the husband is an unbeliever, the woman, with right intentions, would seek zealously to win the husband to Christ. She does this by preaching at him, sometimes condemning his life of sin. Peter calls the woman to not do this.

He essentially says the life of submission which was God’s perfect plan for the wife is so beautiful, so saturated with the gospel, that it could save the husband without a word. A wife who was rooted in the sin nature that came from Adam would have been trying to usurp the husband’s authority their whole married life, arguing with him and seeking her own way. But all of a sudden, Christ came in, and there was this great submission. It would radically speak to the husband and potentially save his life. He would see the purity and the reverence of her life, and it lead to transformation.

In fact, we have seen this throughout history. Listen to a few of these stories of the power of a submissive life.

Here is a story of a Hindu woman who was converted.

A Hindu woman was converted, chiefly by hearing the Word of God read. She suffered very much persecution from her husband. One day a missionary asked her, “When your husband is angry and persecutes you, what do you do?”

She replied: “Well, sir, I cook his food better; when he complains, I sweep the floor cleaner; and when he speaks unkindly, I answer him mildly. I try, sir, to show him that when I became a Christian, I became a better wife and a better mother.”

The consequence of this was that, while the husband could withstand all the preaching of the missionary, he could not stand the practical preaching of his wife, and gave his heart to God with her. 1

Here is another story that missionary George Muller told.

George Müller told of a wealthy German whose wife was a devout believer. This man was a heavy drinker, spending late nights in the tavern. She would send the servants to bed, stay up till he returned, receive him kindly, and never scold him or complain. At times she would even have to undress him and put him to bed.

One night in the tavern he said to his cronies, “I bet if we go to my house, my wife will be sitting up, waiting for me. She’ll come to the door, give us a royal welcome, and even make supper for us, if I ask her.”

They were skeptical at first, but decided to go along and see. Sure enough, she came to the door, received them courteously, and willingly agreed to make supper for them without the slightest trace of resentment. After serving them, she went off to her room. As soon as she had left, one of the men began to condemn the husband. “What kind of a man are you to treat such a good woman so miserably?” The accuser got up without finishing his supper and left the house. Another did the same and another till they had all departed without eating the meal.

Within a half hour, the husband became deeply convicted of his wickedness, and especially of his heartless treatment of his wife. He went to his wife’s room, asked her to pray for him, repented of his sins, and surrendered to Christ. From that time on, he became a devoted disciple of the Lord Jesus. Won without a word!

George Müller advised: Don’t be discouraged if you have to suffer from unconverted relatives. Perhaps very shortly the Lord may give you the desire of your heart, and answer your prayer for them. But in the meantime, seek to commend the truth, not by reproaching them on account of their behavior toward you, but by manifesting toward them the meekness, gentleness and kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ.2

Again, this is not just a truth for those married to an unbeliever. This is a truth for those who are married, period. The most traveled path in a marriage to changing a husband or changing a wife is arguing and nagging, but Peter says this is largely ineffective. Oftentimes, this pushes the other person farther away, instead of closer to what God desires.

Peter says it is the power of a submissive life with purity—meaning no sin—and reverence—which is respect and honor—that has the ability to change a life. This is something that husbands and wives need to get a hold of. Yes, let us speak, but more than that, let our actions speak that our wives may be won and our husbands as well.

This should change many marriages that are largely dominated by arguing with one another. A submissive life is free of sin and sinful responses; it is a life of reverence and respect that transforms.

This life of submission is transformative because it was the life of Christ. Peter has already been arguing that this practice of submission among the authorities of the world could save lives and make them glorify God on the day of visitation (1 Pet 2:12–15); now he says it can changes marriages as well.

*It should be added that this text should not be used for females or males to consider dating or marrying unbelievers. Scripture speaks very clearly against that. In Nehemiah, Nehemiah starts to pull the hair out of the men that had married unbelievers (Neh 13:23–27). He essentially says, “Don’t you know that Solomon lost the kingdom for this very sin?” The nation of Israel was judged for this sin.

Paul says very clearly in 2 Corinthians 6:14 that we should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. This does not refer primarily to marriage but to every intimate relationship. Intimate relationships are yoking relationships; they pull us in a certain direction. He says the Christian who does not separate from worldy relationships will give up intimacy with God and ultimately bring discipline on their lives (v. 17, 18).

When I talk to young Christians in church or on college campuses, it seems they are largely unaware of this truth. It is like they have never read the tragic story and warnings in the Bible about courting or marrying unbelievers. It essentially led to the death of Samson and the discipline of Israel on several occasions.

Application Question: What are your thoughts and feelings about the submission of the wife to her husband? How do you see this being attacked and lost in society?

In a Godly Marriage, the Wife Is Focused on the Internal and Not the External

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.
1 Peter 3:3-5

In this text, Peter begins to expand on the best way to submit to the husband and reverence him. The woman might be tempted to believe that it was all about her beauty and her outward appearance. But Peter teaches that beauty is not the primary way to honor your husband.

Now it should be noted that Peter is not saying that women should not wear jewelry or fine clothes. He is actually speaking about being consumed with it. This is seen by the fact that “fine” clothes is not in the text. It’s added by translators. It literally says “do not let your adornment be clothes.” Is he saying the woman can’t wear clothes? No, that is why the interpreters added fine clothes. He was talking about obsession with the external.

We live in a world where the woman is tempted to often be consumed with outward adorning and her physical beauty. The world system perpetuates this. One cannot watch a commercial that doesn’t say you can be more beautiful or attractive if you wear this or do that or you must look like this. God hates this focus on the external because it does not reflect the image of God. We see this in the story of the choosing of David to be king. Samuel was surveying the older brothers for kingly characteristics, and noticing one of them, he said, “Surely this must be God’s anointed.” However, God replies in 1 Samuel 16:7,

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (emphasis mine).

God essentially says, “I do not look at people the way man does. Man is consumed with the outward appearance, but I am consumed with the heart.” Therefore, when Christians are consumed with the outward appearance, they are acting like the world, not like God. You were made to look like God, to think like him. There is not one child of God who is not beautiful to him. Beauty is a work of the heart.

This would rid a lot of people of their insecurities and their pride. It would close the door on the lies that Satan speaks to so many. You must be lighter, darker, tanner, skinnier, have these kind of eyes, this kind of nose. It is a lie. Let your focus be the inward man and not the outer man. In fact, let us see how much God hates this continual focus on the outward by how he curses the women of Israel in Isaiah 3. He says this external focus all comes from pride. Look at what he says:

The LORD says, “The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, tripping along with mincing steps, with ornaments jingling on their ankles. Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the LORD will make their scalps bald.” In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, the earrings and bracelets and veils, the headdresses and ankle chains and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, the signet rings and nose rings, the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls. Instead of fragrance there will be a stench; instead of a sash, a rope; instead of well–dressed hair, baldness; instead of fine clothing, sackcloth; instead of beauty, branding (emphasis mine).
Isaiah 3:16–24

God calls them “haughty,” or prideful, for being totally consumed with their outward beauty. This is a form of pride which God hates. James 4:6 says, “He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” God was angry with this fascination by the women of Israel with their outward appearance. When a person is all about their outward appearance: their skin, their hair, and their clothes, they are people seeking to glorify themselves instead of seeking to glorify God. Because of this pride, God judged the women of Israel.

Sad to say, many of the women in the church have become like this as well. Their focus is their bodies and their appearance, instead of the inward man. They spend more time every day on their outward man—their makeup, their clothes, their hair—instead of working on their inward man. This shows their idolatry. They run around seeking plastic surgeries because of being consumed with their outside adornment. Instead of being transformed by the Word of God. They are being conformed and pressed into the mold of the world (Romans 12:2).

This should not only be applied to clothing, for when he talks about the putting on of jewels in one’s hair, this was just an ancient way of showing one’s wealth. Wealthy women would often wear their hair up high with tons of jewels wrapped in it. Today, many marriages are also consumed with signs of wealth. They want to show their wealth by having the most expensive car, the most luxurious TV sets and the nicest homes. Like the world, they are consumed with the external, and they want everybody to see and know what they have. A godly marriage is not like this. It is a marriage focused around God and developing the inward man to please God.

Peter says a godly wife is not like this. He says the “adornment” of this woman is the cultivation of the internal and not the external. She clothes herself like ancient godly women as seen in Sarah, who called her husband, Abraham, master. He focuses on two particular attitudes of a godly wife: gentle and quiet.

“Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Pet 3:4).

Interpretation Question: What does Peter mean by the two characteristics of the “gentle and quiet spirit”? How should these be demonstrated not only in the life of the woman but the life of the man?

The word translated gentle or meek means “not insistent on one’s own rights,” or “not pushy, not selfishly assertive,” “not demanding one’s own way.”3 It is the same word used in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.” It is actually one of the hardest words to translate in the Greek. It was used of a wild horse that had been broken and now was tamed. It means “power under control.” One commentator translated this beatitude as “Blessed are those who are always angry at the right time, and never angry at the wrong time.”4

Peter pictures a woman who is in control of her emotions and her actions. Instead of blowing up over issues, she is calculative. She ponders her responses, “Is this just my opinion, or is this something God would be angry about?” This woman desires to only be angry when God is and not at other times. She bears up under hardship and is gentle in her responses. She is Christ-like, who was also described as gentle and meek in spirit (Matt 11:29).

She is also quiet. This also looks back at the temptation of the woman to change her husband by her incessant words and probably complaints (1 Pet 3:1). She instead restrains her words. Solomon describes a person who restrains his words as wise. Listen to what he says in Proverbs 10:19: “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” This woman is cultivating the inner man, not only to be beautiful to her husband, but to be beautiful to God. She is gentle and meek--in control of her emotions and especially her anger. She is reserved in the use of her words. This demonstrates her wisdom.

But let us hear these are traits to be practiced not only by the woman but to be practiced by the husband as well. He is meek, in control of his emotions and his anger, and practices restraint with his words.

The Christian home is not superficial, concerned with the outward appearance. They are not consumed with the external appearance in their clothes, makeup, or skin. The godly home is not consumed with showing one’s wealth through the cars or houses they buy. The secular home is consumed with these things, but not the godly home.

Let it be known that this focus on the outward appearance is a major struggle for many families including Christian ones. They are consumed with “keeping up with the Joneses” in having the latest fashions, nicest homes. The number one reason for divorce is finances. A home consumed with showing one’s wealth is often a home that when the money is tight, there is great discord because they have ungodly values when it comes to how to use their finances.

But not the godly home. The godly home is totally consumed with the inside. In fact, they choose not to store up riches because it protects their heart (Matt 6:19–21), for they realize where their treasure is, their heart will be also. The godly home protects their heart from worshiping things of this world by not storing up the wealth of this world because it has a tendency to steal their heart and crowd out the Word of God as Christ taught (Matt 13:22). If their treasure is clothes, cars, phones, electronics, etc., it will detract from the heart that God loves and enjoys. The godly home is all about the inside.

Application Question: How have you observed the woman’s temptation to be consumed with the outward as demonstrated through cultural values and the media? How can she protect herself from being conformed into the value system of the world? How can Christians marriages protect themselves from this shallow focus on the external?

In a Godly Marriage, the Husband Knows His Wife

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
1 Peter 3:7

After talking for six verses about the wife, the last verse is about the husband. Many have wondered if Peter gave so much attention to the woman because the majority of people in these churches were actually women. It is true that women have typically been the most spiritual partners in marriages. They are typically the ones most involved in serving. As pastors, we often watch the wives from the pulpit who are intently watching and listening, while the husbands are struggling to stay awake during service.

This shows part of the reason the church, the home, and our society are in such a poor state. Not many men are willing to step up and lead like Christ in the home and in society by setting a righteous example. There is a tremendous need to restore biblical manhood in the church, where men are assertive in leading spiritually.

