1 Peter – Index

Below are the links for the various posts commenting on a certain section of 1 Peter:

Introductory Material
Introduction & Greetings (1.1-2)
God’s Grace & Salvation, part 1 (1.3-12)
God’s Grace & Salvation, part 2 (1.13-2.3)
God’s Grace & Salvation, part 3 (2.4-12)
God’s Grace & Submission, part 1 (2.13-17)
God’s Grace & Submission, part 2 (2.18-25)
God’s Grace & Submission, part 3 (3.1-7)
God’s Grace & Suffering, part 1 (3.8-17)
God’s Grace & Suffering, part 2 (3.18-4.6)
God’s Grace & Suffering, part 3 (4.7-19)
God’s Grace & Suffering, part 4 (5.1-11)
Farewell & Conclusion (5.12-14)


Farewell & Conclusion

Peter summaries his first epistle with a call to stand firm in God’s grace (12). He then concludes the epistle with farewells and benedictions (13-14). It is once again a call to stand firm in God’s true grace.

1 Peter 5:12–14 (ESV)

12By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

By Silvanus…briefly to you: Silvanus is the long form for Silas, one of Paul’s constant traveling companions (mentioned a dozen times in Acts 15-18). Silas was a Christian (brother), a prophet (Acts 15.32), and a Roman citizen (Acts 16.37). He was a letter-bearer for the letter produced at the Jerusalem conference (Acts 15.22). He may have been the letter-bearer for this epistle & possibly the amanuensis for Peter; it is “with the help if Silas” (NIV) that Peter has written briefly. Peter identifies Silas as a faithful brother which is a typical commendation for a letter-bearer (cf. Rom 16.1-2), however, it need not be a designation for an amanuensis. Briefly cf. Heb 13.22.

Exhorting…grace of God: Exhorting or “encouraging” (NIV) speaks to the moral commands to which Peter has called these disciples. Declaring or “testifying” (NIV) speaks to the true doctrine of Christ Peter has put forth throughout the epistle. This refers to the epistle as a whole. Everything Peter has written informs the moral practices & doctrinal beliefs of these Christians. Thus, the true grace of God instructs us concerning morality & doctrine.

Stand firm in it: It is this true grace in which these Christians are to stand firm. Any wavering or deviation from the true grace would be apostasy. God’s grace is to support these Christians as they live the Christian life in an increasingly hostile unbelieving world.

Just as these Christians in Asia Minor were to stand firm in God’s true grace, so too must Christ’s church today stand firm in God’s true grace. From this position we then work out our own salvation with fear & trembling, leaning upon &, indeed, utilizing the grace of God to accomplish this.

13She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.

She…sends you greetings: Babylon is a figure for Rome, not the ancient city in Mesopotamia. She is speculatively considered 1) a prominent woman & leader of the church in Rome known to these Christians in Asia Minor or 2) Peter’s wife. Likewise chosen (Gk suneklektē) would militate against a view of a single person since Peter is writing to churches in Asia Minor. Also, identifying the church in a given locale as an “elect lady” is not without precedent in the NT (see 2 John 2). Hence, it seems reasonable to see here the church in Rome sending greetings to her sister churches in Asia Minor. See Introductory Material for more on “Babylon.”

So does Mark, my son: Mark is John Mark, another regular companion of Paul of whom Paul spoke highly (e.g. 2 Tim 4.11), though they did have a rocky patch (see Acts 15.36ff). Peter calls him my son, a term of endearment indicating Peter fatherly love for Mark, not an actual father-son relationship. Like Babylon, this is a figure. Mark is Peter’s spiritual son, similar to Timothy with Paul (cf. 1 Tim 1.2).

Peter referring to Rome as Babylon has roots in the OT where Babylon is often used as a general figure for those opposed to God (see Isa 13-14; 46-47; Jer 50-51). The same image is used again in Revelation 17-18. It is as if, for Peter & those with him, the whole city is opposed to God’s chosen church. So we come full circle from where we started the epistle: Christians are “elect exiles,” Peter’s two-word sermon for Christians not only in Asia Minor, but even today. The world remains hostile, antagonistic toward the church. “Darkness hates light.”

14Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

Greet…kiss of love: cf. Rom 16.16; 1 Cor 16.20; 2 Cor 13.12; 1 Thess 5.26. The language of Peter’s injunction is different than Paul’s “holy kiss.” Nevertheless, the same practice is in view. This was an established practice in the church, probably performed during assembly. The kiss would be given either on the brow or cheek. It was a symbol of familial love among siblings, friendly affection, and honor.

Peace…in Christ: Peter concludes his epistle with a peace wish. Once more we see the end tied to the beginning (1.2). Christians are at peace with God and with one another. For the original audience, peace was much needed. Persecution & trouble beset them within & without. God’s peace is needed is such high stress situations.

God’s Grace & Suffering, part 4

Peter moves from the individual to the Church collectively. God’s grace is sufficient for the entire body of Christ. In 1 Peter 5.1-11, Peter assumes his shepherding role and explains that threats exist on the physical level and the spiritual level.

Suffering as a Church (1-11)

The church the world over is suffering so put on humility & the God of all grace will strengthen you.

1So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:

So I…you: So or “then” or “therefore” connects this with the previous section. When times of persecution come, leaders & followers in the church must respond appropriately. Elders would be the leaders in the church. Since judgment was set to begin with God’s family, perhaps the leaders would be targeted first (cf. Eze 9.6). The word itself denotes an older man. For these elders Peter has an urgent request (exhort).

Two arguments we make from this text is 1) there should be a plurality of “elders” in each congregation (i.e. more than one) & 2) the elders who serve must be “among” or in the church they serve (i.e. an elder has jurisdiction only over the single congregation he is a member of). All evidence indicates that elders were widespread in the early church; in Jerusalem, Philippi, Asia Minor, & Crete.

As a fellow elder: Rather than pulling rank & appealing to his apostleship, Peter instead addresses the elders as an equal, a “co-elder” (Gk sumpresbuteros) who, like them, serves the “chief Shepherd” (v.4).

A witness of the sufferings of Christ: Peter was an eyewitness to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, to His arrest, to His scourging, to His crucifixion. He saw the soul crushing grief as well as the brutal gore of Christ’s sufferings (pl.).

It is no wonder Peter appeals to “the sufferings of Christ” here; much of the book has dealt with suffering, both Christ’s & the Christian’s (1.11; 2.19-24; 3.14, 16-18; 4.1-2, 12-19). Suffering is linked with leadership because if shepherds are to pattern their service after the model of the chief Shepherd, Christ, it will mean sharing in His suffering. Contextually, these Christians are experiencing or are preparing to experience suffering through persecution. The temptation would be to avoid persecution, send out the rank & file members while the leaders sit back away from the fray. Or to use contemporary leadership language, the leaders may be tempted to eat last at the table of suffering. While “leaders eat last,” they should be the first to taste persecution. Christ shows as much by His willingness to drink the cup of suffering on our behalf. A good shepherd today is not merely one who makes good decisions, but one willing to endure the first brush with suffering.

As well as…revealed: Two ways this could be understood: 1) Peter has seen the glory of Christ as he followed Him during His ministry (e.g. Luke 9.28ff); 2) Peter anticipates the glories of heaven. The latter seems more likely since Peter is exhorting these elders on the basis of common experience & hope.

2shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;

Shepherd…among you: the flock of God (or “God’s flock”) is a clear reminder to these elders that the church belongs to God. “It is God’s church, and they are given the privilege and responsibility of shepherding it” (NAC). The call to shepherd is a call to lead & provide for the congregation. It includes guidance, care, & help. Among you indicates proximity, i.e. these men are in the churches.

Elders are to feed the flock, not fleece the flock. John Gill draws the sharp distinction:

[Feed] not with every wind of doctrine, which blows up the pride of human nature, and swells men with vain conceits of themselves; nor with the chaff of human doctrines; nor with trifling and speculative notions; but with knowledge and understanding of divine and evangelical truths, with the words of faith and sound doctrine, with the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ; with the Gospel of the grace of God, which contains milk for babes, and meat for strong men; and with a crucified Christ himself, who is the bread of life, and whose flesh is meat indeed, and his blood drink indeed; by directing them to his person, blood, and righteousness, to live by faith on; by preaching the doctrines of peace and pardon by his blood, atonement and satisfaction by his sacrifice, and justification by his righteousness, and complete salvation by his obedience and death. (Gill on 1 Peter 5.2)

Exercising oversight: Gk episkopountes, from which we get our word “Bishop.” Once more highlighted is the care of the flock as the elder looks after the church. Help & service are also involved.

Not…have you: The 1st of three (3) contrasts—do not shepherd out of some sense of obligation; shepherd willingly, cheerfully, out of a heart & soul desire. The latter is God’s will for elders.

Not…but eagerly: The 2nd of three (3) contrasts—do not shepherd from a position of greed or obtaining money by extortion or embezzlement; rather, shepherd eagerly, which is another of way of saying the elder must serve of their own free will.

In the span of two verses, Peter links elder, shepherd, and overseer to the same office or role in the church. There were not pastors & elders & bishops, all separate classes from one another. They were, and should continue to be, one in the same role in the church. When Paul summoned the elders from Ephesus (Acts 20.17), he addressed them as “overseers” (v.28). This is the typical interchangeability of the words in the New Testament.

3not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

Not…to the flock: The 3rd of three (3) contrasts—do not shepherd in a harsh, authoritarian manner; rather, elders pattern their lives after the model of Christ & so serve as examples in the church. Do not boss others around; model the good character of Christ.

Ultimately, leadership deserves its follower-ship and vice versa. The high call of God is for elders to set the example which the flock is to follow. Gill explains elders are to:

set an example to believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity; and be patterns of good works to them, and recommend the doctrines they preach, and the duties they urge, by their own lives and conversations; and particularly should be ensamples to the saints, in liberality and beneficence, in lenity and gentleness, in meekness and humility, in opposition to the vices before warned against (Gill on 1 Peter 5.3).

Too often elders are instead dictatorial and autocratic, tyrannical despots who run roughshod over the flock. The make power plays and appeal to “the authority of the elders” for justification of such moves. Peter, a fellow elder inspired of the Holy Spirit, says that what is needed by elders is not a spirit of domination, but a spirit willing to follow the hard after the model of Christ. The appeal to authority to be made is an appeal to Christ’s authority since He is the only one has any because He has all authority (Matthew 28.18). His is a model not of supremacy, but of suffering. It is not about being a manager; it is about following the Master.

4And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

And when…appears: Jesus as Chief Shepherd is head who directs the activities of all other shepherds. Jesus is the one in charge of the shepherds (i.e. elders) of the local church. When He appears points to His final coming when He will judge everyone & reward the faithful.

Calling Jesus “Chief Shepherd” should remind all leaders that they are servants, not sovereigns. Shepherds serve under the authority of the Chief Shepherd. Christ owns His church, it belongs to Him & not the elders. They must faithfully love & serve God’s people, but they must never lose sight of their Master who is the true owner of the flock – the Lord Jesus Christ.

You will…of glory: Faithful shepherds will be given a victor’s crown (Gk stephanon). This was the crown given to athletes who were victorious in competition or generals who were victorious in battle. These crowns, composed of flowers or leaves, would wither & fade; however, the crown given by God is unfading, that is, immortal. Rather than being composed of leaves or flowers, the crown Christ confers is of glory, no doubt the same “glory …to be revealed”  spoken of in v.1.

Being an elder in the Lord’s Church offers no promise of an earthly reward. In fact, it is a temporary servant role. Now, will there be times when shepherds are rewarded for their service? Absolutely. However, there is no guarantee of this & generally speaking being in leadership is thankless work. Peter instead points leaders beyond this life to the promise of a heavenly reward for serving in a distinguished manner. While the work of elders may be largely forgotten with the passing of time, it is not forgotten by God or Christ. Shepherds across time & space will one day stand before Christ & their faithfulness will be rewarded.

5Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Likewise: or “In the same way” (NIV, NET). Peter shifts audiences though not general subjects.

You who…the elders: The younger here are young people in the church who, perhaps more so than the older people of the church, tend to be more independent in their thinking or are more rebellious in their youth. These are commanded to be subject or submit to the elders. If the more rebellious are commanded to submit then the less or non-rebellious members would likewise by extension be urged to be subject to the leaders (i.e. elders).

Clothes yourselves…one another: Peter addresses all of you or all the members of the congregation. From relations in the church leadership structure Peter moves interpersonal relationships in the church. Peter commands these Christians to clothe yourselves (Gk enkombosasthe) as one would put on an apron or tie a towel around the waist (see John 13.4). Everyone is to be clothed with humility. Humility is a lowly mind toward one another. This is where we count others’ needs as more important than our own (cf. Philippians 2.3-4).

“Humility is the oil that allows relationships in the church to run smoothly and lovingly” (NAC). Unfortunately, humility is a characteristic which American Christianity has lost sight of & sorely needs. The lack of humility & the presence of pride is the cause of many church problems. We think too highly of ourselves. The reality is that any good we do or any achievement we attain is because of God & therefore in humility we give God glory.

On the other side of the spectrum is humility’s ugly distortion: worthlessness or unworthiness. This is thinking too lowly of ourselves. Many psychological problems result from people thinking too little or themselves. This is to actually overlook the good that God is working in us. It means we ignore the constant work of sanctification which His Holy Spirit is doing in our lives. If pride accentuates the abilities of self & ignores giving glory to God, in a similar way self-abasement/shame devalues the work of God in self & likewise fails to give glory to God for that.

True humility is thinking rightly about ourselves. It neither loses sight of God’s working in us nor does it fail to give glory God for what He has done & is doing. Rather, true humility sees the work of God in us & gives God all the glory for that.

For “God…the humble”: Peter quotes Proverbs 3.34 (from LXX). For is explanatory—Christians must clothe themselves in humility because God is at war with the proud while the humble He gifts with His unearned favor. Why such a reaction from God? It boils down to trust; “God delights in being trusted” (Grudem 194). The proud do not trust Him because they need nothing. The humble can only but trust God for His favor & everything.

It must be noted that it does not say God is opposed to pride, though I am confident that the sin of pride, like any sin, is repugnant to holy God. It says, “God opposes the proud,” i.e. the proud person. In a similar way, it is to humble people that God gives grace. Both of these verbs are present tense, i.e. God is continually set against proud people and He continually gives grace to humble people. It is with difficulty that we separate the sin from the sinner and the virtue from the virtuous.

6Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,

Humble yourselves…hand of God: To be humble is a landscaping term which meant to level off a certain piece of land (e.g. Isaiah 40.3 LXX). It came to mean to think rightly of self (level off yourself), esp. in relation to God. Here Peter is calling Christians to humble themselves (in a lowly spirit) to the power & will of God. Christians are to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God. This is a common OT picture expressing God’s power and authority (the hand being that by which deeds are done). Peter uses it to put God rightly in the mind of these Christians. The invitation is to recognize God’s sovereignty & ability to deliver Christians from every foe, esp. Satan (v.8). Also, the hand of God was connected with God’s goodness toward His people when faced with difficult circumstances & enemies (e.g. Ezra 8.22, 31).

It is a principle firmly rooted in the Bible – “humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 15.33b). It was a constant theme in Jesus’ teaching (see Luke 14.7-11, esp. v.11). The road to honor treads over the pathway of humility. We must decrease if He would increase us. To be filled with His grace we must empty our hearts of pride.

So that…exalt you: Christians were looked upon as undignified people who were spoken evil against (2.12). However, those who think rightly of self in relation to God, God gives a high status or dignity. Peter may have Proverbs 15.33b (“humility comes before honor”) or the teaching of Jesus that those who humble themselves will be exalted (Luke 18.14b; cf. Matthew 23.12).

“At the proper time” or “in due time” (NIV) is God’s time. We often do not know when that is. Is it a day? A week? A month? A year? Years? However long it turns out to be is the right time because it is according to God’s time. Yet we are an instant message society. We want things now. Instant information. Instant access to content. We are living in Generation Now. Have a pain? Pop a pill. Want some food? There’s an app for that. The challenge is to engage the slow, long work of enduring for the sake of humility the things of this life. Things that have deep meaning and that last take time to achieve.

7casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Casting…on Him: cf. Psalm 55.22. Part of the humbling process is the Christian casting all his/her anxiety on God. To hold on to worry, then, is an example of pride. By casting our cares, anxieties, worries on God Christians recognize Who really has the power to change or affect situations. When Christians cling to worries & cares they become trapped in the faulty thinking that they must solve all their problems on their own. To experience the sustaining grace of God Christians must learn to unburden themselves of the anxieties of this world & their lives.

“Worry is a form of pride. Worry constitutes pride since it denies the care of a sovereign God. The antidote to worry is believing in and resting in God’s care for believers.”[1] We tend to get trapped in the faulty thinking that it is up to us to fix our own problems in our own strength. What God wants from us is for us to take our burden of worry & turn it over to His care & sovereign power. We are powerless, weak, & in need of divine help. There is one who is big enough, powerful enough to help.

[1] Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 238–239.

Because He cares for you: Perhaps these Christians had begun to doubt whether God really cared about them since they were enduring such terrible suffering &  persecution. Perhaps their perception of God was distorted & they viewed Him as indifferent or disinterested in their pain. Peter reminds them that God’s all-seeing eye is on these Christians, ever mindful of their plight.

