Resist Like It.

 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And 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. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

12 By 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. 13 She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. 14 Greet one another with the kiss of love.

Peace to all of you who are in Christ. 1 Peter 5:8-14 ESV

As children of God, we will always find ourselves at odds with this world. As Peter reminded his readers, the status of each and every Christ-follower is that of a sojourner or exile in this world. We are citizens of another Kingdom, with allegiances to God that will create a constant source of conflict between ourselves and the citizens of this world. Even Jesus warned the disciples that the world would hate them. 

18 “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you do not belong to the world, but I chose you out of the world, for this reason the world hates you. – John15:18-19 NLT

Not only that, but in John 10:10, Jesus alludes to the ongoing animosity we can expect from Satan: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” He too, hate us, and is out to make our life on this earth as miserable as possible. His mission in life is to distract and dissuade us from following the will of our heavenly Father, just as he did with Adam and Eve in the garden. He is a deceiver, the accuser of the brethren, and an angel of light, who subtly misleads the people of God with half-truths and convincing arguments that lead to nothing but spiritual death. So, Peter warns his readers to sober-minded and watchful. We live in serious times. Satan, like a hungry lion, stalks the world looking for easy prey to devour. Like any predator, he will focus on the weak and defenseless first. But that does not mean he will ignore the spiritually mature. He loves nothing more than destroying the witness of those who are in positions of spiritual authority, such as elders, pastors and teachers. He studies our habits and takes not of our spiritual flaws and weaknesses. It is just when we think we are invulnerable, that we are the most susceptible. Paul put it this way: “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12 NLT). It’s why he told the Ephesians:

11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:11-12 NLT

Peter encourages his readers to be sober-minded. The Greek word he used simply refers to a state of soberness, the opposite of drunkenness. Someone who is drunk does not think clearly. They lack the capacity to make wise choices. They are incapable of defending themselves or from refraining from harming themselves. To be sober-minded is to not allow ourselves to be “drunk” on the affairs of life. We will not willingly allow our minds to come under the influence of someone or something else. And yet, how easy it is to become intoxicated by pleasure, materialism, popularity, money, entertainment, comfort, and any of a number of other distractions in this life. It was Blaise Pascal who wrote of the diversions that that the enemy uses to so easily distract us and tempt us off course.

Diversion.--Men are entrusted from infancy with the care of their honour, their property, their friends, and even with the property and the honour of their friends. They are overwhelmed with business, with the study of languages, and with physical exercise; and they are made to understand that they cannot be happy unless their health, their honour, their fortune and that of their friends be in good condition, and that a single thing wanting will make them unhappy. Thus they are given cares and business which make them bustle about from break of day. It is, you will exclaim, a strange way to make them happy! What more could be done to make them miserable?--Indeed! what could be done? We should only have to relieve them from all these cares; for then they would see themselves: they would reflect on what they are, whence they came, whither they go, and thus we cannot employ and divert them too much. And this is why, after having given them so much business, we advise them, if they have some time for relaxation, to employ it in amusement, in play, and to be always fully occupied. How hollow and full of ribaldry is the heart of man!

But Peter lets us know that we can resist the enemy, but only if we remain firm in our faith. We don’t do it in our own strength. Paul tells us, “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:1 NLT). We do not fight this battle alone. We do not suffer alone. Peter would have us recognize that this very same spiritual battle is taking  place all across the planet, impacting the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Together, we must resist and stand firm. We must remain sober-minded and watchful. And we must constantly remind ourselves that this suffering will not last forever. Suffering has a purpose, but it also has an end. There is a day coming, Peter states, when “after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation” (1 Peter 5:10 NLT).

Remember, this world is not our home. We are sojourners and exiles. One day, God will take us home to be with Him. The suffering will come to an end. The enemy will be defeated once and for all time. Sin will be eliminated and death will no longer loom over us. We can have hope, even in the midst of our suffering, because God is on our side. Peter started out his letter by stating that God had chosen those to whom he was writing. Their relationship with Him had been His decision, not theirs. Now, at the end of his letter, he states yet again, “In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus” (1 Peter 5:10 NLT). He has chosen them. He has called them. And the end goal is that they will share in His eternal glory one day. So, with that in mind, they are to resist the enemy. They are to stay sober-minded and watchful. They are to stand firm in their faith. God’s choice and calling of them is secure and their future is set. There is no need to worry or doubt. He has their future in His fully capable hands, so they are to resist like it.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Shepherd Like It.

1 So 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: 2 shepherd 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; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 Likewise, 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.”

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.– 1 Peter 5:1-7 ESV

Peter turns his attention to the leadership who serve the local congregations within the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. These men were overseers of their churches and had responsibility for the spiritual well-being of the congregations under their care. They are sometimes referred to as shepherds, who have a God-given responsibility to care for the flock entrusted to them by God. That’s exactly how Peter addresses them when he calls them to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you” (1 Peter 5:2 ESV). It is the same thing Paul said to the elders in Ephesus. But Paul would give further insight into the nature of the shepherd/flock relationship. “So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders” (Acts 20:28 NLT). The sheep belong to God. And notice that Paul points out that the flock were purchased “with His own blood”, referring to the death of Jesus, but clearly indicating His deity. Jesus, the God-man, gave His life, so that those who call themselves children of God could enjoy freedom from sin and death. But those very same sheep have been placed under the care and supervision of elders. And these elders were expected to be men of integrity and spiritual maturity. Paul provided Timothy with a detailed description of their qualifying characteristics.

2 So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. 3 He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. 4 He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. 5 For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? – 1 Timothy 3:2-5 NLT

Peter himself was an elder and understood well the responsibility that came with the title. That’s why he charges his fellow elders to “Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you” (1 Peter 5:2 NLT). And he clarifies exactly what he means by “care for.” The Greek word Peter uses is poimainō, and it literally means “to feed.” Just as literal sheep need physical nourishment to sustain life, so the sheep of God require spiritual sustenance. An elder must see to it that the sheep under his care are being fed the Word of God and receiving instruction in the ways of God. Which is why Paul told Timothy that an elder “must be able to teach.” And his care for the flock must be something he does willingly, not under some sense of compulsion or duty, and not for what he can get out of it. The role of elder doesn’t come with a paycheck and, more often than not, will not be accompanied by a lot of recognition, reward or thankfulness from the sheep. As Peter points out, the motive behind being an elder is service to God.

Peter feels compelled to point out that an elder, who is ultimately serving God, is to never see his position as one of master over his servants. He is not a lord and the people within  his congregation are not his subjects. He is to view himself as a servant, not only of God, but of the people of God. The role of elder is not about power and authority, but about caring for the needs of others. And an elder must never lose sight of the fact that he answers to a higher authority, the Great Shepherd or Jesus Christ. And Peter reminds his fellow elders that, one day, Jesus is coming back, and at that time, they “will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor” (1 Peter 5:4 NLT). Elders don’t get their reward in this life, but in the life to come. This probably does not refer to a literal crown and is most likely not indicating that elders get a specific kind of crown for their service. The apostle Paul wrote, “And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8 NLT). We all get the same reward. The key is that we be faithful to whatever assignment given to us by God to perform in this life. The point is, that our reward is in the life to come, not in this one.

Finally, Peter addresses the younger generation within his audience. He specifically calls them to humble themselves under the leadership of the elders who have God-given responsibility for their care. Submitting to authority of any kind is difficult for all of us. We are inherently autonomous creatures, prone to want to run our own lives and live according to our own wills. But God has placed within the body of Christ a system of authority and structure to ensure that the body works well and spiritual maturity actually take place.

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood… – Ephesians 4:11-13 NLT

This will require humility, and not only from the younger generation. Which is why Peter adds, “all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another” (1 Peter 5:5 NLT). There is a sense in which we must be willing to humble ourselves before every other individual within the body of Christ. Paul admonished the Ephesians to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21 NLT). He told the Philippian believers, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (Philippians 2:3-4 NLT). It would be next to impossible for an elder to shepherd non-submissive sheep. Headstrong sheep who have a mind of their own will be difficult to direct. So there is to be a mutual cooperation going on within the body of Christ that makes it possible for some to lead and others to willingly follow. There is to be a marked lack of competition and conflict within Christ’s church. There is no place for jealousy or envy. No one is to covet the role of another. No one is to think they are somehow better than another, just because of their particular God-given role. We are in this together.

Quoting Proverbs 3:34, Peter writes, ““God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” The prideful do not receive the grace of God. They stand opposed to God. Which is why James quoted this same proverb, then added, “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7 NLT). Pride is antithetical to the Christ-like life. There was no pride in Jesus. He exhibited no arrogance or sense of entitlement. In fact, Paul wrote:

6 Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave[c]
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8  he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross. – Philippians 2:6-8 NLT

And Paul says we are to have the same attitude Jesus had. An attitude of willing, submissive humility to God. It is that kind of attitude that makes the body of Christ work. Without it, there will be conflict, competition, envy, jealousy, disorder, and dysfunctionality. So, Peter encourages us to humble ourselves under God’s might hand, submitting fully to His plan for the church and for our lives within it. We are to trust Him for the future, knowing that at the right time, He will lift us up and exalt us. We are not to look for glory in this life, but in the life to come. Our reward is not temporal, but eternal. And in the meantime, we can take all our troubles and cares to Him, knowing He loves us and has His best in store for us. So elders have a God-given job to do and they are to shepherd like it. The people of God have the example of Christ to follow and they are to humbly submit like Him. All for the glory of God and the good of His people.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Rejoice Like It.

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For 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? 18 And

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

19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. – 1 Peter 4:12-19 ESV

As Christians, the natural response to the “fiery trials” that come our way, because of our faith, is surprise. We ask, “Why is this happening to me?” We see trials as anomalies or abnormal experiences. We don’t expect them as believers, somehow having convinced ourselves that our relationship with God, as His children, makes us immune or not susceptible to the difficulties of life. And yet, Peter provides us with a three-word statement regarding the purpose of trials in our lives, He simply states that they are there “to test you.” The Greek word Peter uses refers to a proving or testing of someone or something. It is the same word used to refer to the testing of gold or silver to check it purity. The word, in this context, means, “adversity, affliction, trouble: sent by God and serving to test or prove one’s character, faith, holiness” (G3986 - peirasmos - Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV). Retrieved from https://www.blueletterbible.org). These trials or tests are not meant to defeat us, but to define and refine us. They reveal the true content of our character, exposing our doubts, fears, love for the world, and our dependence upon things like health, money, security, comfort and convenience. These “fiery trials” are like the furnace of a smelter, and are intended for our good. The heat burns away the dross and impurities that remain in our lives. We are blind to them. We don’t even know they exist. So, God turns up the heat in our lives in order to bring these impurities to the surface where they can be removed. James wrote about this very same thing in his letter, even encouraging his readers to rejoice over the trials of life:

2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. – James 1:2-4 NLT

He adds the incentive that this process of purification through trials results in spiritual maturity. The process of having our faith tested by trials produces endurance and perseverance, which ultimately leads to Christ-likeness.

And Peter echoes the words of James when he writes, “be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world” (1 Peter 4:13 NLT). We don’t find joy in the trials themselves, but in the realization that they are perfecting us, and that one day our perfection will culminate in our glorification, when we see Christ face to face. We are willing to suffer in this life, because we know that Christ did, but He was raised to new life and, one day, we will share in that same experience. The apostle Paul told the believers in Corinth: “We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you” (2 Corinthians 4:14 NLT). This became a theme in many of Paul’s letters.

22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.

