Why is it so difficult to respond with kindness to someone who speaks evil of you?
The advice given in the previous lesson about suffering has broad consequences. Peter now moves to a broader discussion of suffering for Christ and how to live in face of constant slander and mistreatment. His commands or imperatives speak to our natural inclinations and tendencies.
Response to Evil
1 Peter 3:8-12 – Mirroring the message of the Sermon on the Mount to love our enemies, Peter turns to Psalms 34 and its lofty ethics. God sees those who do evil. A commonly used weapon in our self-defense against evil is the tongue, but it must not be allowed to speak evil. (see James 3:1-13 for similar advice).
What makes the tongue so hard to tame?
Suffering For Doing Good
1 Peter 3:13-17 – Retuning good for evil make the offender appear even more vile. Suffering when doing good will be more effective in drawing attention and glory to God than suffering for misbehavior which may appear as a justified punishment to some observers.
Kindness offered in return for abuse will often elicit a response or inquiry, as it did in the penitent thief crucified beside the Savior. Peter also urges in vs. 15 to be ready to give a defense of our faith (this field is called apologetics in Biblical studies, and many books and YouTube lectures are available on the subject). Sadly, many Christians cannot explain why their faith is based on evidence rather than blindness, why it is philosophically reasonable and soundly based on the reliability of Scripture’s history of God’s actions in world history. The Gospels are rooted in time and place; God has intersected our world, and Christians should be able to offer an explanation when asked. Too often we don’t wait to be asked, and this drives many away.
What can you do to be better prepared to give a defense of your faith?
The Gospel and the Flood
1 Peter 3:18-22 – Verse 18 is not difficult to comprehend: Jesus died for everyone, even those opposed to him. But verses 19 and 20 are certainly a challenge. The most natural way to understand vs. 19 is that the same Spirit that gave life to Jesus also delivered, through Noah’s righteous behavior, ark-building, and perhaps preaching, the good news to the antediluvian humans. These died in the flood and are now awaiting judgment.
Just as the flood waters washed away sin and sinners to a new world, so Christians experience new life through Baptism and cleansing by water. Baptism initiates us into identity with Jesus, a new “ark” of safety. His resurrection power now lives in us to create new life from the old. This Jesus is now seated at the right hand of God, the side of favor.
Baptism is equated with the flood, with the exodus through the Red Sea, ritual bathing, cleansing water, and with burial/resurrection. What other metaphors might it relate to?
Judgment of the Past Life
1 Peter 4:1-6 – Peter offers a vice-list of Gentile behavior in vs. 3. But the Christian who has suffered for doing good has left this behind. In the process, previous friends find the new way of life perplexing and surprising. Peter in vs. 5 agrees with Paul in Romans 1 that all people have enough knowledge of God and the gospel to be held accountable in the judgment.
Can you see evidence of the new life in Christ compared to your old life? If so, have you shared your testimony of the Holy Spirit’s power at work in you, not to brag, but to bring glory to God?
1 Peter 4:7-11 – Because these are the “last days,” Peter provides an action list for Christians that contrasts with the vice-list in 4:3. Make a list of the various actions Peter wishes you to carry out. Peter also lists several spiritual gifts (see also Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4 for more gifts).
How can you carry out Peter’s advice regarding Spiritual gifts?
Vs. 11 ends with a song of praise to Jesus. Maybe you’ve had moments when some thought brings a song to your heart, a whistle to your lips, or a simple “praise God!” This is Peter’s experience here!
If there was ever a time for a generation of people to exemplify the Spirit of Christ in the western world, today is that day. Political volatility, unbridled social media commentary, bullying, and unrighteousness abound. Our response to those who disagree with us can do much in the spread of the Gospel.