I often tell my wife if I was one of the single girls on a college campus these days, most likely I would just stay single. There are so few men who are willing to be spiritual leaders. I remember leading a Lifestyle Discipleship School one semester at the university, which started every weekday morning at 7:00 am. We had like twenty people, and only three to five of them were guys. I pulled the guys aside and said, “Look at this. This is a commentary on the church. It shows the man’s spiritual lethargy.” Let me tell you, we are already praying for my daughter’s husband and she is only a baby. There is a tremendous lack of male spiritual leadership in the church.

With that said, this makes this one verse so important for us to hear, and even though it’s only one and the ladies get six, it is a verse that is loaded, and we need to focus on it. We will actually pull several points out of this one verse. In this verse, he gives men a secret on how to love and better serve their wives. Listen again to 1 Peter 3:7: “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives.”

“Be considerate” in the NIV is better translated “dwell with them according to knowledge,” as seen in the KJV.

What is one of the things a husband must do to develop a godly marriage? He must develop a knowledge base. What is this knowledge base?

Interpretation Question: If “be considerate” in the NIV is better translated “dwell with according to knowledge,” what type of knowledge should the husband cultivate to have a godly marriage, and how should he cultivate it?

There are several types of knowledge the husband must cultivate.

1. The husband must “know” his wife.

Let me first say it’s hard to teach on the role of the husband because I fail at this in many ways. The husband should intently study his wife. He needs to learn her likes and her dislikes so he can better minister to her.

I will share a little about one of the things I have learned about my wife. My wife is a hard worker, and she is very empathetic with people. She cares for others. But because of this, she sometimes takes on too much of a load, whether it is meeting with people or cooking for them. I’ve seen this tendency manifest itself in frustration or weariness.

One of the ways I have learned to love her is by protecting her. I will say, “No, you’re not cooking for small group this week. We are going to order out. You’re getting worn down.” Or as she is the primary caregiver for our daughter, Saiyah, sometimes if Saiyah is having a bad night, I will take care of Saiyah. Why? It’s because I know my wife. If my wife doesn’t get sleep, she doesn’t function well. I’ve had to develop a knowledge base about my wife so I can better serve her. I know she really likes it if I do things around the house. Sometimes, if she’s getting worn out, I’ll help out more.

But when we first got married, I just would watch and didn’t do much to help or serve her. I could see the pattern that would lead toward frustration but never really responded to it, which in turn brought frustration in the marriage. Now I am a veteran of over seven years and I have learned to better understand her rhythms and my rhythm. I do not claim to be good at this, but because I’m studying her, I’m getting better.

How else does the husband dwell with his wife according to knowledge?

2. The husband must “know” Scripture.

I think this is one of the things that is implied by this knowledge the husband must have. If he is going to be godly husband, he must not only know his wife but Scripture as well and relate to his wife on the basis of Scripture. Listen to Ephesians 5:25–27.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless (emphasis mine).
Ephesians 5:25–27

Here in this text, the primary way the husband loves his wife is by washing her with the Word of God. One of the things the husband must do in serving his wife is study the Word of God with her, teach her the Word of God, and also help her apply it so she can be without stain or wrinkle. He needs to wash her blemishes, her insecurities. He must build her up in the inner person so she can fulfill all that God has called her to do. The husband plays the role of Christ. In the same way, Christ equips the church to serve through the Word of God, he calls the husband to do that with his wife.

The husband must dwell with his wife according to the knowledge of Scripture. The husband needs to learn and study Scripture in order to be obedient to God. He may apply this knowledge by leading in family devotions, taking the family to a Bible-preaching church, and simply exhorting the wife and children to daily holiness.

This is very important for young single women to understand so that as they search for a husband, they will look for a man who is a spiritual leader. I know the pickings are slim. The world can give you a husband, but a godly spouse is a gift from the Lord. Listen to Proverbs 19:14: “Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the LORD.” You need to wait for your gift and not compromise. Look for someone that knows the Word and teaches it not only with their mouths but with their lives.

This is also a call for young men to prepare themselves. Prepare yourself to lead a family by knowing the Word of God and being involved in serving God’s church. What else is the man called to do?

Application Question: What are some unique things that you have learned about your spouse that help you better serve him or her? How can you be more faithful in serving him your spouse? For singles, how is God calling you to grow in your “knowledge” in order to be a godly mate?

In a Godly Marriage, a Husband Needs to Dwell with His Wife

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 3:7 (ESV)

Peter says the husband must “live with” his wife as seen in the ESV. Again, it literally can be translated “dwell together with.” This means that in order to be a godly husband, you must spend time with your wife and in fact be at home. This is very important to say because many homes fail specifically on this issue. The husband is not at home. He is not at home because of work; he is not at home because of pleasure. He is not at home because at home there is stress.

One of the things that is needed for a godly marriage is for the husband to dwell with his wife. Often in our society the job demands have become almost unreasonable. Satan is the ruler of this world, the ruler of this wicked age, and he knows what he is doing.

In some jobs, it is almost impossible for a husband to be at home, and that includes the pastorate. One of the reasons pastor kids and missionary kids have such bad reputations is because many times, the fathers, the pastors, are not around. They are too busy doing ministry. Look, it is impossible to be a good pastor without being a good husband and a father (1 Tim 3:2). And in order to do this, men must be at home. In fact, this is something I have seen a lot in the church, since I served as a youth pastor for seven years. Listen to what Paul said in Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (or “Do not provoke your children to wrath” in the KJV).

Paul tells the fathers to not push the children to wrath but to train them in the instruction of the Lord. In order to train them in the instruction of the Lord, the father has to be around. One of the main ways a child is provoked to wrath is because fathers are not home. Many of these children grow up not really knowing their father because he was never around, and therefore, they grow up with a tremendous anger. We are raising an angry generation of children. And as you know, children whose fathers are not around are more prone to divorce, crime, abuse, depression, suicide, etc. Why? It’s because they are angry.

Listen, in order to have a godly marriage, husbands/fathers have to be at home. You have to “dwell together with your wife.” You need to be home with your kids. Now practically this may mean changing careers or having a lesser level of living. A lot of these jobs today will not let you be home. That’s one of the things I have to consider when looking at ministry jobs.

Our churches are so far away from God they, in a sense, demand for pastors to not be good fathers or husbands. Look, not me. I want to honor God before I honor any church or job. First Timothy 5:4 and 8 says the first priority of our religion must be our family and anyone who neglects this, is worse than an infidel. Even unbelievers care for their family.

A characteristic of a godly marriage is the husband being home, dwelling with his wife and kids.

Application Question: Do you feel that it’s true that godly male leadership is in high demand but low supply? How do you think godly single women should respond to this drought? What about vice versa?

In a Godly Marriage, Couples Honor Their Differences

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner.
1 Peter 3:7

Next, Peter tells the husband to treat her with respect, or better translated “honor,” as the weaker partner or vessel. What does he mean by weaker vessel?

Interpretation Question: What does Peter mean by the woman being the “weaker partner or vessel?”

He seems to be referring to the physical strength of the woman. In general, men are stronger physically than women and also sometimes emotionally. Because he has made the woman’s body to bear children, there are tremendous hormonal differences in comparison to the body of the man that sometimes affects the emotions.

The husband must honor these differences, rather than beleaguering them, which is very common in marriage. One of the ways this often plays out in marriage is that husbands and wives look upon these differences with disdain. They just don’t understand one another. In one sense, the husband tries to make the woman more masculine like he is. The wife tries to make the husband more feminine.

Interpretation Question: Why does Peter tell the husbands to be more considerate about the wives and not vice versa?

I like to think of the husband’s vessel being like a brick and the wife’s like a delicate vase. If God calls the brick and the vase to dance, which vessel is typically going to get hurt? The vase will. Many times marriage is like this. The brick is constantly hurting the vase. They have a different structure, and therefore, the brick needs to be delicate in how he handles the vase.

This is a shallow illustration of something I’ve learned in marriage. I was raised to be a “man’s man,” or so I like to think, in part because of my athletic background. My wife and I like to banter over stuff like the milk expiration date. My wife likes to throw away the milk the day the milk is past the date. I like to go, “No babe, that is the best sold by date. It’s not necessarily bad. Let’s not throw out the milk.”

One of the ways I’ve learned how to deal with this and, similar issues, is recognizing that we are just different. I want to eat the leftovers that have been in the fridge for a week, and my wife wants to throw them away. But the reality is, most things I eat I don’t get sick over. My vessel is a like a brick; I’m not too concerned about getting sick from food or day-old coffee. My wife’s body is different; some things that I eat she might get sick from. We are different in many ways. I’ve had to learn how to accept these differences, and to honor them as well.

We even see this in parenting styles. My wife is a woman and is very delicate with the baby, delicate with her eating, and of course, I am not. I was throwing Saiyah in the air the first week she was born. I was doing flips with her. I am male. We have learned to respect and honor our differences. I like to sneak Saiyah ice cream when Momma is not around.

These may be bad illustrations that show how crazy I really am, but God has given males and females different vessels, and it affects how we interact with other people and our environment. For many marriages, these differences are a source of constant conflict. We need to honor the delicateness or the strength of the other vessel. Some things that would not bother you emotionally will probably bother your mate. Males and females are different, and these differences must be honored.

It should be noted that the word respect in the NIV is not strong enough. Most commentators would argue for the word honor as in the ESV. Husbands must not only respect their wives but honor them.

Application Question: The word respect is not a strong enough word in 1 Peter 3:7. It is better translated “honor.” What are some practical ways spouses can honor one another?

  1. Listen to them.
  2. Take time to enjoy the activities they enjoy. Sometimes the woman will honor the husband and their differences by enjoying certain sports or shows with him that she wouldn’t normally enjoy. Maybe the husband will go shopping with the wife or watch the Home TV Network.
  3. Praise them. Thank them for what they do. We need to show appreciation daily for our spouses and their differences.

Application Question: What type differences commonly cause conflict between males and females, especially in marriage? How have you dealt with these differences in the past?

In a Godly Marriage, Couples Experience Unhindered Powerful Prayer

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 3:7

One of the things that is interesting about this text is the your in “hinder your prayers” is actually plural. Though some commentators believe this is referring to the husbands’ prayers, many believe Peter is referring to the couples’ prayers being hindered. If this is true, the implication is that the husband and wife are expected to have a corporate prayer life. They are praying individually and praying corporately. And when they are walking in unity with one another, God is answering their prayers. They pray for souls to be saved together, people to be healed, finances to come in to help people, and this godly couple is seeing answers to their prayers. This should be what we see in the life of a godly couple all the time.

The godly couple’s life of unity makes their prayers powerful. Listen to what Christ said:

Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.
Matthew 18:19–20

Christ taught there was a great power in corporate prayer as people come together and agree with one another. This is one of the greatest things I have found about marriage. It has increased and strengthened my prayer life. Marriage is a powerful union, in part, because of the power of corporate prayer that comes with it. I have no doubt this is one of the reasons Satan works so hard against unity in the marriage because he knows it is a powder keg in getting God’s will done on the earth.

For that reason, Peter warns that strife in a relationship actually hinders the prayers of a couple; it makes their prayers ineffective. We see this principle generally taught throughout Scripture. Listen to what David said in Psalms 66:18: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”

We also see specifically that living in anger with someone actually opens the door for the evil one in our lives. Look what Paul said in Ephesians 4:26–27: “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold (emphasis mine).”

Many couples, by their disputing, not only close the door to their prayer life and make it unprofitable, but they give the devil a foothold, which is a war term. This means that the discord gives him an area to wage war on the marriage and their lives in order to bring destruction to it. Many couples live with a war going on that has been embellished by the work of the devil, and there is no help for them. God doesn’t hear their prayers because they refuse to forgive one another or give grace. Therefore, the devil continues to war. Godly couples live in prayer, and God answers their prayers.

Application Question: Do you find your prayer life more effective by yourself or in a group of two or more? Why or why not? What ways have you seen discord hinder your prayer life?

Conclusion

What are characteristics of a godly marriage?

