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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.

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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

15. The Christian’s Response To Suffering For Christ (1 Peter 4:12–19)

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Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
1 Peter 4:12–19

How should the believer respond to suffering?

The word suffering and its derivatives are used twenty-one times in this epistle.1 Peter has a lot to say about suffering. Nero was having Christians covered with tar and burned at the stake to light up his garden. These Christians needed to hear that suffering was part of the will of God and that they should not be shocked by it. They also needed to understand how to respond it.

How should we respond to being mocked by friends for our belief system? How should we respond when sometimes even our families don’t understand us? Peter talks about this in this passage.

It is good to remember that it was Peter who at the possibility of suffering for Christ, denied him in his greatest hour. Yet now the chief Apostle is not only willing to suffer but is now preparing other believers to suffer as well. Christ told him after he had returned from his denial that he must strengthen the brethren (Luke 22:32). He is now doing that in this epistle.

How should we respond to suffering?

Big Question: How should the believer respond to suffering for Christ (v. 12–19)?

Christians Should Not Be Surprised at Suffering for Christ

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.
1 Peter 4:12

Interpretation Question: Why should the believer not be surprised at painful trials?

It seems that many of the Christians in this context were shocked by the suffering they were enduring. However, Peter says they should not be shocked or surprised at all by this painful trial. The word painful can also be translated “fiery.” He may specifically be referring to the common practice of burning Christians at the stake.

During Christ’s ministry, he spent a large amount of time not only telling his disciples that he would suffer but also preparing them to suffer as well.

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
John 15:18–19

Christ said if you belonged to the world, it would love you, but since you do not belong to the world that is why it hates you. This takes us back to the very beginning of Peter’s epistle. He calls these believers “strangers in the world” (1 Peter 1:1). We are different; we are not of this world, and that is why we are hated.

Listen again to what Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (emphasis mine). Everyone who is walking for Christ and seeking to live a godly life will be persecuted. We should expect it, and therefore, not be surprised when it comes. Your holy life pricks and exposes the sin of the world, and it excites anger and animosity in them. Let us be prepared for suffering as it reminds us that we are truly aliens and pilgrims in this world.

Application Question: What ways have you experienced suffering for righteousness? How did you respond to it?

Christians Should Rejoice in Our Sufferings for Christ

But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 4:13-14

Believers must also respond to suffering by rejoicing in it. This seems to be a paradox. How can we rejoice when we are going through a difficulty or being persecuted for Christ? We get a picture of this with Paul and Silas in jail. Look at what Acts says:

Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.
Acts 16:24–25

While in prison and in stocks, they are praying and singing hymns. The fact that we often see prisons on TV with meals, nice beds, and playtime in the yard, it actually might hinder our understanding of the gravity of their predicament. Imagine the smell of urine and excrement all over the place; imagine being so degraded that when you have to go to the bathroom you have to do it on yourself; imagine sweating from the heat because there is no air condition; imagine the ants, maggots and rats running around. I think it would be hard to not be mad at God in that situation, especially if we had done nothing wrong. However, Paul and Silas respond with worship to God. How do you rejoice in that situation?

Observation Question: What reasons does Peter give for rejoicing in sufferings for Christ and what do these reasons mean practically?

1. The believer can rejoice because it is a privilege to suffer for Christ.

“But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ” (1 Pet 4:13).

The first reason we can rejoice is because Scripture teaches it is a privilege to suffer for Christ. Look at what Paul taught in Philippians 1:29: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (emphasis mine).

He says in the same way we have been granted grace to believe in Christ and be saved, we have been granted grace to suffer for his name. Look at the Apostles in Acts 5:41: “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” The Apostles, after being abused and told to no longer speak in the name of Christ, leave rejoicing because they were counted worthy to suffer disgrace for the Name. Scripture teaches it is a privilege to suffer for Christ. Look at what else Paul says:

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead (emphasis mine).
Philippians 3:10–11

The word he uses for fellowship is the word koinonia; it means “to have in common with.” Paul said, “I want to know Christ, but I also want to have in common with him his sufferings.” For the disciples to participate in the sufferings of Christ, it essentially meant to be like him and to look like him, which should be the hope of every true disciple.

Many Christians have no suffering because they don’t look like Christ. For a disciple, the ultimate desire is to be like the master. Our master suffered for righteousness, and Scripture teaches it is a privilege to suffer for Christ and be treated as he was.

2. The believer can rejoice because he will be rewarded at Christ’s second coming.

1 Peter 4:13: “So that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (emphasis mine).

What’s the second reason to rejoice? Peter says we will be overjoyed when his glory is revealed, which essentially means at his second coming. Why will we be overjoyed at his second coming?

Scripture constantly proclaims that at Christ’s second coming, it will not only be a time of judgment for the lost but it will be a time of reward for the faithful. Look at what Christ said in Revelation 22:12: “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (emphasis mine).

One of the reasons the believer will be overjoyed at the coming of Christ is because Christ will reward them. In fact, it seems that one of the major reasons Christians will be rewarded is based on their sufferings for Christ. Look at what Christ said to James and John when they asked to sit at his right and left hand in the kingdom:

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with (emphasis mine)?
Mark 10:35–38

When Christ asked if they can “drink the cup” and have his “baptism,” he was talking about the cup of suffering. Jesus said to God, “Take this cup from me, but nevertheless, thy will be done.” He also talked about his baptism of death. It seems that by referring to the cup of suffering after the disciples ask for exultation, that exultation is the proper reward for suffering. We see this in other passages as well.

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 5:11–12

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (emphasis mine).
2 Corinthians 4:16–18

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life (emphasis mine).
Revelation 2:10

Christians should rejoice in suffering because it will be rewarded by Christ as his coming.

3. The believer can rejoice because Spirit of God rests on us during trials.

1 Peter 4:14: “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”

Interpretation Question: What does “the spirit of glory and of God resting on us” mean?

a) “The Spirit of glory rests on us” means intimacy in the presence of God.

The next reason we rejoice is because the Spirit of glory rests on us when we suffer for Christ. Peter seems to be giving a Hebrew picture of the glory cloud that resided over the tabernacle and met the Jews on Mt. Sinai in the Old Testament. Look at some of the pictures of it in the Old Testament:

And the glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the LORD called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
Exodus 24:16–18

Moses would enter the glory cloud and speak to God face-to-face. God’s glory cloud would also cover the tabernacle while Moses was in there, to speak with him in other Old Testament texts.

To suffer for Christ means to have intimacy with him in a special way. We see this with Stephen as he dies a martyr. Look at what Acts 7:55-59 says:

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (emphasis mine).

Here, as Stephen is being stoned, he sees the glory of God in the heavens and Christ sitting at the right hand of God immediately before he is stoned. Stephen experiences intimacy with Christ and God in the midst of his suffering. Similarly, we see this happen with the three Hebrews in Daniel 3. While they were put into the fire, a person who looked like the Son of God shows up and protects them (v. 25). In suffering, the Spirit of glory rests on us in such a way that we experience intimacy with God.

b) “The Spirit of glory rests on us” means to be changed into his image.

Not only does the Spirit of glory resting on us mean intimacy, but it meant to be changed in such a way that the people reflected the glory of God. After leaving the glory cloud, Moses face shined so much that the people had to cover his face because it was so bright. Also, Stephen looked like an angel in the face of his accusers. “All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15).

It was for this reason that James taught believers to consider it joy when going through trials. In the midst of trials, God develops us into his image and make us mature. The glory of God starts to shine more on our lives as we persevere through trials.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (emphasis mine).
James 1:2–4

The glory of God rests on us in the midst of suffering as Christ changes us into his image. We become more mature and look more like him. We rejoice in this.

c) “The Spirit of glory rests on us” means we become empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Certainly, we see this truth in Paul being tormented by a demon in 2 Corinthians 12:9. God promised that his grace was made perfect in his weakness. It made him strong while he was weak. Listen to the text:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christs power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (emphasis mine).
2 Corinthians 12:9–10

In weakness, Paul says, “Christ’s power” rested on him (1 Cor 12:9). In fact, this imagery was used throughout the Old Testament as the Spirit came upon people to do great feats for God (1 Sam 16:13). In suffering, there is a special way where God empowers us to not only persevere but to serve him. We should rejoice because of this.

d) “The Spirit of glory rests on us” may also mean to give us relief or refreshment.

Look at what John Macarthur says about the word rests:

Rests (from the present tense of anapauō) means “to give relief, refreshment, intermission from toil” (cf. Matt. 11:28–29; Mark 6:31), and describes one of His ministries. “Refreshment” comes on those believers who suffer for the sake of the Savior and the gospel. The Spirit gives them grace by imparting endurance, understanding, and all the fruit that comes in the panoply of His goodness: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self–control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22–23).

That kind of refreshment and divine power came upon Stephen, a leader in the Jerusalem church and its first recorded martyr. As he began to defend his faith before the Jewish leaders, they “saw his face like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15). His demeanor signified serenity, tranquility, and joy—all the fruit of the Spirit—undiminished and even expanded by his suffering and the Holy Comforter’s grace to him. The Sanhedrin became enraged as Stephen rehearsed redemptive history to them from the Old Testament, an account that culminated in the atoning work of Jesus the Messiah. Stephen’s Spirit–controlled rest was evident as “he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’ “(Acts 7:55–56).2

Application Question: What ways have you experienced the Spirit of glory in the midst of a trial? Please explain.

Christians Should Properly Evaluate Their Sufferings for Christ

If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
1 Peter 4:15-18

Peter also says that when suffering come into a believer’s life, it must be properly evaluated. In order to evaluate trials the Christian should ask at least three questions:

Question 1: Are these sufferings because of my sin or is it because of righteousness?

“If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler” (1 Pet 4:15).

The believer should not suffer because he is a complainer, causing division or for any other sin. Often Christians will claim to be suffering for Christ when they are actually suffering because they will not submit to God’s ordained authority under their bosses or because they are stirring up problems. Christians should not suffer for being a meddler in other people’s business. For this reason, the Christian must evaluate his suffering. Is this suffering because of my sin? Listen to what one author said about being a meddler.

The surprising inclusion of the term rendered troublesome meddler (allotriepiskopos), used only here in the New Testament, and at first seemingly minor in comparison to Peter’s previous terms, shows that all sins, not just crimes, forfeit the Holy Spirit’s comfort and rest. The word literally means, “one who meddles in things alien to his calling,” “an agitator,” or “troublemaker.” Paul’s exhortations to the Thessalonians illustrate the word’s meaning:

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you. (1 Thess. 4:11)

For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. (2 Thess. 3:11–12)

Christians are never to be troublemakers or agitators in society or in their places of work (cf. 1 Tim. 2:1–3; Titus 3:1–5).3

It is important to properly evaluate our suffering. To suffer for sin forfeits God’s blessing and comfort. Is this suffering happening because of my sin or because of my righteousness?

Question 2: How can I glorify the name of Christ in the trial?