23 But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. – Colossians 1:22-23 NLT

We have been justified before God. In other words, our faith in Christ has resulted in God declaring us righteous in His eyes. He sees us as righteous because Christ is righteous. But not only that, we will one day be glorified by God, receiving new bodies and a resurrected life freed from the affects of sin and death, just as Jesus did. And that is the truth we are to continue to believe in and rest on as we experience the trials of life.

Peter states that if we suffer or are insulted because we bear the name of Christ, we are blessed. That sounds so strange, doesn’t it? And yet, that is exactly what Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount.

11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way. – Matthew 5:11-12 NLT

Followers of Christ don’t go through trials alone, like the rest of the world. We have a heavenly Father who loves us and who longs to bless and pour out His blessings on us. And, He is especially pleased when He sees His children standing up for His name and defending His honor by enduring the pain and ridicule that comes with being His own. Jesus told us that the world would hate us, because of Him. It hated Him, so it is only natural that they hate us. Jesus said, “They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me” (John 15:21 NLT). “All of this” refers to the hatred and persecution the disciples were to experience. The world, because it doesn’t know and understand God, rejects the Son of God. And, as a result, it rejects and hates the children of God. It is our relationship with Christ that brings the suffering we experience. And that should bring us joy. Paul was even willing to say:

10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! – Philippians 3:10-11 NLT

Peter reminds us that, while there is plenty of reason to feel shame for doing the wrong things and we should expect to suffer as a result, there is no shame associated with suffering for Christ. No, we should see it as a privilege for getting to suffer for being called by His name.

One of the things Peter would have us understand is that our “judgment” is now, and it is a far different kind of judgment that the lost world will face. We re being judged as to our character in this life. We are already justified before God. He sees us as righteous because we have been covered by the righteous blood of Christ. We face no future judgment regarding sin. That is why Paul was able to say, “there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NLT). The trials we face in this life can be seen as a form of judgment, not to punish or condemn us, but as a means of exposing the lingering remnants of sin within us. When we go through trials, our patience, faith, dependence upon God, and our love for Him, are tested. We learn where we are weak. We are reminded that we are weak. Which is exactly why Paul could say:

So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NLT

Peter states that, “the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household” (1 Peter 4:17 NLT). Our time of judgment is now. We are having our sins exposed now. And, as believers, we should be willing to judge the sins in one another’s lives, refusing to tolerate falsehood, immorality, or sin of any kind in our midst. Listen to these sobering words of Paul:

11 I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people.

12 It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. 13 God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.” – 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 NLT

Our judgment is now. But what about the lost? They will face a future judgment that will judge their sins and result in eternal condemnation. While they can freely get away with their sins in this life, they will pay for them in the next. We are having our sins judged and purged from our lives now, but we do not need to fear judgment for our sins in the future. So, Peter encourages us to keep doing what is right. If we suffer for it, so be it. He simply states, “trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you” (1 Peter 5:19 NLT). We suffer in this life, but it has a purpose. We face trials in this life, but they are proof of the Father’s love and the means by which He purifies and perfects us, transforming us into the image of His Son. So, we are to rejoice like it.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Serve Like It.

7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11 whoever 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. – 1 Peter 4:7-11 ESV

Once again, Peter gives his readers, and us, some advice about our behavior as believers in Jesus Christ. He tells us to be “self-controlled and sober-minded.” But the odd thing about this statement is the two reasons he gives for living this way: Because the end of all things is at hand and for the sake of our prayers. What is he talking about? What is he referring to by “the end of all things”? Peter, like all the other apostles, lived with a constant sense that the coming of the Lord was eminent. They lived with a short-term, temporary mindset when it came to their time on this earth. Jesus had said He would come again for them, and they lived as if that promise would be fulfilled sooner, rather than later. Here are just a few of their statements regarding the end of the age:

You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. – James 5:8 ESV

Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. – Romans 13:11 ESV

…so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. – Hebrews 9:28 ESV

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. – 1 John 2:18 ESV

By living with the end in mind, these men were able to keep their focus, even while surrounded by the cares and concerns of this life. They gained a different perspective about suffering and persecution keeping their eyes focused on the goal. That’s why Paul could say, “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:13-14 NLT).  The author of the letter to the Hebrews provides us with these powerful words that encourage us to keep our attention focused on the temporary nature of our existence here:

You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. – Hebrews 3:13-14 NLT

So, Peter warns us. He reminds us to be self-controlled and sober-minded, because the days are short. Was he lying? Was he misinformed? Obviously, he was wrong. Here we are, nearly 2,000 years later, and the end has not yet come. Jesus has not returned. Was Peter overly optimistic or just driven by wishful thinking? No, he lived with a sense of eager anticipation. He longed for the return of His Savior. He had no idea when it would happen, but he lived as if it could be any day, and it could be. Concerning His own second coming Jesus said, “no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows” (Matthew 24:36 NLT). Jesus went on to tell His disciples, Peter being one of them, “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42 NLT). And He qualified this statement by adding, “You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected” (Matthew 24:44 NLT). So, you can see why Peter lived with this optimistic, it-could-happen-any-day-now attitude, and he wanted us to live the same way. 

But what about his statement regarding prayer? What does he mean when he says that we are to be “self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers”? If prayer is the means by which we communicate with the Father, then it is important that we do so on a regular basis It’s likely that Peter had a special heart for prayer because of the words spoken to him by Jesus that night in the garden, just hours before Jesus was betrayed by Judas. Jesus had gone off to pray and had asked the disciples to keep watch.

Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” – Matthew 26:40-41 NLT

Peter, like the other disciples, had fallen asleep. He lacked diligence. He had allowed himself to fall asleep on the job. And just a few hours later, Peter would be the one to deny Jesus three times. That night would have stuck with him for years. And it radically changed his view regarding prayer. He knew that communication with God, the ability to share with the Father his innermost thoughts, and hear words of comfort and encouragement in return, were critical to living his life on this planet. And he wants us to know the very same truth. Prayer is not optional, it is vitally necessary.

Next, Peter highlights the necessity of love. It is another non-negotiable in the life of a believer. We are to love as we have been loved by Christ. And that love is to be ektenēs, a Greek word that means “stretched out” and conveys the idea of earnestness or ceaselessness. It is the kind of love by which the Father loves us. Over in Psalm 136, the phrase, “for his steadfast love endures forever” appears 26 times. God loves us tirelessly and unwaveringly. And we are to do the same. When we do, our love “covers a multitude of sins.” When we love it diminishes our capacity to hate. It keeps us from seeking revenge. It prevents us from suffering from jealousy and envy. Love keeps us from sinning against one another and allows us to react to those who persecute us in ways that “cover over” their sins against us. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave us these sobering words that reflect life in His Kingdom:

44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. – Matthew 4:44-48 NLT

Peter adds hospitality to the list, encouraging us to open our hearts and our homes to others. And, we are to do it without complaining. Not only that, we are to use our God-given, Spirit-empowered gifts to serve one another. As children of God, chosen by Him and placed within His family, we are to live selflessly and sacrificially, treating others as more important than ourselves. Jesus came to serve, not be served, and we are to have that same mindset.

The use of our spiritual gifts is to build up the body of Christ, not our own reputation. We use our gifts to serve, not to impress others or to gain recognition for our superior spirituality. When we use our gifts properly, they bring glory to God. In fact, Peter tells us our gifts are given by God for good of the body of Christ, and they must be used properly so that “God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11 ESV). Paul told the believers in Corinth:

4 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. 5 There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. 6 God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.

7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. – 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 NLT

Our goal in life is to bring glory to God. That’s why Peter wraps up this short section with the words: “To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.” He is the one who called us. He is the one who provided His own Son as the payment for our sins. He is the one who raised Jesus back to life. He is the one who provided the Spirit for us and placed Him within us. He is the one who instructed the Spirit to give us gifts so that we might build up one another. And He is the one who has loved us unceasingly and undeservedly. So, why would we not do the same for those around us? We are to serve like Christ. He served us by sacrificing His life. And He is the one who said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends” (John 15:13 NLT).

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Prepare Like It.

1 Since 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, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3 For 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. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For 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. – 1 Peter 4:1-6 ESV

It isn’t a matter of whether you will suffer, but when. In this life, the life we now live in the flesh, as Paul put it (Galatians 2:20), we will be required to suffer, just as Jesus did. So, Peter tells us to prepare for the inevitable. He uses the Greek word, hoplizō, which means to arm yourself. It could be used to refer to taking up arms or to prepare your mind for something. Paul gives us a similar charge when he writes:

Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:2 NLT

We have to equip our minds with the same mindset that Jesus had. What kind of mindset did He have? He saw suffering as essential to His assignment from God. It was part of His divine job description. Without His death, there would have been no resurrection. Without His humiliation, there would have been no glorification. And as Paul puts it, rather than mirror the behavior or attitudes of this world, we are to alter our thinking and emulate the attitude of Jesus. When Peter states that we have ceased from sin, he is not saying that we are sinless or incapable of sin. He is teaching that we are free from sins slavery and control over our lives. Paul describes it this way:

6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. – Romans 6:6-7 NLT.

Earlier in this same letter, Peter referred to us suffering for doing what is good and right, just as Jesus did, and then he reminds us: “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21 NLT). We are to follow His example. If we suffer for our relationship with Christ, we are to see it as a sign that we are emulating Christ. We are suffering as He did – for doing what is right – the will of God. And we treat sin as no longer having any control over us. We have been released from sins dominion and domination over us. And, as a result, we “live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:2 ESV). Rather than wasting our remaining years on this earth pursuing our own pleasure or seeking to live according to our own will, we submit to what God would have us do. It becomes our greatest desire. And we larn to say, as Jesus did, “not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

And, Peter reminds us “You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols” (1 Peter 4:3 NLT). We’ve been there, done that. We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession. We are new creations and we are to live as such. Our old way of life is behind us. That was then, this is now. The old things are gone. The new has come. As Paul puts it, “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT).

And tbis is what causes the suffering we encounter in this life. Because we are new creations and live lives that reflect our new standing in Christ, our old friends will find our new lifestyles convicting. They won’t understand why we don’t do what we used to do. And Peter points this out.

Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you. – 1 Peter 4:4 NLT).

They’ll be shocked by our behavior. It will seem strange and out of character to them. And, as a result, they will slander you. Basically, they will have nothing good to say about you. Why? Because your new lifestyle will convict them. It will expose them for what they are: sinners. Just as Jesus was slandered by the Pharisees because His words and actions convicted them, so our former friends will turn on us, when we live Christ-like lives in front of them. But rather than get upset and return their slander with words of self-defense or condemnation, we are to remember that “they will have to face God, who stands ready to judge everyone, both the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5 NLT). Don’t last out. Don’t feel the pressure to justify your actions or defend your behavior. Do what you do because it is pleasing to God, and leave the judgment of those who persecute you up to God.

Finally, Peter provides a timely reminder that this “life in the flesh” is not all there is. Jesus lived His life “in the flesh”, but He now lives “in the Spirit”. Remember, this is what Peter said earlier in his letter. Jesus was “put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18 ESV). He lived His life here on earth, but now sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven. And He is not alone. There are others who have joined the Lord in the heavenly Kingdom. They are those who heard to gospel and who have since died.

That is why the Good News was preached to those who are now dead—so although they were destined to die like all people, they now live forever with God in the Spirit.– 1 Peter 4:6 NLT

There is a life after this one. There is more to life than what we see on this earth. That is why we should be willing to suffer in this life, because, as Peter puts it later in this same letter: “after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation” (1 Peter 5:10 NLT). Paul expands on this idea in his letter to the Corinthian believers.

16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are[e] being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT

We are to be prepared in this life, because we know God has already prepared a place for us in heaven. Jesus promised His disciples that it was so.

