The previous article ended with a quotation from First Peter. “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame, For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (I Peter 3: 13-17 ESV)
Let’s summarize the letter of which this extended passage is a part. Peter writes to the “elect exiles in the dispersion,” a specific reference to Christians’ living in several Roman provinces of what is today the country of Turkey. By God’s mercy in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are “born again to a living hope,” fulfilled in end time salvation. Though the recipients have been through various trials, they are to rejoice in their salvation. Persecution is always a possibility and may have been experienced by the recipients of the letter..
Peter calls on Christians in their exile, not to be conformed to the passions, but to be holy as God is holy. The exiles are to remember that they were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. The apostle continues with admonition to put away deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander and yearn for the “pure spiritual milk.”
Peter reminds the exiles that they are a spiritual house, a royal priesthood, a chosen race, a holy nation that “proclaim the excellencies” of God who called them out of darkness into his light. They are to avoid the passions of the flesh. Among the Gentiles they are to be honorable in their conduct. Though non-believers speak of them as evildoers, the result will be that on the day of God’s visitation, they will glorify God.
Peter continues by exhorting them to submit to human authority, respecting the emperor and the governors sent by him. Their doing good will silence foolish people. It is of no benefit to be punished for doing evil and endure, rather it is good in God’s sight to endure for suffering for the good.
Christ is the example of suffering for Christians to follow. He suffered, though He committed no sin, on the cross so that we may “die to sin and live to righteousness.”
Peter continues with a section on the proper conduct of husbands and wives and servants, followed by an admonition to the churches to “unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” The exiles are not to respond to evil with evil but respond with blessing. After some relevant quotes from the Old Testament, Peter writes the words that were quoted at the beginning of this article. In our defense of the faith, Christians are to be gentle and respectful.
It is better to suffer for good than evil. Christ suffered for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous.
Christians are to live for the will of God, not for evil passions. The end is approaching for which we are to prepare. He exhorts the recipients of the letter to live self-controlled lives and love one another in the the community.
Peter returns to the theme of the trial of the exiles. They are not to be surprised that trials are happening. They should rejoice in the sharing of Christ’s sufferings as they will rejoice when Christ returns and are to glorify God in their suffering. Judgment begins in the household of God and then among those who do not believe the Gospel. The elders are instucted on how to lead the flock and the young are reminded of their proper duty.
The exiles suffer now but will inherit the eternal glory of Christ. Finally the apostle calls the exiles to stand firm in their belief.
Chrisitans are to suffer for the good, never for the evil. Our conduct is to be good as a witness to others. This includes a respectful and gentle way of speaking and conducting themselves with those who ask for an account of their faith. The appropriate way to present a defense of the faith is very important as is its content.
What can we learn from theis text?
1. The Christian community consists of elect exiles in this world and also is a holy nation and royal priesthood. Christians are elect exiles, because of God’s choosing us as His people in a world hostile to the Gospel. Our true home is heaven, an imperishable inheritance.
2. The churches and the people in them have gone through and will continue to go through various trials, not because we are evildoers, but because of doing good. Persecution is always a possibility for Christians.
3. We are not to conform to the passions, but remember that we are a holy nation. Our lives should be one of self-control.
4. Christ, who suffered for our salvation, is the model for our own suffering.
5. To respond to others with an apology, or defense, is a witness to Christ.
6. Our defense should be with gentleness and respect, no matter how the challenger behaves.
7. We are to rejoice in our trials.
(All quotations from the Bible are from the English Standard Version)
Michael G. Tavella
March 18, 2019
The Day of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, 386