“However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Pet 4:16).

The “name” is the name Christian, which was at first a derogatory term used by unbelievers in the book of Acts (11:26). It means to be a “little Christ.” Because we bear that name, we must ask ourselves how can I glorify the name of Christ in the trial? How can I respond in the way he would? The Apostles responded by givning praises to God after they were abused (Acts 5:41).

Question 3: How can I have an eternal perspective in looking at my trial?

For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner (emphasis mine)?
1 Peter 4:17–18

Interpretation Question: What does Peter mean by “it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God” (1 Pet 4:17–18)?

Here Peter sees the hardship Christians experience as part of God’s way of judging the earth and ridding it of sin. He connects the judgment on Christians with the judgment on those “who do not obey the gospel of God.” This is a little shocking, but Paul said the same thing in 1 Corinthians 11 when God judged Christians for abusing the Lord’s Supper. Look at what he said:

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 (emphasis mine).
1 Corinthians 11:30–32

Paul says when believers are judged by the Lord, they are being disciplined so that they will not be condemned with the world. Discipline and suffering in the life of the believer are instruments that God uses to get rid of sin in our life. However, in the final judgment, God will ultimately rid the world of sin through judging the world.

Therefore, Peter makes an argument from the lesser to the greater. If God allows intense hardship to happen to Christians to rid them of sin and to make them holy, how much more harsh shall Gods final judgment on the lost be?

Often, Christians are too shortsighted and do not see things from God’s perspective. God hates sin, and he even allows horrible trials to remove it from saints. Listen to what the writer of Hebrews says about the suffering of the Hebrew Christians. He says, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?” (Heb 12:7)

Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (emphasis mine).
Hebrews 12:10–11

If the discipline is hard on believers as God makes them holy and righteous, how much harder will it be on the world in the final judgment as he rids the earth from sin?

Peter says we should evaluate our trials in view of God’s eternal judgment on the world for sin. He allows the believer to go through hardship in order to make them holy and pure. But one day, judgment will happen to the lost. This final punishment will not be discipline though, it will be punitive.

Application Question: How do you practice evaluating your suffering in order to have a proper perspective of it? Have you found this a helpful discipline?

Christians Must Entrust Themselves to God while Suffering for Christ

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 4:19

The final thing a believer must do in response to a trial is commit himself to God. The word commit, or it can be translated “entrust,” is actually a banking term. It means “to deposit for safe keeping.”4

Paul uses this in 2 Timothy 1:12. Listen to what he says: “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.” Paul says in the midst of his suffering he was not ashamed because he knew God was faithful. He could trust God with his life.

Not only did Paul entrust himself to God in suffering, but so did Christ. Look at what Christ said in Luke 23:46: “Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit’” (emphasis mine). When he had said this, he breathed his last. Christ entrusted himself in God’s hand during his suffering, his death and throughout his life. He said, “Take this cup from me, but nevertheless, your will be done.” We must do the same.

Have you invested your life in Christ? I think a lot of people invest only a part of themselves in Christ. God is the safest bank in the world; in fact, it is the only bank that is not going under. Anywhere else that you invest your life will prove to be a failure. Listen to what John said: “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17). When the world system passes away, those who do God’s will remain. Putting one’s life in God’s hands is never a bad investment. We can always trust that not only will he keep us safe but that he will give us a life that makes the most “interest.”

It should be noted that Peter uses the title Creator to refer to God. Peter seems to use this title in order to encourage these saints. God created you and he only has the best for you, even if you are going through trials.

Have you invested your life in God? Are you entrusting him with your suffering? “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Your Creator only has the best for you. He will make you mature through suffering. He will make you more like Christ and bring glory to his name through it.

Application Question: Are there any areas that you are struggling with “entrusting” your life to God in? Please explain.

Conclusion:

How should Christians respond to suffering for Christ?

  1. Christians should not be surprised at suffering for Christ.
  2. Christians should rejoice in suffering for Christ.
  3. Christians should properly evaluate suffering for Christ.
  4. Christian must entrust themselves to God while suffering for Christ.

Application Question: What would you say to someone who looks at the world or difficult trials and says, “How can you trust a God who allows such things?” How would you respond?

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 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believers Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments (A. Farstad, Ed.) (1 Pe 4:12). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

2 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter. MacArthur New Testament Commentary (253–254). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

3 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter. MacArthur New Testament Commentary (254–255). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

4 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter. MacArthur New Testament Commentary (258). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Suffering, Trials, Persecution

16. Characteristics Of Healthy Churches (1 Peter 5:1–5)

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To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
1 Peter 5:1–5

What are characteristics of a healthy church?

Here at the end of Peter’s epistle, he concludes this letter on suffering and being a pilgrim in an ungodly world with some exhortations and encouragements for the church. Even though the opening of the letter is written to the elect scattered throughout Asia Minor, we know he is writing to congregations because he starts off chapter 5 writing to the elders, the leaders of these congregations. He gives them and the congregants exhortations about how they should live as a community, especially in the backdrop of suffering.

I believe, as we look at this chapter, we find characteristics of a healthy congregation. In chapter 5, he challenges and encourages the leaders (v. 1-3). He encourages the congregations to submit to the leaders, to practice humility and servanthood amongst one another, and to practice faithful prayer (v. 5-7). He also cautions the congregations to be alert and prepared for attacks from the evil one (v. 8, 9). Finally, he encourages them to continue to persevere in their trials (v. 10, 11).

These exhortations endure today and are signs of a healthy congregation. These characteristics are important for you to know as you seek a godly congregation to join in the future. It helps you know what to look for, but it also helps you discern how you can make your current church better and healthier as you serve her.

In the same way that many today do not understand what a healthy family or home looks like because of bad experiences or models, many also don’t know what a healthy church looks like. We have so many unhealthy churches these days—churches that don’t preach the Word of God, churches that have no unity or the members aren’t serving. In today’s text, we will look at four characteristics of a healthy church.

Big Question: What are characteristics of healthy churches or church members in 1 Peter 5:1–7?

Healthy Churches Have a Plurality of Elders

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 5:1

This may not jump out to most people who are reading this text, but this is a very important truth. When Peter writes to the leaders of these churches, he doesn’t write to one elder or pastor. He writes to the elders of these congregations. Obviously, there are many elders because he is writing to many congregations that are scattered, but there is probably a plurality of elders in each local congregation as well. In the New Testament, when talking about the leadership of the church, it always refers to a plurality of elders instead of a single elder led local church.

We see this throughout Scripture. When Paul went to Ephesus in Acts 20, he contacted the “elders” of the church to have a meeting. “From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church” (Acts 20:17). When Paul tells Titus to set up an eldership in Crete, he again uses the word “elders.” Listen to what he said in Titus 1:5: “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.” He was not to appoint an elder in every town but elders. Healthy churches follow the biblical model of a plurality of eldership.

Application Question: Why is a plurality of leadership in the church important?

This is significant for many reasons.

1. A plurality of elders creates balance among the leadership.

No single pastor has all the spiritual gifts needed to lead the church. One of the reasons that pastoral burnout is so common is because our spiritual leaders are doing too much. They are often working outside of their spiritual giftings, as they are expected to do everything. In a plurality of elders, you may find one elder that has a special gifting with finances, one elder has particular gifts in counseling, one excels in hospitality, one in teaching. They all may have some measure of ability in each of these areas but typically each will have certain strengths. This creates a balance.

2. A plurality of elders helps prevent hazards, like burnout or pride.

We saw this with Moses who was judging all the cases for Israel, big and small. His older, wise father-in-law said, “This is not good” (Exod 18:17). “You will burn out.” He recommended the ordaining of judges, a plurality of leadership, to share the load.

Moses’ father–in–law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.
Exodus 18: 17–18

Around 1,700 pastors leave the ministry in the U.S. each month.1 Certainly, one of the primary reasons is burnout. Pastors are doing too much, and a great deal of this can be eliminated through shared leadership.

Also, a plurality may help with protecting the pastor from pride. Leadership is a ministry that can quickly lead to pride and then destruction. Having other godly leaders around helps those in leadership stay humble. Listen to what Paul said about hiring a pastor in 1 Timothy 3:6: “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil” (emphasis mine). This pride can lead to lust, greed, being power hungry, or many other hazards. A plurality of shared leadership helps protect from these hazards.

3. A plurality of elders allows more people to be cared for.

Obviously when there are more people serving in leadership, this allows for more people to be ministered to and cared for. As a church continues to grow, they should add more elders for prayer, service, and teaching opportunities.

4. A plurality of elders gives accountability in the teaching of doctrine.

A pastor cannot just teach whatever he wants; there is accountability among other godly men of the church. Look at what Paul says about this in referring to prophecy in the church in 1 Corinthians 14:29: “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said” (emphasis mine). When a prophet would speak, the other prophets had to “weigh,” or judge, what was being said.

In the same way, the elders help judge and protect the church from error. When one of the elders teaches, the other elders should be testing what is taught. They must make sure it is biblical and healthy for the congregation.

In another sense, this is true for all believers in the church. The Bereans were called noble because they tested the teachings of Paul (Acts 17:11). Therefore, each church member must participate in this judging, especially the elders.

One of the specific jobs of an elder is to encourage sound doctrine and refute false doctrine. Listen to what Paul says in Titus 1:9: “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (emphasis mine).

5. A plurality of elders brings victory and safety through their wisdom in decision making.

“For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory [or it can be translated “safety”] sure” (Prov 11:14).

Solomon said a nation will fall without having many wise advisers to make victory sure. A nation might have a president, but that president has a cabinet, a secretary of defense for war, a committee for budgeting, etc. They need a multitude of wise counselors. How much more does a church that deals with eternity and not just temporal matters need a multitude of counselors in leadership? There is victory, or safety, in the multitude of counselors.

6. A plurality of elders brings continuity to a church.

Often when a pastor leaves a congregation, there is a tremendous amount of instability. In the process of finding a new pastor, the church often loses many of its members. This doesn’t happen as much when there is a strong elder core that shares in the leadership of the church.

Often when a pastor leaves a church, they must hire someone they don’t know and who doesn’t know the church. This can often be very difficult. The most ideal setup is raising leadership up from within the church among the elders in order to have a stable congregation.

Application Question: What are your thoughts about the need to have a plurality of elders? Do you think Scripture supports this model over the solo-pastor model? Why or why not?

Healthy Churches Have Faithful Pastors

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
1 Peter 5:1-4

Interpretation Question: What do the titles elder, overseer and shepherd refer to in this passage?

In verse 1 and 2, we see that Peter uses three different terms for the leaders of the church. He calls them elders in verse 1 (to the elders), but in verse 2, he calls them both shepherds (pastors) and overseers (bishops). In some churches, these are three separate positions (elders, pastors, bishops), but in the Scripture, they are not. They are used interchangeably for the same office, just as Peter uses them in this passage.