It seems to be our default position to doubt whether or not God really cares about us. More often than we’d like to admit, we are more like the disciples in the boat on the sea of Galilee asking Jesus, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4.38) Peter reminds us that “He cares for you!” See how much the Father loves you! He is keenly aware of YOU. While you’re so busy being concerned about everything around you, God is concerned with you. We are always on His mind.

8Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Be sober-minded: or “self-controlled” (NIV). Christians are to be in control of their thought processes & thus not be in danger of irrational thought. Pictured here is a self-restrained person. Peter is calling for His brethren to be calm, collected, & pensive.

Christians need to be serious thinkers about God, life, suffering, & our adversary. Indeed, just as the term suggests, we ought to be free from anything which would cloud our judgment & reasoning. Any intoxicant which threatens our sobriety should be avoided. It is our enemy who wants to behave in a thoughtless way. He wants to get us to stop thinking or, short of that, get us to disengage serious thought patterns. When we are under the influence of intoxicants, “Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things” (Proverbs 23.33). This is descriptive of what Satan wants to do with us: terrify us in mind. Instead, under the influence of the Spirit of God, we pursue wisdom, holiness, & goodness. Our thought patterns are focused on the comfort of the Father & the deliverance He brings.

Be watchful: Or “alert” (NIV). This was a favorite expression of Jesus in talking about the coming destruction of Jerusalem (Matt 24.42; Mk 13.35, 37). Be wide awake and alert. Jesus used the same word for when He and the disciples went to Gethsemane to pray (Mk 14.38).

Christians need to be awake and alert lest we fall into temptation and sin and so forsake Christ. We need to be alert or awake because the devil is constantly on the prowl. Just as the devil was responsible for the suffering & persecution in the 1st century, so he continues to be responsible for the persecution the world over today. He continues his diabolical work even today. There remains open hostility between the devil & the children of God.

Your adversary…to devour: The devil is the great adversary (or enemy, NIV) of the church. The devil is continuously hostile toward Christians. He is ultimately responsible for the persecution & suffering the church endures. Open hostility is the devil standing policy against God’s people (see Revelation 12.17). Peter likens the devil to a roaring lion. This is an intimidation tactic whereby the devil seeks to induce fear & cause Christians to abandon the faith. A Christian who leaves the fold of God for the fold of Satan is one whom the devil is said to devour.

Note the stark contrast between God & the devil: God “cares” for us so much that we can unburden our souls, giving Him all that troubles us. The devil, on the other hand, seeks to cause the anxiety & fear in us. God promises to protect us; the devil is devoted to destroying us.

Lions roar to communicate their in charge of their territory. So Satan, who has become the false ruler of the fallen world, roars to signal his current dominance over the world. But one day, the Lion of the tribe of Judah will come & silence the meowing of this diabolical lion. He will establish His pride.

Brown (3:338-349) includes a lengthy discussion of the adversary, noting the devil is…

  1. A subtle adversary: His temptations are tailor made for us
  2. An active adversary: He is always looking for an opportunity to cause us to fall
  3. A cruel adversary: He is satisfied with causing pain & affliction
  4. A powerful adversary: He is “the strong man” which Christ binds

9Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

Resist him…your faith: Some see Peter’s potential knowledge of the epistle James since he uses the same term to describe the Christian’s war against the devil. While it could that Peter knew James epistle, it could just be the common way Christians spoke of engaging the enemy. Resist is a term of action. Christians actively engage against the foe. Passivity will lead to defeat. By our resistance to the devil Christians will remain firm in [their] faith. Firm is a foundational term & indicates that Christians are not to be moved.

How does a Christian resist the devil? Peter does not specify how we are to do this, only mentioning that we are to do it. Perhaps Paul’s discussion of the whole armor of God in Ephesians 6.10ff informs out practice on this; similar terms are used there in describing our conflict with the spiritual forces of darkness. The war we wage is done so with the vanguard of the Lord ever before us (Rev 19.11ff). Christ goes before us in righteousness and “makes war.” We follow after He who sits upon the white horse.

Knowing…the world: The brotherhood which we are to love (2.17) throughout the world are experiencing the same kind of affliction from the enemy. These Christians in Asia Minor are not the only Christians suffering for their faith. Christian siblings the world over face suffering. This shows that what these Christians are enduring is not unusual. The sufferings here could be the inward temptations from the evil one or the outward trials brought by unbelieving people.

Then knowledge that our brethren the world over are facing the same trials is intended to bring comfort. The temptations & trials we face are “common to man.” Thus, there is nothing new under the sun. However, the degree to which Christians suffer varies. In fact, for American Christians, the trials we face compared to the trials faced by our brethren elsewhere in the world are actually lighter by comparison. When affliction comes we need to be careful that we do not have a “woe-is-me” attitude, as though we are the only ones suffering or that ours is the worst imaginable suffering. We need to keep in mind that no one has suffered like the Lord’s Jesus Christ. His suffering pales all other suffering of the brotherhood. Yet, through suffering, we come to know Him. Per crucem ad lucem. “Through the cross, into the light.” Suffering before glory.

10And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

And after…little while: Peter says the suffering is for “a little while.” Implies the suffering goes away, but does not say that the suffering ever ends.

The God of all grace: Peter calls Him the “God of all grace,” the same kind of grace which He equips the church with (4.10) & bestows upon the humble (5.5). Every kind of grace; every needed grace; every means of grace – God supplies it. Peter will list four (4) graces shortly.

Who has…in Christ: While the sufferings last only a little while, God’s call is to glory which endures forever. The contrast between the sufferings & the Sovereign is intentional (cf. 2 Cor 4.17).

Will Himself restore: The idea of fixing something. Same word used of the apostles while still fishermen “mending” their nets after fishing all night (Matt 4.21). So here Peter, one of those fishermen who was mending the nets, knows that Christians strain & fray under the constant pressure of suffering/persecution. And it is God Himself who will mend, repair, fix us when the night is over.

Confirm: To make firm, no longer weak. Same word Jesus used for Peter (Lk 22.32). Peter would be weak and deny Jesus. But he would be the one, once he turned back, who would “strengthen” his brethren. Peter remembers His Master’s words and is doing just that in this letter. It is a call to be strong, confirmed in the Lord.

Strengthen: Only here in the NT, it means to strengthen. God sends the Christian new (bodily) strength. Like going to the gym and working out hard, getting a good burn, muscles hurt and ache, but your stronger after. God reinvigorates the Christian.

Establish you: This is a builder’s term and was used to describe a firm foundation. God grounds the Christian, lays/constructs a foundation which is firm, solid. Following a tumultuous time that suffering can bring, Christians need the firm foundation only God can give.

Ours is a glorious calling in Christ. Ours is a calling which leads to eternal glory in Christ. Both the act of calling, that to which we are called, & He who calls us are in view. God work on our behalf (the latter half of the verse) are rooted in our gracious calling. By grace He begins a good work within us & by grace He will complete it. In addition, God is the God of all grace. There is no limit to His grace. No wonder Paul writes about “the immeasurable riches of His grace” (Eph 2.7). Further, the God of all grace has grace for all. Including each of us. Since His grace reaches me & you, the doubts & fear which rise up can be and are driven away by the knowledge that all God’s grace is for us & it is sufficient for us.

11To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

To Him…Amen: Peter concludes this section with a brief doxology emphasizing God’s sovereignty. God’s dominion (Gk kratos) is His power to rule or control. It is an eternal rule. Amen, the typical conclusion of a doxology, means “so be it,” indicating Peter’s desire for God’s rule to come on earth as it is in heaven.

Here is yet another comforting fact – God’s eternal power to rule & control all things is toward us. We are on the side of the Almighty and therefore we are on the victorious side.

God’s Grace & Suffering, part 3

Peter continues to unpack how God’s grace relates to the suffering Christians experience. In 1 Peter 4.7-19, Peter hones in on what it means to suffer as a Christian, i.e. suffering for the Name of Christ.

Suffering as a Christian (4.7-19)

As Christians suffer they must love & serve their siblings & glorify God by continuing to do good.

7The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.

The end of all things is at hand: Given the Noah reference earlier (3.20), it seems best to understand this as when God makes an end of the wicked who are causing the suffering of these Christians; as in Noah’s day when God brought about “the end of all flesh,” so for the Christians in Asia Minor God would bring an end to all the things they suffer from wicked people. However one interprets this phrase (see Special Study), Peter intended to exhort these Christians to consider the impending judgment which Christ’s coming would bring and live accordingly.

Nowhere does the Bible ever endorse or condone date setting. Rather, the doctrine of the end times is intended to encourage to faithfulness, in a perpetual state of readiness to meet the Lord regardless of when He returns. The Bible also does not advocate for withdrawal from the world into isolation in anticipation of the end. We live in the world as elect exiles; time is short so we must make the most of it. This is the urgency of the imminence of Christ’s return. Also note that there is no call for extraordinary or unusual behavior as we live in light of the end. Peter exhorts us to normal Christian behavior. Indeed, if every day is to be lived in light of the end, then would it not be business as usual for Christians. So pray, love, speak, & serve “in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (verse 11).

Therefore be…your prayers: self-controlled has to do with controlling the thought life so that the body acts in a God-glorifying way. Sober-minded or “watchful” (NKJV) emphasizes the calmness of mind & disposition, settled in mind for the purpose of prayers.

When faced with persecution our recourse is not political activism but prayerful action. This is the first thing Peter invites Christians to do in light of the judgment of God upon the wicked & His deliverance of His people. Clear-headed, serious prayer. Acknowledge His abiding presence & providence, confess shortcomings, express gratitude for mercy & grace, offer up our desires & hearts, intercede on behalf of others, including those persecuting us. Prayer is the first duty & essential work of true religion unto God. Prayer is to religion what breathing is to life. When it hardest to breathe in this life is when we must devote ourselves to serious, sober supplication.

Special Study— “The End of All Things”

Several possibilities for understanding this verse have been offered:

1) Destruction of Jerusalem: Just a few years away, these Christians were living with before God brought judgment upon the Jewish through the Romans. But one must wonder why a predominately Gentile church in Asia Minor would need this information.

2) The End of Time/Last Day: The final judgment when rewards & punishments are meted out. The problem with this view is “at hand” means soon to take place & we are nearly 2,000 years since Peter wrote this.

3) The End of Suffering/Wicked: Christ would bring deliverance from their suffering & the evil surrounding them when He came.

4) The End of Their Lives: Barnes & Barclay make similar points that this could be Peter’s meaning.

8Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

Above all: More than anything else for “the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13.13).

Keep loving…earnestly: Jesus warned that with the coming end of the age “the love of many will grow cold” (Matt 24.12). So Peter reminds these exiles living under empire of the priority of love for their brethren. Keep (pres. Part.) indicates this must be the habitual practice of Christians. Earnestly indicates the intensity of this love, a theme repeated from 1.22.

Once more Peter exhorts Christians to not merely love one another (which we are), but to love one another “earnestly” or intensely. “Fervently” says some translations. This cuts right to the heart of the “love, but don’t like” fallacy of the world. “Well, I know God commands that we ‘love one another,’ but I don’t have to like the person I love.” While it may true that you start here or end up here because of circumstances, through willful obedience to the expressed command of God & by the shaping of our feelings by the Holy Spirit within us, the fervency of our love is impacted and changed. The depth & degree of our love is influenced by God working on our hearts so that we not only love someone objectively (an overarching desire to see Christ formed in them) but also subjectively (a positive disposition toward a person so that you enjoy treating them lovingly).

This “love, but don’t like” lie has a negative impact on Christian fellowship. If “love covers a multitude of sins” but I don’t even like a person, then whatever forgiveness I extend will be given begrudgingly at best. “Where love is lacking,” says Grudem (173), “every word is viewed with suspicion, every action is liable to misunderstanding, and conflicts abound – to Satan’s perverse delight.” Further, when a Christian brother or sister does not even like a person or persons, the suspicions, misunderstands, & conflicts are only further intensified & constant. The absence of a positive disposition toward another (or others) so that you enjoy treating him/her in a loving way is akin to the “root of bitterness” which the writer of Hebrews wrote about – not liking someone will spring up & cause all kinds of problems. If this is true, one who “loves, but does not like” another is “defiled” (Hebrews 12.15). Only God’s grace will enable us to overcome the bitter root of “love, but don’t like” which desires to spoil our relationships with one another.

In marriage, this lie takes an even uglier 10-word turn: “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” How many marriages have been dealt a death-blow by this worldly double-speak? Or “I fell out of love with him/her.” These kinds of statements are the most unloving things one spouse could say to another. “I have love for him/her, but I’m not in love with him/her.” These are worldly statements that even Christians adopt. Those men & women who have heard these words know just how hurtful & cutting they are. Mourning & lamentation accompany these words. Modern psychology tells us when these words are spoken, the end is near because it is next to impossible to reinvigorate the relationship. But “with God all things are possible.” Only through God can a loveless marriage be redeemed, saved by His grace.

Since love…sins: cf. Proverbs 10.12. Since (Gk hoti) gives the reason for earnest love: this kind of love covers a multitude of sins. Without love, fear, mistrust, & suspicion abound to the devil’s delight.

9Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.

Show hospitality to one another: In light of the present persecution & God’s impending judgment upon the wicked, “offer hospitality” to fellow Christians. Perhaps Peter’s readers were growing weary of hospitality; it happens (Galatians 6.9). So Peter says that one way Christians express earnest love to one another is through the ministry of hospitality—opening our homes, sharing our resources, putting roofs over one another’s heads.

Hospitality has a rich heritage in the Old Testament. Abraham, the father of the faithful, showed hospitality to the three visitors (Genesis 18); Lot showed hospitality to the two angels who came to Sodom (Genesis 19.1-3); Job made sure strangers & travelers had a place to stay (Job 31.32). Hospitality was enjoined upon the Israelites throughout Torah (Exodus 22.21; 23.9; Leviticus 19.33). The kind of fasting which pleases the Lord is when His people “share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house,” i.e. show hospitality (Isaiah 58.7).

Hospitality is a key mark of the Lord’s church (Romans 12.13; 1 Timothy 3.2; 5.10; Titus 1.8; Hebrews 13.12). Indeed, it was a noble, worldwide custom to provide for strangers (e.g. Acts 28.7, Publius on Malta “received us and entertained us hospitably for three days”). The stimulus for showing cheerful hospitality was altogether different for Christians. Religion, philanthropy, philosophical ethics, the threat of punishment in the underworld for inhospitality, & a reward in returned hospitality drove hospitality in the world-at-large. This is contrasted with Christian ethics.

A core element of our Lord’s teaching was hospitality toward those who cannot pay you back (Luke 14.12-14) as patterned after the eternal condescending hospitality of God to helpless sinners (Luke 14.16ff). True, Christians have similar reasons for showing hospitality as “outsiders” (e.g. punishment for failure to follow Christ’s commands). However, Christians were to show hospitality not based on a natural sympathy for fellow man (although philanthropy based on love for people is a derivative of “love your neighbor as yourself”) nor for the expectation of reciprocation (“I scratch your back, you scratch mine”), but based upon a theology of hospitality. God through the Son creates a habitable world full of glory & grandeur where we have lodging, food, drink, & plenty that we need, then He invites us to make ourselves at home. Which we do & promptly make a mess of things. Then God through the Son prepares a great banquet where everything we have messed up is put back to order, what we have ruined He has put back to right, & He invites us to come & eat at His table (“taste my banquet,” Luke 14.24). With such an extravagant & generous God how could His people be anything but hospitable? And cheerfully hospitable at that!

Without grumbling: or complaint (NASB) about how hard it is, how much time it is taking, or how much it costs. The Lord loves cheerful hospitality & is Himself one who shows cheerful hospitality to men in their misery (Luke 14.16-24). Cf. Philippians 2.14.

“Without grumbling” or “complaint” (NASB) indicates the Christian is to show hospitality to their brethren with a cheerful disposition. There is to be no secret murmuring in the heart about how difficult it is, how long it is taking, how you wish they would just go, how much they are eating, how you regret ever opening the door or answering the call, or the inconvenience of the whole ordeal. Murmuring robs hospitality of beauty. “Such grumbling is ultimately a complaint against God and his ordering of our circumstances” (Grudem 174). When we grudgingly or unwillingly show hospitality to others, especially to our brethren, we “drive out faith, thanksgiving, and joy.” At a deeper level, when God shows us hospitality, in creation first then in the gospel, He did so without complaint or grumbling. He gladly prepares a world then a table for our enjoyment & His good pleasure.

10As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

As each has received a gift: The Giver of a gift (Gk charisma) is the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12.8-9). Received (aorist tense) points back to a specific point in the past, i.e. baptism. So at baptism the Holy Spirit gave each of these Christians a spiritual gift.

At the baptistery every Christian in every church is given a spiritual gift from the Holy Spirit that God intends for us to use & develop into a ministry for the church at-large. No one is exempted or overlooked. The purpose of the gifts is not for self-congratulations or mutual back-patting as we congratulate how well we serve to stroke our ego or boost our self-esteem. Rather, the gifts are given for ministry – to serve, edify, strengthen, & help other members in their walk with Christ. This is how we are “good stewards” or use God’s gifts responsibly.