  1. The wife submits to the husband, and it’s transformative.
  2. The wife has a focus on the internal instead of the external.
  3. The husband is growing in knowledge of his wife and the Word of God.
  4. The husband dwells together with his wife.
  5. The couple honors their differences.
  6. The couple has unhindered powerful prayer.

Application Question: What ways has this study challenged you or changed your mind about marriage?

Chapter Notes

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Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.


1 Teacher’s Outline and Study Bible – Commentary – Teacher’s Outline and Study Bible – 1 Peter

2 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments (A. Farstad, Ed.) (1 Peter 3:2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

3 Grudem, W. A. (1988). Vol. 17: 1 Peter: An introduction and commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (148). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

4 Barclay, W. (2001). The Gospel of Matthew (Third Ed.). The New Daily Study Bible (111). Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Marriage, Men's Articles, Women

12. Suffering For Righteousness In An Imperfect Church (1 Peter 3:8–22)

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Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
1 Peter 3:8–22

How should the believer respond to suffering unjustly from other believers?

In this text we see Peter encouraging Christians who are suffering by teaching them how they should respond. However, the context of verse 8 has to do with believers. He tells them to “live in harmony with one another.”

This means that some of the suffering that would be happening in these churches might be happening from one another. This is a reality that many believers aren’t really aware of. They expect the church to be perfect and to always be different from the world. However, people in the church are sinful, and they are being remade into the image of Christ. Also, in the church, there are always those who are not truly born again. Christ says in Matthew 7 that there will be many who call him “Lord, Lord” who aren’t truly saved and practice iniquity (v. 22, 23).

This makes the church a place where people sometimes suffer from one another. Problems often are compounded in a church when there is a difficulty, such as a financial crisis or persecution from outside. In fact, we saw this with Israel in the wilderness and how they responded in their difficult situation toward Moses and Aaron. Even though these people had been delivered from Egypt, Egypt was still in the hearts of many of the Jews. For that reason, they often persecuted Moses. They talked about stoning him; they accused him and talked bad about him. Even Christ was persecuted by those who claimed to be the people of God. We should be aware that this happens in the church as well. It happens because of sin and sometimes because the people may not truly born again. Understanding this should make us prepared for difficulties we will at times encounter among the people of God.

Let me share that at the first church I served at, it split before I came and it split a year after I was there. I was the youth pastor, but it was a sobering reality of sin and the difficulties that often happen in a community of believers. Churches can often be messy, and Christians need to know how to serve in an imperfect church and to work through these difficulties together.

Does that mean we should bail on the church because it often may not be healthy? Absolutely not! I have known many students who have fallen away because they have seen the messy side of the church. We should not leave the church; it means that we must be salt in the church. We must be the ones laboring to live in harmony with one another—the peacemakers (1 Peter 3:8). When we are mistreated, we must respond not with evil but in a godly manner. By doing this, we help bring transformation amongst the people of God.

In this text, Peter will give us the proper response to suffering for righteousness’ sake, even amidst an imperfect church.

Big Question: How should the believer respond to suffering unjustly from other believers according to 1 Peter 3:8–22?

In Suffering, Believers Must Live with the Right Attitudes

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.
1 Peter 3:8

Peter starts off saying “finally.” Obviously, this is not the end of the book, but it is an end of a thought process. He has been talking about the believer’s response to government, masters and slaves, husbands and wives, and now he talks about the believer’s response to the church, specifically in difficult times.

Observation Question: What should be the attitudes that we, as believers, demonstrate toward one another, no matter the circumstance we are in (bad or good) in verse 8? How should we demonstrate these attitudes?

1. Believers should seek to live in harmony with one another.

The word harmony actually means to be “one in mind.” This not only means that we should seek to work through discord and live without it, but it also calls for doctrinal unity. We must seek to have doctrinal unity in the church as we “speak the truth in love.”

Listen to what Paul said about how the church should be run and the role of pastors:

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (emphasis mine).
Ephesians 4:11–13

One of the primary reasons that God has given pastors is so the church can come to a unity in the faith. Yes, we should not be divided over minors, but it is the leader’s responsibility to help the church work to a unity in doctrine. This will deliver us from much discord, as people start to think the same. It is also each member’s responsibility. We must all labor to have “one mind.” We must labor for doctrinal unity.

But, this also clearly refers to laboring in the church towards unity in any situation. This includes scenarios where others are fighting. Listen to Paul’s appeal to particular believers in the church of Philippi:

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life (emphasis mine).
Philippians 4:2–3

This loyal “yokefellow” was called to help these women “agree in the Lord” and work things out. We should “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

How is God calling you to help the church have harmony--the same mind?

2. Believers should be sympathetic.

To be sympathetic means to “share the same feeling.” This would be very important for a congregation that was suffering attacks from without and within. There would be people mourning losses and others enjoying victories. It would be very easy to be detached from the rest of the church, especially if one’s experience was different from others. This happens every day in our churches.

However, this is not how a body should work; it’s not how a family should work. When a body is sick, the rest of the members of the body recruit one another to help in the healing process. This is what we see in a fever. The body is responding to a sickness in order to heal itself. This should happen within the church as well. We should be sympathetic and share both successes and problems. Look at what Paul said in Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

Do you rejoice with others? Do you mourn when others are hurting? Look at what Paul said to the Hebrews: “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Heb 13:3). He said we should remember those who are suffering in prison as though we were with them. Do we react this way when a member of our church is hurting or when a member of our church is promoted? We should respond with sympathy to other believers, especially those who are suffering. We must seek to share the same feeling.

Who is God calling you to show sympathy to in the body of Christ?

3. Believers should respond by loving one another as family.

Peter then says we should love one another as brothers. This is the word phileo, which is a brotherly or family love. Christ said, “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35). As believers, we have become as close, if not closer, than natural family with people in the church. Look what Paul commanded in our normal relations with church members:

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.
1 Timothy 5:1–2

He said we should treat each member of our church as a family member. To the older men, do not rebuke them harshly; treat them as fathers. Treat older women as mothers and younger women as sisters with absolute purity. Paul said treating other believers as family also includes purity. We should do nothing with members of the opposite sex that we wouldn’t do with our natural brother or sister. We should respond to one another with a familial love.

What ways is God calling you to practice brotherly love to those in the church?

4. Believers should respond to one another with compassion.

The word used here is actually a physical word. It speaks of the inner bowels of a person. It means to be moved so much by a situation that we must respond. Some have called compassion “feeling in action.” It is more than sympathy; it is compassion that compels us to respond.

We see this often used of Christ. “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matt 14:14). Christ was so moved when he saw the crowd that he began to heal their sick. We should feel that way when we see members in our church who are struggling and in pain. It doesn’t do much to feel pain and to not respond. We should be moved in such a way that we respond with action.

How is God calling you to show compassion in the church?

5. Believers should respond to one another with humility.

In a church or relationship going through discord, it is necessary for the members to humble themselves before one another. It is pride that is the root of almost all our disputes. We feel disrespected, we feel not cared for, and our pride rises up with anger.

However, humility enables us to lower ourselves in order to work for peace and the good of the whole. Listen to what Paul tells the Philippians who were struggling with division, especially as they had two women fighting.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus (emphasis mine).
Philippians 2:3–5

Essentially, Paul encourages members of a divided congregation to care more about others and their good, than themselves and their pride. He says, consider the interest of others. A person who is humble listens to the gripes and complaints of others. They are not quick to become angry, even when wronged, because they care more about others than themselves.

Believers must be humble in their relationships with one another. These five attitudes are necessary to have in the church especially when going through hardship, division, or persecution. Trials often reveal the ugly in our hearts, and therefore, when going through them, we must seek to respond with these godly attitudes instead.

Application Question: Which attitude is God calling you to work on most? How will you seek to improve it?

In Suffering, the Believer Must Respond with Blessing Instead of Evil

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing. Because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it” (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 3:9-11

What other ways should the believer respond when suffering, sometimes even from within the church? The believer must respond to evil that is committed against them with blessing. Again, the context of this is actually from other believers. In verse 8, he calls them to “dwell in harmony with one another,” which seems to infer there was some difficulties. This should be the response of a believer ultimately to any evil done against him. He must respond with blessing.

Look at how Paul described his response to persecution in 1 Corinthians 4:13: “When we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world” (emphasis mine). He chose to answer kindly to those who slandered his good intentions. Paul also said that the believer’s response to evil should be to “overcome evil with good.” He says this in Romans 12:19-21,

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

We should bless those who commit evil against us not only by praying for them but by practical ways. Paul says meet their needs. If they are hungry, give them drink or food and by doing this, overcome their evil with good.

John MacArthur shares at least four ways we can bless our enemies:

1. First, believers can bless people by loving them unconditionally (John 13:34; 15:12; Rom. 12:9–10; Col. 2:2; 3:14; 1 Thess. 4:9; James 2:8; 1 John 3:23; 4:7).

2. Second, they can give a blessing by praying for the salvation of an unbeliever (cf. Matt. 5:44; 1 Tim. 2:1–4) or the sanctification of a fellow believer.

3. Third, believers can bless people by expressing gratitude for them (Rom. 1:8; 1 Cor. 1:4; 2 Cor. 1:11; Phil. 1:3–5; Col. 1:3–6; 2 Thess. 1:3).

4. Finally, and most crucial, believers are to forgive those who persecute them

In the rest of 1 Peter 3:9-11, Peter also describes how believers can bless those who harm them. What are the acts he shares?

Observation Question: In 1 Peter 3:10, how should believers bless those who harm them?

1. Refrain from verbal retaliation (must keep his tongue from evil).

Obviously, the normal response to someone who wrongs us is to speak evil of them. This may happen through gossip behind their back or cursing them to their face. Peter declares this should not be the response of a believer—they must keep their “tongue from evil.” They must refrain from verbal retaliation.

Do you practice restraint of your tongue in response to evil (James 1:26)?

2. Fully commit to truth (must keep his lips from deceitful speech).

Peter declares that a believer must be committed to truth. He says this by using a negative—to keep one’s “lips from deceitful speech.” There is often a tendency to lie or embellish the story when we are really mad at another person. We must be committed to truth, even if it doesn’t help our case.

Do you guard yourself against the temptation to lie or embellish the truth in response to evil?

3. Reject anything sinful (he must turn from evil).

Again, Peter recognizes the natural response for us to respond with evil—an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. They hurt us, and now we must hurt them. But no! Believers must turn from the temptation to respond with evil.

Do you guard your integrity in response to evil?

4. Do righteous acts (and do good).

He commends righteous acts. We must do good in response to evil. This includes, if they are hungry, to feed them or thirsty to give them drink (Rom 12:20, 21). We must seek practical ways to bless those who harm us.

What ways is God calling you to bless your enemy?

5. Seek peace (he must seek peace and pursue it).

“Seek and pursue are both vigorous actions. Implicit in the phrase is the analogy of the hunter vigorously tracking down his prey.”1 Like a hunter seeking his prey, we must aggressively pursue peace in these situations. We must do everything possible to have reconciliation with those who have harmed us. Paul says, as much as depends on you live at peace with all men (Romans 12:18).

Do you practice aggressively pursuing peace in response to evil?

In suffering, we must refrain from sin and pursue righteousness. This is the example Christ set for us. He never sinned even when the Pharisees tried to kill him. He pursued peace, which is not the absence of conflict but the pursuit of righteousness.

It should be noted that in times of conflict or persecution, many become inward focused and separate from people, and others lash out. Neither of these are biblical responses. We must respond with blessing and seek to overcome evil with good.

Application Question: What is your typical response to experiencing suffering or conflict with others? How is God calling you to practice blessing those who harm you and to aggressively pursue reconciliation with them?

In Suffering, Believers Must Focus on the Blessing of God

Because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened” (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 3:9-14

How else should we respond to suffering, especially from other believers? Peter says we should focus on the blessing of God.

In this passage, Peter quotes Psalms 34:12–16. He encourages the believers to pursue righteousness while suffering by viewing the blessings that God promises to the righteous. God often promises us reward in order to encourage us to do what is right in the Scripture. Some of these rewards are heavenly, and some are earthly. He says practice righteousness so you may “inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).