We see Paul use these terms interchangeably in Acts 20. Look at Acts 20:28: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (emphasis mine). He calls them both overseers (bishops) and shepherds (pastors) in the same text. We see that he also calls them elders in Acts 20:17, where he initially calls to meet with them: “From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church” (emphasis mine).

These three titles simply reflect different aspects of the office. The title “elder” represents the maturity of these men serving in leadership; they should not be spiritual novices, but mature. The word bishop refers to the role of oversight over the congregation, and finally shepherd, or pastor, is a term that reflects care.

Who are these people that serve in the role of elder/pastor?

From 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, we see that these were men in the congregation. We see this by the masculine terms used.

He must be husband of but one wife and a man (emphasis mine) whose children believe (Titus 1:6). These men must have impeccable character; their homes must to be in order; they must not be given to wine or arguing and fighting. The primary skill set they must have is teaching (1 Tim 3:3). Therefore, they must know the Word of God in order to teach the church and also refute false doctrine. “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:9).

These men are called to care for the congregation, which includes all the roles of a shepherd. They should feed the congregation by faithful exposition of the Word. They must give the members of the church guidance. They must at times correct or discipline the church. They must also protect the church from all the works of the devil.

It is a very comprehensive and difficult position. What also stands out in the text is that they are shepherds of Gods flock (v. 2). It is not the pastor’s church or the pastor’s congregation. It is the Lord’s, but God has made these men to be undershepherds over God’s flock. Christ is the Chief Shepherd. This again says that these men must be abiding in God’s presence, knowing his Word, so they can best direct the flock according to God’s will.

Peter next gives us vices or bad tendencies that are common in the leadership of our churches, as well as virtues that should be encouraged in elders. Because godly elders are to be examples to the flock, these are also challenges for each member of the church to take to heart.

Observation Question: What are the vices our pastors (and members of the congregation) must be warned of and the virtues to be pursued?

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 5:2-4

1. Faithful pastors must beware of laziness.

“Not because you must, but because you are willing.”

Peter speaks to them as a fellow elder (v. 1) who knows the difficulties of the office. One of the difficulties of the office is laziness. We know what laziness is, right? Laziness is when we know what we should be doing but we don’t want to, so we keep putting it off. Leadership in any organization can often be a place to hide and be lazy. There are others serving under them doing the work.

This is a tendency among pastors as well. There are many who hide behind the office of an elder. There are those called to be elders who are very inactive. Peter says a healthy congregation has elders who are willing, meaning they want to serve. They are not lazy or serving out of compulsion.

Statistics say that over 50 percent of pastors would find another job or profession if they could. When a pastor no longer feels a compulsion to serve, then they are on dangerous ground. They must serve because they are willing.

Let us again hear this is not only a common vice among those in the pulpit but also among the congregation. Often, it is very hard to get people to serve in children’s ministry, youth ministry, ushers or to lead a small group. Most churches have about 20 percent of the members doing all the work and 80 percent doing nothing. Each member should not be lazy but must be willing to serve. God has made them part of the body. This is one of the reasons many churches promote small groups. This allows each member to be serving one another in a small community, doing their part in the church.

2. Faithful pastors must not be motivated by gain.

“Not greedy for money, but eager to serve.”

One of the potential vices of the position is a desire for gain or to make lot of money. Now should pastors be paid? Yes, Paul clearly makes that argument in 1 Timothy 5:16, 17. He says those who excel in teaching the Word of God should be counted worthy of double honor, which can be translated “price” as in 1 Corinthians 6:20 (“for you were bought with a price”). It’s where we get the word honorarium from. He then says a “laborer is worthy of his wages.”

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages” (emphasis mine).
1 Timothy 5:17–18

Elders who give themselves to studying and preaching the Word of God often do not have time to have another vocation because it is such a consuming task. The word work actually means “to work to the point of fatigue or exhaustion.”2 This is why other versions translate it “work hard.” They work hard in studying the Word of God to feed the flock, which is one of the primary responsibilities of a shepherd. These men should have double honor, not just respect, but pay. Yes, elders should be compensated and provided for.

However, there is a tendency for pastors to become consumed with the motivation of making money. Christ in calling himself the Chief Shepherd said he was not a hireling in John 10:12. He said the hired shepherd does not care for the flock. When the wolf comes, the hireling flees, but the good shepherd gives his life for the flock.

The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
John 10:12–13

Let us hear that the church is full of hired hands, those who serve primarily for pay and not to care for the sheep. When trouble happens at the church, they bounce to a new church and take a new position. The first church I served at as a youth pastor split a year after I had been there. I was tempted to leave the church with the rest of the congregation, but God kept repeating the words from John 10 in my ears, The hireling cares nothing for the sheep. When the wolf comes, he runs away.

This must not be the motivation of a pastor; he must primarily serve because he cares for the sheep. Certainly, we often see this motivation for money in the prosperity gospels: “Send us one hundred dollars, and you will receive a tenfold blessing in your bank account.” In fact, Paul warned Timothy about this growing trend to use faith or ministry in order to feed one’s love for money. Look at what Paul told Timothy:

People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness (emphasis mine).
1 Timothy 6:9–11

He says, “But you, man of God, flee from all this, flee this growing trend in the church to pursue money and instead of pursuing righteousness and godliness. One of the trends I love seeing in the church is how many of the pastors are putting their books out for free. John Piper’s books can be found for free and many others. It shows it is not about money but about serving others.

Instead of the motivation of the pastor being to make money, the elder must be eager to serve. Why does a person become a pastor? He wants to serve more. That’s what makes this office awesome. I get to be devoted to studying and teaching God’s Word. I get the opportunity to serve all day long. The money is not great, but we’re not here for the money. It’s for the privilege to serve. That is why one should desire to be an elder for the opportunity to serve more (1 Tim 3:1).

Again, let us hear this is not only a temptation for the elder but for the members as well. The New Living Translation, instead of saying “not greedy for money,” says “not for what you can get out of it.” Most people who come to church are consumer minded. They look at the church as they do any other business. What can they do for me? How is the youth ministry? How is the preaching and the worship? Certainly, all these things are important, but the problem is, this is most people’s primary motivation for joining the church. People look at churches for what they can get, instead of saying, “Where are the needs of this church? How can I make it better? How has God called me to serve?”

Consequently, most members of the church are just like the hireling pastor. When trouble happens in the church, when there is conflict with a member, when it feels like the sermons are no longer meeting their needs, what do they do? They move away. They are hirelings, just being at the church for what they can get. The church is full of members who are just seeking what they can get, instead of being committed to the body of believers God has called them to.

I’ll be honest, this is something I’ve struggled with. I am an MK, a military kid, meaning as a child, we moved every three to four years. Therefore, when I got on my own, I knew nothing about committing to a church and serving her. When I was in college, I bounced from church to church. When I became a pastor, I started getting an itch around my second year serving. It’s time to move. God had to train me to stay at my first church for seven years, especially as it was going through conflict. God is still training me. My upbringing gives me an itch, even if there are no problems; I have a problem called discontentment.

3. Faithful pastors must be careful of the desire for power.

“Not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”

Another vice Peter warns about was the potential desire of the pastor to lord over people and abuse their power. This, no doubt, was something found in the disciples in their early ministry. You often found them arguing about who would be greatest in the kingdom of God. Because of this very conversation Christ rebuked them with this truth:

Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves (emphasis mine).
Luke 22:24–27

In the world system, leadership is an opportunity to have others serve you, but not in the ministry. The focus of a pastors leadership is not the exercise of his power but the power of his service. Peter said the primary way the pastor must lead is not by exercising his power over people but by the power of his example. The pastor is called to be an example in his faith, his purity, his conversation, even in his family life; he is called to be an example to the flock.

In fact, it should be added that because the elder does have authority in the church, sometimes people are prone to seek the position just for that reason. There is honor with that title. This seemed to be the case with the churches in the book of James. In James 3:1, he says, “Not many of you should seek to be teachers for you will receive a stricter judgment.” We see in chapter 4 that they were warring and fighting with one another, some had even died. Worldliness had entered the church, and therefore, people were seeking power and position to lord over people. Look at what James says:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.
James 4:1–2

They were seeking positions of authority, and it led to fighting and discord among the congregation. This is not healthy.

Are there not times for the elder to use his authority? Certainly, there is, especially when there is false teaching, etc., but his primary leadership should be seen in his example. Peter says elders should not lord over people but instead should be examples to the flock (v. 3).

Faithful elders show us how to love the Word of God, and they push us in our desire to read the Scripture. They should push us in the desire to see the nations know Christ. They should challenge us with their faithful service and care for others.

Let us hear that these are not only marks of faithful elders in a healthy church, but they are also marks of faithful congregants, who are called to imitate the elders. Healthy church members are not lazy but willingly serve as ushers, small-group leaders, mentors, or any other needs the church has. You don’t have to twist their arms because they are willing. The church members are not consumed with what they can get from the church but what they can give. They are not consumer-focused people, but they are eager to serve. That’s why they do what they do. Instead of seeking to lord over people, they are examples of godliness.

4. Faithful pastors have an eternal perspective and motivation.

“And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”

I often meet men who don’t want to consider the role of an elder; they see the discord in the church, the extra work, and the lack of money. They say, “No way, not me.” But here we see that even though it is hard, difficult, and sometimes thankless, these faithful shepherds shall be abundantly compensated in heaven. They will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. In fact, we probably get a literal picture of this in Revelations 4:4: “Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads” (emphasis mine).

Here we see twenty-four elders crowned in glory. These cannot be angels, for angels don’t age. They seem to represent the redeemed of the church; these are elders who have been crowned and rewarded for faithfully shepherding the flock. They represent the people of God before the throne of God.

We may not understand fully what crowns and rewards in heaven represent, but we do know some things. Look at the reward given in the Parable of the Minas in Luke 19:16-17.

The first one came and said, “Sir, your mina has earned ten more.” “Well done, my good servant!” his master replied. “Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities (emphasis mine).

Here the faithful are rewarded with overseeing ten cities in the coming kingdom. What is one of the things that reward and crowns represent in the coming kingdom? It represents the ability to serve God more. Those who are faithful with little will be graced with more in the coming kingdom, more ability to serve and honor God. Though this is promised only to elders, it is certainly true of all the redeemed. Those who are faithful in serving God now in his church, shall be rewarded with further opportunities to honor God in his kingdom. This is a characteristic of healthy church members.

I often meet congregants who have no comprehension of heavenly reward; however, this was a chief motivation used by Christ. Look at what he says to the disciples in Matthew 6. He talks about three things that should be in the life of all his disciples: (1) when you fast, (2) when you pray, and (3) when you give, don’t be like the Pharisees so you will not lose you reward. He motivated them by reward. Then in Matthew 6:19, he says to not store up riches on this earth but to store them up in heaven. Christians must have the motivation of eternal reward.

Application Question: Which vice are you prone to in your service to your local church? How is God calling you to grow in being a faithful servant?