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” – John 14:1-4 NLT

We are to arm ourselves with this truth. We are to prepare ourselves for the worst in this life because God has prepared the best for us in the next one. We are citizens of heaven, not earth. We are children of God, not Satan. We belong to another Kingdom, not this one. This world is not our home, we’re simply passing through. But while we are here, let’s live as who we are. Let’s mirror the life of Christ and live out the love we have received from God to all those we meet. We are to be difference-makers, just as Jesus was. We are to be lights in a dark world, just as He was. And we are are to suffer, just as He did – willingly, patiently, joyfully, expectantly, and all according to the will of God.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Die Like It.

18 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, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 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. 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, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. – 1 Peter 3:18-22 ESV

This passage is a difficult one. It is full of confusing and difficult to understand statements that have left theologians and biblical scholars scratching their heads for generations. There are a variety of opinions as to exactly what Peter is referring to in these verses, but no real consensus. But we know that he is continuing to call his readers to live godly lives based on their new status as children of God. He has just finished encouraging them to suffer well for doing what is good. And now, he uses Jesus as an example. He states, “For Christ also suffered” (1 Peter 3:18 ESV). We suffer just as He did, but Peter points out that His suffering had a unique, never-to-be-repeated purpose behind it. He suffered “once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18 ESV). He suffered and died so that He might pay the penalty that was owed for our sins. Our sin had left us indebted to God and separated from Him. It was only through Christ’s sacrificial death on our behalf that the God’s justice could be satisfied. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23 NLT). But Paul also explains that it was God’s love for us that caused Him to send His own Son to take our place and suffer the death we rightfully deserved.

8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. – Romans 5:8-9 NLT

And Paul gives us further good news.

23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. – Romans 3:23-25 NLT

Back to Peter’s point: Christ suffered. But His suffering had a purpose behind it. It was necessary for Him to suffer and die so that sinful men might have a means by which they could be restored to a right relationship with God. “He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18 NLT). Jesus didn’t just die a martyr’s death and provide us with a sobering example of how to live die and well. He was raised back to life by the power of the Spirit of God.

And it is at this point that the content of Peter’s letter seems to take a strange turn. He rather matter-of-factly states that Jesus “went and preached to the spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:19 NLT). What does this mean? When did Jesus do this? Why would Jesus do this? And Peter provides us even more details, but rather than clear up the matter, they seems to make it even more confusing. He says that the spirits to whom Jesus preached were “those who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat” (1 Peter 3:19 NLT). Why is Peter bringing up Noah? And why does He seem to insinuate the Jesus, in some form or fashion preached to those living in Noah’s day, who would eventually die as a result of the worldwide flood God would bring to the earth?

Peter mentions the eight members of Noah’s family who were saved by God when He placed them within the safety of the ark that Noah had constructed. The book of Genesis provides us with an explanation for God’s actions.

5 The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. 6 So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. 7 And the Lord said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them.” 8 But Noah found favor with the Lord. – Genesis 6:5-8 NLT

The wickedness of mankind had reached a point that God determined to start over. He would begin with a new set of humans, the family of Noah, and begin again. This was not a naive attempt on God’s part to fix what was broken. God knew that Noah, while he found favor in the eyes of God, was also a sinful human being, along with his family members. The legacy of and propensity to sin, inherited from Adam, would survive the flood and the whole process would begin again. Peter states that the waters of the flood saved Noah and his family while, at the same time, punishing those who were outside of the ark. The waters that drowned were the same waters that kept the ark afloat. And the ark represents the salvation that God had provided Noah. It is an image of the faith required by all those who would be saved from death. Just as Noah and his family had to believe God, build the ark, and then get in it in order to be saved; so we had to trust in God’s plan for our salvation: Jesus Christ. The waters that flooded the earth did not cleanse Noah and his family from their sins, but they did save them from death. And our baptism, after having come to faith in Christ, is evidence of our salvation. It does not cleanse us from sin. It gives proof that we have trusted Christ as our Savior. Noah placed his faith in the ark. We have placed our faith in Christ. And the water proves that our source of faith is sufficient. The ark rose above the waves. Christ rose from the grave. 

Our baptism, Peter states, is a pledge or an “appeal to God for a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:21 ESV). It reveals to those around us that we have confidence that we have been made right with God. His death was sufficient. His resurrection from the dead is what made our clear conscience possible, not our own attempts at sinlessness.  And that is why Paul tells us “there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” (Romans 8:1-2 NLT). No more guilt and shame. No more fear of death. All because of Jesus’ death on our behalf. Peter reminds us that “Christ has gone to heaven. He is seated in the place of honor next to God, and all the angels and authorities and powers accept his authority” (1 Peter 3:22 NLT). He rose again and so shall we. Noah’s salvation was temporary in nature. He escaped the flood, but he would still die. He was saved from drowning, but it would not be long before he and his family were struggling to keep their heads above the waves of sin and immorality that would eventually overwhelm the world again. That is, until Jesus came.

Which brings us back to the problem verses in this passage. What does Peter mean when he says that Jesus was “put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:19 ESV)? He is most likely referring to Jesus’ life prior to His death (in the flesh) or. in other words, His incarnation. Jesus took on human flesh and died on the cross. But He was made alive in the Spirit. This does not mean that Jesus’ body was not resurrected, but that it had a new character about it. After His resurrection, Jesus was able to walk through closed doors (John 20:19). He was still able to eat with His disciples and they were able to recognize Him. But there was a spiritual dimension to His body that was not there before His death. And Peter states that it was in this new body that “he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:19 ESV). What does this mean? Did Jesus go into hell and preach the gospel to those who had refused to obey God and listen to Noah’s warnings about the flood? That seems unlikely. It seems that Peter is simply stating that it was in Jesus’ new, post-resurrection form that He “went.” Luke records, “While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven” (Luke 24:51 NLT). And as we’ve seen, Peter states that Jesus “has gone to heaven. He is seated in the place of honor next to God” (1 Peter 3:22 NLT). What Peter seems to be saying is that Jesus, with His newly resurrected body – once dead, but now alive – was living proof that He was and is the Messiah, the Savior of the world. And His ascension back to heaven and His restoration to His rightful place as God’s side is a sermon preached to all those who have rejected God’s offer of salvation. This includes all those in Noah’s day and all who have ever lived and eventually died in their sins, having rejected God’s free gift of salvation through His Son. Jesus didn’t have to descend into hell to preach the gospel. It was His resurrection and ascension that scream the gospel message loud and clear.

So, like Christ, who died and rose again, we can face death free from fear. He rose again, and so shall we. The apostle Paul gives us some incredibly good news:

33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. – Romans 8:33-34 NLT

But wait, there’s more.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39 NLT

We are in Christ. So, we can live like it on this earth. And we are to be willing to die like it – confidently, hopefully, fearlessly and eagerly.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Defend Like It.

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. 1 Peter 3:13-17 ESV

Suffering wasn’t just a possibility for the recipients of Peter’s letter, it was a daily reality. And Peter is attempting to get them to realize that their suffering was a natural byproduct of their faith in Christ. It came with the territory. Being a Christ-follower was not going to be easy. Being a member of God’s family, one of His chosen ones, was a status that came with some great benefits, but also some less-than-pleasant byproducts. Doing what was right in God’s eyes was going to produce a reaction among the lost, including unbelieving masters, spouses, friends, family members and co-workers. And those reactions would not always be enjoyable or positive in nature. But Peter responds, “even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats” (1 Peter 3:14 NLT). The thing Peter wanted his readers to recognize was that God’s approval meant more and carried more weight than the approval of men. The bottom line was that they needed to do what was right according to God’s viewpoint, not that of the world. Listening to His will brought a reward. Listening to the world might bring acceptance and immediate affirmation, but not peace with God.

For Peter, it all begins in the heart, where each believer is to “honor Christ the Lord as holy” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV). That’s where we begin the process of setting apart Christ as unique and as a transformative presence in our lives. Peter refers to “ the hope that is in you” and wants his readers to know that it is Jesus Christ who has made it possible for them to have a right relationship with God and to enjoy the indwelling presence of the Spirit of Christ. Paul refers to this as “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27 ESV). And Peter states that, regarding that hope, we are to be ready at all times “to make a defense to anyone who asks.” We need to be able to explain why we have hope, both in this life and in the one to come. It is important that we be able to defend what it is that we say we believe, especially when we get push back from those who don’t agree. Of all people living on this planet, we should have hope, and that hope finds its foundation in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. It is our hope in Christ, and the promise He offers of abundant life now and eternal life to come, that should influence our behavior. It should be the reason we give for the way we live.

But we are to make our defense with “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV). Part of what we need to be able to communicate is the reason behind our willingness to suffer for doing what is right and good. While suffering, we are not to complain, get bitter, or respond in anger. Remember what Peter said in the last chapter:

if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you… – 1 Peter 2:20 NLT

And people are going to want to know why you willingly put up with suffering, shame, humiliation, rejection and persecution, all for doing what is pleasing to God. The average lost person is not going to understand that kind of mindset. If you say you are following the will of God and suffering as a result, they will have a hard time understanding what the motivation behind your actions might be. It will make no sense to them. They will find it hard to justify belief in a God who allows His followers to suffer.Who would want to worship a God like that? Peter’s answer would be simple. He would say he would gladly suffer for God and so should we, because of the hope He has brought to us. Our hope is based on a future promise, not immediate gratification. We don’t necessarily get our best life now, but the promise of a better life to come. In speaking of “those who revile your good behavior in Christ” (1 Peter 3:16 ESV), Peter says we are to maintain a good conscience among them, because we are suffering for the sake of Christ. Even if we are slandered, we can rest easy, knowing that we have remained faithful to Christ. And Peter makes it clear that “it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!” (1 Peter 3:17 NLT).

Peter will pick up this same theme in chapter four of his letter.

15 If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. 16 But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name! – 1 Peter 4:15-16 NLT

You see, it is normal and natural, even among the lost, to suffer for doing the wrong thing. Bad people can and do receive punishment for wrong behavior, and so they should. But it makes no sense to the unsaved that anyone should suffer for doing what is right. It is unfair and unnatural. That’s not the way the world is supposed to operate. But for us as believers, it is to be expected. Jesus even warned us about it.

18 “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. – John 15:18-19 NLT

The world hates us. And the more we live for Christ and the more we live like Christ, the more intense that hatred will become. Jesus went on to say, “Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you” (John 15:20 NLT). Not only that, He explains that “They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me” (John 15:21 NLT). God sent Jesus as the Savior of the world, and the world rejected Him. Jesus has now sent us into the world, and we find ourselves rejected as well. It is to be expected. It shouldn’t surprise us. And just like Jesus, we will suffer most for doing what is right and good. And when the lost around us see us suffer willingly and gladly, we must be ready to share with them the hope that is within us. It was Paul who said:

8 Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. 9 And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained. 10 So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen. – 2 Timothy 2:8-10 NLT

Are you willing to suffer for doing good? Are you ready to explain to the lost around you why you willingly suffer for doing what God has called you to do? The only sane answer is that you have a hope, a living hope as Peter described it, reserved in heaven for you.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you… – 1 Peter 1:3-4 NLT

We should be able to defend our actions and the suffering we endure as a result of those actions. We need to be able to articulate why we do the things we do, and why we are willing to suffer for having done them. It is because of our hope – our living hope based in Jesus Christ; our Redeemer, Savior, Shepherd and King. And it is because of our hope founded on His promise of eternal life because He sacrificed His life for ours. We suffer because He did. We endure the shame because He did. We willingly put up with the rejection and ridicule, because He did. He has given us hope and we defend our lives like it.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Bless Like It.

