1 PETER SERIES – NR 6
Theme : Suffer for righteousness
Scripture: 1 Peter 3: 8 – 17
The Holy Spirit is without a doubt speaking through the Apostle Peter. It is therefore the very words of God which we have just read.
And He is still speaking about the practical way in which a Christ-believing person lives for Christ Jesus in the midst of a Christ-hostile world.
In verses 8-9 which we have read, one could almost feel the heartbeat of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is His own life that pulses through the saved believer because the Holy Spirit really dwells in the saved person. No one has suffered more severe persecution and opposition than did the Lord Jesus. Particularly because He suffered AS the perfect sinless Son of God. That makes it a 1000 times worse in His case.
But our Lord never responded to the persecution and injustice with reprisals and insults. To the bitter end He prayed for those who crucified Him and asked the Father to forgive them for what they were doing. Therefore He blessed them. Yes, in His preaching He very often spoke about the reality of hell and warned lost people (read Mathew 13). But remember: Those warnings and earnestness of His soul arose from compassion and love and humility and goodness. It is indeed love/sympathy/compassion that is prepared to speak the Truth and not to spare people. When you truly care for someone and you see that person is in danger you will give warning and do everything you can to save that person.
What happens now when people repent and begin to place all their hope in Christ? The Holy Spirit takes possession of them and transforms them. And, important, the heart and life of the Lord Jesus is transplanted onto them by the powerful working of the Holy Spirit. It is breath-taking and it is supernatural and it is a reality.
It means that Christ’s heartbeat of sympathy, love, compassion and humility – His ability to repay insults with blessings – is transplanted onto the Christian-believer.
Yes, it may sometimes FEEL as if this is not real, but it IS! It has to be BELIEVED because the Scripture says it is so. God’s Truth has to be TRUSTED. That is the way it will start to manifest – also in like-mindedness among those people in whom one and the same Christ dwells.
Because Christ’s own life is transplanted unto the believer by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, such a person CAN show harmony and be sympathetic and loving and compassionate and humble and stop repaying evil with evil or insult with insult – rather with blessing. For man – as man is by nature – it cannot. But where the Christ-life dwells, it can! The Christian life is a supernatural life, because it is Christ’s life that lives the Christian’s life.
Those are the things that verses 8-9 mention, but keep in mind that it is connected to the first part of chapter 3 where the Apostle spoke about marriage. Of course these virtues apply to the Christian life in general, but we should see that the Apostle applies it specifically to marriage. Where the husband and wife are filled with this Christ-life, marriage becomes a paradise in spite of the fact that neither husband nor wife nor children are perfect, but when they really are seriously focused on Christ, it is HIS life’s fruit that manifests through them. THAT makes all the difference.
An additional subject that the Holy Spirit so clearly indicates in verses 10-11 is how the TONGUE plays a fundamental role in the practice of the above mentioned virtues – still applicable on marriage.
Peter quotes from Psalm 34 to make this point. Spirit-filled behaviour of husband and wife in marriage centres in what is SPOKEN. Although it certainly also sets a general principle which applies to ALL Christians and has EVERYTHING to do with the life of sanctification as such.
The Apostle therefore quotes from Psalm 34 in order to show that a believer is meant to enjoy a life of peace and fullness of life – in the midst of a hostile environment.
And the MANNER in which it must be enjoyed, is by making a conscious choice for FOUR things at the same time: 1 > The Holy Spirit’s control of the tongue – in other words that what you say, 2 > Hate of sin, 3 > Love for justice, 4 > Striving for peace.
That is exactly the 4 areas that we struggle with the most, not so? Deceitful speech, slander and lies destroying lives and relationships. It robs a Christian of inner peace and joy.
Where Christian people, for example in marriage (because that is the actual issue chapter 3 deals with) strive to kill lies and deceitful speech by the power of the Holy Spirit and make justice a priority and strive for peace at all cost, a mighty testimony for Christ SHALL become evident.
Sin always KILLS and justice gives LIFE. Always.
Peter is of course not speaking ONLY about marriage and particularly the husband’s role within the marriage, but about sanctification in general. It is therefore always the case that – where the Holy Spirit fills and controls one’s life, these 4 issues mentioned come to the fore, because it is HE who brings it to the fore! The tongue, hate for and turning from sin, love for what is right and peace. There it is, clearly set out in verses 10-11.
And then verse 12 makes an important announcement! Listen carefully!
Children of the Lord, filled by the Spirit of Christ, who want to stand out for the Lord and for the Truth under hostile and difficult circumstances and are persecuted and suffer injustice, have ONE enormous assurance from God’s own mouth: The Lord KNOWS about them, cares for them and hears their prayers! Three points. Three enormous assurances. Exactly the three things we always doubt, but here the Lord wipes that doubt away.
Even though it does not feel/look like it, those three assurances are true.
And there is an additional something: The Lord is an avenger to those who harm His children. That is the specific precious assurance in verse 12. Peter is alluding to Psalm 21:10 and perhaps also Exodus 14:24.
The precious presence of the Lord does two things: It blesses and it judges. To people who are without Christ and are living in rebellion against God, His presence is a threat and full of wrath. But for the devout – those who are the Lord’s people who have received new life by grace – His presence is a comfort and protection and blessing.
To a Christian-believer who suffers injustice and are persecuted in one way or another for the sake of Christ and the Word, it is a great comfort to know: 1 >> I do not have to justify and defend myself. The Lord will act against those who do evil. He has promised. 2 >> I do not have to believe my feelings or the voices in my head which tell me that the Lord does not care about me. Oh no, He CARES and He LISTENS to my prayer. He promised that also. Therefore I can and must remain faithful.