Healthy Churches Submit to the Elders

Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older.
1 Peter 5:5

After talking to the elders, Peter talks to the members of the church. When it says be submissive to those who are older, it should probably be translated “elders” instead of “older.” This is how it is translated in the ESV and other versions. We can see this specifically from the phrase “in the same way,” or it can be translated “likewise.” Peter is saying that he is dealing with the same topic, and therefore, it refers to the young men submitting to the elders.

Interpretation Question: Why does Peter refer to “young men” instead of the whole church submitting to the elders?

There is a good amount of discussion over this. Some have said maybe there is a faction of young men rebelling in the church. This would be the group most prone to struggle with submission.

Often when there is trial or conflict, it is those in leadership who are commonly blamed or criticized. If you remember, while Israel was in the wilderness, the people turned against Moses and Aaron. We saw a faction of over 250 people, led by Korah, rise up against Moses and Aaron in Numbers 16. They complained against the leadership, and they complained against God.

We also saw this in the New Testament with Paul. In the Corinthian church, false teachers stirred up the congregation against Paul. In 2 Corinthians, one of the primary purposes of the letter was making an argument for his apostleship.

This is common in any organization where there is change or conflict. The employees point their fingers at and complain about the bosses. It is the same in the church. We must be very careful of this tendency to rebel against the leadership, especially when there is conflict or trials.

When congregations go through difficulty, we should not fall into the same sin as Israel or the church of Corinth. We must be careful of factions that rise up in the church against the leadership. Unless the leadership is leading us in contradiction with the clear teaching of Scripture, we should submit to them.

Application Question: How do we combat this desire to rebel against the leaders?

1. It is good for us to remember that the elders are God’s ordained leadership for the church. Listen to what Paul says to the elders of the Ephesian church in Acts 20:28:

“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (emphasis mine).

We see that every elder is handpicked by the Holy Spirit to oversee the flock. This even included bad elders. In Acts 20, Paul said that false teachers would arise even from among those elders (v. 30) and yet they were still selected by the Holy Spirit (even as Christ selected Judas). The only time we should not submit to the leadership in the sphere of church ministry is when they are disobeying Scripture. Scripture says that they will be held accountable by God for their care of the congregation.

Listen to what the writer of Hebrews says: Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account (Hebrews 13:17a)

2. We should submit to the elders not only because they are accountable for us but because God will hold us accountable for our submission or lack of to them.

“Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17b).

Healthy churches obey and submit to God’s ordained leadership. The Holy Spirit has made them elders, and therefore, we should submit to their authority.

Application Question: Have you experienced factions and rebellion against the leadership of the church? How can we be salt and light in situations like this?

Healthy Churches Humbly Serve One Another

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
1 Peter 5:5

Not only do healthy churches submit to their elders instead of complaining about them or disobeying them, they also serve one another. Peter uses a very interesting word when he says “clothe yourselves.” It literally means “to tie something on oneself.”3 It is a word used of a cloth a servant would put on right before serving. No doubt, Peter was thinking of Christ right before he serves and washes the disciple’s feet in John 13. Look at the narrative:

So he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him (emphasis mine).
John 13:4–5

The servant apron that believers must put on is that of “humility.” What is humility? The word can also be translated “lowliness of mind.” Scripturally, it means to think of one’s self as lowly in view of God and others. Paul says something similar to the Philippians. Listen to what he says:

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 (emphasis mine).
Philippians 2:3–4

He says, “In humility, consider others better than yourselves.” In the rest of the chapter, he describes Christ who left heaven and took the form of a servant (Phil 2:7) and how the church must have this mind as well.

When the church is clothed with the apron of humility, they will go about seeking how they may serve others and help them know Christ. It means to think about meeting others needs over our own. People clothed with humility say, “What are the needs of others and how can I help them?”

One of the reasons most churches struggle with finding people to serve in children’s ministry, youth ministry, usher ministry or driving ministry is because most people are not clothed in the servant’s garment of humility. They are not saying, “How can I help the church?” Listen to what Paul said about Timothy:

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ (emphasis mine).
Philippians 2:19–21

Timothy was clothed with the garment of humility; he was consumed with the interests of others and of Christ. Paul said that even in the church, he had no one else like him. They are all consumed with their own interest. Churches that have this servant mind-set have to turn people away from ministries. “Sorry, we have too many workers in children’s ministry. We have too many people volunteering for the driving ministry.”

As mentioned, the ultimate picture of a humble servant is Christ. Even though he was God, he came to earth as a man taking the form of a servant. He served those who he was higher than. He humbled himself not only before God but before men. This attitude must be in us as well (Phil 2:5–11).

Observation Question: Why should we humble ourselves before others in the church as seen in the context of 1 Peter 5:5?

Peter quotes one of the proverbs: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” The reason is twofold:

1. We should serve one another because God fights against the proud.

In a church where people are not serving one another but instead consumed with their own interests, there you will find a church that is prideful. Pride is essentially being independent of God and others. “God, I don’t need you, and I don’t need the members of your church.” It is the sin of independence. God fights against these kinds of Christians.

People who are fighting for their own way, their own rights, instead of being servants will find that they are actually fighting against God. Solomon talks about this further. He says in Proverbs 6:16 in the KJV: “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood” (emphasis mine).

God even hates the proud look. Why does he hate pride so much? The proud do not acknowledge God. They say, “I have done this by my own strength, my own knowledge and will,” and they steal the glory from God. However, Jesus said even the food we eat and the clothing we wear God provides (Matt 6:25-31). Paul said he gives us life, breath and everything else (Acts 17:25).

The proud say, “We don’t need to serve God or his people.” Even if they do not say it with their mouths, they say it by their lives. They go each day not seeking his face, not recognizing their dependence upon him. Many churches are under God’s judgment. Why? It’s because the community is not a serving community, not a humble community.

Listen to what Paul told Titus in Titus 2:14: “Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (emphasis mine). God redeemed us from slavery to sin to be slaves of righteousness—a people eager or zealous to do what is good. When his church does not act this way because of their selfish pride, he fights against them.

Many churches are going through discord and problems because of pride that makes them independent. It is not only the consequence of their pride that they are suffering but the judgment of God. People refuse to put on the servant’s cloth and humbly serve one another. “I’m too busy to get involved, too busy to serve others.” This brings God displeasure and ultimately brings his judgment.

2. We should serve one another because God gives grace to the humble.

What does it mean that God gives grace to the humble?

Grace means “unmerited favor.” God gives favor to their prayers. God gives strength when they are weak. He meets their needs. He is intimate with them. In fact, we see this with Moses. The Scripture says Moses was the humblest man on the earth and that God spoke to him face-to-face (Num 12:3–8). Moses had intimacy with God that others did not.

We also see that with Paul, grace meant to be empowered in his weakness. We see this in 2 Corinthians 12. In that section, God actually allows Paul to have a demonic thorn in the flesh, in order to keep him from pride so his power could be made perfect in him. Look at what it says:

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (emphasis mine).
2 Corinthians 12:7–9

Those who humble themselves before God shall find unmerited favor. This includes intimacy, strength, and empowerment to do Gods work.

A healthy church is a humble, serving church. They put on the garment of humility. However, a prideful church is not consumed with the interest of God or others. They are prideful and independent, and therefore, God fights against them. We are either a humble, serving church that God blesses or an independent, prideful church that God fights against.

Which will we choose? What way is God calling you to humbly serve the church?

Application Question: What way is God calling you to put the garment of humility on and serve his people?

Conclusion

What are characteristics of a healthy church?

  1. Healthy churches have a plurality of leaders. One man cannot lead God’s house.
  2. Healthy churches have faithful leaders. They are not lazy; they are not greedy or power hungry, but eager to serve. This should be true of the congregants as well.
  3. Healthy churches have members who submit to their leadership.
  4. Healthy churches humbly serve one another and receive God’s blessing.

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 Statistics in the Ministry. http://www.pastoralcareinc.com/statistics/ (accessed July 15, 2014).

2 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy. MacArthur New Testament Commentary (219). Chicago: Moody Press.

3 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter. MacArthur New Testament Commentary (277). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Ecclesiology (The Church), Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry

17. How Healthy Churches Go through Trials (1 Peter 5:6-7)

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Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:6-7

How does a healthy church go through trials?

The conclusion is often the most important part of a book or movie. It is there you make your closing arguments and declare what you most want your reader to leave with. Here at the end of Peter’s epistle, it is no different. He leaves this letter on suffering and being a pilgrim in a foreign and ungodly world with some exhortations and encouragements for the church.

In 1 Peter 5:1-5, we started looking at what a healthy church looks like. In the beginning of the chapter, Peter spoke “to the Elders among” them (5:1). This tells us the letter was not just written to scattered Christians but to local congregations that had scattered. He challenges them to be healthy. He called the elders to lead properly in the church; he called the young men, who possibly were being antagonistic to the leadership, to submit. He spoke to the whole church commanding them to put on the cloth of humility in order to serve one another (v. 5).

Healthy churches have godly leadership who are eager to serve and care for the flock, but they also have members who submit to the vision of the leadership and serve the church. They don’t typically have many unfulfilled roles in the children’s ministry or the youth ministry. Why? It’s because everybody has humbly put on the servant’s garment, and they are seeking to serve one another.

But now, as he concludes, he returns to the primary theme of the letter and speaks about suffering. How should church communities suffer together? Suffering can be a great thing. We see this individually, as trials can make us more patient, peaceful, loving and caring, or it can do the opposite. Suffering can cripple us and leave us with many emotional scars. We can become more fearful, anxious, depressed, angry and even violent. It can either help us or hurt us, and it’s no different with the church.

Similarly, it is God’s desire to use trials corporately in the life of congregations to help them mature. It may come in persecutions like here with the congregations in Asia Minor. It may come in the form of conflict between church members as seen in the Philippian church (Phil 4:2). It can be through false teachers as in Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3) or a member in the church who needs discipline as with Corinth (1 Cor 5).

God forbid that it be his will for any of us to go through these difficulties at our home church, but even if it is his will, we must have a proper view of trials as Scripture teaches, and we must know how to respond to the trials as a community.

As we look at this text, we must ask ourselves, “How do healthy churches & church members go through trials?” Many congregations split or members move when things aren’t good because they have never learned how to go through trials as a community. Scripture often compares the church to a family. In 1 Timothy 5:1-2, Paul calls Timothy to treat the older men in the church as fathers, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters with absolute purity.  Do healthy families break up when they go through problems? No! They should get closer and more intimate. It should be the same with healthy churches.

How do healthy churches go through hardship together? In this passage we will see three characteristics of how healthy churches respond to trials.

Big Question: How does Peter command the scattered congregations to respond to their trials in 1 Peter 5:6-7? What characteristics can we learn about healthy churches through this text?

Healthy Churches Recognize, Trust, and Submit to God in Trials

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
1 Peter 5:6

Not only are healthy churches humble before one another by taking on the servant’s apron and serving others (1 Peter 5:5), healthy churches are also humble before God. Peter says “humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand.”