What are these blessings? We must know them so we can have encouragement and motivation to pursue righteousness in the midst of suffering.

Observation Question: What blessings does God promise those who pursue righteousness in verses 9–12?

a) The blessing of loving life and seeing good

“For, ‘Whoever would love life and see good days” (1 Pet 3:10).

Scripture would declare that the ability to enjoy life actually comes from God. Solomon declared how everything under the sun (without God) was vanity. Wealth, relationships, wisdom all leave a man empty. However, to enjoy one’s labor is a gift of God. “That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God” (Eccl 3:13).

It can also be translated to “enjoy” ones labor is a gift from God. The ability to love life comes from God. If you look at job-satisfaction surveys, you will find that the majority of people are unsatisfied with their jobs. In fact, this in some sense is part of the curse. Man would labor and work hard, but the ground would produce thorns and thistles (Gen 3:17, 18). We wouldn’t get what we worked for.

There is difficulty in labor and in life in general, but joy, happiness, the ability to love life, is something that comes from God, and it has nothing to do with one’s circumstances. In fact, Paul talked about this in Philippians 4:11-13,

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength (emphasis mine).

Paul said he had learned contentment in every circumstance, whether bad or good, by recognizing that contentment comes through God’s strength (4:13). The ability to love life, to have joy in life all comes from God, and he promises this, regardless of circumstances, to those who practice righteousness.

This also reminds us that we cannot have true joy while living in sin. They are incompatible. Sin promises joy, getting revenge promises it will make us feel good, lust promises to make us happy, but instead they bring slavery and depression (John 8:34). Love and joy come as gifts of God to those who are righteous, even when mistreated. In suffering from other’s wrong doings, we must seek the blessing of God in order to keep us from sin.

What other blessings does he promise?

b.) The blessing of God’s watchful eye

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous” (1 Pet 3:12).

Peter also promises the blessing of God’s eye being on the righteous. What does this mean? God is omniscient; he always sees the evil and the righteous. It essentially refers to various blessings from God. Look at what 2 Chronicles 16:9 says: “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (emphasis mine).

God blesses those who are righteous. He strengthens them. He protects them. He favors them. He favored Abraham by making his name great, made his seed a blessing to the nations. He favored David by making him king and brought the Messiah through his lineage. God’s eyes are on the righteous. This promise to bless the righteous should encourage us to be holy in the midst of suffering evil from others.

c.) The blessing of God answering their prayers

“His ears are attentive to their prayer” (1 Pet 3:12).

One of the ways he promises to bless the righteous is by hearing their prayers. Conversely, Scripture declares that God does not hear the prayers of those living in unrepentant sin. Listen to what David said in Psalms 66:18: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”

In fact, Peter declares that those who choose to respond with sin, specifically in trials and persecutions, the face of the Lord is against them (v. 12b). He will come against them to discipline. But those who are righteous in suffering with difficult people, in the church and outside of it, God will hear and answer their prayers.

One of the things we must do in order to respond with righteousness during unjust suffering is focus on the blessing of God. The blessings are meant to motivate us to respond to others in a righteous manner. Those who respond with sin will lose the blessing of God, and in fact, invite his wrath on their life (1 Pet 3:12).

Application Question: Have you ever considered the promises and the rewards of God given for how we respond to those who treat us unjustly? Do they motivate you? Why or why not?

In Suffering, Believers Must Not Be Afraid

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 3:13-14

One of the things that Peter says about suffering is that in suffering, a believer should not be afraid or frightened. We have seen this tremendous boldness in the face of suffering in the lives of many believers throughout the Scripture. Look at the three Hebrews in Daniel.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Daniel 3:16-18

These young men stood strong and bold in the face of suffering, without fear. We also saw this in our Lord Jesus Christ. Look at how he responded when Judas was coming to betray him. He says: “Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Mark 14:42).

You cannot but notice this great boldness and lack of fear they had at the prospect of death. Peter exhorts the Christians suffering in the Roman Empire, and us through them, to have this boldness as well. He challenges us to “not be frightened” when we suffer unjustly.

Why not? Why should a believer not have fear in the face of suffering?

Interpretation Question: Why should a believer not be frightened when experiencing unjust suffering from other people?

1. The believer should not fear because they are blessed by God. In the context, Peter is no doubt referring to all the blessings that come from faithfully suffering in God’s will in 1 Peter 3:9–12. This includes loving life, answered prayer, and God’s favor, among other things. The prospect of blessing should remove fear.

2. The believer should not fear because God is in control. Peter later says it is better if it is Gods will to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (1 Pet 3:17). He sees suffering as being part of God’s will for the believer. If God has called us to be just like his Son, we should expect the cross and also the blessings that come after it. We also do not fear because we understand that Gods will is an extension of Gods character. He is all wise and only allows things for our good (Rom 8:28). This should remove fear from us.

3. The believer should not fear because this is a witness to unbelievers. Look at what Paul says:

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God (emphasis mine).
Philippians 1:27–28

Paul says this lack of fear in going through suffering is a sign to unbelievers. It tells them that your faith is genuine and real. It is a witness to them that they will be destroyed and that the believer will be saved by God. We have seen this throughout history. One historian said about Christians who were dying for their faith: “They die so well.” A church father said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”  This boldness in the face of suffering is a tremendous witness to the world. We should not be afraid when suffering for righteousness because God uses suffering to not only help us grow but help others come to Christ. It is a sign to them.

4. The believer should not be afraid when suffering because it is a sign that we will ultimately be saved (Philip 1:28). How is suffering for righteousness a sign of our future salvation? Matthew 5:10 says this, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (emphasis mine). Jesus said suffering for righteousness is a proof that we are truly born again. If a person never suffers for righteousness, they might not be part of the kingdom of heaven. Suffering for righteousness is a sign to us of our salvation. This should remove fear and in fact give us joy. That is what the word “Blessed” means. It can be translated “happy.”

5. The believer should not be afraid when suffering because God will comfort and equip them through it. Look at what Paul says: “For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows” (2 Cor 1:5). Where Christ’s sufferings overflow, so does his comfort. In this context Paul, also, says that the comfort he receives enables him to better minister to others (v. 4). “So that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”  Therefore, not only does God comfort us but equips us for further ministry. This is why we should not be frightened.

Application Question: Have you ever experienced an overwhelming boldness in doing God’s will, even in the face of potential suffering? In what situation(s) did you experience this?

In Suffering, Believers Must Submit to Christ as Lord

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.
1 Peter 3:15

Interpretation Question: What does it mean to set apart Christ as Lord? What does that look like practically?

One of the ways that we should respond to suffering is by setting apart Christ as Lord. This is a strange appeal to those who are already saved. Why does he say this? He says it because often Christ is not literally ruling over our lives. We often choose our own way, our own path, which is often the path of least resistance, and we must again “set Christ as Lord over our hearts.” He must rule our mind, will, and emotions.

I think we get a picture of this in Romans 12:1: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (emphasis mine).

It has been said the problem with a “living sacrifice” is that it often runs off the altar. When it gets too hot on the altar of God, there is a tendency for the believer to run to “cooler” ground. We see Christ “setting apart God as Lord” right before his suffering. What does he do? He prays. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). He asks for God to take the suffering, the separation from God’s presence and his wrath away, if possible, but he declares nevertheless God’s will be done. He again sets apart God as Lord. He declares, God I will do your will.

We often need to do this as well in order to accept whatever difficulty we face—the challenging roommate, the difficulty with family or church, the difficult boss. We often want to quit, run off the altar. But we must say, “If this is your will for my life in order to make me mature, I will do it, Lord. Your will be done.”

Are you “setting apart Christ as Lord” in your life? It’s the only way to go through unjust suffering.

Application Question: How do we set apart Christ as Lord when going through unjust suffering or being mistreated?

  • Sometimes, setting apart Christ as Lord means recommitting to things like prayer, study of the Word, church, or small group. Often, trials are allowed in order to turn us back to these types of disciplines.
  • Sometimes, setting apart Christ as Lord means forgiving someone or letting a hurt go.
  • Sometimes, setting apart Christ as Lord means accepting a certain trial we are going through as from the Lord and persevering through it so we can become mature (Jas 1:2–4, Rom 5:3-4, 8:28).

In Suffering, Believers Must Be Ready to Defend their Hope in God

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 3:15

It is in the midst of suffering that your life shines the most. It is often in the midst of the fire that there are opportunities to evangelize or share the faith. The word answer in the original language is where we get the word apology or apologetic--to defend one’s faith.

People will wonder why are you responding the way you are responding. How come you are not angry or fighting back? Why are you persevering through this difficult relationship, job, marriage, or church situation? And it is there you will have the opportunity to encourage other believers or evangelize nonbelievers. We may not feel capable of ministering in our trials but that is often where God uses us and demonstrates his glory the most.

Certainly, we see this in the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They are about to get thrown in the fire if they do not bow down to the idol in the Kingdom of Babylon. Let’s look again at their apologetic to the King and to all those watching.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Daniel 3:16–18

Here we see their apologetic, they said, “The God we serve is able to save us.” But, we should also notice the manner in which they responded. They said, “O Nebuchadnezzar” and “O King.” They responded with honorific language with the “O.” Even right before being thrown in the fire, they are honoring and respecting the king even in their apologetic.

Peter teaches the same thing.  He says not only must we be prepared to give an apologetic, but the manner we do it in is important as well. Look again at what 1 Peter 3:15 says: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (emphasis mine).

Interpretation Question: Peter says our apologetic must be done with gentleness and respect, what do these words mean and what do they look like practically?

1. We must speak with gentleness.

The word gentleness can also be translated “meekness.” It is a very difficult word to translate. Sometimes it is translated meekness, gentleness, or even humility. It was used of a wild horse that had been tamed. It means “power under control.”

It speaks of a believer that could be mad or angry but instead responds with gentleness, with a tamed tongue and emotions. This word was used of Christ. Matthew 11:29 says he is gentle and humble in heart.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28–30

When we fail Jesus, he doesn’t lash out on us—he is controlled and gentle in response. He is the perfect teacher. I can’t but think of how Christ responded to Judas, after his betrayal. He didn’t lash out at him in anger. He simply asked, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss? (Luke 22:48)” He was meek and gentle. When he was accused by the Pharisees and lied about at his trial before his crucifixion, he simply said nothing. He has power, but it is under control. We must do the same when we are persecuted for righteousness as well. It is that character in unjust suffering that opens the door for us to share an apologetic about our faith.

2. We must speak with respect.

We must show respect in reference to people. We respect them as people made in the image of God. In situations where the people are our authorities, we must respect their position. Because we respect others, we will not argue, talk down, or mock their views or responses. Many Christians, in their apologetics, actually argue about the faith and push people away. Paul taught that the servant of the Lord must not quarrel.

And the Lords servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will (emphasis mine).
2 Timothy 2:24–26

In response to suffering, we must be prepared to give an apologetic for our faith, but in doing so, it must be done with gentleness and respect.

Application Question: What makes showing gentleness and respect when speaking to people who are wrong or mistreating us? How can we grow in these attitudes?

In Suffering, the Believer Must Maintain a Clear Conscience

Keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 3:16-17

Interpretation Question: What is the conscience? How does it differ in a believer versus a nonbeliever?

One of the ways a believer must endure unjust suffering is by keeping a clear conscience. God has given each person a conscience to help us stay holy, and it is this conscience that either affirms us or accuses us. However, it is possible to constantly disregard our conscience in such a way that it stops working and even encourages us to sin or follow deception. Look at what Paul says about the conscience in describing false teachers.

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron (emphasis mine).
1 Timothy 4:1–2

These false teachers would be led by demons because their consciences no longer were working properly. They had become hardened by living in continual sin and by living a hypocritical life. Therefore, they could no longer properly evaluate what was right or wrong.