If one looks at this passage which we have read – and indeed at the 1 Peter-letter as a whole – and you see how the Apostle encourages Christians who unjustly suffer for the sake of their devotion to Christ, then there is something peculiar one would notice.
And that is: WHY are people who are zealous towards a good cause persecuted and abused and injured at all? In principle it is unusual. Even a hostile, evil world will not easily harm people who serves society in a positive way. Even the evil world will not outright persecute and harm people who care and are kind hearted.
And yet that is exactly what happens to Christians. For some or other reason the world does not tolerate Christians who openly live for Christ and are obedient to Him. And the ONLY thing that drives Christians is to make a positive difference by sharing the Gospel with people and desire salvation for others. Also when Christians speak and testify AGAINST evil and sin, it is to seek salvation for others.
And yet, what is written in verse 14 certainly does happen: “You suffer for doing what is right”.
Why would it be like that? What is hidden in the heart of the unsaved Christ-less world?
Answer: It is an invisible fierce SPIRITUAL struggle between light and darkness, the true God and satan, truth and lies. It is a struggle for the soul of man. Unsaved humanity is in principle and by definition CHRIST-hostile and not CHRISTIAN-hostile.
John 3:19 teaches that men love darkness instead of light because their deeds are evil and HATE the light because it will reveal their deeds.
It is like a cockroach that runs when you suddenly turn on the light.
The Apostle Peter however tells the suffering Christians to whom he is writing that they must view it as a blessing to suffer for the Lord. And not to fear people, or to be frightened.
This is a great Word, because fear of man is one of a Christian’s deadliest enemies. It closes our mouths so easily. And makes us keep quiet when we should speak. And keeps us from being obedient to the Lord. FEAR is the great enemy.
We can only overcome fear by trusting the Lord’s promises and choosing to obey by DOING the right thing according to the Scriptures in certain situations WHILE fear might still be lurking. We must not wait for the fear to disappear before we obey. Obedience is armour against the enemy.
But there is more armour. Verse 15 literally reads: “In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord”. Set apart in your heart Christ as Lord.
The “heart” is the inner spiritual centre of the believer where the Lord is worshipped.
What the Apostle is saying is this: As you live every day by being subjected to the authority of Jesus and in fellowship with Him – by loving Him, and obeying Him, you will have nothing to fear in the Christ-hostile world in which you are living.
That is a powerful word, is it not. Christ is the LORD – that means highest in authority – the top executive. Inner love for Him implies obedience-to-the-bone. And that armours the believer against attacks from the world system. It is also a way to overcome the fear mentioned in verse 14.
And the second added to this by the Apostle is: Always be prepared – when someone asks why you are so DIFFERENT – to give an answer for the reason for the living hope that you have.
Precious words. Within a true Christian, there is a living hope present. Because the living Lord is there. And it becomes visible to the outside. And other people notice that you are totally different to the ordinary worldly people, or even religious people. And it can happen that people enquire about why you are so different. That offers a great opportunity to share the Gospel-message.
Peter says that we should at all times be ready to do that, because these enquiries can come when you least expect it. Therefore make sure that you understand the Message and be practiced in how to share it. Yes, every child of God must be a witness, evangelist, soul winner, missionary. It is a MUST. The best way to be prepared is to start doing it! Start today!
Therefore, where Peter says in verse 15 “Do this”, then the THIS refers to the great and important task that every Christian has to give account to every one who enquires why you are a Christian. In short: Your duty to witness and your accountability. THIS must be done with gentleness and respect for the Lord.
In gentleness and respect. A Christian must never secretly look down on unsaved people. If it was not for the Lord God’s electing grace, we would all have REMAINED lost and gone to hell. Every grain of our salvation is from A-Z due to HIM. Therefore, we should approach unsaved people with humility and meekness.
Thirdly, we should have a clear conscience. When we bring the Gospel-message to people, our own hands should be unblemished. A tainted conscience causes one to lose confidence. And that is a bad place to be.
But a Christian who learns to live in brokenness before the Lord and to drastically and sternly and uncompromisingly deal with all kinds of sin and to know the Lord’s continuous cleansing, shall have a clear conscience. Then whoever can say whatever about you or slander or speak maliciously about you. What does it matter? All that matters is Jesus and the Truth and the salvation of the unsaved. That is all that matters: reverence for God. Reverence for God and a clear conscience therefore walks hand in hand.
The Apostle says it works like this: Unsaved lost people – also unsaved religious people – SEE the lifestyle of the child of God and then they slander Christ! How do they do it? NOT by slandering the Lord directly, but by speaking maliciously about the Christian. And, whoever harms the Christian, harms CHRIST says Acts 9:5. Such people may possibly be ashamed of their slander when the Christian remains uncompromised in spite of injustice and attacks. And in the end the Lord receives the honour.
It is no great achievement to suffer or be persecuted or insulted or slandered because you have done evil or wrong! That should never be said of a Christian. It will be a poor witness for the Lord.
But to suffer for the sake of a good witness and specially because you want to be absolutely obedient to the Scriptures and avoid the way of compromise, THIS is the will of God. That is a better option. But a Christian should not deliberately look for it. It is also not necessary to seek for problems, because just by being faithful to the Lord will attract problems by itself. And it is 100% within the will of God, because it is the exact road which the Lord Jesus himself walked. And connected to that is the paragraph we will study next time DV.
Translated by Marthie Wilson