Interpretation Question: What does it mean to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand?

1. To humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand means to recognize that God is in control of the trial.

How do we know this is referring to submitting to God while in trials? We see that from the context which has been suffering throughout the letter (1 Peter 4:12). But we also see this from Peter’s next comment that he may lift you up in due time (v. 6). These believers who were suffering must recognize God’s hand in the midst of their trials and humbly submit to it. They must persevere so God could lift them up in his time.

This is something that many Christians struggle with. How can God be in control of the hardships in my life? How can he be in control of what happened in my past or what’s happening in my church right now?

Scripture clearly teaches that God is sovereign and in control of all things. Listen to what Paul said 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)

There is not one thing that happens on this world that does not conform to the counsel of God’s will (v. 11). If I took some water and poured it into a plastic bottle, the water would conform to the shape of the bottle. In the same way, Paul teaches that everything, even the worst things in life, somehow conform to God’s sovereign plan. This is a mystery; however, it is an important mystery we must accept if we are going to faithfully go through the trials of life.

Many times people cannot persevere or make it through trials because all they see is the enemy, or all they see is people that have hurt them. They spend all their time mad at people, mad at events and never humbling themselves under the mighty hand of God.

Listen to what the writer of Hebrews says:

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?
Hebrews 12:7

The writer of Hebrews calls them to endure their trials as discipline from God. This writer gives a general term “hardship” to cover every difficulty that we will go through. There are some Christians that say God never allows a Christian to be sick, he never allows them to go through a hard time and that it is always from the enemy. But Scripture doesn’t teach that; it shows God being in control of the enemy. In fact, let’s look at the kind of hardship the writer of Hebrews is talking about specifically in Hebrews 10:32-34.

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

It seems these Christians were suffering a similar trial as those Peter was writing to in Asia Minor. They were going through insults and persecutions; they had their properties confiscated because of their faith. In fact, Hebrews 12 begins by telling them to not grow weary and lose heart in their trials by fixing their eyes on Christ (v. 2-4).  Later in the chapter, he comforts them in the same way Peter does. Endure hardship as discipline from God (v. 7). The writer of Hebrews is saying, God is in control of your trial. Humble yourself under his mighty hand of God.

One of the things we must do as a church if we are going to faithfully endure suffering is recognize God’s hand in it. Yes, Satan may be working, yes it may be a difficult member in the church, but we must realize God is in control of all that and he will use it for the good (Rom 8:28).

Remember Job? Job under trial said this:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
Job 1:21-22

Even if the Lord slays me I will still trust him.
Job 13:15

Some might say, “But Brother Job you have got it all wrong, that was Satan.” Yes, it was. But God works all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11). Satan could have no power unless God had given it to him. What Job was doing in these passages, was humbling himself under God’s mighty hand. He was recognizing God’s sovereignty in the midst of his difficulty and praising him for it. In fact, Scripture says in everything, Job did not charge God with wrongdoing (1:22).

Similar to Job, Joseph said to his brothers who had thrown him into slavery, “what you meant for bad God meant for good (Gen 50:20).” Joseph, like Job and like Christ (Luke 22:42), humbled himself under God’s mighty hand.

It is important for churches to recognize God’s mighty hand even in a trial.

2. To humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand means to trust God.

Listen to what Solomon said in Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

To humble ourselves means to say, “God, you know best. I trust you, even though it doesn’t make sense. I trust your sovereignty over this situation. You are God.”

3. To humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand means to submit to God.

Jesus said, take this cup from me but nevertheless your will be done (Lk 22:42). He submitted to God’s will for his life even when it meant the cross. Many Christians only want to submit when God’s will fits their plans, but if it includes sickness, a difficult job or a difficult relationship--they rebel. Abraham when asked to sacrifice his child said, “OK.” He submitted to God in his trial. We must do the same.

Interpretation Question: What is the opposite of humbly submitting to God in a trial and what does that look like?

The opposite is pride and becoming angry at God and others in the trial. Many Christians have gone through trials in their life and ran away from God. They have shaken their fist at God in anger.

See pride says to God, “I know better than you.” But humility recognizes that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts.  Listen to what Isaiah says:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9

The prideful church members often get angry at God and angry at other people. They imply by their attitude that they know best and that if God was good he would have never allowed the trial to happen. But the humble church member says, “God, I trust you. I may not understand but I humble myself before you.”

Christ humbled himself and went to a cross because he understood God knew best. Christ prayed, take this cup from me, but nevertheless your will be done (Lk 22:42).  Are you humbling yourself before God? Are you trusting him?

What else does a healthy church do in a trial?

Application Question: Why is it so hard sometimes to trust God in the trials of life? How do we learn to trust him better?

Healthy Churches Persevere through Trials

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 5:6

We see that Peter is not only talking about humbling one’s self before God in a trial but also perseverance by his next comment. Peter says, we humble ourselves so that he may lift us up in due time.  The phrase “due time” was telling the believers, they would have to wait on God and persevere to receive his blessing.

The normal response for a church going through a trial is for many of the members to start bailing ship. The pastor has a moral failure, there is a fight amongst the congregants and people just start leaving.

No. Listen, “In due time if you persevere God will lift you up.” He will make you stronger. He will bless you if you just persevere. There is a time period we must stay under the trial so that God can do the work he wants to do in us. The potter must put the clay in the fire for a certain amount of time to make it strong so it can be useful. This is very similar to what Paul said in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Trials are like weights. You must put your body under distress so the muscle can grow. After it has gone through proper distress, the muscle responds by getting stronger, developing more endurance and growing. In due time God will lift us up; we must persevere. Listen to what James says about trials in James 1:4, “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (KJV).

The believer must let patience or better translated perseverance do the work it’s supposed to, so we can become mature in the faith.  We must let God do his work through the trial. Humble yourself under God’s mighty hand, for in due time he will lift you up. Listen, there is no better place for you to be at, than in God’s hand even if his hand is in the fire. He will protect you there and he will heal you there.

Let me tell you what perseverance is not. It is not grumbling. It is not complaining. It is not becoming angry at God. It is not fighting with others. To persevere through a trial, means to trust God and be faithful and righteous through the process.  To not persevere is to run away from God and run towards sin. Abraham saw a famine in the promised land, so he went to Egypt and lied about his wife (Genesis 12). There was a blessing even in the famine, but he had to persevere to receive it instead of bailing ship.

Interpretation Question: What does Peter mean by God “lifting” us up in due in time? How should this affect us?

  1. To be lifted up in the trial means to develop our character. Perseverance creates character and character hope (Romans 5:3-4). That is the most important “lifting up” we can receive.
  2. To be lifted up in trial may at times mean the removal of the trial. The potter only keeps the pot in the oven until it has created the strength or glory it is looking for. To keep it in too long would actually destroy the pot (1 Cor. 10:13). No doubt our God is like that as well. At times, it is his will to remove the sickness, the persecution, or the conflict after it has completed its ordained purpose.
  3. To be lifted up may at times mean taking the believer home to Glory.

Listen to what Isaiah says about righteous men being taken away: “The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil (emphasis mine)” (Isaiah 57:1). Isaiah said people don’t think about this enough. Why is God taking away all our godly leaders? Isaiah says, it’s a work of grace. He does that to keep them from the coming evil. God probably took Enoch away because of how sinful the world was right before the flood and the coming judgment (Gen 5).

For some, the Creator lifts them up by taking them to heaven through death. This no doubt would have comforted many who had lost relatives or friends to this persecution or those whose physical sufferings were unbearable. For some in a hospital bed with a debilitating, terminal disease, their greatest desire is for God to lift them up soon. It is the greatest form of grace to be taken to heaven.

God’s plan for lifting a believer up in trial may be different for each believer. We can be sure that he is always seeking to develop character qualities in us through trials (James 1:2-4), but whether he removes the trial or the believer is at times different. With Noah, it says he walked with God just as Enoch did (Gen 6:9), but God took Noah through the trial instead of taking him straight to heaven. God’s plan for each believer is different, but if we persevere he will lift us up.

How should the church respond in trial? We must persevere in the trial for in due time God will lift us up.

Application Question: What are some of the negative responses you have seen to church conflict? Why is it so difficult for members to persevere in trials?

Healthy Churches Practice Corporate Prayer in Trials

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7

Interpretation Question: What does it mean to “cast all your anxiety” on the Lord? Why is this important?

One of the things we must notice about this verse is that the “your” is actually plural in the original language. Peter is speaking to the local congregations and saying to cast their cares upon the Lord corporately in the midst of their trials. Certainly, Christians should pray individually but there is something powerful about corporate prayer. Look at Matthew 18:19-20,

“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.”

Christ says when two or more agree in prayer, he is in the midst of them and he answers their prayers. We often use this saying for the church gathering in general, but the context is specifically corporate prayer (and the larger context church discipline). Certainly, there are more factors than these such as praying God’s will and etc… as the rest of Scripture teaches. However, we must see that there is something special and powerful about praying with the church.

Peter says the church should cast their anxieties on the Lord. The word to cast means, means throwing something fully on something else or someone else.1  The church takes difficulties such as the sick people at the church, the church debt, the church conflict, persecution and they come together and pray about it.

We get a great picture of this in Acts 4. In this chapter Peter and the apostles have just been threatened by the Pharisees and told not to speak in the name of Jesus anymore. They were going through persecution. Guess what Peter leads them into doing? That’s right, corporate prayer. Look at what Acts 4:23-24 says:

On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them (emphasis mine).

As the text goes on, it says that the building they were in was shaken. God responded by filling each person with the Holy Spirit and they left the building proclaiming the Word of God with boldness.

What should the church do when they have anxieties? They should call up the saints and pray. They should bring it all before the Lord--throw the worries, fears and troubles on the Lord together.

In fact, I think we get a great picture of this individually with Christ before he goes to the cross. He is bearing this tremendous anxiety on him about the cross and bearing the sins of the world and what does he do? He calls a prayer meeting. “Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matthew 26:38). He calls Peter, James and John and asks them to watch and pray with him for an hour which eventually turns into three. Healthy churches pray together during a trial. They throw their anxieties on the Lord because he cares for them.

Application Question: What are some other ways we can apply this need to pray corporately?

a) This text reminds us of our need to share our anxieties and worries with the church community.

I think one of the things Satan has done is make people so ashamed, they no longer share their problems with the church. They never say, “I am having financial difficulty. My brother is sick; my wife has cancer.” Satan works through shame and it often cripples the church community from ever being the channel of blessing it is supposed to be. Listen to what James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” We must be willing to open up and share with one another so that we can have the healing that comes through corporate prayer.

b) The text reminds us to persevere in prayer and not give up.

Prayer is encouraged in the context of a call to persevere until God lifts them up in due time. This means we must persevere in prayer during trials. We saw this taught in a parable of Jesus in Luke 18:1: “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (emphasis mine).