We have all experienced this. I remember being a high school student struggling with cursing. Every day I would confess my sins of cursing and decide that the next day I would stop. But, eventually, by continual practice, I stopped being convicted of cursing and began to practice it normally. I had hardened my conscience and it wasn’t working properly anymore. Christians do this all the time in various ways and especially, when going through unjust suffering.

Paul declares that a defiled conscience is the pathway for falling into deeper sin and even away from the faith. Look at what he says about two other false teachers:

Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme (emphasis mine).
1 Timothy 1:18–20

Because the conscience is so important to living a life of holiness, Paul always labored to keep a clear conscience and commanded believers to do so as well. Listen to what he says in 2 Timothy 1:3: “I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers” (emphasis mine).

He also taught that God would use our conscience in the final judgment. He will look at how we obeyed or disobeyed our natural warning system. This will be used to condemn or reward us based on our response.

(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God will judge mens secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares (emphasis mine).
Romans 2:14–16

We also see a warning in 1 Corinthians 8 about not offending other people’s consciences. If these people harm their consciences, even in areas that may not be sin, it will make it easier to continue to disobey it and potentially cause ruin in their spiritual lives.

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall (emphasis mine).
1 Corinthians 8:9–13

While going through suffering, we must continually ask ourselves, did I handle this situation in such a way where I did not defile my conscience? We must labor to keep a clean conscience so that our faith may not be hindered.

Application Question: What is your understanding of the conscience? Why is it important? What ways have you experienced the hardening of the conscience? How do we protect our conscience?

In Suffering, Believers Must Be Willing to Endure It as Part of the Will of God

It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
1 Peter 3:17

Implied in this text is that believers must be willing to endure suffering, even unjust suffering from other believers, as part of the will of God. He says if you suffer, it is better if it is God’s will to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. The implication here is that God is in control and that we should be willing to endure the suffering he allows.

In speaking to people who were suffering from outside and from within the church, he was trying to encourage them to accept this suffering because it is “God’s will.” God is in control even of our enemies.

Joseph said, “What you meant for bad God meant for good,” when talking about his brothers sending him into slavery (Gen 50:20). Joseph saw God in control of the trials his brothers brought on his life. Job, also, saw his suffering as coming from God, even though it was Satan afflicting him. Job said, “The Lord gives and he takes away blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). These people accepted their unjust suffering as part of the will of God and coming from his wise and just hand. Listen to what Paul said about God’s sovereignty even over trials:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (emphasis mine).
Romans 8:28

One of the things a believer must do when suffering within the church is realize that God is in control. He is in control, and his will is always best for us. He works everything for the good in a believer’s life. Even the work of their enemies is used to bring good things in their life.

If we do not see God’s faithful hand in the suffering, it will be impossible to respond properly to it. We will respond with anger towards others instead of with forgiveness. We will harbor bitterness towards ourselves or even God. Peter wants them to see God’s hand in the midst of the suffering. He wants them to see “God’s will.” We must do this as well. We must have this view in the trial in order to suffer in a righteous way.

Application Question: What do you think about the concept of suffering being part of God’s will for the believer? How does that make you feel? Does that bring comfort or terror to you?

In Suffering, We Must Remember Christ Suffered for Righteousness’ Sake

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
1 Peter 3:18-22

What else should we do in order to respond properly to those who mistreat us?

Peter says, we must remember Christ. In this passage, Peter calls the believers to remember that Christ died for the sins of the world, even though he was righteous. He was without fault, and therefore, not deserving of death. He took the penalty for our sins. Because of this reality, followers of Christ should be encouraged by his model, and therefore, willing to suffer for righteousness’s sake, even as our Lord did.

The writer of Hebrews also exhorts believers to look at Christ to encourage them when they were suffering. Look at what he says:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood (emphasis mine).
Hebrews 12:2–4

As we suffer for righteousness’ sake, we must fix our eyes on Christ who suffered before us. This “fix” means an unwavering look. It is like Peter walking on water in the storm. While his eyes were fixed on Christ, he could walk even amidst the storm. But when he began to focus on the storm and the waves, he sank. In the same way, it is impossible for us to stay holy in the storms of life and especially when suffering unjustly without a fixed, unwavering look at Christ. By looking at him, we find encouragement and strength to suffer for righteousness’ sake.

Application Question: How do we remember Christ while suffering?

  • We must spend more time in the Word which speaks of Christ (Phil 4:8, 9).
  • We must spend more time with believers who are Christ’s body (Matt 18:20).
  • We must not focus on the trial or injustice for that will steal our peace (Isa 26:3).
  • We must spend more time in prayer so we can have the grace that only Christ gives (Heb 4:16)

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (emphasis mine).
Hebrews 4:14–16

Christ can sympathize with suffering unjustly, and he can give us grace in time of need. Let us remember him by coming to him and enjoying his presence.

Interpretation Question: What does Peter mean by talking about Christ being made alive by the Spirit and ministering to the spirits in prison during the days of Noah? Why does he add this, while teaching believers how to suffer for righteousness sake? This is a very controversial passage.

He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
1 Peter 3:18–22

There are two primary views to this passage:

1. It speaks of Christ ministering through Noah, as he spoke to the rebellious men during the flood. Noah was said to be a preacher of righteousness (2 Pet 2:5). Support for this interpretation is seen in 1 Peter 1:10–12 as it says the Spirit of Christ ministered through the former prophets.

This would encourage the saints who were suffering for righteousness because Christ was rejected even through Noah. Only seven were saved by his preaching and that was Noah and his family. Therefore, what is happening to Peter’s audience has happened since the beginning of time. God saved those who were righteous, Noah and his family, and judged the lost and rebellious. Though persecuted for righteousness, the Christians Peter wrote to would ultimately be saved and the unrighteous judged.

2. The second view is that Peter is talking about Christ visiting Hades during his three days in the grave. In the spirit, Christ went to Hades, the abode of the dead, while his body was in the grave. While there, he spoke to the spirits in Hades.

Evidence for this view is the word spirit is not typically used of humans but of demonic spirits or angels. It would seem that Christ is there declaring victory over those spirits who had worked in leading the world astray in the days of Noah (Gen 6:2). Also, another evidence is the fact that Christ immediately went to Paradise, not Heaven, after his death (Luke 23:43). Paradise in the Old Testament was part of Sheol where all the dead were located, both the righteous and the unrighteous (Luke 16:22–26).

Many would say these spirits are mentioned in Genesis 6 as angels who cohabitated with women during the time of Noah, creating giants, or nephalim, in the land that conquered the societies (Gen 6:1–4). There are also other Scriptures that seem to support that these demons were judged and kept in the prison of hell (a compartment in Hades) unlike other demons that roam the earth. We see support for this in Jude 6 and 7. Therefore, Christ would have been proclaiming a “public” victory over these demons that were active during the early stages of earth (Colossians 2:15).

This would have encouraged the saints because even though evil permeated the early world through the work of demons, the ultimate victory was in Christ. He defeated all powers and principalities in his death and resurrection (Eph 4:8–10). Christ proclaimed his victory even to those who persecuted the righteous in the days of Noah.

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (emphasis mine).
Colossians 2:15

Therefore, these believers could trust that even though they are suffering, the ultimate victory has already been won in Christ

Application Question: How does the fact that the righteous have always been persecuted and rejected since the beginning of time encourage you at the prospect of suffering for righteousness sake? How does Christ’s ultimate victory over demons and the devil encourage you in suffering?

Conclusion

Often trials reveal what is in our hearts. In the midst of hard times, this often will cause conflict and problems, even amongst the people of God. 

In the wilderness, Israel rose up against Moses, Aaron, and God. We should not be surprised when this happens to us in the church as well.  But, how should we respond to suffering unjustly, even from believers?

  1. In suffering, believers must live with the right attitudes.
  2. In suffering, believers must respond with blessing instead of evil.
  3. In suffering, believers must focus on the blessing and reward of God.
  4. In suffering, believers must not be afraid.
  5. In suffering, believers must submit to Christ as Lord.
  6. In suffering, believers must be ready to defend our hope in God.
  7. In suffering, believers must maintain a clear conscience.
  8. In suffering, believers must be willing to endure it, as part of the will of God.
  9. In suffering, believers must remember Christ suffered for righteousness’ sake.

Chapter Notes

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Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.


1 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter. MacArthur New Testament Commentary (193). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Spiritual Life

13. Prepared To Suffer For Righteousness (1 Peter 4:1–6)

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Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.
1 Peter 4:1–6

How can believers be prepared to suffer for righteousness’ sake?

Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16 and 17 that the Word of God is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the man of God maybe thoroughly equipped for all righteousness. The Word of God is useful to equip us to have a godly marriage, to be a good son, a good daughter, a good employee, a good employer, to become a follower of Jesus Christ, etc.

But another one of the good works that Scripture is given for is also to prepare us to suffer for righteousness. “Therefore” is the first word of chapter 4 that points us back to Peter’s discussion in chapter 3. Listen to what Peter previously said:

It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 3:17–18

It is better if it is God’s will to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. This is a miraculous concept. For these believers who are being persecuted for the faith, this, no doubt, would be an important lesson. How can they be prepared to suffer for righteousness?

But this is important for us to hear as well. In the Western church, by God’s grace, we have avoided much of the persecution that the rest of the world has encountered. However, in the last century alone, there were more martyrs for the faith than in all the centuries combined. Every day over 400 Christians die for the faith. In fact, in our Western church, we should not be surprised if persecution for our faith becomes more and more prevalent. Jesus promised that as we approached his second coming, persecution would increase. Look at what Christ said in describing the signs of the end times in Matthew 24:9: “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me” (emphasis mine).

I can only speak as an American, but in my country, I feel as if we are not too far away from this. In our culture, if someone says something against gay marriage, they are boycotted, mocked, or persecuted. Our society is becoming more and more intolerant of Christian beliefs. It wasn’t this way only a few years ago. I am astounded by how far our country has gone in such a short time.

It is coming. Even now, you should expect to enter the work force and find certain levels of persecution because you live differently, because you don’t get drunk on the weekend, because your integrity level is high, because you have a chaste and monogamous relationship with your wife or husband when cheating is becoming the norm.

How do we prepare for this? How should we prepare to be treated unjustly by friends, coworkers, and sometimes family because of Christ? Peter addresses that in this text. In this passage, we will look at eight major principles about how to suffer for injustice and be holy in this ungodly age.

Big Question: How can believers be prepared to suffer unjustly according to 1 Peter 4:1–11?

Be Prepared by Remembering that Christ Suffered

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body.
1 Peter 4:1

Peter calls us to remember Christ both by pointing us back to Christ sufferings in 1 Peter 3:18 with the “therefore” but also with the rest of the first statement of chapter 4. “Therefore, since Christ suffered.” Peter is directing the eyes of these saints to Christ and his sufferings.

This would be important for these Christians to remember as they were suffering unjustly. They would need to remember their Savior. In fact, the Christians in the book of Hebrews were also suffering for the faith (Hebrews 10:32–34) and the writer tells them to fix their eyes on Jesus as well so they would not become weary. Look at what he says in Hebrews 12:2-3,

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (emphasis mine).

To “fix” means to turn our eyes away from the persecution, from the abuse, from the worries and give a concentrated look to Christ that would enable the Hebrew Christians to not grow weary and lose heart. In fact, tradition says that right before Peter was hung on the cross upside down, his wife went before him. As they were dragging his wife off to be crucified, Peter said to his wife, “Remember the Lord.”

Often in the midst of suffering, people become self-centered. We are worried about our future; we are worried about what people think. Scripture declares the best remedy for going through suffering is to become a Christ-centered people. We are to have our eyes centered on Christ. “Remember the Lord.”

Remember that Christ’s friends betrayed him in his time of need. Remember that false witnesses were gathered to lie about him. Remember that he was mocked, abused, beaten, and bloodied up. Remember that he was placed on a cross and separated from God as he bore the wrath of the Father for our sins. We must remember that while being beaten up and mocked, Christ cried out and prayed for his accusers, “Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do.” Remember that he entrusted himself to the Father. In the midst of suffering for righteousness, we must remember the Lord.