There are five lists of spiritual gifts found in the New Testament. In Romans 12.6-8, the gifts listed are 1) prophecy, 2) service, 3) teaching, 4) exhortation, 5) giving, 6) leadership, 7) mercy showing. In 1 Corinthians 12.8-10, the gifts listed are 1) wisdom, 2) knowledge, 3) faith, 4) healing, 5) miracles, 6) prophecy, 7) distinguishing spirits, 8) languages, 9) interpretation of languages. Later, in 1 Corinthians 12.28-30, the gifts listed are 1) apostles, 2) prophets, 3) teachers, 4) miracles, 5) healing, 6) helping, 7) administrating, 8) languages. In Ephesians 4.11, the gifts listed are 1) apostles, 2) prophets, 3) evangelists, 4) teaching shepherds. In 1 Peter 4.11, the gifts listed are 1) proclamation of God’s message, 2) serving by God’s strength. 1 Corinthians 7.7 could be added which includes celibacy & possibly marriage (called charismata by Paul). No list contains all the gifts & no gift shows up on all the lists.

Use it to serve one another: The purpose of God the Holy Spirit gifting each member of the church is to equip Christians for service to the body (see Ephesians 4.12). Serve (Gk diakonountes) touches both speaking & duty roles of Christian service (v.11). Thus, the service rendered could be counsel, advice, & preaching (speaking) or rendering assistance, help, or aid in menial tasks (duty).

As good…grace: or “the manifold grace of God” (NASB, NKJV). This means there is a rich variety to God’s grace. So also there is a wide variety of spiritual gifts God gives His church by His Spirit. The Christian’s responsibility is to be found as good stewards. That is, Christ needs to find Christians building up others with God’s gifts, not building themselves up.

11whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Functionally, Peter breaks spiritual gifts down into two (2) categories: speaking & serving.

Whoever speaks…of God: The speaking done here includes both the formal setting of public instruction as well as an informal setting of private conversation among saints. Whatever the occasion the speaking should be in accordance with what the oracles of God—Holy Scriptures—say.

Whoever serves…God supplies: The service rendered includes both service on a large scale to many members as well as in a private one-on-one setting among brethren. Whatever the service it must be rendered in accordance to the strength God makes available & provides.

Given that this epistle was for a 1st century audience gifted with the miraculous demonstration of the spiritual gifts, the speaking & serving in view may be miraculous in nature. For us, while the spiritual gifts may not be miraculous, they are nevertheless supernatural (i.e. they are not mere natural abilities). Thus, the Holy Spirit is the originator & enabler of the exercise of each gift. As such, we must be willing participants who yield to the influence of the Holy Spirit so that our speech is God’s speech & our service rendered with God’s strength. In this way, God will get the glory through Christ Jesus.

Breaking this down a bit further, we can see how all spiritual gifts fall under either of these two categories & that all Christians are addressed here. If we speak wisdom or knowledge, it must be wisdom or knowledge which accords with God’s word. If we serve giving or helping, it must be giving or helping which comes from God’s strength. Each gift could be examined in this way, but these suffice to show that all gifts fall under these categories & therefore all Christians addressed.

It should be noted that while Christians are to speak the oracles of God, neither the original audience nor we should view our utterances as part of the revelatory account, i.e. God’s revealed word. Rather, our speech is in accordance with or is in line with the revealed word of God, esp. the gospel. Further, Christians must never rely upon our own power to serve others, but must minister with & in the power God provides. One key way we do this is through prayer where can appeal for & tap into the power of God.

In order…Jesus Christ: This is the grand, glorious purpose in the exercise of spiritual gifts, indeed, in everything that Christians do: God glorified through Christ. As Christians prayerfully await the end of all things, loving one another & showing hospitality while serving & speaking to one another, they make known the wisdom, power, holiness, sovereignty, & riches of the gospel of Christ which produces honor & praise to God the Father.

The guiding principle in the life of every true Christian is the glory of God the Father through Christ the Son. Every sober-minded prayer, every occasion in which we exercise self-control, every sin covered by brotherly affection, every time we open our homes with gladness, every word we speak, every act of service, every breath, everything – it all down to bringing God glory through Jesus Christ.

To Him…ever. Amen: Him seems to refer to Christ. So just as “all things” are “through” & “for” God (Romans 11.36), glory is through & belongs to Christ forever & ever. This is the goal of the cosmos: glory to the Father & to the Son & to the Holy Spirit. Christ also has dominion, which is the power to rule. Indeed, Christ is King of Kings & Lord of Lords. Amen shows Peter’s agreement.

12Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

Beloved: Peter loves these brothers & sisters. The command to love is more than talk for Peter.

Do not…test you: cf. 1.6-7. These Christians may be surprised that God would allow His “chosen people” to endure intense trials & tests, but Peter assures them this is not unusual nor unheard of. In fact, the persecution of the church seems normative & universal (4.17; 5.9). But the fires of persecution would burn off the dross & impurities, as gold in the refiners fire.

As though…to you: Strange is the noun word for surprised which is the same word for the pagan reaction in verse 4 (“they think it strange”). The pagans think it strange Christians do not join in their wicked works & therefore “they malign you;” Christians should not think it strange when pagans return evil for the good they are shown.

Sometimes when Christians today endure trials & hardship they will question, “Why?” “Why me?” They will lament as though something strange is happening to them. They are surprised that God would allow the trials & testing to come upon them. This is the very opposite reaction we should have according to Peter. No matter how intense the trials or testing may be, nothing strange or unheard of is occurring. In fact, it is par for the course as we live as Christians in the world. It should be expected. Suffering for Christ is a common motif in the New Testament (e.g. John 15.18-21). Darkness hates light, the world hates holiness. When Christians walk with their Father in holy light they become the targets for the hatred of the wicked. Nevertheless, the fires of trials are the testing of our faith.

It should be noted that Peter gives no theodicy, no explanation for the suffering in the world, especially the suffering experienced by Christians. We ask “Why?” Philosophers & theologians have offered answers. However, in Scripture no answer is given as to why an all-powerful, all-kind, all-knowing God would allow His children to endure intense & severe persecution. We are told it is normative & universal (4.17; 5.9). We are told that it is cause for joy as we reveal His glory (4.13, 16). But a detailed theodicy explaining the presence of evil & suffering in the world is not given. One thing is certain: the intense sufferings are not a sign of God’s absence, but of His purifying presence. He is with His people as they suffer.

13But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

But rejoice…Christ’s sufferings: But (Gk alla) indicates a strong contrast. Rather than surprise, these Christians must rejoice. How can a Christian rejoice in “fiery trials”? They share Christ’s sufferings. These are sufferings which are the result of pledging allegiance to Christ (cf. Acts 5.41). The present tense indicates the ongoing habitual practice of both of these: insofar as you keep on suffering with Christ, keep on rejoicing.

Suffering for Christ is a clear indicator that we are Christ’s. To “share His sufferings,” “suffer with Him” are reasons to rejoice because as we experience suffering we are experiencing the presence of Christ. Indeed, we stand in His place as His representatives. Saul of Tarsus was asked, “Why are you persecuting me?” He was breathing murderous threats against the disciples, dragging men & women off to prison for their allegiance to Christ, but it was ultimately Jesus whom Paul was persecuting. So also when we suffer for the Name it is Christ who suffers with us.

That you may…revealed: Lit. “you might rejoice being glad.” This is nearly verbatim from the lips of Jesus regarding the reward for enduring persecution for His Name (Matthew 5.12). The revelation of Christ’s glory is nearly universally assumed to be His future return by commentators. “The promise of future joy, in fact, energizes the joy that will be theirs in the future” (Schreiner). However, glorifying God in Christ’s Name is the present aim & reality of Christians (v.17). Glad-hearted rejoicing occurs when Christians realize that Christ’s glory is being revealed in their suffering.

How we respond to suffering is likewise a clear indicator of whether we truly belong to Christ. Some who claim the name of Christ have turned their back on Him when they experienced even a modicum of pain & suffering. But it does not have to be full blown apostasy; some grumble & murmur, complain about the suffering. But to rejoice in suffering, praising God for the pain…this is foreign to our Western sensibilities.

14If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

If…: In light of present context & overall context of the book, this is better understood as “since.”

You are insulted for Christ’s Name: Insulted is unjustified defamation & reviling. Much of the persecution these Christians faced was verbal abuse (2.12, 15, 23; 3.16).

[You are] blessed: The bliss of God belongs to insulted Christians. “The harsher the reproaches, the sweeter this heavenly verdict” (Lenski).

#blessed. American Christianity says you are blessed if you have a nice place to live, a reliable car, a good job, overachieving kids, and/or things are just going swell all-around. Peter says that the blessed life is one of insult for our devotion & allegiance to Christ. When is the last time someone update their social media with an account of how they were insulted for Jesus’ sake? Most of us would not consider that a blessing. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to realign our values. This is why God has given “the Spirit of God’s glory” to rest upon us – so that we might hold to a proper perspective regarding suffering, pain, persecution, & insult.

The insults Peter refers to are unjustified verbal assaults. When’s the last time someone cussed you out for being a Christian? I’m not talking about them verbally chastising you for being obnoxious with your faith; that might be justified. I’m talking about the backlash that occurs like when The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, an evangelical coalition, released the Nashville Statement in August 2017. With reverence & in humility the coalition issued the statement. The statement was essentially a creedal statement affirming 14 beliefs about human sexuality, all of which are based on Scripture. Evangelical Christians were castigated as hateful bigots, homophobes, &, as one tweet reads, the statement “is the most unchristian piece of garbage I’ve read in a long time.” The (pagan) internet ruthlessly insulted & disrespected Christians who believe what the Bible teaches about marriage being exclusively between a man & woman, human sexuality, & gender.

Another instance: I do not agree with hardly anything that comes out of his mouth, but an example of what we are talking about occurred during & shortly after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. All over social media Joel Osteen & Lakewood Church where he is pastor were being heavily criticized for closing their building due to flooding. Twitter erupted in outrage expressed in less than 140 characters. Memes circulated accusing Osteen of being a money-grabbing selfish religion killer. Quasi-investigative reporters took to the streets with video camera in hand to show that there was no flooding at Lakewood Church. The (pagan) internet insulted this man mercilessly for his “unchristian” behavior.

Because…upon you: cf. Isaiah 11.2. Isaiah’s prophecy has now been fulfilled in Christ & the church. As the Spirit rested upon “the root of Jesse” (Jesus), so He rests upon Christ’s persecuted followers. In contrast with the inglorious insults, Christians have the glorious indwelling Spirit, even the Spirit of God. God’s glorious Spirit who comforts, strengthens, & blesses abides with & in these Christians.

See Isaiah 11.2. The world heaps insults, but the Spirit rests upon us. The world counts us foolish, but we have the Spirit of wisdom. The world counts us dimwitted, but we have the Spirit of understanding. The world counts us ill-informed, but we have the Spirit of counsel. The world counts us weak-minded, but we have the Spirit of might. The world counts us ignorant, but we have the Spirit of knowledge. All of this is ours because we fear & revere God & He delights in resting His Spirit upon us.

15But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.

But let none…as a meddler: cf. 2.19-20; 3.17. Peter’s constant refrain has been that Christians must not suffer for evil, but for good. Peter lists four (4) evils by which men may suffer: murder (premeditated taking of innocent life), theft (taking other people’s property), evildoing (or “criminal” [NIV], general term for bad behavior), & meddling (intruding into other people’s affairs). Christians must not suffer for any of these.

People suffer for evil; they suffer punishment from the justice system as well as the affliction of the conscience, esp. if unrepentant. Suffering deserved as punishment for wrongdoing is inglorious. This is not how Christians are to suffer. Of course Christians should not suffer for serious criminal offenses like murder & theft (both of which are prohibited throughout the Bible) & Peter knows Christian people would never engage in such evildoing, but the temptation to pry into other people’s business is a very real possibility. So he rhetorically sets major violations against something very much in the realm of possibility: annoyingly intruding into other people’s business. This would cause someone to be considered a pest worthy of mistreatment.

Martyr’s complex – some people can turn just about any event into an occasion for suffering. They are the victim of some injustice, even if they are the perpetrator of some offense. It is so easy for people to rationalize deserved punishments as suffering “as a Christian.” Peter addresses this complex here – suffering is neither invented nor is it self-caused for bad behavior. If you live as a Christian, suffering will find you.

“Meddler” – stay in your lane! While the exact meaning of this word is difficult to nail down because of its rarity (used only here & two other places in 4th & 5th century documents), it seems to be a term describing someone who involves themselves into the affairs of others, inviting themselves into issues not their own. A buttinski. In Spanish, entrementido. Suffering for being a buttinski is beneath a Christian. Stay in your lane!

Notice the company meddlers keep – murders, thieves, criminals! Strange company, right? Well, not really. A meddler can assassinate the character of another; they can rob a person of their good name & reputation; their practice is in line with evildoers. May meddlers be banished from Christ’s church!

16Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.

Yet if…a Christian: Believers “were first called Christians” in Antioch (Acts 11.26), a name which probably originating among the unbelievers. Suffering as a Christian would be to endure persecution as a follower of Christ. It seems this was a term of ridicule rather than respect, a label used for believers by those outside looking in.

Don’t focus on the shame, focus on His Name! The name “Christian” was a derogatory term in Peter’s day. It was the equivalent of “holy roller” or “Bible thumper” today. These are intended to make us feel ashamed, to make us feel bad for being a follower of Christ. Peter is telling us: don’t focus on the shame, focus on His Name. Peter has already told us that the main thing is “that in everything God may glorified through Jesus Christ” (v.11). “Foolish people” will “speak against you as evildoers” (2.12, 15). They will “revile your good behavior,” & cause you to “suffer for doing good” (3.16, 17). “Do good & suffer for it” (2.20). When all this happens glorify God. Focus on His Name & exalt it, confess it, praise it, lift it up, glorify Him.

Let him not be ashamed: Even though society at large treats Christians in an undignified & disgraceful manner, the Christian need not feel shame. Unlike the murderer, thief, evildoer, or meddler, there is nothing shameful in bearing the name of Christ. Rather…

But…in that name: By bearing the name of Christ publicly & bearing whatever reproach society heaped on them, these believers would honor & praise the glorious name of Christ.

Only by “the Spirit of glory…of God” are we able to endure the mistreatment & abuse of the world and find joy in glorifying God in that suffering. The Holy Spirit sanctifies the suffering, if we let Him. The Holy Spirit strengthens us to endure suffering, if we let Him. The Holy Spirit supplies the necessary means to cope with suffering (“the fruit,” Galatians 5.22-23), if we let Him. He is the promised Helper, but we must willingly submit to His direction.

17For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

For…household of God: household of God is the “spiritual house” made of “living stones” “precious” in the sight of God (2.4-5), i.e. the church. While Peter borrows OT allusions (see Ezekiel 9.6; Malachi 3.1-5), his whole meaning is shifted. The judgment of God upon God’s house is not intended to be for condemnation, but for purification, i.e. refinement through trials leading to glorification of God (1.6-7; 2.12; 3.14, 17; 4.16).

How we as Christians view the trials & suffering we endure matters. Notice that it is not “punishment” which begins with the “house (family, NIV) of God” but judgment. Christ has suffered our punishment & therefore when we experience pain & persecution in the world, God is not punishing us for our sins. Christ did that. He endured the wrath of God. Rather, judgment begins from the house of God (lit.); God’s people are the jumping off point, the point of departure for God’s judgment. Seeing we have “ceased from sin” (4.1) He moves on to those who are not His family, that is, “those who do not obey the gospel of God.” Worse affliction will be visited upon the unbeliever, specifically exclusion from the presence of God.

And if…us: There may be a parallel to Jesus’ own description of the judgment which begins with the sheep (saved) & passes onto the goats (lost). Yet even now this judgment has begun.

What will…gospel of God?: those who do not obey the gospel are unbelievers. “All unbelief leads to disobedience” (Schreiner). The order of righteous first then the unrighteous is maintained from Malachi 3.1-5 & through Christ (Matthew 25.31-46). This rhetorical question is answered…

18And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

And “If…saved”: Quoted from Proverbs 11.31. Scripture is offered as proof positive of what Peter is saying: God’s judgment in the end will be worse than any suffering Christians face from unbelievers. In fact, unbelievers will have it worse due to their disobedience. Scarcely does not point to the uncertainty of a Christian’s salvation; rather, the word can also mean “with difficulty.” This echoes the preaching of Paul & Barnabas in Acts 14.22. Salvation is with difficulty because of the suffering, trials, & persecution Christians endure from unbelievers.

“What will…the sinner?”: Ungodly refers to a person who does not love God nor do they worship Him. Sinner is one who scoffs at God’s self-evident laws & violates them. What will become of such individuals? The reader is to supply the obvious answer: they will be lost.

Never underestimate the value of the Word of God in the midst of suffering. Peter quotes Proverbs to help his readers maintain an eternal perspective & to help their theological viewpoint. God is the final Judge, not man. Those opposed to Christians are opposed to Christ & will face the eternal consequences of their rejection of Him. Many Christians will suffer the loss of their work but preserve their soul at the end. Many Christians will be saved “only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3.15). Therefore, “the righteous are scarcely saved.” So it will be worse for “the ungodly & sinner.” We enter by the narrow gate; it snags us, catching at our clothing. Since this is so, the ungodly sinners who refuse to obey God’s gospel & so be saved only have eternal punishment to face.