8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 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. 10 For

“Whoever desires to love life
    and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
    and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
    let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 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.” – 1 Peter 3:8-12 ESV

Peter continues his address about attitudes and relationships. Keep in mind, he is still talking to those who are in Christ and attempting to get them to see that their new relationship with God as their Father should produce a change in their behavior. He started by addressing one of the most difficult relationships, the one between a slave and his master. Then, Peter turned his attention to husbands and wives, and, more specifically, the relationship between a believing and non-believing spouse. These kinds of relationship are going to make it difficult to live out your faith consistently and without falling back into your old sinful habits. Peter made this quite clear in the opening section of his letter.

So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. – 1 Peter 1:14 NLT

And Peter has already provided them with more than enough motivation for their new actions and attitudes.

You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. – 1 Peter 1:22 NLT

So, now he addresses the larger pool of relationships to which his readers must turn their attention and apply his admonitions. But he focuses on the relationships they have with one another as believers. His interest at this point is on the way each Christian should treat his brothers and sisters in Christ.

Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. – 1 Peter 3:8 NLT

First, he tells them to be of one mind. The Greek word he uses is homophrōn, and it means “harmonious” or “like-minded”. It comes from two other words that mean “together” and “understanding”. They are to share a mutual understanding of one another as fellow citizens of the Kingdom of God. They share an inheritance as God’s children. They are brothers and sisters. And Peter gives them concrete examples of what this one-mindedness should look like. They should sympathize with one another. This carries the idea of compassion and understanding that shows up in the form of care and concern for those around you. Paul puts it this way:

15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! – Romans 12:15-16 NLT

There is no place for individualism in the body of Christ. As Paul states in Galatians 6:2, we are to “bear one another’s burdens.” True sympathy requires empathy, an ability to vicariously relate to the feelings of another – their pain, sorrow, hurts and heartaches. The apostle Paul, using the example of the human body to illustrate the unique union of believers within the body of Christ, states, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26 NLT). We are in this together. We are, as Peter put it earlier, sojourners and exiles, but we are not alone. We are joined together by God to all our other fellow exiles, and living our lives together in this inhospitable land. And Peter describes us as “living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple” (1 Peter 2:5 NLT) – all stacked together by the Master Builder, in order to create a home for His Spirit.

Peter also tells his readers to love like brothers. He uses the Greek word, philadelphos, which refers to the love shared between two blood brothers. There is to be a closer connection between two siblings than between two strangers. There is a common bond between two brothers that is not present in any other relationship. And Peter is calling the believers to whom he is writing into a deeper relationship with the ones with whom they share a spiritual kinship with Christ. Because they have been cleansed from their sins by placing their faith in Christ, they were to “show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters”, and Peter had told them to  “Love each other deeply with all your heart” (1 Peter 1:22 NLT).

They were to have tender hearts. The Greek word Peter uses is a strange one. It literally means “good bowels.” Before you let your mind run to the races, keep in mind that the readers of Peter’s letter would have understood this word to refer to the seat of the emotions. It is a word that expresses compassion, sympathy, and tenderheartedness. Paul uses the same word in his letter to the believers in Ephesus.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. – Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT

Too often, we have no feelings for our brothers and sisters in Christ. We have a coldness toward them, treating them more like strangers than as our spiritual relatives. James paints a vivid picture of what a lack of tenderheartedness looks like in the body of believers.

Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it. – James 4:1-2 The Message

Finally, Peter tells his readers to have humble minds. This is a call to humility that shows up in a willingness to esteem others as more important than ourselves. Paul put it well.

Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. – Philippians 2:1-4 NLT

There is no place for pride within the body of Christ. There is no reason to think of ourselves as better than anyone else, because we were all sinners who were saved by the grace of God. None of us were chosen for our goodness or inherent righteousness. We are each recipients of God’s undeserved, unearned grace. So, there is no reason for us to see ourselves as somehow better or of greater worth than anyone else in the family of God.

The next thing Peter writes is even more difficult to accept.

Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. – 1 Peter 3:9 NLT

Our natural tendency is to seek revenge, to demand justice, and to get even. We are wired to lash out and to defend ourselves at all costs, whether the threat is to our physical well-being or to our reputation. But Peter tells us to bless instead of retaliate. We are to bless as we have been blessed. And Peter isn’t making this stuff up. He got it from a reliable source: Jesus Himself.

28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. 30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you. – Luke 6:29-31 NLT

And Paul would also echo the words of Jesus, when he wrote, “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them” (Romans 12:14 NLT). And Paul wasn’t saying this in terms of our relationships with unbelievers. He was writing to Christians. Just a few verses earlier he wrote, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:9-10 NLT). That is exactly the message Peter is trying to convey. And to drive home his point, Peter follows up his words with a quote that comes from Psalm 34.

“If you want to enjoy life
    and see many happy days,
keep your tongue from speaking evil
    and your lips from telling lies.
Turn away from evil and do good.
    Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right,
    and his ears are open to their prayers.
But the Lord turns his face
    against those who do evil.” – 1 Peter 3:10-12 NLT

Notice the emphasis on the tongue. To bless literally means to speak well of someone. But they must be words that come from the heart. They are not to be hypocritical or fake. They are not to come out as some form of false flattery. It is one thing to keep your tongue from speaking evil, but it is another thing altogether to speak well and have it come from your heart. That is why Jesus said, “the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you” (Matthew 15:18 NLT). And in His list of defiling actions and attitudes that flow from the heart, He included evil thoughts, lying and slander. And He placed them right alongside murder, adultery, sexual immorality and theft. Our words are an expression of our heart. And to speak falsehood – kind-sounding words that are actually backed by hate-filled thoughts – is to do evil and not good. Yet, Peter calls us to bless because we have been blessed. We are to be a blessing to others, because we have received the blessing of God, His undeserved, unmerited grace and favor in the form of salvation made possible through the death of His Son. And Peter would have us continually reflect on the example provided to us by Christ.

21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When 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. – 1 Peter 2:21-23 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Honor Like It.

7 Likewise, 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.  – 1 Peter 3:1-6 ESV

Now, Peter turns his attention to the husband. He addresses those men living within the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who happen to be believers and married. And, as with the women, Peter is concerned with those who are married to either a believing or non-believing spouse. His counsel will apply in either case. And the words he has to say to the husbands, while shorter in length, are loaded with meaning and significance. He tells them to “live with your wives in an understanding way.” That sounds easy enough, but we have to grasp what Peter is really saying. The Greek phrase he uses is κατὰ γνῶσιν, and it “according to knowledge.” What does that mean? Well, it begins with the Greek word for knowledge, which has a range of meanings. It can refer to general knowledge or intelligence, but it can also refer to moral wisdom that exhibits itself in right living. Peter seems to be encouraging a believing husband to live with his wife in such a way that his behavior shows a clear knowledge of right and wrong regarding his relationship with her. What would God have him do? How would God have him treat his wife? On top of that is the need for the husband to understand and know his wife, both as the individual to whom he is married and as a member of the female race. She is different in terms of personality and temperament, but also gender. The husband is going to have to take the time to get to know his wife and see her as God has made her. She is a unique individual whom God has gifted and equipped with her own personal character. A loving husband will take the time to know his wife well. And he will see her as God does, as “the weaker vessel.” 

But that phrase typically conjures up extremely negative connotations in our 21st-Century minds. It sounds patronizing and patriarchal, something a man would say and think. But Peter is writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so we have to attempt to figure out what he means by these words. Is he referring to women as somehow inferior to men? Is he insinuating that they are less valuable or incapable of contributing to the well-being of the family or society?

Peter tells husbands to show honor to their wives. The Greek word he uses is timē, and it refers to deference, even reverence. It is an honor which naturally belongs to the one it is shown. They deserve it. The wife, as a woman, is a creation of God. She was made in the image of God. She was uniquely crafted by God to complement and complete the man. If we go back to the creation account found in the book of Genesis, we hear these words from God, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him” (Genesis 2:18 NLT). In the book of Proverbs, we read this assessment regarding a man who finds a wife. “The man who finds a wife finds a treasure, and he receives favor from the LORD” (Proverbs 18:22 NLT). A wife is a blessing. She is a gift from God. Proverbs 31:10 describes the value of a wife as “more precious than rubies.” Proverbs 12:4 says she is “the crown of her husband.” And a believing husband should understand these things and honor his wife as such. She is precious, priceless and a gift from God – whether she is a believer or not.

But let’s go back to the term, “weaker vessel.” What did Peter mean? Is it a statement of physical strength? Perhaps. But that would seem to be an incomplete and, in some cases, inaccurate rendering. Not all women are physically weaker than all men. Is he referring to intelligence? That would be highly unlikely if we consider the centuries-worth of clear evidence that proves the female’s capacity to compete with men on an equal intellectual plane. So, what is Peter talking about and why would he use this kind of language to refer to wives? The Greek word Peter uses is asthenēs, and it has two significant parts: The second half of the word come from another Greek word, sthenoō, which refers to strength. The first half of the word is a negative participle that means “without.” So, the word Peter uses simply means, “without strength.” I tend to believe that Peter is using this word to speak of an unbelieving wife or at least, a wife who has followed her husband in accepting Christ, but is not as strong in her faith. It is the same word used by Paul when he refers to a weaker brother or sister in Christ.

In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul was forced to deal with a situation regarding the eating of meat sacrificed to idols. There were those in the church who understood that there was nothing wrong with eating this meat because there are really no such thing as other gods. They are figments of man’s imagination. But there were some in the church who, having come out of pagan backgrounds, viewed the eating of meat sacrificed to false gods as somehow worshiping them. They did not fully understand that these gods were not real, and Paul refers to them as “weaker.” He writes:

9 But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. 10 For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol? 11 So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed. 12 And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 8:9-12 NLT

The idea was that there were those in the fellowship who didn’t know any better. They were “weaker” only in the sense of their spiritual understanding of the matters at hand. I think Peter is using this term in the very same way. It is not a blanket statement about women, but a reference to those wives who were either new believers or unbelievers. Their spiritual understanding was “without strength. ” And their husbands were to show them honor and treat them as a “weaker vessel.” It s the same attitude that Paul had.

22 When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. 23 I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. – 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 NLT

Peter says that these men were to see their wives as “heirs with you of the grace of life.” This does not necessarily mean salvation. Peter is most likely stating that men and women equally share in God’s gracious gift of life. He has made them both. And a husband and wife equally share in God’s gracious gift of marriage. They are in this thing called marriage together. And they share in the grace of God, together.

The final admonition Peter gives husbands is significant. He warns them that, if they ignore his words, their prayers will be hindered. It they do not treat their wives as “weaker vessels” and honor them as God does, their prayers to God will go unheard. Their inappropriate treatment of their wives will be seen as sin before God. That’s a sobering statement. And this all goes back to the behavior of those who have been called by God. We are to live differently. We are to behave in a way that mirrors our newfound status as sons and daughters of God. And one of the first ways our new life should show up  is in our relationships with other human beings, especially our spouses.

For a husband to live with his wife in an understanding way is going to take wisdom, patience, grace, mercy, and the help of the Holy Spirit. He is going to have to see his wife the way God does. He is going to have to view her through God’s eyes and make her spiritual well-being his highest priority, whether she is a believer or not. Just like the believing wife may bring her husband to faith by her righteous behavior, so a husband may lead his unbelieving wife to Christ by living with her in an understanding way, honoring her as a gift from God and his fellow heir in the grace of life.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Relate Like It.