Jesus gives a parable of a widow who consistently bothered a judge until he granted her request. He gives this parable to teach the disciples the need for praying and not giving up. He says this at the end of the parable, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).

Christ essentially says at his second coming this type of faith will be in short supply. Very few will pray till God lifts them up, till he removes the burden, till he changes the government, till he changes the ungodly laws. This type of faith is needed when a church is being persecuted and Christian values are being attacked in society.

Some of these difficulties in the church may last a long time, but we must faithfully pray through them. We must cast all our weight, all our concerns on the Lord as a corporate body. As we do this, he will lift us up in due time.

Conclusion

How do healthy churches go through trials?

  1. Healthy churches recognize, trust, and submit to God in trials. They focus on God’s sovereignty in the trial. It is not about this person or that person but primarily God. He is sovereign, and we must trust and submit to his hand while in the fire.
  2. Healthy churches persevere in trials. There is a specific amount of time that we must endure the fire so God can complete his work in us. In due time God will lift us up if we do not faint.
  3. Healthy churches practice corporate prayer in trials. When persecution came, Peter called a prayer meeting. When Jesus was weary unto death, he called a prayer meeting. We must both rely on God and one another in trials as we seek his face through prayer.

Application Question: What is your typical response to trials? How is God calling you to improve your response?

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.

Related Topics: Ecclesiology (The Church), Spiritual Life, Suffering, Trials, Persecution

18. How Healthy Churches Resist The Devil (1 Peter 5:6-11)

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Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:6-11

How do healthy churches resist the devil?

It should be remembered that these congregations throughout the Roman Empire were being persecuted. There was probably division in the church, as the young men were not submitting to the elders (1 Peter 5:5). Peter in the last chapter of the letter essentially encourages them to be healthy. He speaks to the leadership and the congregations. He calls them to humble themselves under God’s mighty hand during their trials.

He ends the letter with a final warning. He calls them to be alert and to resist the devil. This was very important. It should be noted that it is often in the midst of a trial that Satan attacks the hardest. It was while Jesus was at his weakest physically that Satan attacked him in the wilderness. It was in the wilderness that Israel was tempted to complain and turn away from God. It was when there was famine in the land that Abraham left the promise land and went to Egypt.

These scattered churches needed to be very aware of Satan and his attacks in the midst of their trials and their persecutions. No doubt, the enemy would seek to bring discord amongst the believers: try to draw many away from the faith and make many give up. It has been said God uses trials to strengthen our faith and Satan uses trials to weaken our faith. We always must be aware of his attacks, but especially during trials.

Another, aspect of a healthy church is their vigilant fight against the devil. C. S. Lewis talked about how there were two extremes in our understanding of the devil. There is the extreme of seeing Satan behind everything. He brings every sickness; he is the cause behind every sin. Satan, often, gets way too much credit in the church.

However, the other extreme, which is far more common, is that most Christians don’t recognize Satan at all. They blame their roommates, they blame the government, they blame their wives, they blame themselves and sometimes blame God, but Satan gets none of the blame. Paul said this:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 6:12

It is possible for Christians to see and blame everybody else and not recognize the spiritual war we are in. This would be particularly important for these Christians who were being persecuted for their faith. They needed to realize that Satan is the ruler of this world (John 12:31) and he is working behind the government and all aspects of society, to come against the plans of God. They needed to be alert for the devil. This would keep them from blaming God or blaming others.

Because of this sober reality, healthy churches and church members need a strong awareness of the enemy. Look at Pauls awareness of the enemy:

For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan stopped us (emphasis mine).
1 Thessalonians 2:18

He saw Satan hindering the work of ministry, as Paul was trying to visit Thessalonica. Similarly, look at what Paul said to married couples in 1 Corinthians 7:5,

Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (emphasis mine).

Paul saw Satan active in seeking to destroy marriages. In fact, Paul was so aware of Satan that he studied his schemes in order to not be tricked by them. He said this, “In order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Cor 2:11).

Paul saw an awareness of the devil as very important for a healthy church and thus a healthy Christian life. He calls for these Christians, who are scattered throughout Asia Minor, to be self-controlled and alert because Satan is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.

As we go through this lesson, I want you to ask yourself, “Do you have a healthy awareness of the devil? and How do we properly resist the devil, as a congregation? These questions are, especially, important as we go through trials.

Big Question: How do healthy churches resist the devil according to 1 Peter 5:8-9?

Healthy Churches Resist the Devil by Recognizing Him and His Tactics

Be self–controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 5:8

Peter calls for this church to be alert. This means they must recognize the devil and be aware of his works. He begins to explain a little bit more about the devil in the rest of the verse. This text doesn’t give us a full systematic theology on Satan and his works, but if we look closely, there is a lot we can learn from these few verses.

Observation Question: What does 1 Peter 5:8–9 teach us about the devil, so we can recognize him and be more aware of his works?

1. He is an enemy of the church. Peter said, “Your enemy the devil.”

The word your is plural. It means that not only do we have a personal enemy who hates us but one who ultimately wants to oppose the work of God in every church. He will harass, seek to bring division, seek to bring persecution, seek to hinder the preaching of God’s Word. This enemy works against the church of God.

We must be aware that every step that makes us closer to God or enables us to do more for the kingdom of God, will be met with opposition. The Christian must beware that when he became a follower of Christ, he also received an enemy. Jesus said that in the kingdom the devil plants false believers, tares, to choke the harvest (Matt 13:24-30). Satan is working not only from outside the church but inside the church. We must be aware that we have an enemy.

2. He is a dangerous foe.

We see this from the fact that Peter uses the metaphor of a lion in describing Satan. He is dangerous and needs to be taken seriously.

Now sometimes in certain sects of Christianity, they have lost a proper reverence for the enemy. They tend to overemphasize the fact that we have authority in Christ, and therefore, demean the enemy. Ask any person in a sporting event how a very talented team loses against a less talented team. This often happens because people don’t respect their opponent. Listen to what Jude says about this:

In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals—these are the very things that destroy them (emphasis mine).
Jude 1:8–10

In talking about false prophets, he calls them dreamers and describes how they slander celestial beings including the devil. Jude says even the archangel Michael, an angel more powerful than us, respected the devil and called upon God to rebuke him using the authority in the Lord’s name.

Sometimes, people have forgotten that Satan is a foe who knows us better than we know ourselves. He has been studying humans for thousands of years; he understands their tendencies. He also is very powerful and ferocious, as alluded to by the metaphor of a lion.

Though some may not verbally underestimate him, they live lives that do not recognize the danger he poses. They allow their kids total freedom in what they watch, what they wear, where they go. Would you do this if a lion was outside? Satan is more dangerous than any lion.

I do believe there is an authority that comes with our relationship with Christ (Ephesians 2:6), but we also must properly evaluate our enemy. He is a dangerous foe and the person who understands this will be self-controlled and alert.

How would you react if there was a lion prowling outside your apartment building? Now, how would you react if he was in your apartment building? You probably would be alert and in full control of your faculties.

3. He is an accuser.

Peter calls him the devil; the name means “accuser” or “slanderer.” This means that one of his primary assaults is accusation.

He accuses us before God. We saw this in the book of Job as Satan accused Job. Satan said to God, “Job only loves you because you bless him.” Satan also accuses God to us. We saw this with Eve. He said to Eve, “God is a liar; he doesn’t want what’s best for you. He is keeping you from being like God.” But he also attacks us. He says to us we cannot be godly, we cannot be holy—he attacks our body image, our failures, and our relationships. He is an accuser.

Listen to what Paul said: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1); “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31)

We must know that in Christ, the enemy’s accusations have lost their power. Have you recognized his accusing thoughts? He accuses to bring discord with other believers. He accuses to bring depression. We must be aware of his accusations.

4. He often uses stealth in order to catch Christians (prowl).

Look at the definition of prowl. It means “to roam through stealthily, as in search of prey or plunder.”1

We have an enemy who is trying to catch people, but he is often sly and stealthy in the process, like any good hunter. He doesn’t show up in a red costume saying “I want to kill you.” He prowls in a stealthy manner to destroy someone who is unaware. Look what Paul said about our enemy:

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve (emphasis mine).
2 Corinthians 11:13—15

Paul said Satan shows himself as an angel of light in order to deceive people and devour them. His ministers show up as apostles of Christ, those sent to preach the Word. Jesus called them wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt 7:15); they come with intentions to deceive. Many are devoured by the enemy because they are not aware of his tactics. He comes into the house by stealth through the TV, through the books one reads, through certain relationships. He comes through many ministers of the faith. He is a very cunning enemy.

Are you aware that you have an enemy who is prowling around waiting for an opportunity, a door, to snare you?

5. He often uses the tactic of fear in order to intimidate the believer (roaring lion).

It has often been said that the lion roars to paralyze his prey. In the same way, one of the tactics that Satan uses to hinder the effectiveness of believers is fear. Look at what Paul says to Timothy: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (emphasis mine), but a spirit of power, of love and of self–discipline” (2 Tim 1:7). Timothy is probably struggling with fear about doing ministry, and Paul alerts him to the fact that, that spirit is not from God.

It will commonly be fear that Satan uses to keep you from doing God’s will as well. Look at the Parable of the Talents.

Then the man who had received the one talent came. “Master,” he said, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you” (emphasis mine).
Matthew 25:24–25

The man whom God had given one talent to serve, did not because he was afraid. He was afraid to lead a small group, afraid to witness, afraid to go on missions, afraid about the future and this kept him from doing God’s will.

Satan, as a roaring lion, works through fear. He paralyzes his prey with worries and anxieties about the present, the past and the future. He roars to keep people from progressing in the things of God.

Are you under the constant barrage of fears and worries? This is how Satan paralyzes people and keeps them from growing in the faith and doing God’s will. Let us remember that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-discipline.

6. He ultimately wants to destroy the believer (seeking whom he may devour).

Look at what Jesus said to the Pharisees in John 8:44: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him” (emphasis mine). In this context, Jesus is accusing the Pharisees of wanting to kill him. He said they were doing the will of their father, the devil. This is the reality of every believer, especially a believer who is living passionately for God.

The devil will use even, what some would call, harmless sins to ultimately destroy the believer. He is a murderer, and we must be aware of that with every temptation. We often see the male drinking on TV and laughing while surrounded by a bunch of females, but we don’t see the drunk, drowning in his vomit, who has lost job and career. Satan wants to destroy, and if he can’t kill you, he wants to destroy your witness and to shame you in such a way that you will be too scared to allow God to use you. He is a destroyer.

When you really understand this concept, you cease to give Satan any doors. You don’t listen to him through the music or TV shows because you know his ultimate plan. He is a murderer. He wants to devour not only individuals, but families and churches. His pathway is full of destruction.

We must flee from all appearance of evil (1 Thess 5:22) for our enemy desires to devour, not just tempt.

The believer, however, can take confidence that God holds the temperature gauge on every trial that he allows the enemy to bring against us and that he always provides a way of escape (1 Cor 10:13).