Taken together, verses 17 & 18 bring clearly & unmistakably the awful terror of the final fate of the wicked. The righteous endure difficulty in this life, but it is with the promise that these are temporary trials of this world. Unbelievers, on the other hand, “can reasonably count on nothing but unmixed misery, everlasting perdition” (Brown 3:175). The reasonable expectation for those who do not obey God’s gospel is eternally worse than anything a Christian would experience in this world. Just as certainly as our entrance into God’s kingdom comes with many trials & suffering, so it is certain that eternal punishment awaits the ungodly sinner. Just as it is God’s will we suffer, so it is God’s will that the wicked be shut out of His presence eternally.

19Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

Therefore…God’s will: those who suffer according to God’s will are Christians who suffer because it is what God has willed. While at first blush this may seem harsh, it is actually intended to bolster faith. The duration & intensity of suffering is under God’s control. What Christians suffer is for their good because it is according to “His good, pleasing, & perfect will” (Romans 12.2).

Suffering according to God’s will means to “share Christ’s sufferings” (13), to be “insulted for the name of Christ” (14), & to glorify God by suffering as a Christian (16). God’s will is not that we suffer as an evildoer (15). Christ’s suffering in the flesh is the model for Christian suffering. Nothing happened to Christ apart from the Father’s sovereignty & love. This means that nothing that befalls us happens independent of God’s sovereignty & love. He is in control of everything. Any suffering we endure is not the result of an uncaring & indifferent universe randomly selecting us for pain. Our suffering is not accidental nor the result of dumb luck. Suffering is not purposeless but purposeful. Our suffering is under the watchful & loving eye of sovereign God. Our suffering is “according to God’s will,” that is “His good, pleasing, & perfect will” (Romans 12.2, NIV).

Entrust…faithful Creator: Just as Jesus entrusted His spirit to His Father at death (Luke 23.46), Christians are to entrust their souls to a faithful Creator for care in this life. That is, we give our souls to God for safekeeping so that no matter what happens in this life, that part of us which lives on after death is kept safe by the power of God (cf. 1.5).

So then Christians should “entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.” God is our Creator – He has created us body & soul. He is the Father of our spirits who saw our unformed substance (Hebrews 12.9; Psalm 139.16) as well as the One who forms our inward parts & knitted us together in our mother’s wombs (Psalm 139.13). Further, in Christ Jesus we are a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5.17). This means we belong to Him body & soul. We are His own possession & God takes care of what is His. Therefore, He is a faithful Creator. Who better to entrust the keeping of our souls than the One who not only crafted them, but also redeemed & saved them? Our lives, even our very souls, are hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3.3).

…while doing good: How does a Christian show that they are trusting God? By continuing to do good. They do not stop doing good. Acts of loving service & mercy. This not merely a duty, but a privilege rendered not only to other people, but ultimately to God. Retaliation may be the response from the flesh. By God’s glorious Spirit who rests upon us (v.14) we resist that impulse so that we may do good to all men. Doing good is a common refrain in this epistle (2.15, 20; 3.6, 11, 17).

“So you see, the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their trials, even while keeping the wicked under punishment until the day of final judgment.”
(2 Peter 2:9, NLT)

God’s Grace & Suffering, part 2

Peter continues his exploration of the relation between God’s grace and the suffering Christians experience at the hands of unbelievers. In the midst of this larger context are couched two of the most enigmatic and problematic verses in the New Testament (3.19; 4.6). While commentary will address these verses and work through them with a particular interpretation, the overall thrust of these verses, viz. suffering as Christians after the model of Christ, will be the primary emphasis.

Suffering & Christ (3.18-4.6)

Christ is the example for Christians of suffering according to God’s will.

18For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

For Christ…the unrighteous: Peter appeals to Christ as the model for his readers to follow. Christ also suffered even as you now suffer. Though similar, Christ’s suffering was unique in that He suffered once for sin, a common theme in the NT (Heb 9.28; 10.10, 14). It was not “once upon a time,” but “once for all.” It was not for His sins; He was sinless (2.22). But for our sins did He suffer. He was righteous, that is He was wholly conformed to the holy Law of God. So He was innocent whereas man was guilty of breaking God’s Law, i.e. unrighteous. By His unique suffering…

Just as Jesus fearlessly suffered to accomplish God’s purposes so we must face suffering fearlessly that God’s purposes might be accomplished in us. His vicarious sacrifice on the cross (the doctrine of atonement) animates & stimulates our patient endurance in suffering. “Just as suffering was the pathway to exaltation for Christ, so also suffering is the prelude to glory for believers.”[1] Doctrines embody the duties; duties are animated by the doctrines.

[1] Schreiner, Thomas R. 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Vol. 37. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003. Print. The New American Commentary.

“Christ suffered once for sins” and no more. Contrary to what Catholicism teaches concerning the Mass – that Christ is sacrificed all over again each time Mass is held.

The sinlessness of Christ – His absolute moral perfection – is stressed here as elsewhere. The purity of Christ was never soiled or stained in the slightest degree. “Though exposed to the assaults of the great author of evil, that adversary did not prevail against, that son of mischief did not overcome him. Though in a world full of temptation and sin, he remained untainted; though tried both by its smiles and its frowns, its terrors and its allurements, he never in the slightest degree imbibed its spirit or imitated its manners. He kept himself ‘unspotted from the world,’ being ‘in it, not of it;’ and he died, as he lived a stranger to guilt and depravity. No action, no word, ever escaped him, no thought, no desire, ever arose in his bosom, inconsistent with the requisitions or with the spirit of the divine law. He left this world as he entered it, ‘holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.’” (John Brown, Expository Discourses on First Peter, Vol. 2, p.385-386)

That He might bring us to God: This is the result of Christ’s suffering for our sins—access to the immediate presence of God. Our sins had separated us from God; His suffering brought us near to God. We may draw near to God by the new & living Way Christ provided by the cross.

Note: Nothing in the atonement changed the inherent nature of God. While Christ showed us the Father in Himself, He did not bring God to us. On the contrary, Christ brought us to God by His suffering on the cross.

“That He might bring us to God”: Peter is preparing to venture off into turbulent waters. The verses ahead have given scholars pause & headaches probably since Peter put pen to parchment. It is difficult & obscure. Whatever is meant by the next few verses, one thing is clear: by His death, resurrection, & exaltation Christ has provided us with immediate & direct access to the presence of God the Father.

Being…in [the] spirit: So Peter clearly identifies the sufferings of Christ—specifically His painful & violent death “in the body” (NIV) on the cross. Made alive (i.e. reanimated) “by the Spirit” (NIV) is resurrection language. This is similar to Paul in Romans 1.3-4 & 1 Timothy 3.16 in both structure & meaning. While Christ’s suffering on the cross brought death to His body, He was raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit.

19in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison,

In which: or in Whom also (kai). The Holy Spirit is in view as the inspiration for proclamation.

He went: Who? Christ. Christ’s Spirit has always been the initiator of divine revelation (1.11). This going is after His death in the flesh and resurrection. Therefore, this is His ascension back to the Father.

Proclaimed to the spirits in prison: One of the primary interpretations of this text since Augustine has been that this refers to when Christ’s Spirit proclaimed (aor) in the days of Noah to those souls which were alive at the time but are now in prison (NASB) since they died in the flood. Indeed, this was this author’s view. However, upon further evaluation and following Dalton, this “refers to Christ’s self-presentation as risen Lord to the hostile angelic powers in the heavens on the occasion of his ascension.”[1] This idea is continued in verse 22 when Peter explains the subjection those same spirits, i.e. “angels, authorities, and powers,” to the resurrected Christ.

[1] William Joseph Dalton, Christ’s Proclamation to the Spirits: A Study of 1 Peter 3:18–4:6, vol. 23, Analecta Biblica (Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 1989), 26.

Preaching to Spirits in Prison

While the above exposition seems the best explanation for this difficult text, other explanations have been offered:

1) Christ’s Spirit in Noah’s Day: Christ’s Spirit went & preached in the days of Noah to those disobedient ones then alive but who are now dead & in prison, i.e. tartarus. This view incorporates the reference to Noah in verse 20.  A nuance of this view is that “in prison” described their state in the days of Noah, i.e. they were in bondage to sin.

2) Christ in Hades: He then went to the hadean realm (see Acts 2.24, 27, 31) where He proclaimed a message of victory over the forces of evil to the evil angels who did not keep their proper place (Jude 6). A variation of this view says Christ proclaimed to dead saints in paradise or to those who repented just before the flood but went to Purgatory, which is the “prison” (Catholic).

3) Christ’s spirit went to the hadean realm to preach the gospel to all the dead, thereby giving all a second chance at salvation. This universalist view stands in contradiction with several key biblical texts, esp. Hebrews 9.27.

20because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.

Because they formerly did not obey: This phrase with the accompanying time stamp of “days of Noah” in the next positively identifies the “spirits in prison” of v.19 as human spirits. God’s judgment in the flood was upon human sin (Genesis 6.5-7).

When…being prepared: Never are angels given time to repent; only with man does God patiently wait for repentance. So while the ark was being prepared God waited patiently for disobedient men to repent before His judgment came in the flood.

God is patient. [If God is love & love is patient, then God is patient.] By my calculations it took Noah about a hundred (100) years to build the ark. 100 years. A lot can happen in 100 years. People live whole lifetimes in 100 years. We have gone from the inability to fly to manned space flight & landing on the moon in less time. We’ve gone from telegraph to telephone to cell phone to iPhone in 100 years. Computers went from massive machines that took up hundreds of square feet to wristwatches in 100 years. Technologically man can literally leave our solar system in 100 years. Yet…spiritually given 100 years man will still persist in his rebellion & disobedience to God. For 100 years Christ through Noah preached repentance & judgment. By faith Noah built his ark. But according to extra-biblical literature & through our own experience with the callous hearts of mankind all Noah received back was derision: “Old man, what is this ark for?” And still God waits patiently as Christ through His church continues to preach and prepare for the judgment & eternity.

In which a few…through water: It must be noted that Peter affirms the historical nature of the Noah account (Genesis 7.13, 23). Two facts emerge from the example of Noah: 1) Few were saved; 2) The salvation came through water.

The example of Noah was selected by Peter (even the Holy Spirit) to encourage his readers (and even us) to faithfulness in the midst of suffering. Noah’s family was an oppressed minority surrounded by hostile unbelievers; so were Peter’s readers; so are most Christians today the world over. Noah was faithful to mission of God; so Peter exhorts his readers to faithfulness to God’s mission by calling them to set Christ apart in their hearts & being willing to give an answer for their inward hope (3.15). In Noah’s day judgment was soon to come and did come in the flood; so for Peter’s readers judgment was soon to come and would come (4.5, 17). God was present with Noah by the Spirit of Christ; so God would be with Peter’s readers, empowering them in their work; so they should not fear (3.14). These parallels in like manner should encourage our hearts: though we are the minority, the “few,” God is faithful, He will save us, and final judgment will come.

21Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Baptism…now saves you: The waters of the flood is that which corresponds to baptism as a type or figure (Gk antitupon). The flood of Noah’s day “prefigures” (NET) or “symbolizes” (NIV) the baptism of Peter’s readers. How? Just as Noah & his family escaped the corrupt world & entered into the renewed world, so Christians escape from the corruption of the world & enter into renewed life with God. Just as in the flood, in baptism evil is washed away & continues to save us (present tense). Baptism “brings us into a state of salvation, into covenant with God” (Caffin 137).

“The basis of their assurance is their baptism, for in baptism they have appealed to God to give them a good conscience on the basis of the crucified (v. 18) and risen (v. 21) work of the Lord Jesus Christ.”[1] “Baptism now saves you.” “But it is only the beginning, the birth; the growth must follow; the death unto sin, the new birth unto righteousness, must be realized in actual life” (Caffin 137). John Gill, good Baptist that he was, saw the inescapable conclusion of this text when he wrote, “the sense seems plainly this; that then is baptism rightly performed, and its end answered, when a person, conscious to himself of its being an ordinance of Christ, and of his duty to submit to it, does do so upon profession of his faith in Christ, in obedience to his command, and “with” a view to his glory; in doing which he discharges a good conscience towards God: and being thus performed, it saves.” Albert Barnes, good Presbyterian that he was, likewise recognized the immediate meaning of this text when he wrote, “The sense is, that baptism, including all that is properly meant by baptism as a religious rite – that is, baptism administered in connection with true repentance, and true faith in the Lord Jesus, and when it is properly a symbol of the putting away of sin, and of the renewing influences of the Holy Spirit, and an act of unreserved dedication to God – now saves us.” Barnes goes on to call baptism “the indispensable condition of salvation.” Indeed, we cannot be in Christ without baptism.

[1] Schreiner, Thomas R. 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Vol. 37. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003. Print. The New American Commentary.

Now the flood of Noah’s day did a couple things: 1) It brought catastrophic disaster & judgment after a long period of patience and 2) It saved Noah & his few family members. This became a type of Christian baptism for baptism likewise does a couple things: 1) It marks out for judgment those who refuse it through disobedience & rebellion and 2) It brings glorious salvation to those who submit. What was true in Noah’s day was true in the 1st century is true today: the same waters that bring salvation to the faithful likewise condemn the unrepentant. We have escaped the judgment & have experienced the grace of God; indeed, it is the same favor Noah found from God. God is still perfectly capable & willing to save His people who are facing ridicule & hardship from unbelievers.

Not as…the body: But this is no mere ceremony. Peter is quick to squelch any “magical” notions about baptism. It is not a bath to remove dirt from the body (Gk sarkos), indicating the true meaning of baptisma as an immersion since a few drops sprinkled would not cleanse the body. Rather, while an outward action is being performed (immersion ), an inward attitude must be maintained (faith).

But as…a good conscience: But (Gk alla) indicates a strong contrast. As an appeal can also be translated “the pledge of.” So is baptism a petition or a promise? Commentators note how difficult the language of this verse is. Perhaps this was intentionally done by Peter so that both petition & promise come into view. On the one hand, when one is baptized he/she is asking God for a good conscience—something only He can give by the blood of Christ (cf. Hebrews 9.14; 10.22). At the same time, when one is baptized he/she is pledging to maintain a good conscience before God through a life of service to Him. Both of these fit well with Peter’s overall theme.

“The inner meaning of baptism is not that the flesh puts away its filth, but that a good conscience inquires of God. The outward and visible sign doth not save if separated from the inward and spiritual grace” (Caffin 137). Or as the writer of Hebrews puts it, “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22, ESV) The body must be washed with pure water, but the heart must also be sprinkled clean.

In baptism we are pleading with God to forgive us our sins, make us clean by the blood of Jesus, wash us inwardly of sins so that we are whiter than snow, and put us in right relationship with Him. It is no wonder that the one writing this epistle is the same one who told the crowd on Pentecost to “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2.38).

At the same time, in baptism we are promising God that we will walk Him, renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil, dedicate ourselves to Him fully, & consecrate our hearts to service in His kingdom. So it is no accident that the one writing this epistle is the same preacher who warned the crowds on Pentecost to “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation” (Acts 2.40).

Through…Jesus Christ: Here is the power of baptism—Christ’s resurrection. Everything related to our “living hope” is connected to Christ’s resurrection (1.3). This includes the good conscience & deliverance from sins one receives from God through baptism. Christ earned these for us by His resurrection. As He was raised from the dead, so are Christians raised from spiritual death.

22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Who has…of God: Christ’s ascension & exaltation are in view here. Following the 40 days He was with His disciples after the resurrection, Christ was “lifted up” & taken out of sight by a cloud (Acts 1.9) to go back to heaven to intercede on our behalf (Hebrews 7.25). Has gone is the same word as “went” in verse 19 (cf. Ephesians 4.10). Being seated at the right hand of a king in antiquity indicated that one acted with the authority & power of the king. So Christ acts on the authority of the Father; power and honor belong to Him. Also, this is an allusion to Psalm 110.1.

“Just as Noah was delivered through the stormy waters of the flood, believers have been saved through the stormy waters of baptism by virtue of Christ’s triumph over death.”[1] Peter brings his readers & us back to the main point of this section: Christ’s victory over all His (and our) evil foes. Christ triumphed over sin, over death, and over angelic beings. “Now who (or what) is there to harm you?” (v.13) Christ is all-powerful, since the holy angels worship Him & evil angels tremble at His name. If even these mighty creatures are subjected to Him, what can harm us that He cannot overcome? Further, God will bless you for suffering while doing good (v.14) and, like Noah, God will ultimately deliver you from all the corruption of the world.

[1] Ibid.

With angels…subjected to Him: See Ephesians 1.20-21. Angels, authorities, and powers can refer to spiritual beings both good and evil. All these powerful creatures regardless of rank have been subjected to Christ, that is, through His resurrection, ascension, & exaltation He brought them into submission even those which were not willing.  Christ is the cosmic sovereign Ruler over every power; “Now who is there to harm you…?” (v.13). Peter has answered His question by tracing the example of Christ clearly for his readers to see the exalted Lord. Summing up, Peter exhorts his readers to follow Christ’s example in suffering and be encouraged that the Lord will deliver them from all enemies be they of flesh or spiritual.

1Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,

Since…in the flesh: cf. 3.18. Peter returns to where he started in presenting Christ’s suffering (Gk. Root pascho) as an example for these Christians suffering persecution. The aim here will focus more on the eschatological glory to come for suffering for Christ.

Arm yourselves…thinking: i.e. think as Christ thought about obedience & suffering. Arm yourselves is military language for the resolution needed to venture forth into battle.

Why do we do what we do? Do we behave a certain way in order to avoid suffering & minimize hardship? Or is obedience to God our supreme motivation? Peter exhorts us to obedience to God in spite of hardship & suffering. Since it is true that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” and therefore cannot be avoided, we need military grit & discipline to live the Christian life. Battle is inevitable for soldiers; similarly, persecution is inevitable for believers. This is the nature of God’s dealings with peoples. Therefore, prepare for war.

For whoever…sin: This is the 1st main emphasis Peter wants to impact his readers—suffering frees us from sin. Ceased from sin in that Christians make a clean break from sin & obeying God is the supreme motivation for all of one’s actions. The next verse explains further.

“Ceased from sin” is further detailed in verse 2 when Peter explains how we are “to live…for the will of God” as opposed to “for human passions.” Hence, in view here is the process sanctification. The aorist tense indicates a clean break from sin whereby obedience to God becomes our chief aim in all we do (as opposed to no longer sinning, a notion which fails to account for a number of verses which teach the complete opposite).

2so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

So as…human passions: the rest of the time in the flesh is the time God gives. Human passions at the desires they had before they were converted (3). They “no longer live for themselves” (2 Cor 5.15).

It is important to keep Peter’s theme of suffering for righteousness or “for doing good” in view as we read about suffering in the flesh (3.14, 17). This would exclude all “human passions,” i.e. “the lusts of men.” We are yet “in the flesh” or “fleshy” (sarki). So long as we are alive, we still live “in flesh.” At the same time, we should be living in the flesh so as to glorify God by doing His will as opposed to being controlled by & gratifying the flesh.

But for the will of God: However many years God may give these Christians, God’s will is to be their highest priority. God’s will & “the lusts of men” are always opposed to each other (Gal 5.17).

Christians are exiles in whatever country they live, hostile government or not. God’s will is to be priority #1 wherever we live. The goal must not be to avoid suffering; rather, the goal should be to use suffering as a means to sanctification. Regardless of regime or who sits on the throne, this is the purpose of our suffering: to live for the will of God.

3For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.

For the time…want to do: Why live for God’s will? They have spent enough time in the other. Since Christians are New Israel (1.2; 2.9-10), Gentiles here means those who are not Christians.

However long you were without Christ & however much sin you committed; whether it was one sin or a grossly profligate lifestyle given over to sin, Peter is blunt – that time was sufficient for sin. It was enough! So we should not want to live any longer, not a day, hour, minute, or second more in it. We have done enough of living “for doing what the Gentiles want to do.” That life was not right. So let us be done with it. There is no reason to continue in it.

Living in sensuality: No moral restraint in sexual acts or physical violence.

Passions: or “lusts” (NASB). These are unnatural, ungodly desires for sex or property.

Drunkenness: excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages; intoxication.

Orgies: typically linked with drunkenness (Gal 5.21), these parties encouraged immoral behavior.

Drinking parties: these were social gatherings where drinking games were played (cf. Isa 5.22).

Lawless idolatry: Pagan worship which was against God’s law & resulted in immorality.

God’s word still speaks a powerful word into our current social situation. Where there is all manner of ungodly behavior being engaged in, God demands holiness from His people. In our culture, greed is still good & sometimes celebrated. Covetousness is used in commercials to sell products. Sex sells. Men still want women who are not their wives & women want men who are not their husbands. People still have unnatural, ungodly, evil desires. Drunkenness is still a blight upon our society today, along with other serious substance abuse. Typically this kind of behavior is accompanied by sex, in some cases forced and others consensual with multiple partners (our modern definition of orgies). There are drinking parties which include a host of drinking games (beer pong, et al). All of these “lusts of men,” these “human passions,” are diametrically opposed to the will of God. They are thoroughly non-Christian (i.e. Gentile) activities. Enough with these!

4With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;

With respect…debauchery: They are surprised or “think it strange” is a sudden amazement or wonder the unbeliever has given the life change which has taken place in the Christian. The same flood of debauchery is all the sins listed in verse 3. Christians seek to do God’s will.

The “surprise” is one of eyes wide, mouth agape astonishment. Whoa! The unbelievers are taken aback at the radical change which has taken place in the life of the believer. This is the way it is supposed to be. For the unbeliever it is strange because they feel no guilt or remorse over sin nor do they have any sense of obligation to God. Their obligation is to self-gratification, the philosophy of “if it feels good do it,” get all you can now because this life is all there is. The Christian, on the other hand, has been awakened to the spiritual reality of God, heaven & hell, & the folly of sin. They have sought to abandon the gratification of the flesh for actions which are pleasing to God.

The malign you: Or “speaking evil of you” (NKJV). Or “they vilify you” (NET). Surprise turned to anger.  The Christians became the objects of the pagan unbeliever’s wrath.

The unbeliever’s puzzlement turns to outrage. Unbelievers consider the “flood of debauchery” as normal behavior. Therefore, since Christians do not engage in what they consider normal behavior, and so engage what is for them unnatural behavior, they speak evil of the Christians. They criticize, defame, revile; they name-call, belittle, & teardown. We see this in our own society where Christians are typically presented as unenlightened prudes who do not really contribute to thoughtful dialogue about issues since they are usually blinded by bias. “In a world of sin, Christians are strangers, especially if they were formerly part of that world.”[1]

[1] Kistemaker, Simon J., and William Hendriksen. Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude. Vol. 16. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001. Print. New Testament Commentary.

5but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

[But] they will give account: The reviling of the unbelievers is not the last word; they will give back “a word” to God. In other words, they will answer to God for maligning Christians. In this the suffering of the Christians will be vindicated.

The reviling & evil speech, even blasphemy, of the unbelieving world is never the final word. Indeed, the final word anyone will have to give back to God is “Jesus is Lord” spoken either to their vindication or condemnation at the last day. Furthermore, there is always a sense from the NT writers that the Judge would appear at any second, as though He were “standing at the door” ready to break forth onto the grand stage of history to bring the final act to a close. We today must live in confident expectation that at any moment the Lord will appear in glory.

To Him…the dead: He who is ready to judge is Christ. The living & the dead means everyone; some will be alive when He comes in final judgment while others will have died. For ready see James 5.9.

Notice how Peter speaks of Christ/God: “Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” Paul does a similar thing (e.g. Romans 8.11 – “Him who raised Jesus from the dead”). They do not come out and simply say “Christ” or “God.” They focus on a certain aspect of what makes God God or Christ Christ. It amplifies the subject. It is a way of magnifying God & Christ. So Christ is magnified as the judge of all people, living & dead. How we talk about God matters!

6For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

For this…who are dead: Since Christ will judge the dead, what about the faithful dead, i.e. Christians who have already died esp. those who suffered martyrdom in persecution. The gospel was preached (aor) indicates this took place in the past. Those who are dead are those who obeyed the gospel preached & have since died (whether by persecution or not).

That…people are: That (Gk hina) shows the purpose of the proclamation of the gospel: on the one hand (Gk men) judged (and condemned) by men in [the] flesh or…

In the same way that Christ was judged worthy of reviling, malignity, & death by fleshly men, so too are Christians across time & space deemed worthy of the same. But just as God did not abandon His soul to Hades so that He saw life, so too are Christians promised life with God both now & forever.

They might…God does: on the other hand (Gk de) they might live according to God in [the] spirit. So while alive, these Christians were judged by fleshly men as worthy of reviling, malignity, & even death, but God, who is Spirit, gives them life even in death.

Both the judgment of men & life with God have consequences for the present & eschatologically (now & not yet). These men who judge Christians as worthy of rejection & as despicable themselves heap up condemnation on their own life and will one day stand & give account for their blasphemy. In the meantime, they stand condemned, lest they repent & are saved (e.g. Saul/Paul). Christians, as they endure this treatment, live for God’s will as supreme in their life & thereby live with Him even now. As this world gives way to the next, we will enjoy life with Him even more.

Special Study—The Gospel Preached to the Dead

1) Following His death & before His resurrection, Jesus went to the unseen spiritual realm (Hades) & preached the gospel to the spirits of the dead. However, this removes the teeth out of the promise of vindication in v.5 if there is a second chance.

2) The “dead” are those “dead in trespasses & sin,” i.e. spiritually dead. The aorist tense works against this; why not say “the gospel is preached” since this is what was taking place even as Peter wrote?

3) Those who heard & obeyed the gospel but have since died (perhaps via persecution). This seems the best understanding.

God’s Grace & Suffering, part 1

Peter starts to close this epistle by beginning a final major emphasis he wants to impress on his readers: suffering. This section will carry the reader nearly to end of the book (3.8-5.11). Interwoven in this section on suffering is how God’s grace relates to it. These are Christian people who are suffering for doing good on Christ’s behalf, yet they are suffering. Peter puts them (and us) in mind of God’s grace when we are suffering.

Suffering for Doing Good (3.8-17)

Christians are blessed if they suffer for doing good & continue to live graciously toward all.

8Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

Finally, all of you: Some read finally as a summation of the material covered beginning in 2.11. Peter is summarizing and proceeding forward in to new material. All of you indicates this is address to whole Christian community. Peter uses five (5) adjectives to describe the church…

“All of you” who claim to be Christian, who claim Christ’s name for yourself. Thus, every Christian has an obligation to cultivate obedience in all five of these areas put forward. Obedience in each of the areas marked out by Peter here will promote peace in the local congregation and smooth relationships among church members. Though he does not repeat the word, the proper expression of each of these characteristics requires submission – the theme Peter has expounded on as primary for Christians (2.13, 17; 3.1). Unwillingness to submit ourselves to one another will result in failure to manifest each of these characteristics.

Have unity of mind: Gk homophrones (unique in NT). Lit. “same-minded.” Like minded. This is a characteristic which would bring “harmony” (NIV) to the church & family.

Sympathy: Gk sumpatheis. (unique in NT) This is feeling with others in their joy, sorrow, & needs.

Brotherly love: Gk philadelphoi. (unique in NT) Brother-lovers, i.e. love for fellow Christians.

A tender heart: Gk eusplagchnoi. Cf. Ephesians 4.32. The distress & affliction of others should touch a Christian’s heart. As is sung, “His heart is touched with my pain.”

A humble mind: As opposed to a proud heart. Attitude & outlook should be humble.

Each characteristic is elsewhere enjoined on Christians in Scripture:

  1. Unity of mind: Romans 15.5; Philippians 2.1-2
  2. Sympathy: Romans 12.15
  3. Brotherly Love: John 13.34-35; Hebrews 13.1 [this is the lynch pin which holds these together]
  4. Tender-heartedness: Ephesians 4.32
  5. Humble-Mindedness: Philippians 2.3-4

These are the backbone to healthy relationships among brothers & sisters, yes, even a healthy church. Where these are absent, division, bitterness, & hard-heartedness abound. When these characteristics are absent from the church, repayment of evil rears its ugly, sinful head. So v.9…

9Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

Do not…reviling: Evil is all-around bad behavior, bad actions, even abusive actions. Reviling is focused on the slander which is spoken; abusive & harmful speech. This injunction or a similar form of it is all over the New Testament (Romans 12.17; 1 Thessalonians 5.15).  Of course, Christ is the example of this (2.23).

As Acappella sang: “Don’t be talking ‘bout friends when they’re not around,/ Don’t be cuttin’ their hearts and puttin’ them down,/ Don’t be temptin’ the Lord and makin’ Him frown,/ Don’t be talkin’ ‘bout friends when they’re not around.” Beyond words are our actions, which typically speak louder than words. The flesh desires to get people back. If someone has slighted us, our flesh wants to slight them back. It does not have to be to a greater degree (though if we can get them back more, great!); it could be to a lesser degree. Someone did something untoward to you & now you ignore them. Maybe they wave at you across a room but you just turn your head & ignore them like they don’t exist. Is this not repaying evil for evil? Treating a fellow creature of the Creator as if they do not exist is bad enough; how much worse is it when they are your brother or sister!

But…bless: On the contrary is an emphatic contrast. It is not merely enough to not repay evil; we must invest goodness. Once again, Christ is our example. His teaching (Luke 6.28-29) & life are a testimony to returning good for evil. Following His example, Christians desire God to show grace to those who have caused them to suffer.

“Bless,” says Peter. “When reviled, we bless,” says Paul (1 Corinthians 4.12). And this is not the tepid and usually sarcasm filled “God bless” or “Jesus loves you” which is plastic and phony. Can we imagine Peter or Paul ejaculating a fake “God bless”? Can you imagine Paul or Peter spitting out “Jesus loves you” through gritted teeth? No, this is calling upon God to show those who have injured or insulted us His grace & favor. And to really mean it! And bless not merely in word or talk, but in deed and in truth. Let your actions bless those who revile you and persecute you. “Do good to those who hate you.” This is profoundly personal. One personal was to do good to someone which will also adjust your attitude toward them so you might move past how they hurt you is to pray for them. Talk to the Father about them & speak of them to Him.

  1. Send an encouragement note, appreciation card, thank you note
  2. Speak a kind word of appreciation
  3. Visit them when they get sick

For to this…a blessing: Christians have been called to emulate Christ in returning evil for good. The purpose of this is to obtain a blessing. Most commentators say the blessing is eternal life since the text Peter quotes from in v.10-12 mentions “life.” The blessing is ambiguous , though, and no doubt includes present blessings in this life. God blesses godly behavior now & in the life to come.

10For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;

Psalm 34.9 is an exhortation to “fear YHWH.” Peter has already exhorted his readers to “fear God” (2.17). Psalm 34.11 tells us these verses which Peter quotes (v.12-16) are instruction concerning the fear of YHWH. Just existing is not life. “Life is real! Life is earnest!” Living well (& dying well) eludes many because it abides in the realm of living for God. Many people can live a long life (70 or by reason 80); but to live a full, happy life begins with, continues in, and ends in the fear of God.

For…good days: For (gar) links this to v.9. Peter quotes Psalm 34.12-16 to make his point. The quote is from the Septuagint with the second person changed to third person. The blessings (love life and see good days) are for this present life, strengthening the argument that the blessing in v.9 is for the present life. Love life speaks to enjoying life (present & eternal). Good days is a way of speaking of God’s favor in the life of the faithful person. Basically, this is a full & beneficial life.

Let him…deceit: The keys to this kind of blessing are two-fold: controlling the mouth (v.9b) & seeking goodness (v.10).  Controlling the tongue includes abstaining from evil speech, especially deceit (cf. 2.1). Truly a heart & mind free from evil intentions (v.9) would have a mouth free of evil.

James tells us that “no one can tame the tongue” & it is “full of deadly poison” (James 3.8). Jesus tells us we will give account for every word – thoughtful or thoughtless – we utter & our words will justify or condemn us (Matthew 12.36-37). No wonder Peter, quoting David, exhorts us to cease from speaking evil & deceit. A happy life is interrupted by evil speech & deception. Indeed, life with God is interrupted when our lips are full of evil.

11let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.

Let him…do good: Like Job (1.1), the Christian is to stay away from evil actions & behaviors. Rather, Christians are to a be an active, positive force in society following the example of Christ who “went about doing good” (Acts 10.38).

Evil is close at hand, nor far from each one of us, desiring to have us. All evil is to be shunned, avoided, turned away from. Evil companions, evil words, evil works, evil thoughts, evil people, every appearance of evil is to be abandoned.

“Do good” is Peter’s two word exhortation for how Christians are to live. This exhortation is all over this epistle: 2.12, 14, 15, 20; 3.6, 9, 11, 13, 16, 17; 4.19. It is juxtaposed with doing evil: 3.9, 12, 17; 4.3-5. Of course, the motivation for doing good is that “the Lord is good” (2.3). He is the source & reason for any goodness from us.

Let him…pursue it: Seeking peace would involve the desire to be at peace in one’s spirit knowing that one is right with God as well as peace with fellow man. Pursue denotes intense effort exerted to chase down a thing, in this case peace. There is diligence & eagerness involved in the quest for peace.

12For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

For…[the] righteous: Or “The Lord’s eyes are on those who are righteous.” The all-seeing eye of God is a theme prevalent in the Bible (e.g. 2 Chronicles 16.9; Zechariah 4.10). It denotes His omniscience. He sees all & knows all. It echoes what Jesus promised in Matthew 28.20.

What comfort to know that God is watching you. When you suffer, He knows. When you hurt, He knows. When you resist temptation, He sees. As we strive for a godly, holy life, He sees & knows and is there to provide for us when we cry out to Him (see Psalm 34.17-18).

At the same time, what a fearful thing to know that God is watching. When you gossip about someone, He knows. When you tear someone down, He sees. When you think unholy thoughts, He knows. Let us avoid these practices lest we sow a habit of sin and incur God’s displeasure so that He turns away and turns against us.