1 Likewise, 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, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but 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. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.  – 1 Peter 3:1-6 ESV

As Christians, our relationships with are to be primary opportunities to live out our new relationship with Christ and to exhibit externally, the inner transformation that is taking place in our heart because of the work of the Holy Spirit. And there is no more intimate and important relationship than the one between a husband and wife. Peter was dealing with a situation where there were a growing number of individuals coming to faith in Christ who found themselves married to unbelieving spouses. Keep in mind the locations of those to whom he was writing: Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. They were living in the northern Roman provinces of Asia Minor, which is modern western Turkey. Not all of his audience would have been Gentiles, because there were literally millions of Jews who had relocated and settled in these very same provinces. But whether Gentiles of Jews, the recipients of his letter were believers who, in many cases, had become followers of Christ without their spouses. This important point will factor into what Peter has to say, because our behavior, as Christians, can have a significant impact on our lost relationship, especially our unbelieving spouses.

Peter begins with the women. and his words continue to leave many modern-day women shaking their heads and labeling Peter as a male chauvinist. His counsel comes across as archaic and a product of some ancient cultural paradigm that has long lost its relativity. Peter begins his address to wives, saying, “wives, be subject to your own husbands” (1 Peter 3:1 ESV). He would not be the only apostle to communicate this information. Paul would write virtually the same thing: “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord” (Colossians 3:18 NLT). He would repeat this statement to the Ephesians: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22 ESV). Then, in his letter to Titus, Paul provides even more detail, when he challenges the older women in the church:

…train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God. – Titus 2:4-5 NLT

Whether we like what these men had to say, we have to take their words seriously, because they speak for God – that is, if you believe they were inspired by the Holy Spirit, which I do. These are not two 1st-Century Jewish males sharing their personal opinions about women. They are not misogynists. They don’t hate women and are not attempting to place them in a subservient position to their more superior male counterparts. And yet, this is how many modern-day Christians interpret these passages.

What we tend to miss is the definition of the word Peter and Paul use for submission. It is the Greek word, hypotassō, which means “to subject one's self.” There is a willingness involved, a self-determination or personal decision to submit to another out of love and, in this case, obedience to the will of God. Remember what Paul said? Women are to do it “as to the Lord.”  He says, it is “fitting for those who belong to the Lord.” It is what those who belong to God should do. And Peter makes it clear that it doesn’t matter if the woman’s husband is a believer or not. There is a witness involved in all of this. He states that when wives willingly subject themselves to the leadership of their husbands, “Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives” (1 Peter 3:1-2 NLT). What Peter (and by extension, God) is interesting in is godly living. This isn’t about rights and privileges, status and personal authority. It is about the cause of Christ, the name of God, and the witness of our lives in a lost and dying world.

But as if this wasn’t enough and Peter had not stepped on enough toes, he wades into even more deadly waters, giving advice on women’s clothing, hair and makeup. Was he just a glutton for punishment or was their a method to his madness? He gives his female readers the following Spirit-inspired counsel:

3 Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. 4 You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. – 1 Peter 3:3-4 NLT

The first thing we gravitate towards is the fashion advice. It seems that he is telling them how to dress. But what is his real point? “Clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within.” Peter is contrasting our natural obsession with the exterior aspects of our lives with that of the interior, spiritual dimension that reflects the nature of our heart. He talks of inner beauty and the spirit within, How we look is to be far less significant to us than how we behave. And our behavior is a product of our hearts. It was Jesus who said, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you” (Mark 7:20-23 NLT). 

Peter is simply reminding the women in his audience that dressing up the exterior of their lives means nothing if they give no importance to the interior condition of their hearts. They become little more than hypocrites, what Jesus called white-washed tombs. They look great on the outside, but their interiors are filled with death and decay. And that can be true of both women and men.

Peter gives additional insight into what he is saying by comparing the behavior of the “modern-day” women to whom he is writing with the “the holy women of old” (1 Peter 3:5 NLT). There are several points of interest in what the writes and they all relate to the subject of submission. First of all, he says these women of old made themselves beautiful  by placing their hope in God. They trusted God for their lives, regardless of the circumstances surrounding their lives. He uses Sarah as an example. She submitted to her husband, Abraham. But how? Remember, it was he who received the call of God to leave Ur and travel to a land yet to be named. And Sarah willingly followed her husbands lead, even thought it meant leaving her family behind. She was inherently trusting God, because her husband was not quite sure how all of this was going to work out. Even later on, when the found themselves moving to Egypt to escape a famine in the land of Canaan, she went along with her husbands counsel to pawn herself off as his sister. She trusted Abraham, because she was really trusting God.

Secondly, Peter points out that Sarah obeyed Abraham, even calling him “master.” Why? Because she believed he was following the leadership of Yahweh, God Almighty. So, she listened and obeyed. She showed him respect. She didn’t ridicule or belittle him, even when what he said didn’t work out for the best or seem to make any sense. She was trusting God. Third, Sarah was being transformed on the inside. She had her own set of issues. She struggled with doubt and disbelief. And by following her husband’s leadership, she was having her heart changed by God. Finally, Peter uses Sarah as an example of someone who did what was right, according to the will of God. And he tells his female readers that they will be daughters of Sarah if they “do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Peter 3:6 NLT). Submitting to a Christian husband is scary enough. Submitting to a lost one can be petrifying. But both situations require trust in God. There will be fearful days and moments of doubt. There will be situations that come up where the husband seems to lack any leadership skills or is devoid of common sense. But at the end of the day, believing women are to put their trust in God. They are to see themselves as those who “belong to the Lord” as Paul said. They are to submit, not because their husband deserves it or has earned it, but because it is fitting to the Lord. It reveals a heart that is submissive to God. And He finds that far more attractive than the outward beauty that comes from clothes, cosmetics or jewelry.

These are not easy words for women to hear. They are counter-cultural and seem to go against the grain. But Peter is speaking of deep-seated heart issues. He is addressing matters of character and Christ-likeness. Because when all is said and done, Peter is concerned about our witness in the world. We are sons and daughters of God, and our lives are to be a testimony to His life-transforming, counter-cultural calling on our lives.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Suffer Like It.

18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For 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. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When 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. 24 He 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. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. – 1 Peter 2:18-25 ESV

There are two ways to approach the content of this particular passage. First of all, as modern Americans, we can become incensed over the fact that Peter addresses slaves, but fails to make any statements regarding the unacceptable nature of the institution of slavery. And among the authors of the New Testament, he is not alone in his silence. He and Paul spoke frequently to slaves, but said very little about the moral nature of the institution of slavery. So, when we read a passage like this, it can come across as a subtle approval of slavery. And when we read the following passages, it would be easy to reach that conclusion.

21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. – 1 Corinthians 7:21-22 NIV

5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. 6 Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. 7 Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 8 Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free. – Ephesians 6:5-8 NLT

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. – Colossians 3:22 NLT

1 All slaves should show full respect for their masters so they will not bring shame on the name of God and his teaching. 2 If the masters are believers, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. – 1 Timothy 6:1-2 NLT

Where is the moral indignation? Why do Paul and Peter seem to act as if slavery is just a normal part of everyday life? Because it was. Slavery was entrenched in the culture of their day. Even Jews had slaves. The failure of these men to speak out against slavery should not be construed to be some king of tacit approval of it. From our own sordid history as a nation, we know that our ancestors attempted to use the Scriptures to justify their unwavering determination to maintain the slave trade and to rationalize their inhumane treatment of millions of fellow human beings. But the presence of slavery is the result of the fall. It is a symptom of man’s sinful state and has been around since the beginning. It was alive and well when Jesus came to the earth. It was a normal part of the social fabric of the day. But this does not mean it was right or acceptable in the eyes of God.

When we focus on this passage with a sense of social outrage, we miss the point of what Peter is trying to say. He was not speaking into the culture at large, but into the context of the local body of believers. He was addressing Christians living within a non-Christian society where moral, social, and civic codes would be diametrically opposed to their new way of life as followers of Christ. Remember, Peter has addressed them as chosen by God. They are a holy nation. God has called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. That does not mean God has changed any and all circumstances surrounding them. They are still living in a pagan culture. They are still living under the auspices of a pagan government. Immoral institutions like slavery still exist. In fact, some of them are actually living as slaves in that system. Peter’s interest was not in overthrowing the government of his day, anymore than Jesus was out to overturn the rule of the Romans while He was alive. Peter is addressing Christians who find themselves living in a culture that hates and despises them, and he is calling them to be beacons of light in a dark world. Any change that was going to take place in the culture was going to come from Christians living as citizens of the Kingdom of God and emulating the character of Christ among those who were living in darkness.

So, Peter addresses those in the church who had come to faith in Christ while living as slaves. This is an important point that often gets overlooked. The New Testament church was a literal melting pot made up of people from all walks of life. There were the rich and poor, the influential and the seemingly unimportant, women and men, as well as slaves and freemen. Not only that, there were congregations where masters and their slaves attended the same worship services together. This was unheard of. It was antithetical to the culture of the day. But it reveals that the gospel was for anyone and everyone, regardless of their social or economic status. Peter talks to the slaves just as he would anyone else. He did not see them as second-class citizens. He fully understood their situation and spoke into it. He didn’t minimize it, but he also did not offer them the hope of freedom from the current condition as slaves. His concern was that they live our their new identity in Christ, right where they were. Paul addresses this in his letter to the believers in Corinth, including those who happened to be slaves.

21 Are you a slave? Don’t let that worry you—but if you get a chance to be free, take it. 22 And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, you are now free in the Lord. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ. 23 God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world. 24 Each of you, dear brothers and sisters, should remain as you were when God first called you. – 1 Corinthians 7:21-24 NLT

Paul uses that phrase, “remain as you were” repeatedly in his letter. If they were uncircumcised when they came to faith, they were to remain so. If you were married to an unbeliever when you came to know Christ, remain married to that person. Paul makes it clear: “Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you. This is my rule for all the churches” (1 Corinthians 7:17 NLT). Their goal should not be to change the circumstances surrounding their life, but to live out their new life in Christ differently in the midst of those very same circumstances. We tend to look for changes in our circumstances, while Peter and Paul are demanding a change in heart, which will lead to a change in behavior – regardless of our circumstances.

And Peter makes his counsel to the believing slaves in his audience very specific and applicable to their situation.

19 God is pleased when, conscious of his will, you patiently endure unjust treatment. 20 Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. – 1 Peter 2:20-21 NLT

He knew their status as sons and daughters of God was not going to change the way their masters treated them. In fact, it might make things worse for them. They were going to face unjust treatment. After all, they were slaves. It came with their position as slaves. But now that they were believers, their reaction to that unjust treatment was to be different. They were to patiently endure. They were to suffer for doing good. And in doing so, they would have the pleasure of God. That needed to be their focus. They were not out to please their human masters, but God Himself. They had a new motivation and a new incentive for living. And Peter gives them Jesus as their example to follow. He reminds them, “He is your example, and you must follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21 NLT). Then, he provides them with a succinct, yet beautiful summary of Jesus’ life.