7. He attacks in a widespread manner (your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings).

“Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Pet 5:9).

Because Satan is the god of this age and the prince of this world, he has created a system that works against God and those who follow him. We should not be surprised when we are passed over for promotion because of a lifestyle that is righteous. We should not be surprised when we are mocked for our values and belief systems.

In this context, Christians were being burned in the gardens of Nero just to give light to his plants and flowers. We should not be surprised at this, for Satan is at work behind the world system. He works in the hearts of those who are disobedient (Eph 2:2), leading them even into ridiculous atrocities. The enemy’s attacks are widespread.

8. He is a liar (brothers undergoing same kind of sufferings).

Probably an implication of Peter telling this church that the brothers throughout the world were enduring the same suffering is that Satan is a liar.

Believers are often tempted to believe that they are the only one’s going through their situation. They are tempted to think no one else understands them. Satan often isolates the believer from the church or other healthy relationships with this lie. He does this by making them feel like nobody else is going through this or nobody understands. The person struggling with pornography, the woman with an eating disorder, or the man with homosexual thoughts hide in shame, thinking no one else has the same struggles. Satan condemns and shames them in order to isolate and destroy them. We see this truth throughout the Scripture; Jesus calls Satan the father of lies (John 8:44).

Peter assures them that their temptations are common to the brothers. The believer must be aware of this lie often used by the devil. “No one else understands, no one else has been through what I have been through.” This keeps the believer from sharing with others and often keeps them bound in sin. Listen to what Paul said:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (emphasis mine).
1 Corinthians 10:13

Are you alert and aware of your enemy the devil?

He opposes everything good you seek to do for God. He seeks to encourage fear in you. He seeks to encourage you to isolate yourself. He feeds you lies. He accuses you; he accuses God; he accuses your friends. Are you alert to the works of the devil? He ultimately wants to destroy every believer. He wants to destroy their testimony and ultimately kill them.

Are you aware of your enemy the devil?

Healthy Churches Resist the Devil by Being Sober and Self-Controlled

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 5:8

Peter says believers must protect themselves from the devil by being self-controlled. What does it mean to be self-controlled?

Interpretation Question: In 1 Peter 5:8, Peter calls believers to be self-controlled in resisting the devil. It can also be translated “sober.” What does it mean to be self-controlled and sober in resisting the devil? Why is this important?

The word that Peter uses for self-controlled here has several meanings. It also can be translated to “be sober.”

1. To be sober means to be free of intoxicants both spiritual and physical. We will look at both separately.

a.) Spiritual Intoxication

A spiritual intoxicant is anything that creates apathy in your spiritual life and draws you away from God. It includes loving the things of this world and pursuing them, it includes addictions to sin that keep you from properly viewing people and the things of God.

We get a good picture of spiritual intoxication in the prodigal son (Luke 15). He leaves his father’s house in order to pursue wasteful living. He pursued the things of this world, the prostitutes and drunkenness. This ultimately led to his poverty. The prodigal son could not properly evaluate the beauty of the father’s love. Finally, Scripture says he came to “his senses” (v. 17). He sobered up and went home.

How many Christians has Satan destroyed because of spiritual drunkenness? They enjoy an ungodly relationship more than obedience to God. They enjoy the pursuit of materialism more than the joy of seeing the nations come to Christ. They are intoxicated and cannot properly steer the wheel of their lives.

Another good example of spiritual intoxication is the story of Esau and Jacob. Esau is the eldest son of Isaac. The inheritance of his father is his. However, one day he comes back from hunting in the field and has caught nothing. Therefore, he is starving. When he enters the house, Jacob has just made a wonderful dinner. Esau was so hungry that he bartered away his father’s inheritance, all the livestock, and wealth that had been stored up for generations, for one meal.

This may seem ridiculous, but it is not ridiculous in comparison to how many Christians live. They often choose to live their short 70 years on this earth enjoying the pleasures of this world, instead of enjoying their father’s love and preparing for their inheritance in heaven. Instead of living for God and storing their wealth in heaven, they store it on this earth, only to leave it behind at death. This is spiritual intoxication with the things of this world. They cannot properly evaluate the father’s love and blessing, in comparison to the fleeting pleasures of sin and the temporary things of this world. They are like Esau, spiritually intoxicated. Look at what John says:

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever (emphasis mine).
1 John 2:15-17

Satan works hard to deceive Christians and draw them away from the things of God. He seeks to intoxicate them. This is why Paul says: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world (emphasis mine), 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 (Romans 12:2).

We must change our thinking. We must have a sober mind so we will not be tricked by the evil one.

b.) Physical Intoxication

But being sober does not just refer to spiritual intoxication, it also refers to physical intoxication. This is a call to be free of addictions to cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, etc. Scripture consistently calls Christians to live a sober life. Look at what Paul says in Ephesians 5:18: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”

Satan is content to control your life through a physical intoxicant, as long as you are not controlled by God. You can only have one master. You cannot have two or three. You will love one and hate the other (Matt 6:24). The person who is addicted to a drug, essentially gives the worship and dependence that only God is worthy of, to that drug. This is something that Satan is happy about, and will use to draw a person farther and farther away from God and his plans for their lives.

Also, I think the original audience would have read this command a little different than the contemporary audience. Certainly, it referred to being free from drugs. But drugs in that society were an essential part of pagan worship and witchcraft. It should be noted that the word magic or sorcery in the Bible (Rev. 18:23) comes from the word pharmakea, where we get the word pharmacy.

Typically, people who were worshiping other gods or demons would use drugs in order to enhance their worship. Witches, specifically, would use drugs in order to open themselves up to the spirit world or demon spirits. No doubt, this was in Peter’s mind when he called the Christians to be sober. The use of these drugs opened the door for Satan and Peter probably commanded them to be sober in order to protect them from demonic influence.

Does this still happen today? Is it any surprise that in the majority of heinous crimes drugs or alcohol is involved? One statistic said for sexual assaults, 75% of the time, the offender, the victim, or both had been drinking.2 I have no doubt that the enemy commonly uses people who cannot control themselves because of submission to a drug, in order to rule over them and commit many heinous acts. Ephesians 2:2 describes Satan as “the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” It is no doubt easier for Satan to “work in” someone who has relinquished their self-control to some drug.

2. To be sober also means to be disciplined, as it can be translated “self-controlled.”

One of the ways a Christian lives a sober life and protects themselves from the enemy is by being self-controlled. Listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:25 (ESV),

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable (emphasis mine).

He compares the Christian to an athlete and says the Christian must be disciplined in all things. This includes their eating, their drinking, their sleeping, and their media. The Olympic athlete does this for an Olympic crown, but we do it for an imperishable one in heaven. How much more should a Christian be disciplined in all things when we will be rewarded by God, not an Olympic committee?

Listen, many Christians fail in this aspect of Paul’s command just by the time they go to bed at night. They don’t get good sleep, which affects their ability to get up and spend time with God. They are not living self-controlled lives. They live career-controlled lives, socially controlled lives, or media-controlled lives and this opens the door for the enemy to draw them away from God.

Satan has won in many Christians’ lives just because they are not disciplined. He won the battle in church the night before when the student chose to stay out all night hanging with his friends. In church, he is “bobbing and weaving.” He wins in the battle of the mind because the Christian lets any thought come into their mind—discouraging thoughts, depressing thoughts, lustful thoughts. In Hebrew, the word for simple has the connotation of an “open door” (Psalm 19:7). Many Christians just let their mind think anything. There is no self-control which is a fruit of the Spirit. This is the Christian who is not living a sober life, a self-controlled life, and therefore, is losing to the devil.

Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.
Proverbs 25:28

Are you living a self-controlled life? Are you living a sober life?

How do we apply this call to be self-controlled to the church? For many churches, the world is in the church and Satan has drugged it. In 1 Corinthians 5, when the man was having sex with his father’s wife, the church was boasting in their liberality (v. 6). They were a “tolerant” church. Many churches are like that today. They accept sexual immorality and homosexuality. The church is seeking to be accepted by the world and is becoming drugged by its philosophies and worldviews. Many churches are no longer sober but are already drinking the alcohol of this world, and they have opened the door for the evil one in the church.

Many churches have accepted the wisdom of this world, instead of the foolishness of God (1 Cor 1:25). They no longer accept a Biblical creation story; they no longer accept a God who does miracles. They no longer accept the inerrant and holy Word of God. Much of the church has lost its soberness, and therefore, opened the door for Satan.

Are you a sober Christian? Are you a self-controlled Christian? Or are you a Christian that has opened the door for the devil? Christians must resist by living sober and self-controlled lifestyles.

Application Question: What ways do you see a lack of soberness in the church today, which has opened the door for the evil one? What ways is God calling you to be more sober and self-controlled so you can better resist the devil?

Healthy Churches Resist the Devil by Standing Firm in the Faith

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 5:8–9

Peter says healthy churches resist the devil by standing firm in the faith. Resist the devil is a defensive posture. It is what we do when the enemy attacks. James 4:7 says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

Interpretation Question: According to 1 Peter 5:9, how do we resist the devil by standing firm in the faith? What does it mean to “stand firm in the faith?”

In order to resist the devil, the Christian must put his entire trust in God. That is why Peter says “stand firm in the faith.” The only ground we can stand on when attacked by the devil is our faith—it’s not medicine, it’s not worldly philosophy.

This is one of the reasons biblical counseling is so important because the secular world does not accept the reality of Satan and his demons. Satan is too great of a foe for us to defeat on our own or in our own power.

Paul says the weapons of our warfare are not carnal or secular but mighty in God for casting down strongholds (2 Cor 10:4). It must be done by putting our trust totally in God and his resources. Listen to what Paul said in the context of spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:10: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (emphasis mine). If we are to resist the devil, it must be through the Lord’s power and resources.

Interpretation Question: What does it mean to stand firm in the faith? How can we stand firm in order to resist the devil?

1. Standing firm in the faith means to resist the devil through Scripture.

When Christ resisted the devil in the wilderness, he used the Word of God. He quotes Scripture with every attack that Satan brings. Look at what Christ said:

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’” (emphasis mine).
Matthew 4:8–10

Christ always replies to the devil, “It is written.” If a Christian doesn’t know the Word of God, he will be open to many attacks from the devil. When Satan attacks a person’s body image and that person is tempted to feel discouraged, the believer must have Scripture to reply with. When the believer is attacked with lust or anxieties, he must have Scripture to reply with.

2. Standing firm in the faith means to practice a holy life.

We see this in looking at the armor of God. The majority of the armor of God is simply a holy life. By living a holy life, a Christian puts on the armor of God and protects him or herself against attacks from the enemy. To put on the breastplate of righteousness means to live a righteous life. A righteous life protects you from much of the enemy’s advances. To put on the belt of truth means to believe the truth and not accept any lies. “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place” (Eph 6:14)

When a believer instead chooses to rebel against God’s will in areas of sex, unforgiveness, cheating, etc., he opens the door for Satan. The believer must stand firm in the faith by practicing a holy life.