His ears are open to their prayer: What a marvelous blessing which accompanies a life lived to honor & glorify God—He hears our prayers. See Psalm 34.17. For Christians suffering persecution this is a much needed assurance that God’s ear is open to their plea for help.

But…do evil: A regular theme in the Bible is that God sets His face against ungodly people for their wicked behavior (Leviticus 26.14-17; Jeremiah 21.10; Ezekiel 15.7). It is judgment language. The rest of the verse in Psalm 34 says God will “cut off the memory of them from the earth.”

13Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?

Now…what is good? A possible Old Testament allusion (cf. Proverbs 16.7; Isaiah 50.9). Certainly this question is rhetorical anticipating the answer “no one.” But this was not these Christians’ experience. No doubt they already were deeply committed to the One who is good & doing what is good. Yet they were suffering injury & hurt for their devotion to goodness.

It’s embarrassing to talk about suffering in an American context when we really do not know persecution like the 1st century church. We are actually the proof of this proverb: no one harms you if you eager to do good. However, these Christians in Asia must have thrown their hands up & rolled their eyes while uttering an exasperated “Really, Peter?!”

14But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,

But…you will be blessed: Peter has Jesus’ voice ringing in his ears (cf. Matthew 5.10). But (Gk all’) introduces the potential scenario. Righteousness seems equivalent with “zealous for what is good” in v.13. If you should suffer is in the rare optative mood, a form used if the possibility was unlikely. Yet even if such should happen or even is happening in Asia Minor, those who experience such persecution are blessed. Hence, no harm can really befall the Christian since God blesses (He sees & hears, v.12; cf. Psalm 34.15).

Knowing that these Christians are suffering for the sake of righteousness, Peter reminds them of the eighth beatitude Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. For the coming increase in persecution he wanted them ready to face it. The bliss of God belongs to those suffer for being a Christian.

Have no fear…troubled: Quoted from Isaiah 8.12. The context in Isaiah is preparation for the coming Assyrian invasion. Here the context is assurance during & preparation for persecution. Lit. do not fear what they fear. Also, though different, Peter no doubt has in mind the words of Christ: “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Fearless & courageous living is what Peter calls these Christians to be. Christians are not to fear impending circumstances or threatening opponents.

Christians are not to fear what the world fears. We do not fear ISIS or Russia or Saudi Arabia. We do not fear the creeping infringement of our rights by the government. We are fearless while the world is fearful. We are courageous while the world is cowardly. Why? Back in Isaiah (8.12-13), he was not to fear the advancing armies of a foreign foe; he (and we) are to fear YHWH, leader of angelic armies of heaven. By quoting that text in relation to Christ he puts Jesus on the same as YHWH, rightly so. Christ the Lord is God & it is Him we reverence though the world retreat.

Should the whole world turn against & Christianity be illegal (as it has been in years long past), we will not fear their threats by which they seek to instill fear in us. We will not fear their attempted fear inducing slander or hate-speech. We will not be emotionally or psychologically shaken or disturbed. While it shouldn’t be that we suffer for good (v.13), even if does happen we will trust Christ, come what may.

15but in your hearts honor 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,

But…as holy: Peter continues the quote from Isaiah 8 but makes a significant change: whereas in Isaiah the one to be revered as holy was YHWH, that same reverence is now to be rendered to Christ who is the Lord (even YHWH, thus Christ is God). This is a typical move in the NT: Christ deserves the same honor & reverence as YHWH. No doubt Peter intends for his readers to “let Him be your fear and let Him be your dread” (Isaiah 8.13b). Peter wants his readers to fear Christ and fear no other. How? By having & holding the Holy One in their hearts.

Always being…in you: Christ in us is the hope of glory (Colossians 1.27), that is, anticipation of resurrection & eternal life. Christians ought to be in a state of readiness to make a defense (Gk apologian), i.e. a verbal response & answer. Asks is actually more of an urgent, even demanding request for explanation. Anyone is any person who sees Jesus in us but does not know Christ. All of this indicates that people ought to be able to see Christian hope on display in the lives of Christians.

Yet…respect: When Christians offer a word of explanation for the hope in them, it must be with gentleness & respect. Gentleness is how we are treat our fellow man. It requires humility. Respect (Gk phobou) is our attitude toward God. We hold Him in reverence. Christians who fear God & walk humbly before Him & others will treat people the way they want to be treated—with dignity & understanding. Proper perspective of God will enable Christians to respond properly to non-believers.

This is a key text for our evangelistic efforts. Four factors for evangelism – 1 Peter 3.15

  1. The Sanctified/Holy Factor – “sanctify Christ in your hearts as holy”

First, what Christians need to do before they engage anyone in rational, religious discussion: “set apart Christ in your hearts as Lord.” If we do not do this first, we have no business telling others (denominational or otherwise) about Christ the Lord “who can change your life.” Unless He has changed our life first, we hamstring any (every?) effort we may attempt in reaching out to anyone. That is why Christ is set apart “in your hearts.” The heart is the source of our behavior (cf. 1.22; 3.4). Everything we do comes from the heart. The inner self cannot be separated from the outward person. This is why we must be holy as He is holy inside & out.

  1. The Preparation Factor – “always be prepared”

Second, if we would engage anyone (denominational person or non-believer), we had better “always be prepared to make a defense.” Christianity is not a “blind leap.” Instead, it is based on historical facts, “evidence which demands a verdict” (as Josh McDowell puts it). So we need to arm ourselves with these facts which bolster our faith. By the way, these facts are contained in our NTs: the historical death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus as well as the emergence of the 1st century church. Now this can go as shallow or as deep as you want to take it. But the point remains: Christians are a prepared people who can “give an answer” or “make a defense.” While not every Christian need be a skilled apologist (a la Josh McDowell or William Lane Craig), every Christian should have a firm grasp of the essentials & why Christianity is true.

  1. The Obvious Factor – “to everyone who asks you about the hope”

Third, it should be so obvious that we are a Christian, that people are asking about our faith. “…be prepared to make a defense to anyone who ask you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” One author calls this “permission evangelism.” People want to know what makes you different. And if you live differently than the world (a key tenent of the Christian faith, btw), people will take notice. Specifically, this is related to our “hope,” that is, our anticipation & expectation that “every little gon’ be alright” and even now is being made right through us & how we respond to circumstances. Ask yourself this: if being a Christian were against the law, would there be enough evidence to convict you? If not, something is wrong. Not only that, don’t bet on anyone asking you about your “hope”; chances are you may not have any!

  1. The Attitude/Gentle Factor – “with gentleness and respect”

Fourth, when someone asks you (and they will), give your answer/make your defense “with gentleness and respect.” There’s no need to beat someone to death with the doctrine stick; most people, however, respond very well when we approach them with the mentality that we’re all trying to find the truth and it is contained in the Bible, which is God’s word. Together, let’s see if we can find it. That’s gentleness – not compromising (since we are pointing them right back to the Bible). But also, understand that this person is coming to the study/discussion with a lot of presuppositions. in other words, time, culture, and environment has affected the way this person views the world. Respect that, but also don’t be afraid to challenge them with what the Scriptures say. Great cross reference – 2 Cor 10.5: “we destroy arguments…take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

16having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Having a good conscience: conscience is the minds ability to distinguish between right and wrong. One maintains a good conscience when 1) one maintains clear views of what is good & bad and 2) one obeys the dictates of the conscience. In this evangelistic context, there is a right & wrong way to “make a defense” and one’s conscience is kept good when one seeks to do that which is right & avoid what is wrong in giving reasons for their inner hope.

So that…put to shame: cf. 2.11-12, 15. A good conscience is the result of good behavior in Christ. Slander is silenced and slanderers shamed when Christians live the Christian life well. The aim of shame is that those who slander & revile would themselves consider the gospel & believe.

Someone has said, “A saint is someone whose life makes it easier to believe in God.” Barclay calls the Christian life “the only unanswerable argument for Christianity” (274). Once more Peter is calling to live the life excellently. So excellently that “those who revile your good behavior in Christ” are ashamed they opened their mouths in the first place. The aim of shame is not shame in & of itself; the aim is that our enemies and persecutors are embarrassed they misunderstood Christian conduct, regret what they have done, repent & trust Christ.

17For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

For it is better…than for doing evil: cf. 2.19-20; 4.15. It must be for doing good that a Christian suffer. If suffering is deserved for doing evil (e.g. the penalty for crime), it is not good or better; it is merely justice. But when suffering is unjust (i.e. for good Christian behavior) yet according to God’s will, it is superior, better, indeed, Christ-like (v.18).

If…God’s will: Lit. “If the will of God should will it.” If this happens in some instances (optative), strange though it may seem, when it happens, it is better to suffer for good rather than evil.  Cf. 1.6.

When we grumble and complain and accuse of injustice when we are caused to suffer, we spoil the whole thing. Instead, there are lessons in suffering; we rob ourselves of these by 1) avoiding suffering at all costs or 2) complaining about what we are suffering. Peter wants us to know what a “better” thing it is to suffer at the hands of evildoers for our doing good. In fact, it is most Christ-like.

God’s Grace & Submission, part 3

Peter continues to discuss the domestic issues which Christianity would have raised in the home, this time dealing with family relationships between husbands & wives. How should the wife conduct herself as a Christian toward her husband? How should the husband conduct himself as a Christian toward his wife? These questions were especially relevant if only one member of the marriage had been won to Christ. The reason for the disparity in length to each group (6 verses for wives, 1 verse for men) was because of the difficulty placed upon women in the ancient world if they became a Christian but their husband did not.

Submission to Spouses (3.1-7)

Husbands & wives have mutual obligation to live graciously with one another by submission & understanding.

1Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives,

Likewise, wives: In a similar way as Christians were to be subject to the governing authorities and slaves were to be subject to their masters, wives are called to submission to their husbands.

Be subject…husbands: or submitting yourselves. This is voluntary submission, the wife yielding to her own husbands lead. Peter will use the example of Sarah to Abraham to illustrate this (v.5-6).

So that…their wives: Here is the purpose for submission. Some of the husbands has not obeyed the word, i.e. the gospel. So they were not Christians. But though their ears were closed to the gospel, their eyes could see the gracious conduct of their wife’s lovely life. By her pure conduct (and the pure conduct of all Christian women), her husband may be won to the kingdom of Christ.

Egalitarianism – the doctrine that men & women are the same – has taken hold in many churches & corners of society. Egalitarians seek to eliminate male spiritual leadership in home, church, & society at large. They argue that Peter’s advice here (and Paul’s advice elsewhere) was good for their time & culture, however it simply does not apply to us. But what is good for the goose is good for the gander. If it is the case that a wife no longer needs to be submissive, then surely it is the case that a husband need not honor his wife as an heir of God’s grace. This simply is not the case. The Holy Spirit, through Peter, still calls for Christian wives to be submissive to the leadership role of the husband.

2when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

When they see…conduct: Respectful (Gk phobo) is literally fear, but is not terror or dread; rather, it is reverence or holy respect. The object of this respect is debated as either the husband or God, though both can be in view here. Pure speaks to freedom from moral defilement & indicates that submission does not mean venturing into conduct outside the will of God.

Notice that submission is “respectable & pure conduct.” Thus, failure to submit or a refusal to submit must be disrespectful & impure conduct. Therefore, the egalitarian movement, with their push to erase gender borders, is advocating for behavior which is disrespectful & impure.

3Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—

Do not…external: “The focus is now on the wife’s beauty, which consists not in external, visible things which perish but in unseen spiritual realities which are eternal” (Grudem 139). Peter may have in mind Isaiah 3.16-23. See also 1 Timothy 2.9-10. True beauty is not garbed in finery.

“Women are in general at as much pains and cost in their dress, as if by it they were to be recommended both to God and man. It is, however, in every case, the argument either of a shallow mind, or of a vain and corrupted heart.” (Clarke)

The braiding…clothing you wear: Braiding of hair (or “well-set hair,” Isa 3.24) were hair styles which were intricate & elaborate ways of fixing one’s hair for attracting attention & admiration. Putting on gold jewelry (the bracelets, armlets, amulets, signet rings, & nose rings of Isa 3.19-21) may also have to do with the hair; in antiquity, gold plates were sometimes added, interwoven into the hair. The clothing you wear is akin to Paul’s “expensive clothes” in 1 Timothy 2.9.

True beauty is not garbed in finery…nor is holiness. The beauty of holiness is not seen in externals. Where does the notion that dressing-up is synonymous with holiness come from? “The Lord will take away the finery,” says Isaiah (3.19). In his day, Alexander Campbell bemoaned the fact that Christians wore “finery” when coming into the presence of holy God. In “Worshipping Assemblies – No. 1,” Campbell writes, “To see worshippers appear in church as at a marriage feast, a presidential levee, a theater, a dance – either in dress, manners, or general demeanor – strikes all persons of reflection as snow in summer, or a plaudit [i.e. applause] in the midst of a prayer…we frequent the houses of prayer and the places of worship with all our ‘finery’ upon us, as though our synagogues were theatres of fashion – and the ‘Ladies’ Book,’ rather than the New Testament, was the guide of our devotions.” It is NOT about clothing, brethren. That is Peter’s point in these verses: It is about the inward hidden person of the heart. Always has been.

4but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

But let…the heart: But (Gk alla) draws a sharp contrast—not that but this. “The adornment God desires is not external but internal” (NAC). The hidden person of the heart is Paul’s inner being (Romans 7.22; Ephesians 3.16). It is the “true personality…revealed through words and actions which reflect inner attitudes” (Grudem 140). It is godly character which God wants.

With…quiet spirit: This inner beauty is imperishable, that is, it is not subject to fading away & decaying, unlike the perishable things (see 1.18). The gentle and quiet spirit is Christ-like; it does not insist on its own way and is content with a peaceful existence. Attempting to find beauty in physical outward adornment is fleeting & futile. However, heavenly beauty discovered in a gentle and quiet spirit is eternal.

Quietness is a typical admonishment for women in the NT: 1 Corinthians 14.34; 1 Timothy 2.11. Quietness is typically linked with submission. Here it is the godly disposition of a woman seeking to win her husband to the faith (3.1b). This is attractive to men &, more importantly, admirable before God.

Which…is very precious: No man can see the hidden inner being except by our words & deeds. However, God can pierce the physical outward body & see right into the soul of an individual. Here, God sees the submission of a godly woman evidenced by her gentle & quiet spirit. Very precious speaks to the value of this godly disposition: it is expensive. While the world sees the ornaments as expensive, God knows the true value of a godly spirit. Why is the gentle, quiet spirit so valuable to God? Because it comes through faith in Him (cf. 1.7, same word for “precious”).

This verse attests to the fact that man is a compound creature with a physical body (visible) & a spiritual soul (invisible). God has always been concerned more about the condition of our inner spiritual lives than with external form. This is a principle traceable throughout the Bible: 1 Kings 8.39; 1 Samuel 16.7; 1 Chronicles 28.9; 2 Chronicles 6.30; Acts 1.24; Hebrews 4.13; Revelation 2.23.

5For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands,

For this…adorn themselves: For is explanatory & introduces an illustration captured in verses 5 & 6. Holy women (Gk hagiai gunaikes) are women who were first & foremost set apart for the purposes of God. They were holy because they hoped in God. They submitted themselves to their husbands because they hoped in God. These women’s hope in God is what drove their obedience, in this case…

By submitting…husbands: This phrase takes us right back to the theme introduced in verses 1-2 while also drawing the relationship to the inner beauty of a godly spirit of verses 3-4. This was their habitual practice, a constant aim in their lives to thusly adorn themselves (imperfect tense) “by accepting the authority of their husbands” (NRSV).

“What is remarkable about this list is that nowhere did Peter or the rest of the New Testament teach that women are inferior to men, that they are intellectually substandard, or that they are more prone to wickedness. Indeed, Peter emphasized that wives are coheirs with husbands of eternal life” (v.7).[1] So the NT was countercultural in promoting the equality (in dignity, value, & worth) of women. Of course, this stemmed from Christ’s revolutionary treatment of women during His ministry.

Confident expectation (hope) of vindication & reward from God is a major theme in 1 Peter. God rewards those who trust Him no matter what the world hits us with or what we have to endure. Whether fiery persecution or submission to an unbelieving spouse, the Christian is to hope in God for deliverance or, at least, the grace needed to suffer in obedience. John Piper calls hope in God the deepest root of womanhood. “A Christian woman does not put her hope in her husband, or in getting a husband. She does not put her hope in her looks. She puts her hope in the promises of God” (Piper).

6as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

As Sarah…calling him lord: Sarah is the specific example & when she called Abraham lord is the specific case. Genesis 18.12 seems to be the specific location in Peter’s mind. She speaks positively, respectfully of her husband naturally & normally. Sarah’s obedience (paralleled with submission) to Abraham is when she, in an off-the-cuff comment speaking to herself with no one else to hear, called him lord. This is imperishable beauty of the hidden heart.

Peter does not go to culture to prove his point. He goes back to redemptive history, specifically Sarah. She is the gentle & quiet soul whose obedience/submission to her husband is highlighted for women of all times & places to emulate. Here is imperishable beauty.