22 He never sinned,
    nor ever deceived anyone.
23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted,
    nor threaten revenge when he suffered.
He left his case in the hands of God,
    who always judges fairly.
24 He personally carried our sins
    in his body on the cross
so that we can be dead to sin
    and live for what is right.
By his wounds
    you are healed.
25 Once you were like sheep
    who wandered away.
But now you have turned to your Shepherd,
    the Guardian of your souls. – 1 Peter 2:22-25 NLT

That is the model we are to follow, whether slave or free. His example is the one we are to emulate, regardless of our circumstances. Jesus was not born into wealth and comfort, but obscurity and relative poverty. He wasn’t born in a palace, but a cattle stall. He wasn’t highly esteemed, but regarded as a lowly carpenter from an obscure backwater town called Nazareth. When Phillip told Nathanael that he had met Jesus of Nazareth, Nathanael sarcastically responded, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46 NLT). God didn’t send His Son into the best of circumstances. He sent Him into the midst of darkness and sin. He sent Him into a culture mired in moral decadence and spiritual darkness. But Jesus was the light and He lived as a shining example of godly obedience and submission to the will of His Father in the midst of all the moral mess of His day. He didn’t attempt to change the government or fix all the social ills of His day. Jesus described His ministry as bringing Good News to the poor, proclaiming that captives will be released, that the blind will see, and that the oppressed will be set free (Luke 4:18). For Jesus, like Peter and Paul, the problem wasn’t a social one, it was spiritual. Human slavery wasn’t the real issue, slavery to sin was. And nothing is going to truly change in our world until the hearts of men and women are transformed by the message of salvation made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Like Christ, we are going to suffer in this life. But other question is whether we will face our suffering like Christ.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Submit Like It.

13 Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. – 1 Peter 2:9-12 ESV

Peter continues to provide specific details regarding the behavior that should characterize those who have been chosen by God and who have been made a part of His family. They are a chosen people, a holy nation, a royal priesthood and a people for God’s own possession and, as such, they should “show others the goodness of God” (1 Peter 2:9 NLT). And now, Peter applies his calls for changed behavior to the relationship between the believer and the state. In these verses, Peter reflects the same thoughts as expressed by Paul in his letter to the believers in Rome.

1 Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. 2 So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. 3 For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. 4 The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. 5 So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.

6 Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority. – Romans 13:1-7 NLT

Both of these men are calling for a dramatically different outlook when it comes to the Christian and his ongoing relationship with the civil government. Peter says, “Be subject…to every human institution.” Paul says, “submit to governing authorities.” And they are both referring to the rulers and leaders who make up the local government. Peter says that it is to be done “for the Lord’s sake.” Paul says to not do so is to rebel against God, since He is the one who has instituted all those in authority. This has nothing to do with whether we think they deserve our submission. Neither Peter or Paul qualifies their statements with words like, “as long as they are Christians.” That doesn’t seem to matter. Peter simply says that these man (or women) serve under the sovereign will of God. Paul says they have been placed in their positions by God. And we must realize that this kind of talk was as difficult to accept then as it is now. We have a hard time seeing corrupt governments and despotic dictatorships serving at the whim and according to the will of God. But both men want us to know that government was God’s idea. He instituted it and has charged it with keeping the law and maintaining order among all men, not just Christians. And if you think about it, that is an extremely difficult proposition, because of the nature of the fall and the ever-present reality of sin.

Ultimately, human governments exist “to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right” (1 Peter 2:15 NLT). That is their God-given mandate. Paul makes it perfectly clear that governments exist to punish those who do wrong. If you are doing what is right, you have nothing to fear.

For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. – Romans 13:3 NLT

Now, while we know that this is not always the case, it is the normal and natural role that civic government is to play in the lives of men. There will always be outliers and anomalies. There will be dictators and oppressive regimes that use their power and authority unethically and even illegally. There will be world leaders who abuse their people and their authority, punishing even those who do right. But in the normal scheme of things, government exists to provide order and protection, to enforce the laws, and to create an environment that fosters stability and encourages productive lifestyles among its people.

But neither Peter or Paul takes time to deal with the renegade rulers. They are more interested in dealing with the behavior of believers. What should our relationships with these authorities look like? Quite simply: Be subject, do good, and live as people who are free. Peter was a big fan of our new-found freedoms in Christ, but like Paul, he knew that those freedoms could be misunderstood and abused. Just was we can live as if we are free from the law and assume that we are released to live however we want, we can easily assume that, since we are citizens of God’s Kingdom, we are free from having to obey earthly kings and authorities. But that would be a wrong and dangerous assumption.  Which is why Peter summarizes his thoughts with the short, but far-from-simplistic admonition: “Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king” (1 Peter 2:17 NLT). Notice the juxtapositions in this statement. We are to love the family of God, while we show respect to everyone outside the family of God. We are to show fear, awe and reverence to God, while we show respect to the king. Our status as children of God does not remove our responsibilities to the earthly authorities that God has established. We are are continue to pay our taxes. We are to support and pray for our governmental leaders. Paul put it this way:

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. – 1 Timothy 2:1-4 NLT

Peter wasn’t stupid. He wasn’t out of touch with reality. He knew that there were plenty of corrupt governments and officials. He knew that the believers to whom he wrote were going to find themselves persecuted for their faith by the very governments to whom he was calling these people to submit. Jesus Himself lived and ministered during the period of Roman rule in Israel, when the government hamstrung the people of God with exorbitant taxes and oppressive rules. And yet, it was Jesus who said, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's” (Matthew 28:22 NLT). Jesus did not foster civic unrest or try to drum up rebellion against the Roman rulers. In fact, He allowed them to crucify Him on a cross, their preferred method of capital punishment. Jesus didn’t raise an army in response. He didn’t even raise His voice. He submitted, because He knew that, ultimately, He was submitting to the will of His Father.

And that is the attitude that we are to have. “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people” (1 Peter 2:15 ESV). When we live godly lives, even when surrounded by ungodly governments and oppressive circumstances, we are placing our faith in God, and that brings Him glory. We are trusting God and revealing to the lost world around us, that we truly believe nothing can come against us or harm us that God has not allowed. Which is why Paul told the believers in Rome:

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39 NLT

So, if we believe what Paul has to say, we must begin to submit like it. Because it reveals that we trust in God’s unfading, never-failing love and rest in the knowledge that when we submit to governments, we are really submitting to the sovereign will of God for our lives. He is in control, so what do we have to fear?

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Behave Like It.

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

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep 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. – 1 Peter 2:9-12 ESV

It seems that the recipients of Peter’s letter were suffering from some kind of an identity crisis. It’s a common problem among Christians. Like us, they enjoyed status as new creations, adopted sons and daughters of God, recipients of His grace, and the beneficiaries of Christ’s life-transforming atoning work, and the possessors of God’s all-powerful Spirit. And yet, they were living in a culture that questioned everything about them. They were constantly bombarded with doubts and accusations, sent their way by an overly eager enemy who the Bible refers to as: “the accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10). They were surrounded by old friends, relatives and fellow citizens who didn’t share their belief in Jesus or their newfound membership in God’s spiritual family. These people proved to be constant sources of temptation and, in some cases, persecution. And in the midst of all the pressures of life, it was  easy for them to forget who they were. They could fall back into their old ways of living and the comfortable habits that used to make up their former lives. But Peter isn’t about to let that happen and has already told them “don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires” (1 Peter 1:14 NLT). He has reminded them that “God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors” (1 Peter 1:18 NLT). And now, Peter drives home his point. They are not to be like those who reject the Word of God and His gracious offer of salvation made possible through His Son. They are different, and Peter spells out just how different they really are:

“…you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession…” – 1 Peter 2:9 NLT

Notice that Peter says, “you are.” That is significant, because he doesn’t say, “you must become.” From God’s perspective, they already are a chosen people. They already have the title of priests. They currently are members of a holy nation, and enjoy a present-day status as God’s own possession. These things are not to be aspirational, but actual and indisputable. Peter has just described who they are – their actual identity in Christ. And that identity should change the way they live.

I love the quote from C.S. Lewis that so aptly describes the state of far too many of us as Christians.

“It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he can’t imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Peter wasn’t willing to let them miss out on the unbelievable reality of who they were in Christ. He knew if they could grasp their new identity in Christ, it would make a powerful impact on everything about them, including their behavior. He was fully convinced that their lack of godly behavior was the result of their lack of confidence in their godly status as children of God. It they could get their heads around who there were, they would be more willing to “show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9 NLT).

The problem was that they were like a blind man who had miraculously had his sight restored, but who refused to open their his. For all intents and purposes, he thought he was still blind. Nothing had changed. His world was still dark. It reminds me of one of the many miracles Jesus performed. A blind man was brought by his friends to Jesus and they asked Jesus to heal him. The text tells us, “Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, ‘Can you see anything now?’” (Mark 8:23 NLT). Now, this is where the story gets interesting. In response to Jesus’ question, the man answers, “Yes, I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around” (Mark 8:24 NLT). As far as I know, this is the only partial healing Jesus ever performed. Was He surprised at the man’s answer? I don’t think so. Did Jesus not have enough power to heal the man the first time? I doubt it. But for some reason, He chose to give the man incomplete or impartial sight. The man could see, but not clearly  or perfectly. Everything was a blur. He had sight, but it was faulty at best. Yes, it was better than blindness, but it was not what Jesus had in mind. So, Jesus touched his eyes again “and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly” (Mark 8:25 NLT).

That is what God has done for us. He has not partially saved us. He has not half-way adopted us. We are, completely, fully, and at-this-very-moment, His chosen people, His royal priests, His holy nation and His very own possession. But the problem is that we tend to act as if we’re only partially there. So, rather than enjoying our holiday at the sea, we content ourselves with making mud pies in the slum. We are far too easily pleased.

And so, Peter, quoting from the Old Testament prophet, Hosea, reminds them once again of the miraculous transformation that has taken place in their lives that has transformed their identity and should show up in their behavior.

“Once you had no identity as a people;
    now you are God’s people.
Once you received no mercy;
    now you have received God’s mercy.” – 1 Peter 2:10 NLT

There it is again: Once you had no…now you are. Once you receive no…now you have. They have a new identity. They have received God’s mercy. In full. And because that is the case, Peter warns them to “keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls” (1 Peter 2:11 NLT). They had no business playing in the slums. They needed to open their eyes to the reality of their new identity in Christ. They were royal priests and, as such, they were to keep themselves pure, so they could do their jobs well. They were a holy nation, set apart by God and bought with the high price of His own Son’s life. So, they were to live in keeping with the will of the one who purchased their freedom from slavery to sin.

Peter warns them to watch the way they live among their unbelieving neighbors. They were to monitor their behavior, knowing that they might be misunderstood or even falsely accused. But if they behaved in keeping with who they were in Christ, their lost friends and neighbors might see their honorable behavior and, one day, “give honor to God when he judges the world” (1 Peter 2:12 NLT). Our behavior matters. It has an impact on those around us. We never know how the lost may respond to what we do. They may ridicule and reject us. They may persecute us. But they may also be persuaded to believe because of the way we behave. I love the way Paul puts it in his letter to the Ephesian believers.

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. – Ephesians 5:1-2 NLT

Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible. – Ephesians 5:10-14 NLT

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. – Ephesians 5:15-17 NLT

Imitate God. Do what pleases Him. Be careful how you live. Understand what God would have you do. In other words, live like who you are, in keeping with your new identity. You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession – behave like it.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Build Like It.

4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you 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. 6 For 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.”

7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone,”

8 and

“A stone of stumbling,
    and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.  – 1 Peter 2:4-8 ESV

Peter, just like every other apostle, lived with an expectation of spiritual growth. Stagnancy and the status quo were not acceptable options for a follower of Christ. So, he reminds his readers that they are being built upon the solid foundation of Jesus Christ. He is the chief cornerstone, the key stone upon which the rest of the structure will rest. And Peter is not just emphasizing individual growth, he wants to drive home the idea of community and the corporate nature of our mutual transformation into Christ-likeness. He begins by quoting a passage from the Old Testament book of Isaiah.

"Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem, a firm and tested stone. It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken.” – Isaiah 28:16 NLT

These are the words of God Himself, as He speaks of the future coming of His Son, the Messiah, who would become that precious cornerstone, a solid unshakeable source of strength and assurance. But Jesus would later speak of Himself as the cornerstone, but as one whom the people of Israel would reject.

