1 Peter Bible Study (Hope In Hard Times)

1 Peter 3:8-17, Doing Good In The Face of Suffering

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Treating One Another (3:8)

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (1 Peter 3:8; ESV)

The word “finally” clues us in that we are still learning from the apostle Peter about lifestyle evangelism and our need to yield to one another and honor one another. Peter gives us five traits of all disciples of Jesus.

Unity of mind. All of us are to have unity of the mind. We are called to have our minds governed by the mind of Christ. The unity of our hearts and minds is very important. But this unity does not come from a standard imposed from without, like a doctrinal statement. The scriptures do not tell us to have a “this is what we believe sheet” and make all of you sign it and then claim that we have unity. Nor do the shepherds bring you into a back room and gut you of your beliefs and impose their beliefs on you. That is not what we are about, nor is that what the scriptures teach. Unity of mind will come when we have two things working: (1) A common focus on Jesus. We must all desire to serve Jesus and follow Jesus above all else. We will not have unity if we have another life focus or purpose for coming. (2) The study and discussion of the scriptures together. We will come to unity of the faith when we study together and discuss the scriptures together. This is why I am so disappointed that so few want to get out of bed to be here at 9:30 am for bible study. I am disappointed that so few do not want to be here at 7 pm on Wednesday for bible study. I am disappointed that so few want to participate in the Friday night studies. Perhaps we are not understanding that we are not called to have an individual faith alone, but must come to unity of the faith and unity of mind. But that is what it is all about: learning together and teaching one another.

Sympathy. We need to have a fellow feeling with one another. This means we are emotionally connected and have great care for one another. We need to be moved by those that we know and have a fellow feeling for what our brother or sister is going through.

Brotherly love. Another statement that shows we are to be connected. Peter taught us this earlier in 1:22 where he commanded us to have sincere brotherly love, loving one another earnestly from a pure heart. We must be developing a kinship with one another.

Tender heart. This is a wonderful picture of a heart that is not callous toward each other.

Humble mind. A willingness to take a lower place. Even in the first century, humility was considered a sign of weakness and shame. That belief is still true today. But to God, humility is a sign of great strength, that we have the ability to take second place and let others be first. Just like Jesus acted so we also must act in humility (Philippians 2:5-10).

The family of Christians is to be a place of comfort, not of suffering. We have suffering in the world. We need to come together to find the words and actions we need to be godly and be encouraged. This is true for all Christians, not just Christians here in this building and not just Christians with whom we agree. We need to discuss our problems and differences, working to a solution, not wounding each other with our words, pen, email, or blog.

Treating The World (3:9)

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. (3:9; ESV)

Now, how do we treat those who are not fellow Christians? Do we get to treat them differently, especially if they are causing us to suffer? The first instruction is that we cannot repay the evil someone does toward us with evil. When someone insults us, we do not response with insults. We learned this with the example of Jesus in 1 Peter 2:23 and we were told the reason that we do not respond in kind is because we have been born again in to a living hope. Our love is not constrained to the people in this room. Our love is not constrained to those who treat us well or to people that we like. So what are we supposed to do with people who are mocking us, insulting us, and injuring us? Peter commands us to bless them. Do not curse them. Rather, we are to speak well of them publicly. We may think that we cannot do this. But Peter intervenes against such a thought by pointing out that we were called to this. We were called to this response of blessing those who curse us. We are called to this because this is exactly what Jesus did (1 Peter 2:23). We were called to be different. We are called to act different. We are called to handle insults and reviling differently than the way others deal with it. We are to return good for the evil brought against us. We have been called to bless people. We need to live life thinking about how we can bless other people. How can I speak well of people? Typically our mind turns to how we can curse people and slander people. True followers of Jesus change their thinking toward how to speak well of people.

But if we want to have the blessing of God, then we must speak well and do good to those who are even our enemies. This is the example of Jesus and it is to this that we were called. Bless, so that God can bless you.

The Lord Is Against All Evil (3:10-12)

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.” (3:10-12; ESV)

To prove this teaching, the apostle Peter quotes Psalm 34:12-16. This is the reason we bless and do not revile in return: because if you want to have a good, joyful life you will do this. Keep your tongues from evil. Keep your lips from speaking lies. Turn away from evil. Do good. Seek peace. Pursue peace. If you want God to be with you in this life, then you will not respond to evil with evil. You will not retaliate when made to suffer. Do you see how Peter is presenting this? The eyes of the Lord are on the righteousness and he listens to their prayers. If we are retaliating, reviling, and acting like the world treats us, then we are not the righteous. His eyes are not on us and God is not listening to our prayers. Instead, God is against us because we are doing evil to those who do evil.

Do Not Be Troubled By Suffering (3:13-17)

13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 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, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (ESV)

Peter now comes full circle to a similar exhortation in 2:12. We were told to do good and exercise lifestyle evangelism. Peter amplifies that teaching, pushing us further to the knowledge that we are to do good and exercise lifestyle evangelism even within the context of suffering.

The first questions that Peter poses point out that by doing good and being righteous we will avoid much of the suffering in the world. Often we make bad decisions and cause our own problems and our own suffering. Peter reminds us of this fact. The scriptures also teach us this lesson in other places. The message of Proverbs is to do good and make good decisions and it will go well with you in life. The apostle Paul taught in Romans 13 to do good and we will have nothing to fear from the government and human authorities.

But we know that this is not an absolute rule and Peter acknowledges this. We can suffer for the sake of righteousness. So we are instructed to live good lives, reflecting God’s glory, so that people will glorify God and so that we will have good, joyful lives. But even if we do suffering for doing good, Peter reminds us that we must not be troubled by that. Do not let suffering for the sake of Christ cause us to stop. We must continue to honor Jesus as holy and teach others about the hope we have despite our suffering.

Peter has taught us something deep and important. Suffering is not the time to avoid the world, but to engage the world. We may not be able to fix our suffering. Most of the time we cannot fix or change our suffering. But we can use our suffering for the glory of God. We can make our suffering purposeful. Peter tells us that this is an opportunity to defend the hope we have.

When we are suffering yet still do good and still have faith, we will be presented with opportunities to defend the hope we have. Use your suffering to help people meet Jesus. Our lifestyle evangelism is that people will see how this whole Jesus thing works in our lives in the face of suffering. Being a Christian during good times does not teach the world much of anything. But if we continue our righteousness and service to Jesus in the face of devastating suffering we then have opened doors for the world to consider this Jesus. When we have joy when we ought to be sad, the world is going to look at us and wonder why we have not utterly collapsed. Suffering is the opportunity for us to honor Jesus as holy in our hearts.

Will we use our suffering for selfishness? Too often that is the choice we make. We have been conditioned to think that suffering allows us to have “me time,” to “focus on ourselves,” and neglect our obligations to others. Sometimes those who have suffered are the most selfish people. Sometimes it causes us to act that the world needs to revolve around us and everyone needs to think about me. We need to make our suffering purposeful. You are suffering. You cannot change that. Your suffering is what it is. But will you honor Christ as holy during your suffering? Will you give a defense of your hope and show your faith during your suffering?  This is true lifestyle evangelism to world. So what that they see you go to church every Sunday!

  1. How do you treat other Christians?
  2. How do you treat those who are not Christians, particularly those who cause you suffering?
  3. How do you handle suffering? Will you make your suffering purposeful and as a teaching tool or will you cave into selfishness?

Lesson adapted from sermon given by Brent Kercheville

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