And you…frightening: We are all sons of Abraham (Galatians 3.29). At the same time, women are children of Sarah when they submit to & obey their husbands. They are her children when they 1) do good & 2) do not fear. Here is fearless beauty eager for pure conduct (v.1). Do good is a regular theme in 1 Peter which is to be characteristic of all Christians (2.15, et al). Fearlessness is likewise a characteristic which should be common among the people of God (3.14, et al). Those Christian wives who are rich in works & allow nothing to terrify them “have become” (aorist) Sarah’s children. They are then co-heirs of the promise (cf. verse 7) & the church has become by faith Abraham’s covenant family.

From a woman’s hope in God comes the knowledge that she belongs to God, set apart for His purposes (holy). Knowing she belongs to God, she is fearless, courageous to do good to everyone. She does not waste her life as a couch potato watching soap operas all afternoon. Part of her good deeds (pure conduct) is her submission to her husband.

How do you speak about your spouse? When no one was listening (except God) she called her husband “lord,” a term of respect recognizing his inherent dignity & authority. Here is a reflection of a spirit which truly has submitted itself to her husband demonstrating respectful & pure conduct even when no one else is around. Her true character was evident even in her casual inner dialogue with herself. The honor & respect she had for Abraham was sewn into the very fabric of her life. The hidden heart must be kept holy.

7Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

Likewise, husbands: Christian behavior & obligations are a two-way street. The wife has her duties (1-6); the husband is to reciprocate with certain behavior “in the same way” (NIV).

Live with…understanding way: lit. according to knowledge. First & foremost is the husbands knowledge of God, His will, & what the Lord requires of him as a husband. The husband is to study his wife & learn her ways. With this knowledge & understanding of her he can “house-together” with her. According to knowledge could also touch his knowledge of himself & knowledge about the nature of marriage. Certainly all this knowledge will enable the husband to fulfill his mutual obligations to his wife, especially…

Showing…weaker vessel: Many modern woman & even some modern Christian women cringe at this statement made by Peter under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. How does God intend for us to understand “weaker vessel” here? Certainly God as Creator would know how women are constituted. Nothing in the Bible hints at women being weaker intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually. Elsewhere in Scripture man constitution is regularly compared to a clay pot or vessel (Acts 9.15; Romans 9.22-23). So then what is in view must be sheer physicality. Men are physically stronger than women. Yet, they are to be shown greater honor for that weakness.

The words translated “the woman” is a rare term & literal means “the feminine one.” There is something about the wife’s femaleness which causes the husband to see his wife is worthy of honor. However, in our fallen world, femininity has been high jacked to the detriment of masculinity. At the same time, masculinity has been high jacked & morphed into something cruel & domineering. Wives belittle their husbands & some even argue men are unnecessary. Husbands batter their wives or at the least speak in a derogatory manner about “the ole’ ball & chain.” God the Holy Spirit through Peter, though, shows us men & women’s true nature as recreated in Christ: the beauty of mutual holy respect & pure conduct.

Since…grace of life: Although women are physically weaker, spiritually men & women are equals in their inheritance of the grace of life. Everlasting life is God’s gracious gift to men & women. Men & women are “joint-heirs” of this grace. Husbands are the spiritual leaders with divine authority to guide their families, but they are not the only ones living in & under the grace of God. This is the husband’s motivation for honoring his wife. So also is the next phrase…

So that…hindered: cf. 4.7. Should a husband fail to fulfill his obligations commanded in this verse, his spiritual life will be stymied. God’s ears are closed to the hard-hearted husband who does not honor his wife. It must also be said that God’s ears are closed to the willful wife who refuses to submit herself to her husband. Serious spiritual consequences result from not obeying God’s will.

“To take time to develop and maintain a good marriage is God’s will; it is serving God; it is a spiritual activity pleasing in his sight” (Grudem 146). God desires for His people to have happy, healthy marriages. Fortifying the family is godly. A normal Christian marriage is one of love, honor, respect, and pure conduct.

The husband’s three-fold obligation:

  1. He must be understanding: Or “considerate” (NIV). He needs to be sensitive to her needs & feelings.
  2. He must be chivalrous: He respects & honors his wife.
  3. He must remember that she has equal spiritual privilege: husband & wife are joint-heirs of God’s grace & eternal life with Him.

How husbands are to show honor to their wives as weaker vessels: kind words in private; kind words in public; priority in attention given; protection & provision. “Although spiritual equality does not negate all social differences, it does have social implications” (Black & Black 91).

  1. If you are stronger than your wife, you will use your strength to protect her not pummel her.
  2. If you are smarter than your wife, you will use your intelligence to encourage her not destroy her.
  3. If you are more spiritual than your wife, you will use your spirituality to build up her faith not act the Pharisee.
  4. If you are emotionally stronger than your wife, you will use that strength to be her rock when she is heartbroken not tell her to “build a bridge & get over it.”

“The idea that one’s relationship to God may be hindered by one’s relationship to others is a repeated theme of Scripture” (Black & Black 92). This is a principle at the heart of the teaching of Christ (see Matthew 5.22-23; 6.12, 14-15; 18.35; Mark 11.25; cf. Proverbs 21.13). How we treat others matters to God. This is especially true in the marriage relationship. How we treat our spouses matters to God. If we abuse or disrespect our spouse, our prayer life will be interrupted. No husband should expect an effective prayer life if he does not honor his wife & live with her in an understanding way. No wife should expect an effective prayer life if she does not submit herself to her husband & respect him. Like when the operator tells you “Sorry, but your call cannot be completed at this time.” Heaven says, “Sorry, your prayer cannot be heard at this time.” Maybe it is interpersonal conflict; maybe it is internal emotional turmoil so that you are clear headed to pray (cf. 4.7). Go make things right, repent, & do what the Lord told you to do as a spouse.

[1] Schreiner, Thomas R. 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Vol. 37. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003. Print. The New American Commentary.

God’s Grace & Submission, part 2

Slaves are frequently mentioned in epistles (1 Corinthians 7.21-23; Ephesians 6.5-8; Colossians 3.22; 1 Timothy 6.1-2; Titus 2.9; Philemon). This seems to indicate that many of those who comprised the first century church were in a condition of servitude or were owners of slaves. In this section (2.18-25), Peter focuses exclusively on “household servants” to encourage those who perhaps needed the most encouragement to live godly lives while facing difficult circumstances.

Submission as Slaves (2.18-25)

18Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.

Servants: Gk oiketai, household servants. No comparable institution exists in modern Western society so it is difficult to accurately translate this word. However, “semi-permanent employee without legal or economic freedom” comes closest (Grudem 124).

Be subject…all respect: cf. v. 13. Present tense indicates these Christians slaves were to continue to submit themselves to their masters “with all fear” (NKJV). Fear (Gk phobo) is to be directed toward God, therefore, this is “for the Lord’s sake” (v.13), not out of fear of their masters.

Not only…the unjust: Generally speaking, slave (both in the house & out) were treated good & gentle by their masters. They were trained to perform important domestic, business, & public tasks. Doctors, teachers, musicians, & managers were slaves. Rome had passed much legislation protecting the 60 million slaves within her boarders. However, there was abuse by “harsh” (NIV) masters who lived in “pampered idleness” (Barclay 249). Some slaves were mistreated, denied pay, kept in awful conditions, etc. Even to these masters Christians slaves submit.

Submission to “unreasonable” (NASB) & “perverse” (NET) masters by Christian slaves is perhaps the most difficult instruction in 1 Peter. Obedience to harsh masters must have been somewhat deflating & disappointing to the Christian slave who had come to a Christian worldview where all men are equal in God’s sight. Of course, like with the government, submission of slaves had limitations; if a master ordered a slave to do something against the will of God, the slave should refuse in order to obey a higher authority. Nevertheless, short of sin, the slave was to submit & obey even dishonest & crooked masters in all things out of respect & fear of God.

19For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.

For this is a gracious thing: For signals that Peter is going to explain the reason for the radical submission of v.18. God looks with favor upon those who suffer unjustly while trusting Him.

When…suffering unjustly: The slave is mindful of God, that is, God’s will & presence, even his/her duty toward God. God approves of this because the slave chooses God’s authority over his own comfort & security, enduring sorrows & suffering unjustly (or wrongfully) for His will. Both the physical pain & mental anguish are in view here.

The Christian is to have a “trusting awareness of God’s presence & never-failing care” as they endure suffering, esp. when we suffer for doing the right thing, i.e. God’s will. Our faith is rooted in the knowledge that one day God will right all wrongs & vindicate the patient endurance of the Christian. This is what enables Christians to submit to injustice without bitterness and despair. It will also enable us to avoid improper responses like rebellion, revolt, hateful rhetoric, or misplaced fear.

20For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

For what…you endure?: A rhetorical question—there is no honor in the patient endurance of rightfully deserved punishment for wrongdoing.  Many who sin and do wrong expect some kind of punishment should they get caught. That’s why they do all they can to avoid getting caught!

But if…sight of God: It could be that they did the right thing fro their master & still suffered for it; more likely this has to do with doing the right thing as a Christian when their master wanted them to do otherwise & they were knocked about being beaten with the fist. Doing the thing that pleases God & suffering for it will open new avenues of “grace from God.”

Peter gives two reason for patient endurance through unjust suffering: 1) God’s grace (18-19) & 2) Christ’s calling (20-25).

21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

For…been called: cf. 1 Thess 3.3. Christians are destined for wrongful affliction. Why? Because unjust suffering is at the heart of Christianity in the model of Christ whom Christians are to imitate. This is the example Peter focuses on for Christian slaves who serve unjust masters, even the servant of YHWH. His is the supreme of unjust suffering by the hands whom He came to serve.

Because Christ…in His steps: Christ’s example is proof positive that God looks with favor upon those who patiently endure through unjust suffering. Of course His example is even greater because it was for you (Gk uper umon, lit. on behalf of all you). Nevertheless, Christ also suffered for you even as now you suffer for Him. Christian slaves follow in His steps when they endure unjust suffering from their masters.

NOTE: While Peter is focused on Christian slaves, the instruction can certainly apply to every Christian. Christ is our example (Gk hupogrammon) over which our lives to be placed & traced.

22He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.

He committed no sin: cf. Isa 53.9. Never once did Christ sin, a fact of the gospel strongly attested in the New Testament (2 Cor 5.21; Heb 4.15; 1 John 3.5) & earlier in 1 Peter (1.19). He was the sinless servant of YHWH (see Isa 52.13). He is distinct from believers in this & because of His sinlessness is able to be our vicarious sacrifice.

Neither was…His mouth: Deceit is something Christians are to put away (v.1). Here is why: Christ. “If Jesus as the servant of the Lord did not sin or use guile, despite suffering intensely as the righteous one, then believers should follows His example and refrain from sinning or using deceit when they are mistreated as Christ’s disciples” (NAC).

23When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

When…in return: A possible allusion to Isa 53.7. Jesus the “lamb without blemish” “led to the slaughter…opened not His mouth.” Though He was slandered & insulted He did not hurl invective back. He remained silent. Even those times during His ministry when He did defend Himself it was all spoken out of deep love for those who opposed Him.

When…threaten: It seems slaves were of a mind to be “argumentative” (Titus 2.9) & invoke divine retribution when caused to suffer. But not even Christ did this, choosing rather when the pain the worst to say “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23.34).

But…Him who judges justly: Peter has already spoken of God as the just judge (1.17). Himself is supplied in most English translations & appears to be correct given what Peter says in 4.19 (“those who suffer…entrust their souls” to God). At the same time, the imperfect tense & His example from the cross seem to indicate that every dimension of His life was entrusted to God by Christ.

Our natural response when someone has injured us or hurt us to even the score by hurting them back &, if possible, hurt them more. If we can’t get even right away, we may threaten with violence later. “I’m gonna get you!” Or if they’ve hurt & we know there is no way we can get a hand on them, we might threaten divine retribution – “God will get you for this!” But these are natural responses for natural people. Instead, we believe in a God who is in control of everything & we follow the example left by Christ who “kept on entrusting” not just Himself but also His followers and even the wrongdoers and the entire situation “to Him who judges justly.” The imperfect tense indicates this was the regular practice of Jesus throughout His ministry. His attitude was one of faith in the just, fair Father of us all.

At the same time, we as believers trusting in the just Judge know that God will vindicate & reward us while judging & punishing our enemies (see Romans 12.19-20). In fact, it is because we leave justice in the hands of the righteous Judge that we can live like Christ without engaging in or even threatening retaliation. Jeremiah is an OT example this very thing (Jer 11.18-23). “Let me see your vengeance upon them,” he says, “for to you have I committed my cause” (20b). So Jesus was God’s gentle lamb. And we too follow that gentle lamb example.

24He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

He Himself…on the tree: cf. Isa 53.4, 5, 6, 11 (“borne our griefs…borne our iniquities”). Here is the vicarious nature of Christ’s atoning work—Him in our place for our sins. While Christians are to follow Christ’s example in suffering, we must also remember His suffering had this unique quality as the basis for our salvation. The Lord “laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” This took place on the tree (Gk xylon), that is, the cross, Peter preferring “tree” to connect his audience to Deut 21.22-23 & the curse upon those hung on a tree for judicial punishment.

That we…righteousness: Here is the purpose for Christ bearing our sins—living to righteousness.  A new kind of life is the goal of the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf & for our sins. This new life is marked by a cessation from sin which began at baptism (aorist).

By His wounds you have been healed: cf. Isa 53.5. By the wounds of Christ on the cross we have been healed of our moral wounds, i.e. sins. The punishment that was due us, that we deserved, Christ took upon Himself in the flesh to make us well.  Sin is the disease, Christ the Cure!

25For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

For you were straying like sheep: Cf. Isa 53.6. For explains we deserved punishment for wandering. This was the past condition of these Christians, indeed, the condition of everyone before coming to salvation in Christ. We wondered off the path of righteousness & onto the way of sin.

But have now…your souls: Gk alla, strong contrast. But now our fortunes have changed because of Christ. We are no longer lost, wandering sheep. We have returned to our Shepherd and Overseer. In the Old Testament, YHWH is the Shepherd of the flock, i.e. Israel (Psalm 23.1; 80.1; Isaiah 40.10-11). In the New Testament, Christ is the Good Shepherd (Johhn 10.11) & the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet 5.4). Likewise, in the Old Testament, YHWH is seen as the Guardian (NASB) of His flock (see Ezekiel 34.11, where “seek them out” is translated episkepsomai). In the New Testament, Christ is the Overseer who “seeks out” His sheep. All of this is firm testimony that in Christ YHWH came near.

God’s Grace & Submission, Part 1

The earliest charge against Christians as social rabble-rousers was that they said “there is another king, Jesus” (Acts 17.7). Therefore, Christians, it was alleged, are bad citizens, prone to disorderly conduct & disregard of civil authorities. No doubt the question of whether God’s people should obey their pagan rulers was a pressing one for Peter’s audience. It was especially pressing when they were spoken of as “evildoers” & persecuted. Peter has already said that Christian’s are to conduct themselves honorably (v.12) & he begins with honorable conduct before the state.

Submission to the State (2.13-17)

God’s will is that Christians submit to & honor governing authorities which are established by Him.

13Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme,

Be subject…to every human institution: Submission & obedience to governing authorities is typical of ethical instructions found in the NT (cf. Romans 13.1-7; Titus 3.1).

For the Lord’s sake: This may be Peter’s way of echoing Paul’s “there is no authority except from God” (Rom 13.1). Contextually, the glorification of God through our submission to the authorities He put in place is the theological basis.

Whether…as supreme: The Roman emperor was the one who exercised continuous control over the empire and so was supreme. Considering the emperor at the time of Peter writing was Nero it seems this principle is binding even when rulers are neither Christian nor moral.

Peter addresses not only what Christians are to do related to governing authorities, but also gives the why: be subject (what) for the Lord’s sake (why). For Jesus’ sake is reason enough for Christians not to be anarchists or insurrectionists.

  1. Submit (13-14) – to governing authorities high & low
  2. Silence (15) – ignorant foolish people
  3. Serve (16-17) – everyone high & low

14or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.

Or…do good: sent by him may be referring to the emperor in his authority establishing local governing bodies to keep the peace or may refer to God (i.e. Him, cf. Jn 19.11) & once again we have tones of Paul (see Rom 13.3-4). Their function in the various Roman provinces was to punish delinquents and to praise the virtuous.

While Christians certainly have obligations to the state motivated by our theology (“for the Lord’s sake”), the state likewise has obligations to the people. The state is supposed to punish evil-doers & praise do-gooders. Paul says of the emperor, “he does not bear the sword in vain” (Rom 13.4). No whatever that means, it certainly means that governing authorities are to be “an avenger who carries our God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (verse 4). Meanwhile, those with good conduct “receive his approval” (13.3).

Our society seems to have this all backward. Those pursuing a Christian ethic are punished while those engaged in behavior contrary to God’s will are applauded. Refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex couple and you could face stiff penalties. Make the Bible your state book and it’s only a matter of time before you will hear about it. A Chicago church fired their music director who came out as homosexual and now they are facing litigation. Good is evil and evil is good & Caesar grins menacingly.

15For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

For this is the will of God: God’s will for His people is that they submit in order to silence…

That…foolish people: Peter calls the Gentiles foolish not to denigrate their intelligence, but rather as an allusion to wisdom literature where the foolish one who does not fear God or walk in His ways & is thus morally debased (Psalm 53.1). The Gentiles ignorance springs from their irrational claims of Christians as evildoers. All of the ignorance & folly can be silence by Christians living morally upright & virtuous lives (i.e. doing good).