17 Jesus looked at them and said, “Then what does this Scripture mean?

‘The stone that the builders rejected
    has now become the cornerstone.’

18 Everyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone it falls on.” – Luke 20:17-18 NLT

Jesus was quoting from Psalm 118, and Peter will pick up those very same words in this portion of his letter.

“The stone that the builders rejected
    has now become the cornerstone.” – Psalm 118:22 NLT

By the time Peter had written his letter, Jesus had been rejected by the Jews, crucified for claiming to be the Son of God, placed in a borrowed tomb, and then raised to new life by the power of the Holy Spirit. Peter referenced this very fact in the opening portion of his letter.

Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. – 1 Peter 1:21 NLT

Jesus was rejected, but He become the very foundation of our faith. It is upon His death, burial and resurrection that our spiritual formation is founded. It is on this incredible reality that the hope of the church rests. Peter drives home an eye-opening, confidence inducing point when he writes, “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious” (1 Peter 2:4 ESV). Jesus had been rejected by men, but He had been chosen by God for His role in the salvation of mankind. He was precious to God. His rejection by men did not diminish His value or worth. In fact, it had all been part of God’s grand plan. And Peter would have us realize that, we too, have been chosen by God (1 Peter 1:1). We too, are precious. And while we may find ourselves rejected by this world, it is not a sign of our value or worth before God. And we are not alone. We are being added alongside other believers, carefully crafted and placed by God in order to form “a spiritual house.” He describes us as “living stones.” We’re not lifeless and static. We’re not bricks in a wall that get placed there by the Master Builder and become nothing more than energy-lacking, non-contributing parts of a whole. Like Christ Himself, we are alive and active. Together with other believers, we form the very temple of God. And not only that, we become members of the holy priesthood that serves within that temple. As such, we “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5 ESV). The apostle Paul conveys this same idea in his letter to the church in Rome.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice--the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. – Romans 12:1 NLT

Notice Paul’s emphasis on the plural:

“Your bodies…”

“…let them be a living and holy sacrifice…”

It is together that we form God’s temple. It is together that we bring glory and honor to God. It is together that we offer a living and holy sacrifice – ourselves – living and loving together as one, built upon the foundation of our faith in Jesus Christ.

Over in the book of Matthew, there is a conversation recorded between Jesus and His disciples. He asked them who the people believed Him to be. The disciples gave their best guess, then Jesus asked them, “who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15 NLT). Peter, the author of this letter, happened to be the first to speak up and said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16 NLT). And Jesus gave an interesting response:

17 Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. 18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” – Matthew 16:17-18 NLT

Jesus says He is going to build His church, the temple of God, on “this rock.” What was he talking about? Peter? No, Peter’s confession of Jesus being the Messiah, the Son of the living God. It is this testimony that links us with every other Christ-follower. And Jesus promises to build the church, the community of faith made up of sons and daughters of God, upon this statement of belief in Himself as the Son of God and the Savior of the world.

But Peter makes it clear that not everyone has believed in Jesus. There are many who have refused to acknowledge His Sonship and status as the Savior of mankind. And Peter sadly states: “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall” (1 Peter 2:8 NLT). Paul put it this way to the Corinthian believers:

23 So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it's all nonsense. 24 But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:23-24 NLT

Some stumble over Christ. Others, like us, have placed our faith in Him and have been made a permanent part of a spiritual house, dedicated to God and destined to bring Him glory. There will always be those who reject the message concerning Jesus. They will see it as foolishness. It will come across as offensive and off-putting. They will refuse to accept Jesus as who He is and they will stumble over the very one who could have saved them. Rather than Jesus becoming the foundation upon which their lives are built, He becomes a rock in the path of life over which they stumble and fall. In His great Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke a those who refuse to build their foundation on the solid rock of Jesus Christ.

26 “But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” – Matthew 7:26-27 NLT

No firm foundation. No solid ground. No hope in the storms of life. But as believers in Jesus Christ we are to build on our relationship with Him. We placed our faith in Him, and we are to continue to do so all throughout our lives on this planet. If we truly believe He is our Savior and the source of all our strength and hope for the future, we should build like it. We should act like it. But not alone. This is a team sport. We are in this together with every other Christ-follower, forming a Christ-supported, Spirit-empowered, God-glorifying temple against which the gates of hell will not prevail.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Dress Like It.

1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. – 1 Peter 2:1-3 ESV

Peter has just told his readers to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22 ESV). He has reminded them that they have been born again as a result of hearing the good news regarding salvation through Jesus Christ. They have been ransomed from the empty way of life they had inherited from their ancestors “with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:19 ESV). They were to “live as God’s obedient children” and, as he put it, “Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires” (1 Peter 1:14 NLT). Now, he gets specific, and provides them with a list of things they were to “put away.”

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.  – 1 Peter 2:2 ESV

As a result of their new life in Christ, made possible by God Himself, they were to take concrete steps to live as who they now were. Their outward behavior was to match the inward reality of their born-again status. Peter lists five different characteristics or evidences of their old way of living that they were to cast off or set aside. There is the imagery of forcefully removing something and getting rid of it. These things are no longer to be acceptable to the child of God. They are like worn and filthy garments that are ill-suited to our newfound status as citizens of heaven. We have been born again by imperishable seed, the Word of God, and are new creations. And the five things Peter instructs us to get rid of are inappropriate and unacceptable for those who have been given new life by God.

The first word on Peter’s list is “malice”, which comes from the Greek word, kakos, which means “evil.” But this word is more specific in nature, referring to an evil that desires to injure another. These are relational words. They reflect the opposite of the “sincere brotherly love” Peter talked about in the first chapter of his letter. Malice is an attitude, as is guile, which refers to intentional deceit. An individual characterized by guile is someone who knowingly attempts to deceive someone, using cleverly crafted ploys to take advantage of another. Malice and guile never have the well-being of another person in mind. They are inherently selfish and self-serving. And they can be accompanied by the next three characteristics: Hypocrisy, envy and slander. Someone who attempts to deceive another individual will inevitably display hypocrisy, displaying a false front in an attempt to come across as trustworthy and caring. They will live a lie. Their goal is to deceive, so they will go out of their way to disguise their true intentions. The apostle Paul described this kind of attitude in his letter to the church in Corinth.

13 These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve. – 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 NLT

Malice and guile are not acceptable attire for the believer. We are to get rid of them, at all costs. Hypocrisy is like wearing a disguise to fool others into believing you are something other than what you truly are. It is intended to deceive. It is a cover-up. And the next word in Peter’s list, “jealousy”, deals with an envy of others that is accompanied with a desire to damage or destroy them. In other words, it is not a harmless desire for what someone else may have. It is accompanied by a deep-seated ill-will that wishes the other harm. And this can lead to and be accompanied by slander. The Greek word Peter uses for “slander” is katalalia and it literally means “evil speaking.” Remember, the Greek word for “malice” is kakia. And they both come from the Greek word for “evil”: kakos. Malice is an attitude, but slander is that attitude put into action. It is our evil thoughts about another put into words that others can hear, and the intent is to do harm. It is the art of rumor-spreading, with the intent of damaging someone else’s reputation.

Peter says we are to put away all these things. There is a continual action conveyed in his words. This will be an ongoing, lifelong process and it must be accompanied by yet another action: “Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation” (1 Peter 2:2 NLT). Peter chooses an interesting Greek word to convey his thoughts: epipotheō. This word literally means “to lust for.” It is a craving, a deep-seated desire. And if you thing about it, the five negative characteristics that we are to put away are each driven by a desire for something. They are selfish. They are me-centered. They lust for recognition and self-satisfaction. They long for what we think we deserve and what we believe others have. But Peter tells us to lust after the “pure spiritual milk.” The Greek word for “spiritual” is logikos and Peter is using it as a play on words that reflects back on what he wrote earlier in his letter.

“you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” – 1 Peter 2:23 ESV

We are to long for the abiding word of God, the gospel regarding Jesus Christ. That is to be our greatest desire. It is what we need to “grow up into salvation.” All the other things Peter has just listed are detrimental to spiritual growth. They are damaging, stunting our growth and delaying our transformation into the likeness of Christ. And since Christ-likeness should be our desire, we should crave the one thing that makes it possible: The Word of God. Knowledge of the Scripture is essential to our spiritual growth. Like milk for a baby, it is a non-negotiable necessity for spiritual transformation. And notice that Peter encourages us to grow up in our salvation. Salvation is not a one-time event. It is a life-long process that begins with placing our faith in Christ, but continues throughout our lives as we continue to abide in Him, growing in our knowledge of Him. Salvation includes our initial justification, our ongoing sanctification, and our ultimate glorification. All are necessary. And because we have gotten a taste of God’s goodness, as revealed in His love for us, demonstrated in His Son’s death for us, we should crave more and more of that goodness. We should desire more of the Word, both the living and the written Word.

And when we crave the pure spiritual milk of God’s Word, we will find it hard to live with malice, deceit, hypocrisy,envy and slander. The Word of God convicts us of those things. The Holy Spirit of God provides us with the power to say no to those things. We can live free from those characteristics that once marked our old nature. But we must want to put them away. We must develop a deep-seated aversion to their presence in our lives. They don’t belong. They are inappropriate attire for a child of the King. We are to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ, not the rags of this world. The apostle John was given a vision of a day in the distant future when God will clothe His people with white, sin-free, unstained garments:

4 “Yet there are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine. – Revelation 3:4-5 NLT

We are to be like the church in Sardis, remaining unstained by the malice, guile, hypocrisy, envy and slander that marks this world. Our motivation is to be our future reward, when we will walk with God in white, stainless garments, an image of our sinless perfection and righteousness. We have to cast off and put on. We have to put away and pursue. We have to get rid of those things that hinder our pursuit of holiness and long for the one thing that can make it possible: the Word of God.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Love Like It.

22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for

“All flesh is like grass
    and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
    and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

And this word is the good news that was preached to you. – 1 Peter 1:22-25 ESV

For Peter, the love of God should be reciprocal and a motive to express the same degree of love to others. In other words, we should love God and love others. Which is exactly what Jesus said when He had been asked what the greatest commandment was.

37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22L37-40 ESV

God has loved us by ransoming us from sin “with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:19 ESV). Paul reminds us, “he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32 NLT) and “showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8 NLT). And Peter points out that it is because God sent His Son, manifesting or revealing Himself in human flesh, then dying in the place of sinful men, that we are able to believe in God. It is through Jesus that we have access to God. Peter puts it this way: “who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Ultimately, Jesus points us to God. It was God who sent Him. It was God who raised Him. So, our faith and hope should be in God. 

And by believing the truth about who Jesus was and what He came to do, and obediently accepting His offer of salvation, we have been purified. On the cross, Christ took our sins upon Himself and transferred His righteousness to us. Not only that, He placed the Spirit of God within us. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, indwells each and every believer – all those whom God has chosen. He is our advocate, comforter, helper, intercessor and source of power required for living the Christian life. That is why Peter encourages us to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22 ESV). We have been given the capacity to love like we never could have done before. Prior to our salvation, our lives were marked by selfishness and self-centeredness. That is not to say that we never loved anyone else. But our love was always tainted by sin and an innate desire to get something in return. Human love, apart from Christ, is always a what’s-in-it-for-me kind of love. It is based on a scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours kind of mentality. But Christ-like love is selfless and anything but self-serving. Jesus died for those who hated Him. He loved by giving His life and allowing Himself to be crucified by those for whom He came to provide salvation. And we are to emulate that kind of love, especially among those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

19 We love each other because he loved us first.

20 If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21 And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers. – 1 John 4:19-21 NLT

Even Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 ESV). And Peter reminds us that we have been born again. We are new creations. We have been given new spiritual life. And that new spiritual life is eternal in nature, not temporal. It has attached to it an eternal inheritance. Our relationship with God the Father will last forever. So will our relationships with our fellow believers in Christ. Quoting from the book of Isaiah, Peter contrasts the transitory nature of our old nature with that of our new nature in Christ.