Application Question: How can we practice a “fixed” look on Christ in the midst of persecution and trials so we do not grow weary and want to give up?

Be Prepared by Having the Attitude of Christ—As a Soldier Willing to Die

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 4:1

Interpretation Question: What is the attitude that Christians must arm themselves with in 1 Peter 4:1?

Our previous point leads us to the second. Peter speaks to a discouraged audience and says that in order to be able to suffer for righteousness you must have the attitude of Christ. What attitude is he talking about? The preposition therefore in 1 Peter 4:1 points us back to what was said in the previous chapter. He seems to be talking about Christ’s willingness to die.

Again, look at what Peter said in 1 Peter 3:18: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit” (emphasis mine). When Peter talks about Christ’s attitude in suffering, he is talking about his willingness to not only suffer but die. Look at what Christ told his disciples in Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (emphasis mine).

In fact, Peter uses the word arm when talking about Christ’s attitude. It is a military term used of soldiers. It means literally “to arm oneself with weapons” or “to put on as armor.”1 Peter speaks about the mind-set of Christ as being ready for battle. Any good soldier goes into battle ready to die, and it must be the same for us as believers.

In fact, Paul called Timothy to arm himself with this same attitude in 2 Timothy. All the other Christians had separated from him during his persecution (2 Tim 2:15), and Paul says Timothy must also be like a soldier. Look at what he said in 2 Timothy 2:3: “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”

This is how it must be for all Christians in a world that is antagonistic to Christ. It must be this way because of the world’s antagonistic attitude toward Christ, Christians and the teachings of Scripture. Listen to what Jesus says:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed (emphasis mine).
John 3:19–20

Because the world loves evil it hates the light. This means the world hated Christ, and the world hated the righteousness that exposed their sins. If you live for Christ, you will receive the anger of those who love evil. This lifestyle of righteousness exposes their sins and pricks their hearts. It creates an animosity even if you have done nothing wrong. For this reason, you must be willing to suffer and even die for Christ.

This is a necessary attitude for all believers. This will keep them from compromising with the world in order to avoid suffering and abuse. In fact, Christ demanded this of all who would come and follow him.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple (emphasis mine).
Luke 14:26–27

When Christ called everybody to carry their cross in order to be his disciple, it was not spiritualization—–it was literal. At this point, everybody knew the leaders of Israel were already seeking to kill Christ (Luke 12:31). He was claiming that God was his Father, which was a capital offense. He was on his way to Jerusalem to die. To follow Christ especially at that point in his ministry was dangerous, and it has been that way for Christians ever since. Obviously, in the last century more people have been martyred for the faith than in all the centuries combined. Everyone who follows Christ still must take up their cross and be willing to die.

Let us arm ourselves with this attitude, as every good soldier of Christ. The one who does not have this attitude will compromise with their language and actions around their worldly friends because they are not willing to suffer for Christ. Those who do not have this attitude will love the world instead of loving Christ. This will make them unsteady and unfaithful Christians.

Do you have a war mind-set? Every good soldier does. Be willing to be uncomfortable, unliked and unfriended. Cherish Christ instead. He is worth it! This will enable you to be righteous and holy in this generation even when confronted with suffering.

Application Question: Do you have a soldier mind-set of being willing to die for Christ? Why is this so difficult for us, especially in unpersecuted areas?

Be Prepared by Recognizing Our Deliverance from Sin in Christ’s Death

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 4:1–2

Interpretation Question: In 1 Peter 4:1 the text says, “He who has suffered in his body is done with sin.” This is one of the most debated texts in 1 Peter. Who is the “he” who suffered? In what way is he “done with sin?”

This text has brought considerable debate among scholars. The question is, when verse 1 says “he who has suffered in his body,” who is it referring to, Christ or to believers? If it was referring primarily to believers, it would not seem to fit since suffering does not make us “cease from sin.” Some believers in suffering actually fall farther away from God. There is not the same inconsistency if it is referring to Christ’s sufferings in his body because his death did pay the penalty for sin and break the power of sin over the believer’s life. But clearly, in verse 2, Peter seems to be speaking directly to believers and not Christ since Christ never lived in sin.

How should we understand this?

Peter seems to be referring to Christs suffering in his body and the defeat of sin in believers in verse 1 and then speaking to Christians and how this reality should affect their relationship to sin in the verse 2. This is the same argument Paul uses for believers to stop sinning in Romans 6. Look what he says:

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— (emphasis mine)
Romans 6:4–6

In Spirit baptism, which happens at salvation, the believer is united with Christ’s body in his death (1 Cor 12:13). As it says in Romans 6:6, our sin nature died with him, and therefore, no longer has power over us. The believer still sins, but he is no longer a slave to sin. He is now free to live for the will of God because his sin nature died and was buried with Christ. This is why a true believer is a new creation in Christ and old things have passed away (2 Cor 5:17).

This is an important doctrine for all believers to understand. It is this doctrine that enables us to conquer all sin and stay holy in the face of suffering. It is our union with Christ in his death. We have died to sin, and now are alive to Christ. Paul calls believers to think differently about themselves because of this. Listen to what he says in Romans 6:11: “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (emphasis mine).

The word count is an accounting term. When the believer looks at his spiritual bank account, he sees that his debt to sin is paid in full. He is no longer enslaved to it because on the cross Christ died to sin, paying the believers sin-debt. On occasion, I would look at my bank records and see a company still charging my account even though I’ve paid off the debt. At that point, I would contact that company and let them know I paid that bill and give them proof through a receipt. I refuse to pay a debt that has already been paid.

Similarly, a believer needs to look at the Scripture and understand that his debt to sin has been paid. He no longer has to obey those urges. In fact, Christ used an accounting term on the cross. He said, “It is finished,” which literally means “paid in full.” Believers must now understand what has happened in Christ so they will not fall to sin when tempted, even when confronted with persecution.

The sin debt has been paid; Christ has redeemed us from slavery to sin, and now we have become slaves to righteousness. As Peter says, the believer now lives for the “will of God” (v. 2). God is the believer’s new master, and he serves righteousness instead of sin. Look at Romans 6:18-19,

You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness (emphasis mine).

How can a believer suffer for righteousness?

He must realize sin is no longer an option because he died with Christ and sin no longer has power over him. “I can take abuse from friends…I can be stepped over for a promotion…I can even die!” Why? Because sin is not my master, but God is, and he enables me to handle suffering without falling to temptation or sin. And if I do stumble, I go back to my checkbook and check my accounts. “Nope, I’m not a slave to sin anymore. I’m not paying that bill anymore. I am not staying on the ground depressed because of that stumble. I have a different debt to pay because now I’m a slave to God and righteousness.” Listen to what Paul said:

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (emphasis mine).
1 Corinthians 6:18–20

The reason sexual immorality is not an option is because God paid my bill and I now owe him my debt. He holds my accounts. Therefore, the only option when being persecuted is to serve and honor him. I owe him my life.

Because the believer has died with Christ in the body to sin, he can now live the rest of his life as a slave to the will of God (1 Pet 4:2). This is an important doctrine for the believer to recognize in the face of persecution and temptation.

Application Question: How can we better actualize, or apply, our death to sin on the cross in order to no longer spend our time in the flesh living for “human desires?” How should we better apply this doctrine?

Be Prepared by Recognizing that We No Longer Follow the Ways of the World

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 4:3–4

Not only can a believer suffer for righteousness because he has been delivered from the power of sin in Christ’s death, but because he also has been delivered from living for the world. Peter says the believer’s duty in following the world is over (cf. Gal 6:14). Listen to what he says in 1 Peter 4:3: “For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.”

He says each Christian has spent enough of their past life living in the ways of the world. It is enough and he should no longer go back. In fact, in verse 4 he uses the word plunge, which can be translated “run after.” “They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you” (1 Pet 4:4). It’s the picture of the world in a frenzied race to have all these pleasures, drunkenness, sexual immorality, drinking parties (carousing), etc. He pictures the world running after these different things in a frantic pace.

Observation Question: What were these sins that the world was running after and what do they represent?

Peter describes this frantic pursuit of the world’s desires. Look at the list he gives:

  • Debauchery: all types of evil without moral restraint
  • Lust: any types of intense desires that control a person
  • Drunkenness: intoxicated with wine
  • Orgies: feasts given to sexual immorality
  • Carousing: can be translated as “drinking parties”
  • Detestable idolatry: can be translated “lawless idolatry”

Lawless idolatry is an interesting phrase since all idolatry is against God’s law. Therefore, lawless is probably referring to how pagans break civil law and not just God’s law. Pagans, in their sin, would at times become so depraved they would routinely break civil laws. This could potentially refer to idolatry, such as human sacrifice; we see this still happening today within certain cults. Certainly, in our society this could be applied to the use of many illegal drugs where people are routinely willing to break the law. In many of our colleges today, it is strange to not indulge in this type of lawless idolatry. We can be sure that since demons are behind every idol (1 Cor 10:20), they are used as just another door for the devil to lead people into worse sin.

As Christians we have been delivered from these frantic pursuits of the world. Not only is sin not our master but neither is the world or the things of the world. Paul says essentially the same thing as Peter in Romans 12:2,

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (emphasis mine).

Paul says the same thing: “Stop it! Stop being pressed into the mold of the world. You should not conform any longer.” He has to say this because many believers are still following the mold of the world. They follow the mold in their clothing, the way they think, their entertainment, their goals and ambitions.

Jesus taught that a person can only have one master. He will love one and hate the other.

He says in Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Money is a common idol of the world and the believer is not to run after it or make it their purpose in life. Why? Because he now has a new master and it is not the world. Look at what John says in 1 John 2:15: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” John, in fact, gives this as a test of salvation. Anyone who loves the world or the things of this world does not have the love of God within him. It was the rich man’s love for this world that kept him from being able to accept Christ (Matt 19). Christ declares he must be our Lord and we must leave everything to follow him.

Peter, in this exhortation was probably reminding believers about their former sins because some in this church were being tempted to go back. They were being tempted to compromise so they could escape the mocking and persecution. I have had friends in the workplace talk to me about compromising their beliefs in such areas as the drinking parties because they were tired of being looked at as strange and different. Maybe these believers were being tempted to compromise to escape slander as well.

In fact, I remember as a young Christian still enjoying many of the delights of the world. I used to love to go to the clubs and participate in things of that nature. One day, God convicted me that I was falling in love with the world, and therefore, losing love for him (1 John 2:15). I could not love both. At that point, I stopped going. Essentially, I came to realize that I had spent enough time in following what the world was doing. It was time for me to let that go. Peter says the same thing to this church. No going back—you have spent enough time running after the same things the world does.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:11-12). Christ redeemed us from this world--why would we want to go back?

Application Question: What ways do we see the description of the pagan world in 1 Peter 4:3 still happening today? Is this still a fair description of the temptations of the world today?

Be Prepared by Expecting Abuse and Suffering from the World

They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 4:4

One of the ways the believer will be able to suffer for righteousness is by having a proper expectation. They should expect to be looked at as strange or be attacked by the world for being different. It seems very clear that in this context many Christians were surprised by these attacks. Look at what Peter says later on in 1 Peter 4:12: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you” (emphasis mine).

Let us remember being considered strange was the common lot of the saints before us. Paul was declared to be crazy by Festus. “At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. ‘You are out of your mind, Paul!’ he shouted. ‘Your great learning is driving you insane’” (Acts 26:24). Even Jesus’ family said he was crazy. “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind’” (Mark 3:21).

Often it seems that the medium of this abuse is through words, but clearly many times it is physical abuse as well. It was the three Hebrews in Daniel 3 who were considered strange in the Kingdom of Babylon. Because of this, they were thrown into the fiery furnace.

It was Daniel who was set up by the wise men in Babylon because of his favor with the king (Dan 6). Eventually, he was thrown into the lion’s den. We even saw this persecution for righteousness from the very beginning with Cain and Abel. Cain hated Abel not because he did something wrong but because he was good. This led to his murder.