Here is our obligation to society at-large – live the life excellently. Live it so excellently that they are actually muzzled when they open their mouths to accuse us. People want to know what is God’s will for their life; here Peter spells it out explicitly. Do so much good that you shame to silence the stupid & silly accusations spoken by fools. This seems to be what Jesus did. There came a point where no one dared ask him any more questions (Matt 22.46). He was good & He silenced the ignorance of the foolish teachers of His day.

16Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

[Live] as…free: Live is supplied in most English versions, however, what Peter says here is a continuation of verse 13 & “be subject.” Christians are “called to freedom” (Gal 5.13) & at the same time, as Peter emphasizes, Christians are God’s slaves.

America is the land of the free. So we truly know what it means to live as free people. But this freedom cannot & must be used to justify moral evil. Some think that we are free to do whatever we want. “Free country,” scoffs the ner-do-well. But as social critic Os Guinness says, “Liberty requires restraint, but the only restraint consistent with liberty is self-restraint.” Said another way: Liberty requires virtue. Where does virtue come from? “Add to your faith virtue,” says Peter. Therefore, without faith we cannot have virtue; without virtue it is only a matter of time before we are without liberty.

Not using…evil: “Christians do not have freedom to do wrong” (Grudem 121).  “Genuine freedom liberates believers to do what is good” (Schreiner).

[Living] as servants of God: This is the inward motivation for the actions here commanded—Christians are God’s slaves. So Christians live under another King who wants us to submit to human rulers He has established.

17Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Honor everyone: Christians are to attribute high status & value to all people. Why? Though Peter does not specify, it seems best to understand that God created everyone in His image.

Love the brotherhood: Present tense so continue to love all Christians.

Fear God: Present tense so continue to render  reverential awe & respect to God (see Ecc 12.13).

Honor the emperor:  So the emperor is placed on equal footing with everyone.

We are inclined to honor the great & powerful. Those with money (Bill Gates), athletes with exceptional skill (Michael Jordan), the very intelligent (Stephen Hawking) – I think we look upon these people as having some position of honor. This seems particularly true in the political arena. For example, if you received an invitation to the White House, you would no doubt recognize that as a great honor. Whether you like the guy or not, you respect the office. Peter does something interesting – “honor everyone.” All people are worthy of our honor, not just the emperor. I don’t know that Peter drags the emperor down to the common man’s level so much as he elevates everyone to a position of honor. Every person is someone who was created by God in His image & therefore is worthy of honor.

Special Study: The Christian & Government

Peter’s admonition for Christian submission to governing authorities must be understood in light of the instances of civil disobedience found elsewhere in the NT. There are times when the apostles, with Peter as their spokesman, refused to comply with the orders of civil authorities because they were in opposition to the orders of God (see Acts 4.19-20; 5.29). These appear to be the exception rather than the rule. Submit to (good) government, unless they seek to force Christians to violate God’s will. Then obey God.

God’s Grace & Salvation, part 3

Peter begins a new paragraph by shifting from the idea of newborn babies needing spiritual milk from the Lord to holy priests in a spiritual house rendering sacrifice to God. At the same time, this section belongs with all that has gone before concerning God’s grace & our salvation. Just as our hope is living (1.3) and the word of God is living (1.23), so we are “living stones” & Christ is the living Stone to Whom we come & are built into this spiritual house. Peter will quote from or allude to the Old Testament often to show how these Christians are God’s people.

Living Stones – Examples of God’s Grace (2.4-12)

Christians are living examples of God’s grace, & they glorify God in life & worship.

4As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,

As you come to Him:  Lit. coming toward him (pres.). Not just when they were converted, but this is continually drawing near to Christ by continued faith in Him. The Christian must ever be drawing closer to Christ, every day; drawing near to His presence for sacrifice.

Coming to Christ is siding with God. At the same time, choosing Christ will mean rejection from “men,” that is, people in general. Jesus said as much: John 15.18, 20, 21. The reason they will reject us is because they first “rejected” Him. When He came, after He ascended, in the first century, throughout time since then, on to today, men still reject Him. They do not consider Him worthy to follow. But we do. We are those who are continually coming to Christ, ever drawing near to Him.

A living stone…chosen and precious:  cf. Acts 4.11. Jesus is a living stone because He is “Son of the Living God” (Mt 16.16).  Christ has life in Himself, inherently, & is the source of life. He is unlike other earthly rocks which are non-living; He lives & gives life. During His earthly ministry, during the lifetimes of the original audience, & even today Christ was & is rejected by men (perf.). However, Peter draws a contrast between the world’s view & God’s view of Christ. God esteems Christ as chosen and precious, that is, elect & highly valued. Rejected, chosen, & precious are all vocabulary from Psalm 118.22 & Isaiah 28.16, texts Peter will quote in the verses ahead.

It was almost as if Peter anticipated the Catholic fallacy that was yet to come which would make him the stone upon which Christ builds His church. Of course it was the Holy Spirit Who foreknew this and has Peter here a) deny his stone-ship while b) affirm Christ as chief cornerstone.

5you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

You yourselves like living stones: Here is a thought which would have amazed these Christians—even they are living stones. Of course their union with Christ the Living Stone is why they are living stones. Like Christ, they are elect & highly valued to God.

Are being built…house: being built up is a passive verb because it is Christ who builds His church (see Mt 16.18). Christians “come to Him” (v.4); He builds us into a spiritual house. The present tense may indicate that the building is ongoing, i.e. Jesus continues to build His spiritual house by adding souls (living stones) to the structure & priests to His priesthood.

Christ is both the Builder & the Foundation (1 Cor 3.11). The building He builds is not material but spiritual; He does not use dead rocks, but living stones. Then the sacrifices offered in this temple are not physical (cattle & flocks), but spiritual (obedience & surrender). They are not offered by an elite priesthood with special access to God, but by all believers who are His holy priesthood. This is what the Jewish system anticipated; this is what pagan ritual grasped for. The substance & fulfillment is realized in Christ.

To be a holy priesthood: Christians are both the spiritual temple & the priests of the temple. All saints are priests unto God & all are to be engaged in their priestly duty, namely…

To offer…Jesus Christ: Like the priests of the Old Testament, Christians are to offer spiritual sacrifices. Peter does not specify exactly what the spiritual sacrifices are, though verse 9 (“that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him”) may be one. In one sense, everything Peter exhorts his readers to be & do could be seen as a spiritual sacrifice. These sacrifices bring pleasure to God since they are offered through Jesus Christ.

Temple, priest, sacrifices. In this single verse Peter highlights the superiority of the new covenant, contrasting the material temple & sacrifices with the spiritual & living house, priesthood, & sacrifices. “The New Testament church is the true spiritual house of God” (Lenski). We offer praise & thanksgiving for the grace poured out on us (see Hebrews 13.15). We offer our bodies for holy living (see Romans 12.1). We offer our contribution to God (see Philippians 4.18). We offer our prayers & petitions to God (see Revelation 8.3). We offer the gospel to lost humanity (see verse 9).

Once again it seems as though the Holy Spirit through Peter anticipates the error of Catholicism which says that only a few select people are priests. Rather, what Peter describes here is the universal priesthood of all believers. Every Christian is a selected priest precious to God and set apart to offer up sacrifices that are dominated by the influence of the Holy Spirit.

6For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

For it stands in Scripture: cf. 1.16, the Writings (Gk graphe), i.e. the Old Testament Scriptures were for the Peter the source of authority for Christian doctrine. Once more he appeals to the Scriptures, in this case Isaiah 28.16, a text early Jewish interpreters regarded as Messianic.

The Word of God continues to “stand” today. What stands in Scripture continues to be the source of authority for life & doctrine for the church of Christ.

“Behold…precious”: Peter quotes from the Septuagint (LXX) and omits a few unimportant words, his focus being the substance of the idea: the excellency of the Living Stone. Behold indicates this is an astonishing thing God is doing. I lay in Zion because this is where Christ suffered & died and also from whence the gospel was preached. Chosen and precious have already been used to describe Christ (see v.4). As a cornerstone Christ is the first stone laid by which the whole foundation is aligned and built around.

Lenski says the cornerstone “governs all the angles and all the lines of both the foundation and the building and is thus placed at the head of the corner.” So Christ governs everything about His church – all the actions & attitudes. He sets orthodoxy & orthopraxy.

“And whoever…shame”: Our trust, our faith is well-placed when put in Him. Thus, there is no disappointment or embarrassment, no disgrace or humiliation—no shame—for whoever puts their faith (believes) in Christ.

7So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”

So the honor…believe: Though these Christians were an oppressed minority, despised by society at-large, the honor is for you because of their faith. Whatever honor or preciousness the Stone has is for you who believe. His worth is their worth; His honor is theirs also. On the other hand…

But…not believe: For those who continue in rebellion and unbelief…

“The stone…the cornerstone”: Psalm 118.22. “The point of the quotation is to show that those who rejected Christ have been proved exactly wrong by God’s exaltation of him to the place of greatest prominence” (Grudem 105).

Consider a parable: The kingdom of God is like builders who were busily building a structure. The work was progressing nicely, moving along at rapid pace as the builders were busily at work. They desired a structure which would be the envy of the universe. So they worked fast and hard. Their work required many stones which they used without second thought. But they came upon a particular stone. This stone gave them pause and, after evaluating the stone, they deemed it unworthy of their building and cast it aside. As their work was nearing completion, the owner of the building came by late in the afternoon to see how the work was progressing. He found the workers busily building His building. When the owner inquired about the particular stone, the foremen said they had not used that stone because it was wholly unfit for the structure. The owner was furious and said, “That stone is precious to me for I chose it especially for this work.”  The owner ordered that their building be torn down brick by brick and that a new structure be built in its place with the precious stone He selected to be the cornerstone. Then the owner ordered these foremen to be cast out into the night where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

8and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

And “A stone…offense”: see Isaiah 8.14. Originally it was YHWH of Hosts who became “a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling.” Now Jesus is the stumbling stone & offensive rock, as well as a sanctuary for those who believe (see “honor” in v.7). This is an instance where Christians readily identified YHWH with Christ.

Here is still another example where the deity of Christ is affirmed by the NT writers, esp. those who lived with Him and were eyewitnesses of Him. Some today want to strip Christ of His Godhood (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, etc.). These refuse to believe Jesus is God, aligning themselves with “those who disobey” & therefore stumble over the Stone, themselves offended by the pure doctrine of the word. Let us hold fast the apostolic testimony that Jesus is the Christ, indeed YHWH of the OT come in the flesh.

They stumble…to do: Stumbling is a direct consequence of disobedience. So as they were destined to do speaks of the penalty for their disobedience (i.e. stumbling), not the disobedience itself. “They rebelled against God and paid the penalty” (Robertson). Those who disobey are held accountable.

What does it mean to stumble? Well, there is some obstacle in the way into which one runs, striking the foot or leg causing the trip and, typically, fall and usually with injury. If I had a dollar for every time I bashed my toe into something…Especially in the dark and you do not see the obstacle. In this case, the soul fails to believe; that is, the soul is wandering around in the dark, unilluminated by the Light of the world – Christ. This failure to believe does not enable them to see the capstone which for them is now the stumbling stone, the rock by which they are scandalized (Gk skandalon).

9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

But you…race: But you indicates two things: 1) contrast (“but”) between the unbelieving Jews who a) rejected the chief Cornerstone & b) refuse to believe in Him and the Christians to whom Peter writes who have a) accepted Christ & b) believe in Him. 2) Emphasis – “you” (citizens) as opposed to them (unbelieving Jews outside the rule of God). These Christians have been chosen by God & are genetically (Gk genos) linked by the blood of Jesus (1.2, 19). Cf. Isa 43.20

A royal priesthood: The universal priesthood of Christians has already been mentioned (v.5). Now the idea is combined with the regal aspect due to our relation to the King of kings. Ex 19.6

Holy nation: Cf. Exodus 19.5-6. As Israel was a theocracy, so the church today is a sacred state.

People for His own possession: Exodus 19.5. The idea is that we have been purchased , even redeemed by the blood of Christ (1.19).

Peter’s contrast is stunning and sweeping: first, the church is contrasted with unbelievers who reject Christ, the Cornerstone, and continue in unbelief. But then Peter digs deeper and contrasts the church – New Israel – with the nation of Israel. He borrows copiously from Exodus 19.5-6 and the covenantal language therein contained to say that the church is now the covenanted people of God under the New Covenant forged in the blood of Jesus (“chosen race,” Gk genos eklekton). Israel was the shadow people; their covenant was real, make no mistake. But it has given way to a greater substance in Christ.

“Like the old people of God, the nation of Israel, the new people of God are a nation of people set apart for the service of God” (Black & Black 65). Indeed, our work, worship, and worth flow from being set apart by God to be this holy, royal kingdom of priests. “The purpose of the people of God is now explained. God has chosen them to be his people, established them as a royal priesthood, appointed them as a holy nation to be his special possession, so that they would ‘declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.’”[1] The declaration of God’s praise includes both worship & evangelism – directing our hearts upward to Him for saving us & spreading the good news of His salvation outward to others.

That…His marvelous light: Cf. Isa 43.21. Here is the purpose—announcing the virtues of God. Darkness is “the futile ways inherited by your forefathers” (1.18) or rank heathenism. His marvelous light is the Christian manner of life patterned after the model of Christ. See Eph 5.8ff.

Our mission is singular but with different aspects: we are this elect, royal, holy, priestly nation that belongs to God so that we might continue the ministry of God’s people throughout all ages: declaring His praise. “Man’s chief & highest end is to glorify God,” says the Westminster Confession. We exclaim His excellencies; we vocalize His virtues; we proclaim His praise. This carries with it a celebratory aspect: we celebrate God for transferring us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His Son by His blood. Early church writers connected this verse with baptismal liturgy and for good reason – that is when we are called out & become the people of God.

10Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Once…God’s people: Verse 10 is an allusion to Hosea’s sordid story (see Hosea 1.6-7, 9-10; 2.23). Once upon a time (i.e. before Christ) these people were not God’s people. Now they are!

Once…received mercy: They had never been shown mercy until God called them and they received mercy (aorist). Peter is pointing them to their conversion which ended their “no mercy.”

When a person obeys the gospel, they move from being in a “no mercy” state before God to knowing & experiencing the mercy of God. All at once their situation changes.

11Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

Beloved: Loved by Peter, because saved people love other saved people, & loved by God.

I urge you…the flesh: I (strongly) urge you is about as close as you can get to begging without infringing upon proper manners. Sojouners are those who have a residence in a foreign land but are not citizens of that territory; exiles are those who are just visiting for a time (see 1.17). Since “this is world is not my home,” keep on keeping your distance from the gross sins of the flesh.

Since our citizenship is in heaven, we are sojourners and strangers. We have a homeland which, though we have never seen, we long for. So as we live out the remainder of our exile on earth, we keep ever before us our distant country. We refuse to learn the practices of this strange land we are in. That was what ruined Israel – once they got into the land they learned the practices of those whom they were to drive out. Learn the lesson well: do not learn the practices of those citizens of this world because this world is not our home.

Which wage war against your soul: There’s a war going on for the souls of Christians. The present tense indicates this is ongoing & daily. These passions take no prisoners.

For a vivid depiction of the war between the flesh and the spirit see Galatians 5.16-24. However, it must be noted that though Christians have the Spirit of God in them, they are not exempt from fleshly desires. There is still a battle to fight every day against the flesh, the devil, & the world. That battle runs deep, even to “your soul.” The spiritual forces of darkness know exactly what buttons to push in order to tempt us. It could be lust. It could be anger. It could be greed. Peter has already listed several “lesser” sins (2.1). But these are just as devastating as the “big” sins.

12Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Keep…honorable: The Christian’s “behavior” (NASB) as they live among the uncovenanted people of this world is to be honorable, that is, it should be of positive moral quality.

How should Christians live in this world? How can we be holy when in the midst of unbelievers? This is Peter’s thesis for this epistle. He’s taken his time to build up their identity in Christ; now he will get intensely practical and direct concerning how to be holy in an unholy world.

The world is watching closely our behavior. Long before they ever hear a sermon they are looking for one, looking at one in how we live our lives. Our conduct must be morally excellent, so much so that even those “evildoers” who have only a shade of moral sense left will recognize it as honorable.

So that…evildoers: Those doing evil gleefully speak in opposition to Christians.

They…day of visitation: To see is to look upon intently with careful consideration. So the Gentiles closely inspect the Christians’ good deeds in anticipation of the day of visitation wherein they will honor God. Theories of what the day of visitation abound: 1) the day of judgment; 2) some times of persecution; 3) destruction of Jerusalem; 4) some time when the gospel is preached to the Gentiles.

It is interesting to note that Peter does not call Christians to march on Rome & pursue political activism. He does not order Christians to take up arms & fight against a tyrannical government. The inspired apostle does not exhort Christians to defend themselves verbally or write religious tracts defending their moral positions. The Holy Spirit through Peter encourages these believers to pursue goodness & virtue in all simplicity in order that their transformed conduct would contradict the lies & slander from the hostile society.


[1] Schreiner, Thomas R. 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Vol. 37. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003. Print. The New American Commentary.