3. Standing firm in the faith means to live in an atmosphere of prayer

Jesus told the disciples to “pray lest they enter into temptation.” Prayer would have protected them from temptation to sin, and therefore, the devil. He called them to pray for an hour and they all failed. Consequently, they all denied him, in his time of need.

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mark 14:38).

Similarly, after Paul commands believers to put on the armor of God, he commands them to pray. Prayer is one of the ways we resist the devil. Listen to what Paul says in Ephesians 6:18: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

Also, Jesus taught that praying for protection from the evil one should be a regular part of the believer’s prayer life. Listen to the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:13: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (emphasis mine). We should pray for this for ourselves, for our families but especially for our church, whom the enemy is always attacking.

Another aspect of prayer probably includes rebuking the devil or commanding him to leave at times when it is clear that he is at work. We see this in many different parts of Scripture. In the book of Zechariah, Satan is accusing the high priest, Joshua, before God, and the Angel of the Lord rebukes Satan. Look at what he says:

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The LORD said to Satan, The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire” (emphasis mine)?
Zechariah 3:1–2

We see the Angel of the Lord, whom most scholars believe is a reference to Christ, rebuking Satan by using the name of the Lord. Essentially, God rebukes the devil by using his own name. We also see this with Michael, the archangel, in Jude 1:9. He rebukes Satan by using the Lord’s name. We, similarly, see the Apostles commanding demons to leave in the name of the Lord (Acts 16:18). There may be times where you stand firm in the faith by commanding demonic anxieties, lies of the devil, or other demonic works to cease in Jesus name.

James, like Peter, commands believers to resist the devil. He says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Sometimes, we resist the devil by rebuking him in Christ’s name. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas 4:7).

4. Standing firm in the faith means living a life of worship.

We see that David ministered to Saul, who had a tormenting spirit, through worship (1 Sam 16:23). When David, the psalmist of Israel, would play the harp, the demon would flee. Worship is a powerful weapon in resisting the devil. However, the person who lives in complaining and worry often opens the door for the enemy in their lives. It is through worship and thanksgiving that many of Satan’s arrows are extinguished.

We choose to “give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for our lives” (1 Thess 5:18). When Job gave God thanks in the midst of his trial, he essentially thwarted the attack of the devil, who was trying to make him curse God. Worrying or complaining is not far from cursing God. It says, “God, you are not all wise” or “God, you do not care.”

Are you a thankful, worshipful Christian? Or are you a worrier and a complainer? Complaining brought the judgment of God on Israel while in the wilderness (1 Cor 10:10). Complaining is also contagious, as it tends to open the door for Satan to work in other people’s lives. Paul said, “Do all things without complaining and arguing” (Phil 2:14). Stand firm in your trust for God by worshiping him and giving him thanks.

5. Standing firm in the faith means to live a life of fellowship.

Finally, a believer resists the devil by walking in right relationship with the church. They pray for one another, encourage one another, and pick one another up. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Eccl 4:12).

The Christian who walks alone is the Christian who will come under great attack. In fact, it is discord, specifically unforgiveness, that seems to open the door for Satan into many believers’ lives. Listen to what Christ said to the disciples about unforgiveness:

Then the master called the servant in. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart (emphasis mine).
Matthew 18:32–35

Christ says the person who does not forgive will be handed over to the torturers. Who are the torturers in this passage? It is the devil and his demons. Saul was handed over to a demon that tormented him (1 Sam 16). The Christian living in immorality in 1 Corinthians 5 was handed over to Satan for discipline.

God promises that when we don’t forgive others, we are handed over to the torturers. I believe there are many Christians who are going through trials simply because they have unforgivness in their hearts and are out of fellowship with the church or other Christians. The enemy torments them by bringing sickness; he torments them by bringing discord; he torments them by financial lack. If we are going to resist the devil, we must be walking in fellowship with the church, the body of Christ.

Are you standing firm in the faith?

It is the only way to resist the devil. Many Christians have begun to fall away from their firm stance in the faith. They fall away from reading and studying the Bible; they fall away from a consistent prayer life; they fall away from faithful attendance and fellowship with the church, and therefore, open the door for the enemy to attack them.

We see this all the time. When we have started to slip in practicing our faith: anxieties show up, anger shows up, and discord shows up. When we are not filled with God and living in faith, we find the enemies work everywhere in our lives.

This is particularly important for churches that have turned away from the firm stance in the faith. They do not preach the Word; they do not worship God in spirit and truth; they do not practice righteous living; they do not live in unity. It is in those contexts, you can be sure that you will find disorder and every work of the devil (Jas 3:14–16). The church must stand firm in the faith, or it will fall to the attacks of the evil one.

Application Question: How do you practice a lifestyle of standing firm in the faith in order to resist the devil? What ways does he commonly attack you?

Healthy Churches Resist the Devil by Persevering through Hope in God’s Grace

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 5:10-11

What is the final way we should resist the devil?

Christians should resist the devil by persevering through hope in Gods grace. We should not bail or quit in the midst of Satan’s attack because the one who is with us, is the God of all grace. He is the God who gives unmerited favor and blessing to those who persevere. Look at how Peter encourages these saints in their suffering. He says, “The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).

There is a measure of grace available to suffering saints. However, this grace only comes to those who persevere. Peter says “after you have suffered a little while.” A lot of Christians bail on the church when Satan attacks. They get mad at God. They get mad at the pastor and members. Many Christians are virtually “church hoppers.” They leave the church every time the enemy comes. Some pastors are like that.

Look at what Jesus said to his disciples:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it (emphasis mine).
John 10:11-12

Sadly, many of our leaders won’t stand, won’t persevere when Satan attacks. Like the hireling, the one who is only there for pay, they flee the church. However, the good shepherd stands when the wolf comes. This is how all Christians should respond to Satan’s attacks. These attacks may come through the moral failure of a leader, it may come through a spirit of division, it may come through false teaching or a cult. Either way, we must together resist and persevere.

We should persevere because God gives grace to those who do so. He blesses congregants who persevere together against the roaring lion.

Observation Question: Why should believers persevere through trials that the devil brings and what are the benefits of this perseverance according to 1 Peter 5:10-11?

1. The trial will only last a little while.

Peter says the trial will only last a little while. Trials are temporary. They are probably temporary in time, but they are certainly temporary in comparison to eternity. Soon the King is coming, or we will leave this earth to go to the King shortly. Therefore, we should not lose our confidence. Peter comforts these Christians with the brevity of trials.

2. The trial will develop our character and mature us.

Peter says through the trial we will be restored. The word translated restore can also be translated “mending nets” or “preparing their nets” in Matthew 4:21: “Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them.”

In the context, James and John are preparing their nets to cast into the lake to catch fish. They are fixing holes and tears in order to be more effective fisherman. Similarly, God uses trials to mend us and make us more effective. The trial exposes sin or character flaws so he can fix them. The trial is used to strengthen existing virtues in his ministers such as patience, joy and peace. Through the trial, he prepares his ministers. He mends us as a fisherman does his nets, so we can better serve him and others.

Don’t quit in the trial because God’s plan is to mend you through it so you can be more useful in ministry (2 Cor 1:3–6).

3. The trial will make you strong to stand in other trials but also in order to help others.

Peter said that after we had persevered, God would make us strong. Trials are like lifting weights. They build strength so we can persevere through other difficulties in life. God, also, makes people strong through trials so they can, in the future, carry others. “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak (emphasis mine) and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up” (Rom 15:1–2).

The strong are given a ministry of caring for those who are weak. Where weaker Christians in the faith often isolate themselves during trials and become very self–focused, the strong serve others even amidst their own difficulties. This is a grace that God gives; he not only gives strength but makes strength a characteristic of this person.

Has God made you strong?

4. The trial will make you firm.

Young Christians are often up and down in their spiritual life; they go from spiritual high to spiritual low. In fact, Paul describes spiritual infants as those tossed to and fro like a wave by false teaching and other evils.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
Ephesians 4:14

But the Christian who has persevered through suffering becomes firm. They start to have a steady consistent walk with the Lord. God makes us firm through our trials if we persevere through them. The mature are no longer tossed to and fro; they have become firm.

5. The trial will make you steadfast.

The word steadfast actually means to “lay a foundation.” When you lay a foundation, you are preparing not only to stand in storms but to build more. Your trial is just the platform in your life for God to build you up more into the image of Christ and a vessel that is useful for him. This trial is a necessary component of that process. A house without a foundation will not stand (Matt 7:24–27).

There are some specific trials that have happened in my life that are foundational for my current ministry. My struggle with depression for a year and half during college and the military was foundational for my current ministry. I minister daily from that reservoir. It was there God gave me a love for his Word; it was there I studied the Word the hardest I have in my life (including seminary). It was there he removed much of the dross (excess) from my life and left him alone. It was there God gave me a heart for others who were hurting and the empathy to really minister to them. My sufferings are the foundations of my ministry.

In our trials, we must persevere individually and as a community because it is in the trial that God mends us and prepare us for further ministry. He makes us strong to bear others up. He makes us steady instead of up and down. He makes us steadfast, laying a foundation for future growth and ministry.

Let us resist the devil by persevering through our trials. God has promised us his abundant grace.

Conclusion

How do healthy churches and church members resist the Devil?

  1. Healthy churches resist the devil by recognizing him and his tactics
  2. Healthy churches resist the devil by being sober and self-controlled
  3. Healthy churches resist the devil by standing firm in the faith
  4. Healthy churches resist the devil by persevering through hope in God’s grace

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 http://www.thefreedictionary.com/on+the+prowl

2 Fisher, Bonnie S., Cullen, Franscis T., and Turner, Michael T (2000). The sexual victimization of college women. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Ecclesiology (The Church), Satanology

Appendix 1: Study Group Tips

Related Media

In leading a small group using the Bible Teacher’s Guide it can be done in various ways. One format for leading a small group is the “study group” model where each member prepares and shares in the teaching. This appendix will cover tips for facilitating a weekly study group.

  1. Each week the members of the study group will read through a select chapter of the guide, answer the reflection questions (see Appendix 2), and come prepared to share in the group.
  2. Prior to each meeting, a different member can be selected to lead the group, and share question 1 of the reflection questions, which is to give a short summary of the chapter read. This section of the gathering could last anywhere from five to fifteen minutes. This way, each member can develop their gift of teaching. It also will make them study harder during the week. Or the other option is that each week the same person could share the summary.
  3. After the summary has been given, the leader for that week will facilitate discussions through the rest of the reflection questions and also ask select application questions from the chapter.
  4. After discussion, the group will share prayer requests and pray for one another.

The strength of the study group is the fact that the members will be required to prepare their responses before the meeting, which will allow for easier discussion. In addition, each member will be given the opportunity to teach which will further equip their ministry skills. The study group model has distinct advantages.

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