Again let us hear the verdict:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed (emphasis mine).
John 3:19–20

The light exposes the sins of the world and condemns even without words. Therefore, the world hates the light that is represented by the life of the believer. Your righteousness will cause the world to hate you. Maybe it will come in the form of others thinking you’re strange, maybe you will be the topic of ungodly slander and gossip, or maybe you will receive a more intense form of suffering for Christ. If this is the case, do not be alarmed, for this has happened to those who were righteous before you. Listen to what Christ said:

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (emphasis mine).
Matthew 5:10–12

By putting suffering for righteousness sake in the final beatitude, Christ effectively declares this will happen to all those who are part of the kingdom of God (v. 10). If the people of this world do not persecute us, then maybe ours is not the kingdom of God. We should expect suffering, but also we should realize we are in good company. The prophets that came before us also suffered, and Christ declared our reward is great in heaven.

What are secrets to being able to suffer for righteousness’ sake? We must expect it. People will commonly think of us as strange because of our beliefs and lifestyle and this may lead to more instense persecution. When Christ came, he was not surprised by his sufferings; he predicted it would come from the beginning. We should not be surprised as well.

Application Question: In what ways have you experienced suffering for righteousness or specifically for your faith in Christ? How did you respond to it?

Be Prepared by Recognizing that God Will Bring Justice at the Judgment

But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 4:5

Here in this passage, Peter encourages the believers who were suffering abuse by saying that ultimately the world will give an account to God for their sins, which in this context includes their persecution of believers. The reality of the world’s perceived prosperity and sometimes persecution of the righteous, has confused and frustrated many including some biblical writers. Look at what Asaph said:

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression…
Psalms 73:2–8

Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning. If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed your children. When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin (emphasis mine).
Psalms 73: 13–18

Asaph said this reality plagued him. He couldn’t understand it. It made him question if he should remain holy. Was it really worth practicing godliness when those who did not prospered? No doubt, these believers were also being tempted to doubt God and possibly compromise to be like the world.

Peter encourages them with the same truth that comforted Asaph. It may seem like the world is carefree as they enjoy sin and mock the righteous, but the ground they stand on is slippery (Ps 73:18). It’s not stable, and their final destiny is ruin. This is the same truth that Peter comforts the believers with. He says in 1 Peter 4:5: “But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (emphasis mine). Not only will God judge them for their sin, but he will specifically judge them for their abuse of the righteous. Their mocking, their cursing, their murder will all be held accountable by God. This should comfort the believer in a world where it looks like there is no justice, where things are not right.

This concept of God’s righteous judgment should enable believers to be prepared to suffer for righteousness’ sake. In fact, Paul encourages believers who are suffering with the same truth in Romans 12:19-21,

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for Gods wrath, for it is written: It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (emphasis mine).

Paul says the believer can return good for evil in part because God will take revenge. He is the one who will repay the world with judgment for their mistreatment of believers. This may not always happen during one’s life time, but it surely will happen at the judgment, if they will not repent.

It is for this reason that the believer can serve and bless because revenge is not the lot of the believer. It is reserved for God. In fact Paul, also, encouraged the suffering saints in Thessalonica with God’s justice. Look at what he says:

Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you (emphasis mine).
2 Thessalonians 1:4–6

Many times, believers are tempted to get angry at God. They were mistreated; they were stepped over for a promotion; they were slandered. Many times they want to get mad at God and mad at people. The believer must understand this: God does not pay his accounts on our time schedule. Ultimately, this will take place at the judgment.

Listen to the story about this farm community:

The story is told of a farmer in a Midwestern state who had a strong disdain for “religious” things. As he plowed his field on Sunday morning, he would shake his fist at the church people who passed by on their way to worship. October came and the farmer had his finest crop ever––the best in the entire county. When the harvest was complete, he placed an advertisement in the local paper which belittled the Christians for their faith in God. Near the end of his diatribe he wrote, “Faith in God must not mean much if someone like me can prosper.” The response from the Christians in the community was quiet and polite. In the next edition of the town paper, a small ad appeared. It read simply, “God doesn’t always settle His accounts in October.”

Our God may also choose to not settle accounts until the judgment. Let us not be discouraged now, but live in hope. Our God will make all things right.

Application Question: How does God’s righteous judgment on those who persecute you make you feel?

Be Prepared by Focusing on the Gospel and the Faithful Before Us

For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 4:6

Interpretation Question: 1 Peter 4:6 is another highly debated passage. Who are the ones who are now dead, who the gospel was previously preached to? What does it mean to be judged according to men in regard to the body but live according to God in regard to the spirit? What are possible interpretations? Which interpretation best fits with the context of this verse and the rest of Scripture?

Another reason that believers can suffer for righteousness is because of their focus on the gospel and remembering the faithful saints that were persecuted before us. It is the gospel that should enable believers to suffer for righteousness as it has many martyrs throughout the history of the church. In fact, this has been one of his main themes and encouragements throughout the epistle. Remember what he said in chapter 1:

Who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 1:2–5

He starts off the book comforting these believers with election, being chosen by God for salvation. He says they have experienced the new birth and have an inheritance being reserved in heaven. This is a tremendous comfort for the believer in persecution. But it is also a strength that enables the believer to suffer and even die.

It is the gospel that allows the believer to take up his cross and die for Christ. He knows that he is going to heaven. This truth has enabled many believers from the beginning of the church to give their lives for Christ, since they knew they would immediately be translated into the presence of God and eventually be resurrected. Therefore, in this verse Peter comforts this church with the gospel and the testimony of previous saints who had been persecuted and now were dead. He says:

For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.
1 Peter 4:6

This is a debated text, but Peter seems to be saying it is because of God’s coming judgment that the gospel was preached to previous believers who are now dead. Those who responded to the gospel were judged according men in the body, which means they suffered and possibly even died for the faith. However, they now live according to God in regard to the spirit. This means that they are now in heaven, living as spirits worshiping God. We probably get a picture of this in Hebrews 12:22-23:

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect (emphasis mine).

The writer of Hebrews speaks of not only angels in the city of God, but of the church and the spirits of the righteous men made perfect. These believers now worship God in spirit and await the rapture of our human bodies.

Peter writes to these scattered believers and calls them take comfort in the gospel and the faithful, persecuted saints before them. If they died, they would go to heaven, just as the many suffering saints before them who are now living in the spirit. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Understanding this reality will help prepare us to suffer. The best is yet to come.

Application Question: Are there any deceased saints’ lives that really encourage you in the midst of suffering (Heb 11)? If so, who and in what ways?

Conclusion

We are living in a time where persecution towards the church is increasing daily even in Western nations. How can the believer be prepared to suffer unjustly?

  1. Be prepared by remembering that Christ suffered.
  2. Be prepared by having the attitude of Christ—as a soldier willing to die.
  3. Be prepared by recognizing the believer’s deliverance from sin in Christ’s death.
  4. Be prepared by recognizing we no longer follow the ways of this world.
  5. Be prepared by expecting abuse and suffering from the world.
  6. Be prepared by remembering God will bring justice at the judgment.
  7. Be prepared by a focus on the gospel and the faithful before us.

Application Question: In what ways have you seen the increase of persecution towards saints in society? How can you apply the truths in this lesson to be better prepared?

Chapter Notes

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Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.


1 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter. MacArthur New Testament Commentary (224). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Suffering, Trials, Persecution

14. Living In View Of Eternity (1 Peter 4:7-11)

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The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:7-11

Are we living with a view of eternity? Are we living as though Christ could come today? Having a proper view of eternity will drastically affect how we live and also prepare us to suffer.

In fact, Peter in this text is encouraging these saints to be prepared to suffer by focusing on the nearness of “the end of all things.” Look at what he said in the beginning of chapter 4: “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude (emphasis mine), because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin (1 Peter 4:1).

He calls these believers to have the attitude of Christ in being willing to suffer. Like any good soldier, Christ was prepared to give his life and Christians should have this attitude as well. In addition, Peter says in 1 Peter 4:7-11 that having a proper eschatology, a view of the end times, would also help these believers with being prepared to suffer.

We can have no doubt, that one of the things that made Christ willing to suffer was a proper view of eternity.  Christ always lived with the thought of the end in mind. In fact, throughout the gospels Christ sought to prepare Peter and the rest of the disciples for sufferings that were coming through developing this view. Look at what he said:

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (emphasis mine).
John 14:1-3

How could these disciples keep their hearts from discouragement and giving up, even though they knew their master was about to die? They needed to have a view of heaven and Christ’s second coming. Christ went to build a place for them and he is coming again. This would help keep their hearts from being troubled during the coming suffering.

It is the same for us. One of the secrets to being able to suffer in a world where we are pilgrims is to live in view of the imminent return of Christ.

When Peter says “the end is near”, he was essentially saying there is nothing keeping Christ back from returning at any moment. This was the early church’s blessed hope that helped enable them to endure the sufferings they were experiencing in the world. Christ could return at any time.

Even though it has been 2000 years since this was written, it is still as true for us today as it was then. In fact, it is truer because we are closer to Christ’s coming. When Christ resurrected we entered into the final stage of world history. It is a stage called the “last days.” Look at what the writer of Hebrews said:

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe (emphasis mine).
Hebrews 1:1-2

Similarly, Peter, when describing what was happening at Pentecost, declared that we were in the last days by citing a passage from Joel. Look at what he said:

In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams (emphasis mine).
Acts 2:17

Application Question: What are negative effects of having an unhealthy view of the end times? What are some positive effects of having a healthy view of the end times?

Now with all this said, we must be aware that living with an unhealthy view of the end times can often push people to extremes. We saw in 2 Thessalonians that some people had stopped working, as they anxiously waited for the return of Christ (3:11). A wrong view of the end times brought laziness.

In Luke 12:45 the servant who thought that the master was delaying his coming began to beat the other servants, live in waste, and get drunk. A lack of concern for the end times can at times encourage sin.

Others can become overly consumed with charting and trying to figure out the exact dates. We may see something of this with the Apostles in Acts 1.  Listen to what the Apostles said to Jesus about the coming kingdom and his reply:

So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
Acts 1:6-7

Essentially, we can discern from these extremes that having a wrong view of the end times will negatively affect how we live. However, listen to some of the benefits of living with a proper view of the end times.  Listen to what the Apostle John says:

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure (emphasis mine).
1 John 3:2-3

Those who have a proper view of Christ’s imminent return will naturally start to prepare. They will start to purify themselves in preparation of his coming. This view will deliver believers from the strongholds of sin.

With that said, God has wisely chosen to not reveal the exact date. If he did, some would become lackadaisical and others anxious as they waited for the return. The difficult task for the believer is to at all times prepare for the future and at the same time be prepared for Christ to come today. To focus on one over the other is to become unbalanced.  We must seek this balance in our daily lives.

In this context, where the believers were being mocked, ridiculed and burned at the stake, he comforts them with “the end of all things is near.” Christ is coming soon. The consummation of human history, where God will judge both the righteous and the unrighteous, where God will correct all things, and usher in a rule of righteousness, is near. This should comfort believers and enable them to persevere through difficult times.

As we study this text, we must ask ourselves these questions:

Are we living in view of eternity? What does a person look like who is living with this view? How can I better live this way, in order to be pleasing to my coming Lord?

In this text, we will see characteristics of Christians living in view of eternity. Let this encourage our hearts to live the same and to prepare for coming tribulation.

Big Question: According to Peter, what characteristics should define those who are living with a view towards eternity and the coming of Christ?

In View of Eternity, the Christian Must Have a Focused Prayer Life

Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.
1 Peter 4:7

Observation Question: What virtues are needed in order to be focused in prayer and how do we develop them?

Peter says that in view of eternity, Christians must have a focused prayer life. He talks about the virtues necessary to do this, a clear mind and being self-controlled.

