1 Peter 3:8-22

blind-justiceFinally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do 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. For

“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts 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, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

For 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, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because 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. Baptism, 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, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Observation

  • We are to have unity of mind.
  • We are to have sympathy.
  • We are to have brotherly love.
  • We are to have a tender heart.
  • We are to have a humble mind.
  • We are not to repay evil with evil.
  • We are not to repay insults with insults.
  • We are to bless.
  • We were called to bless.
  • We are to bless so we may receive a blessing.
  • Whoever wants a long happy life is to keep his tongue in check.
  • Whoever wants a long happy life is to turn away from evil and do good.
  • Whoever wants a long happy life is to seek peace.
  • The Lord watch over the righteous.
  • The Lord hears the prayers of the righteous.
  • The Lord is against those who do evil.
  • If you should suffer for doing good, you will be blessed.
  • We are not to fear those who may try to cause us harm for doing good.
  • We are to honor Christ as holy.
  • We are to be prepared to defend the reason for our hope in Christ to anyone who asks.
  • The defense of your hope in Christ is to be done gently and respectfully and allows us to have a good conscience.
  • Our response to those who insult and slander us should be so kind, gentle and respectful that those who committed the offense are put to shame.
  • It is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
  • Christ suffered for sins.
  • Christ, who was righteous, suffered for us, the unrighteous.
  • Christ suffered so that He might bring us to God.
  • Christ flesh was killed but He was alive in the spirit.
  • Christ went to the spirits in prison.
  • The spirits in prison had not obeyed God.
  • In the days of Noah only 8 people were brought safely through the water.
  • Baptism corresponds to being saved through the water.
  • Baptism saves us by appealing to God through Christ’s resurrection.
  • Jesus Christ has gone into heaven
  • Jesus Christ is at the right hand of God.
  • Angel, authorities and powers are subject to Christ.

Interpretation

Since we are united in Christ, we are to be of one mind. We are to care for each other. If God is our Father, than we are brothers and sisters. And we are to treat each other with respect and love.

All forms of revenge are prohibited. In order to preserve love we must bear many things. This thinking is completely contrary what the world teaches. According to the world, if we are harmed, not only can we even the score and put the scales of justice back to even, but we ought to do so. The world teaches that not evening the score would be the same as condoning injustice.

The scriptures say not only are we not to repay evil, but we are to bless those who perpetuate evil against us. But wait there is more. Peter says the reason we have been called by God is to bless those who insult and harm us. I do not know about you but my base reaction is, “Well, that’s just crazy talk.”

I may not like it but that is what scripture commands, not to react by seeking revenge but with a blessing. If we bless we will receive a blessing. This is not the only place this is taught in scripture either. Paul teaches the same thing in Romans 12:9-21. It does not matter if you and I and others think it is crazy talk. That is what the scriptures command we are to bless those who persecute us.

When Peter asks, “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good,” he is stating a truism. It is generally true that if you do good no one will complain. However, that is not an absolute as Peter’s next sentence is, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake…”

Peter reminds us that those who suffer for the truth are blessed by God. To suffer for righteousness means not only to submit to some loss or disadvantage in defending a just cause, but to suffer unjustly.

Peter alludes to Isaiah. 8:12-17. The Jews, against the will of God, tried to fortify themselves with the aid of the Gentile world. Because of this, Israel was accused of unbelief.

When Peter says we are to bless those who unjustly insult and harm us he is not saying we should not defend our beliefs. He says we should be prepared to give a defense to anyone and everyone who would ask why we believe what we believe. This is not to be understood in the context of the best defense is a good offense. Rather Peter tells us to defend what we believe gently and with respect. This is how we honor Christ. We should not worry about those who would insult and harm us. This is an opportunity to honor Christ by gently explaining the reason we have the hope of salvation. Reacting with reason and honor, reacting with gentleness and respect will put to shame those who accuse and ridicule us. Our behavior is to be so pure that even when we are unjustly accused, those making the accusation will be shamed.

Christ was sinless yet he suffered. Christ did not fight against His accusers he suffered for our benefit. Our suffering, which is much less, is to bring honor to Christ. He set the example. He suffered in order to bring us to God.

There are two parts to this idea. First persecutions are to be borne with resignation because of Christ’s example. Second, since we have been consecrated to God’s service we are to suffer not for our faults but for righteousness sake.

Verse 19 “..in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison…” has produced some interesting explanations.

It is not uncommon to claim that this verse teaches that Chris descended into hell and He preached to those in hell during the period between His death and Resurrection. This view claims that Christ announced His victory to the spirits of Noah’s wicked contemporaries who are confined in the realm of the dead.

A similar idea is that Christ proclaimed His victory to the fallen angels. These are often identified with the “sons of God” in Gen. 6:2, 4, and Job 1:6; 2:1.

A third view is that the preincarnate Christ preached through Noah to the people before the flood. Noah called them to repentance. But they continued to disobey and are now imprisoned.

Whichever view is correct the point of Peter’s argument is that as God vindicates both Noah and the Christian.

Peter make a curious statement in verse 21, “Baptism, 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,” What does Peter mean, baptism saves us?

The idea that we are saved by baptism appears to contradict Paul in Romans 3, Romans 5 Galatians 2 and Ephesians 2. In these passages Paul clearly states salvation is by faith alone. So what gives?

Baptism is a sign and seal of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. The statement Peter makes indicates just how close the association is between the sign and the reality it signifies. I was raised in a tradition that had a very low view of the sacraments, both of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. But Peter indicates here that a low view is an incorrect view. Just as Noah was physically saved through the waters of the flood, the water did not actually save him. The waters of baptism symbolize God’s judgment on sin in the death of Christ. The waters also symbolize the renewal of life. The flood in Noah’s time was judgment to the wicked but Noah and his family were saved through the waters.

Peter quickly adds, “not as a removal of dirt from the body….” He does not want his readers to come away with the mistaken idea that there is something magical or mechanical in the power of the sacrament of Baptism. Peter wants us to clearly understand that salvation is not achieved by the performance of some external ceremony. Rather, it symbolizes a union with Christ in His death and resurrection.

Application

ResponseToInjusticeIsrael was accused of unbelief by trying to protect themselves with the aid of Gentile nations. They did not believe God would protect them. Are we in any less in a state of unbelief if we seek to balance the scales of justice? By seeking justice on our own, we demonstrate we do not believe God will provide justice. We do not believe God will bless us for suffering unjustly. In short, we do not believe God.

Giving a defense of our hope with gentleness is much easier said than done. It is not difficult give a defense. But to do so with gentleness and respect, that is the hard part. Often we get so wrapped up in the defense that we do not even realize we are not being gentle. We are not showing respect.

Realize it is not your responsibility to convince anyone. You cannot win any one to Christ. Christ must change their heart. You have no responsibility to do anything other than give a defense, a rational reason for your hope. The rest is God’s responsibility.

I had a pastor once who said you are responsible for the easy stuff. God is responsible of the hard stuff. Changing someone’s mind is hard. That is God’s responsibility.

Even when we suffer unjustly, even when our just defense is not accepted, God will vindicate us. Providing justice is God’s responsibility. That is the hard stuff. We are only responsible for the easy stuff.

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