The word translated clear mind literally means to be in ones right mind.1  In what way should a believer be in his right mind? Of course, the primary way the Christian does this is by having a biblical worldview. A mind that is full of Scripture is the only way that one can be in their right mind, and this is especially true in the context of suffering, where most people do not have the right mind.

We see a person in his right mind, even as he is suffering, with Christ on the cross.  While he was dripping with blood and about to die, he prayed two Psalms “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” (Psalms 22:1) and “Into your hands I commit my spirit” (Psalms 31:5). Even in suffering Christ was in his right mind instead of having what might be common: a mind of anxiety, fear, anger, hopelessness, or even worldliness. This same mind would be necessary for Christians in this context who were suffering. They needed a right mind that was led by the Word of God and prompted into prayer.

The second virtue needed to have a focused prayer life in these last days is to be self-controlled. The word “self-controlled” can be translated “sober” which means to be free of intoxicants, which can refer to both spiritual and physical intoxicants. Christians can become intoxicated with materialism, idolatry and worldly pursuits in order to pacify themselves during trials, and therefore, not have soberness in viewing the events happening around them. Trials also tend to be a catalyst in drawing people into addictions to alcohol, cigarettes and any other drug, instead of dependence solely on God. None of these actions or attitudes are appropriate responses to trials. The Christian must have a sober mind that is “awake” and “alert” so it can properly interpret the events happening and be drawn into intercession.

The Christian must have a right mind which is full of the Word. He must be alert--not given to intoxicants whether physical or spiritual. He must be alert to the attack of the devil, things that are happening in society, the needs of others, and he must be self-controlled. All these things are necessary in order to be focused in prayer.

Focused-prayer is the only type of prayer appropriate in these last hours. Lord help us to have a right mind and be sober so we can pray in order that your will may be done on the earth.

Application Question: What ways do you struggle with having a “right mind” and being “self-controlled” so you can pray? Do you find concentrating on prayer a difficult thing? Why or why not? If so, how do you keep a focused-prayer life?

In View of Eternity, the Christian Must Love Other Believers Deeply

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:8

Interpretation Question: What does it mean to love each other deeply?

When people go through suffering it is very common for it to cause discord. If a husband has a bad day at work, it often affects his relationship with his wife and kids. When people are stressed, it often brings up harsh feelings and emotions, sometimes towards people we love the most.

No doubt, this was happening in these scattered congregations. In 1 Peter 5:5 we may see an implication that this suffering was causing rebellion amongst some of the youth in the church towards the elders. This is why Peter has to tell them to be subject to them. Look at what Peter said in 1 Peter 5:5 in the ESV: “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.

There are no surprises to this, when Israel was in the wilderness suffering, the people rose up against Moses and Aaron. Trials often cause conflict. These congregations were not only suffering from without but also from within.

This is probably the reason Peter calls for them to love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins. They needed to love one another deeply because they were being hurt by one another.

A view of eternity, should promote love in the people of God. God is coming soon. Similarly, James called the Hebrews who were similarly scattered because of persecution to care for one another in view of Christ coming. As you know, they were warring and fighting against one another. Somebody had even died because of this conflict (James 4:1-2). Look at how he challenged them in James 5:8-9: You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lords coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door (emphasis mine)!”

He said stop grumbling and fighting with one another because Christ, the Judge, is coming. He is at the door, he is coming soon. End your conflict and walk in love towards one another, for the judge is coming soon. We should have a revelation of this as well, when we are tempted to fight with family, friends and fellow church members. Christ is coming soon to judge.

Peter used the word deep or it can be translated fervently to describe the depth of the believer’s love for one another. Fervent is an athletic word used of muscles stretching or straining; it pictures a person running with stretched muscles, giving maximum effort. Listen to what Warren Wiersbe said about the Christian’s love:

This love should be “fervent.” The word pictures an athlete straining to reach the goal. It speaks of eagerness and intensity. Christian love is something we have to work at, just the way an athlete works on his skills. It is not a matter of emotional feeling, though that is included, but of dedicated will. Christian love means that we treat others the way God treats us, obeying His commandments in the Word. It is even possible to love people that we do not like!

Christian love is forgiving. Peter quoted from Proverbs 10:12—”Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.”2

Wayne Grudem also gives us a relevant word.

Where love abounds in a fellowship of Christians, many small offences, and even some large ones, are readily overlooked and forgotten. But where love is lacking, every word is viewed with suspicion, every action is liable to misunderstanding, and conflicts abound—to Satan’s perverse delight (cf. Heb. 12:15; by contrast, 1 Cor. 13:4–7).3

Are we historians? Are we holding onto every hurt and pain somebody has caused us?

God’s love is not like that. Paul says love “keeps no record of wrongs (1 Cor 13:5).”

In fact, like a muscle God often allows us to be hurt, allows us to go through pain so that we can love more deeply. Like a muscle that has been fatigued and stretched in the gym, after recovering, it develops the capacity to lift a heavier load or persevere through more pain. In the same way, I believe God often allows pain to happen to us in order to stretch our love and make it more fervent.

It may seem impossible to love at times, but it is good for us to remember that God has already given us this love. Look at what Paul said in Romans 5:5: “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

God has given us his own love, agape, the love of God. This is the same love that died for believers while they were still enemies of God. The love of God has been poured out in our hearts. The word “pouring” is a picture of abundance. This is why Christ can command us to love our enemies. He can command it because he has equipped us to do it. He has lavishly poured out his love in us. If we can love our enemies, how much more can we love the brothers and sisters in the church who fail us?

Our love must be deep and fervent. We must allow this love to be stretched as we cover the sins of others.

Application Question: Who is God calling you to love deeply and fervently as you forgive their failings? What ways have you experienced pain in relationships that actually broadened your capacity to love others?

In View of Eternity, Christians Must Practice Hospitality Without Complaining

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
1 Peter 4:9

Another way we live in view of eternity is by practicing hospitality. The word hospitality literally means “love of strangers.” This should be a characteristic of those in spiritual leadership.  Scripture says elders must be given to hospitality (1 Tim 3:2).

Certainly, this was even more important in the ancient world where there were not many hotels or inns. When the gospel was being spread, hospitality was needed in order to host missionaries, pastors and teachers.

In fact, Christ sent his disciples out to various towns where they would be hosted by believers who “loved strangers.” Look at what Christ said in Luke 10:5-7,

“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

Maybe the primary way Peter is exhorting Christians to live in view of eternity is, similarly, to support the work of missionaries. This is done by taking them into our homes, praying for them and giving financially to support the mission, among other things. We should realize that all the support we give shall be rewarded by God. Jesus said even the giving of glass of water to a disciple will have a reward (Matt 10:42).

People who are truly zealous about missions realize that the end is near. Soon every nation will have heard the gospel and then the end will come (Matt 24:14). This person wants to participate in that work.

Certainly, this hospitality is not just for missions but should be shown daily to our brothers and sisters. We must have a deep love that practically cares for our brothers and sisters. This could mean buying groceries for someone who is injured, visiting those who are sick in the hospital, offering a ride to the airport or the store, helping drive others to church, and even lending or giving money. Our love must be intensely practical. What good is a love that does not work? It is no good.

Also, we should consider that when we show hospitality to other believers, we are really serving Christ. Look at what Jesus said:

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (emphasis mine).
Matthew 25:37-40

Application Question: What ways can we practice “hospitality” by supporting missionaries? What ways can we stretch our love practically by serving people in our church? How is God challenging you to love more fervently?

In View of Eternity, Christians Must Use Their Spiritual Gifts to Glorify God

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:10-11

Another way we should respond to Christ’s imminent return is by using our spiritual gifts. As taught in Matthew 25, the Parable of the Talents, God has given each believer gifts we must use and develop while he is gone. When he comes back, we will give an accounting of our service and be rewarded based on our faithfulness. Some will actually lose the gifts they have as a result of not using them (Matt 25:28).

From 1 Peter 4:10 it is clear that everybody has at least one spiritual gift. This is clear from the phrase “each one.” This is also taught in 1 Corinthians 12:7: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

Each person has been given gifts by the Holy Spirit to serve Christ and the church. These gifts are put into two categories: (1) speaking and (2) serving. Speaking gifts include such things as the ability to encourage others, exhort others, preaching, teaching, singing, evangelism, prophecy, etc.

Serving gifts is the second category and that includes gifts like leadership, helps, mercy, administration and etc.  As we look at our gifts, we find that they are all different. My gift of preaching is different than any other minister’s gift of preaching. Not only is this a result of training but of grace (v. 10). We are graced differently so we can better serve the body of Christ. If we were exactly the same we wouldn’t need one another.

Peter calls this God’s grace in its various forms or it can be translated multicolored forms (v.10). His gifts show up in many colors to bless and enrich the church. As believers use these multicolored gifts in view of the end times, it makes the church beautiful and attractive, even to unbelievers.

Finally, Peter gives us a reason to use these gifts. We should use them for the glory of God. Peter says:

If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 4:11

When we use our gifts as part of the body, God brings glory to himself through Christ. We honor him and glorify him.

Consequently, we dishonor God when we do not use them. In Matthew 25:26-28, the master became very angry with the person with one talent who did not use his gift. The servant claimed fear saying, “I was afraid so I hid it.” However, the master called him a wicked, lazy servant (v. 26). The servant had dishonored his master.

This fear seems to be a common hindrance to many. I’m afraid of leading a small group. I’m afraid of praying. I’m afraid of evangelizing. I’m afraid of leaving my job to prepare for missions. Fear will be a major deterrent to usefulness in building the kingdom of God.

The person who does not have a proper view of the end times, will be fearful and lazy in the use of their gifts. However, when we live with a proper view of Christ’s second coming, there is an encouragement and accountability to serve and one day he will reward us. He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things (Matt 25:23).”

The fact that Christ’s return is near should be a motivation for all of us to use our gifts. It should motivate us both from the prospect of disapproval and the joy of being approved for the use of our gifts.  He could return at any moment.

Are you faithfully using the grace that God has given you to serve? Are you praying?  Are you loving? Are you showing hospitality?  The end is near: let us live in the view of his imminent return even in the face of suffering.

Application Question: How can Christians develop a better focus on the end times so they can live lives that honor Christ especially in suffering?

  1. Believers must study eschatology. This is a neglected discipline because of all the conflict associated with it. However, God gave it to us, to help us live in light of his coming. We must study it deeply, so it can excite us and prepare us for what lies ahead.
  2. Believers should practice the Lords Supper. Not only is the Lord’s Supper a memorial of Christ’s death but it also is a looking forward to his coming (1 Cor 11:26). We should practice this to remind us of both his sacrifice and his coming, for it is near.

Conclusion

Are we living in view of eternity?

One of the ways Peter encourages these saints in their suffering was by telling them the end is near. Part of the reason many Christians don’t suffer well is because we only have an earthly view of life, primarily concerned with what is seen instead of what is unseen. Living in view of eternity will radically change how we deal with suffering but also how we treat one another while suffering.

Again hear that in Luke 12:45 when the servant thought his master had delayed his coming, he began to live in waste, discord, and other clear sins. Many Christians are the same and are missing God’s best for their lives. Not only do they live in waste, discord and other sins, but they also are unable to cope properly with suffering because they have lost a view of Christ’s imminent return.

Living in view of the eternity should drastically change our lives. What does a Christian look like who is living in view of eternity?

  • In view of eternity, Christians must have a focused prayer life
  • In view of eternity, Christians must love other believers deeply
  • In view of eternity, Christians must practice hospitality without complaining
  • In view of eternity, Christians must use their spiritual gifts to glorify God

Application Question: What ways is God challenging you to live in view of eternity? How do you plan on implementing these changes?

Chapter Notes

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Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.


1 John MacArthur, 1 Peter. MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2004), 240.

2 Warren Wiersbe, The Bible exposition commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1996), chap. I Peter 4:8.

3 Wayne Grudem, Vol. 17: 1 Peter: An introduction and commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 181.

Related Topics: Christian Life

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