24 As the Scriptures say,

“People are like grass;
    their beauty is like a flower in the field.
The grass withers and the flower fades.
25 But the word of the Lord remains forever.” – 1 Peter 1:24-25 NLT

God has loved us with an everlasting, never-ending love. He has promised us an eternal inheritance. And we will share that inheritance with those who have also been chosen by God. We are now part of a family and we are to love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Each of us has received the good news regarding new life in Christ. That news changed everything about us: Our natures, our hearts, our destinies, our hope for the future, our source of help for the present, and our ability to love those whom God has chosen and whom He has placed in our lives. What we must come to grips with is the reality that our adoption into God’s family is permanent. It will last forever. And all those with whom we share the remarkable reality of adoption by God will be our brothers and sisters for eternity. That’s why we must begin learning to love them now.

Over in his letter to the Galatians, Paul provides a stark list of the works or deeds that come out of a life lived according to the flesh or our old sinful nature.

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. – Galatians 5:19-21 NLT

Notice how many of them are relational in nature. Sexual immorality is by definition, relational. It involves another individual. Lust is the same way. Hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, and envy – they’re all relational in nature. When we forget what Christ has done for us and that what He did was God’s idea, we allow our old nature to raise its ugly head. It becomes all about us again. Our needs, wants, and desires take precedence over our love for others. And this is especially true when we find ourselves suffering or struggling with trials of any kind. Difficulties drive us inward in our thinking. We become obsessed with ourselves. We become myopic in our outlook, thinking that we are alone and demanding that everyone minister to us. But Peter recommends selflessness, even in the face of life’s trials and tribulations. We have been born again to eternal life. The difficulties of this life will not last, but our love for one another should. Love is eternal, because it is a quality of our eternal God. In fact, it is more than a character trait of God, it is the essence of His being. God is love. It’s not something He does. It is who He is. And as His children, the same thing should be true of us. We are to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22 ESV). Or as the apostle John puts it:

7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. – 1 John 4:7-8 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Live Like It.

17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.  – 1 Peter 1:17-21 ESV

Peter has appealed to his readers to see themselves as holy, because God has chosen them for salvation. They are His children and heirs of His Kingdom, so they should act and behave accordingly. In making his appeal to holy behavior, Peter is referencing an Old Testament passage found in the book of Leviticus.

44 For I am the Lord your God. You must consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. So do not defile yourselves with any of these small animals that scurry along the ground. 45 For I, the Lord, am the one who brought you up from the land of Egypt, that I might be your God. Therefore, you must be holy because I am holy. – Leviticus 11:44-34 NLT

This had been a recurring theme in Leviticus.

2 “Give the following instructions to the entire community of Israel. You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. – Leviticus 19:2 NLT

7 So set yourselves apart to be holy, for I am the Lord your God. 8 Keep all my decrees by putting them into practice, for I am the Lord who makes you holy. – Leviticus 20:7-8 NLT

God’s gracious favor on them should produce godly behavior in them. So, Peter warns them that, if they are able to call on God as their Father, it is because He has chosen them to be His own. And that same loving Father will examine their behavior, impartially and without any signs of favoritism, “according to each one’s deeds” (1 Peter 1:17 ESV). There is a common misconception among believers that, because we are God’s children, we are free from judgment. We look at verses like Roman 8:1 and make some false assumptions.

1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. – Romans 8:1 NLT

But notice that it says, “there is no condemnation”, not “there is no judgment.” As believers in Jesus Christ, and sons of daughters of God, we no longer face the condemnation associated with our former sins. We face no death penalty because of our rebellions against God. But that does not mean we are free to live as we want and to sin with abandon because we are forgiven. The apostle Paul kicked that misconception to the curb in a powerful, no-holds-barred way:

1 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? – Romans 6:1-2 NLT

We may be free from condemnation, but we are not free to live as we wish. So, when Peter says that God is impartial, it is a reminder that He does not treat us any differently when it comes to judgment of our behavior. He is impartial. Now, it is true that, as believers, our sins have been paid for, in full, by Jesus Christ. We stand before God as righteous because of the imputed righteousness of Christ. God sees us as holy because His Son paid our sin debt with His own life. John will speak of this in the first of his three letters.

2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. – 1 John 2:2-3 ESV

God has been satisfied. Our debt has been paid. But that does not mean we are no longer required to live in accordance with the laws and commands of God. Look at what John says. The proof of our position as God’s children is our obedience to His commands. John drives that point home in a powerful way.

4 If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. 5 But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. 6 Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. – 1 John 2:4-6 NLT

Back to Peter’s letter. He warns his readers to “conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile” (1 Peter 1:17 ESV). Remember, he has already told them that they are exiles, living here on earth as they wait for their future inheritance. In the very next chapter, Peter will refer to his readers as “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11). He will warn them “to abstain from the passions of the flesh.” He will tell them to “get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech” (1 Peter 2:1 NLT). Peter will remind them that, while others in their community may reject Christ as Savior, they have not.

9 But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. – 1 Peter 2:10 NLT

They are chosen. They are set apart. They have been deemed by God to be His holy nation, His possession and kingdom of priests. And it should show up in their behavior. Their salvation was not just a designation, a stamp of godly authenticity, but it was to be a way of life. Back in verse 15 of chapter 1, Peter told them that because God is holy, they were to be holy in all their conduct.

15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. – 1 Peter 1:15 NLT

And Peter reminds them that God paid a high price so that they might be set free from their former lives of sin.

18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. – 1 Peter 1:18-19 NLT

Jesus spilled His blood so that they might be purified from their sins and set free from future enslavement to sin. He died so that they might live new lives, no longer captive to their former lusts. That’s why Peter had warned them:

Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. – 1 Peter 1:14 NLT

They knew better now. But Peter wanted to drive that knowledge deep into their hearts, so he refuses to take his foot off the gas. He keeps pressing home his point, in an attempt to get them to understand the gravity and greatness of what God has done. He tells them that this remarkable salvation was not a new idea or something God came up with at the last minute.

20 God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake. – 1 Peter 1:20 NLT

God had not been caught off guard by the fall of man. He had known it would happen, even before He had created mankind. The incarnation of Jesus, His coming to earth as a man, was not a knee-jerk reaction on God’s part, attempting to remedy man’s ongoing sinful state. The Ten Commandments were not a last-ditch effort on the part of God, to provide sinful men with some rules to follow, hoping they could get their spiritual act together and obey Him. God gave the Law in order to reveal to sinful men just how sinful they really were. The Law provided a black-and-white, no-questions-asked, not-to-be-argued-with description of the kind of life God required. And no one could live up to His holy standards. That is, until His Son came to earth and lived a sinless life, fully obedient to every command God had ever given. And His sinlessness made Him the perfect, sinless sacrifice and the only acceptable means of atoning for the sins of mankind. Remember what John said in his letter?

2 He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. – 1 John 2:2 NLT

That was God’s plan, from before the foundations of the world. Christ was revealed to mankind in order that men might be made right with God. And Peter reminds his readers “Through Christ you have come to trust in God” (1 Peter 1:21 NLT). It was their faith in Jesus that had made their relationship with God possible. Had God not sent His Son, they would still be living in their sins, with no hope of ever reconciling themselves to God. But, Peter points out, “you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory” (1 Peter 1:21 NLT). And that faith and hope should show up in a desire to live differently. It should reveal itself in godly behavior, in lives of holiness and set-apartness, and in a desire to obey God out of gratitude and love for God.

For Peter, the bottom line was that, if God had been powerful enough to raise Jesus back to life after three days in the tomb, could He not also raise us up to new life, right here, right now? Could He not give us the capacity to act and think differently, even while we live as sojourners and strangers in this land? The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” He could. He has. And we should.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Therefore…

13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:13-16 ESV

Based on all that God has done for them, Peter now gives his readers some specific actions they are to take in response. God has elected them. He has caused them “to be born again to a living hope” (1 Peter 1:2 ESV). He has prepared for them “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Peter 1:4 NLT), that is being kept in heaven for them. On top of that, while they live on this earth, God is protecting them by His power, preserving them until the day of salvation, the final glorification of their bodies. Yes, in the meantime, they are having to endure various trials and troubles that come with life. They are experiencing the persecutions and difficulties that accompany living as a follower of Christ in a fallen world. But even those seemingly negative circumstances have positive consequences, because they test the genuineness of their faith, revealing the increasingly purified nature of that faith. The trials don't destroy them, they perfect and strengthen them.

So, with all that in mind, Peter starts the next section of this letter with the word, “therefore” – a term on transition. It is the Greek word, dio, which means “consequently” or “with all that in mind.” Everything Peter has said thus far was meant by why of preparation and to provide a foundation on which his readers were to build their lives. All that God has done for them was meant to be a point of comfort and confidence. That’s why Peter says, “prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control” (1 Peter 1:13 NLT). I love the way the King James Version translates this verse: “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind.” The words Peter used would have been very familiar to his audience and carried a strong visual image to which they would have easily related. To “gird up the loins” was something they would have done every day of their lives, a normal part of their daily activities, especially anything that required work or quick action. The long outer garments they wore, while comfortable and perfect for the intense heat common to that part of the world, could prove cumbersome when hard labor or quick movements were required. So, they would “gird up their loins” by pulling the lower part between their legs and tucking it into their girdle or belt. This would free their legs and provide them with more mobility and less restriction, making work easier to accomplish. In essence, Peter is telling them to roll up the sleeves of their mind. They were to get ready for action – mentally. They were to be sober-minded. The Greek word Peter uses is nēphō, which conveys the idea of not only remaining free from drunkenness, but maintaining a control over your mental capacities at all times. Paul provides a great explanation of this in his letter to the believers in Ephesus.

15 Therefore be very careful how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 For this reason do not be foolish, but be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit… – Ephesians 5:15-18 NLT

The obvious antonym to soberness is drunkenness. It is a lack of self-control and an altered state of consciousness that is negatively impacted by an outside influence. When one is drunk, they are out of control. They lack discernment and clear decision-making capabilities. Their reasoning capacities are clouded. Their ability to think clearly is diminished. So, Peter calls for an attitude of sober-mindedness, and he tells them exactly how to do it: “Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world” (1 Peter 1:13 NLT). In other words, they were to keep their minds focused on the incredible reality of their future glorification. Staying sober-minded in this life requires keeping our minds focused on the life to come. This has everything to do with identity. Peter wants them to know that they are citizens of a different kingdom. This world is not their home. Their lives on this planet are not intended to be the end-all, but the means to an end. They are to see themselves as on a journey to somewhere greater and better. That is why they are to “gird up the loins of their mind.” In this life, they have work to do. This is a time for sober-minded effort and focused attention on the job to be done. Remember what Peter has already said: God “has caused us to be born again to a living hope” (1 Peter 1:4 ESV). He has an inheritance prepared and preserved for us. This world is NOT our inheritance. This life is not the end of the road, it is a pathway to the life to come. So, we are not to get distracted by the cares of this life or detoured by the troubles that come with life. Peter tells us we “must live as God’s obedient children” (1 Peter 1:14 NLT). Our allegiance is to Him, not to this world. He is the one we should want to please, because He is the one who has chosen us and prepared an incredible future for us. And, as far as Peter sees it, the worst thing a child of God could do would be to “slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires” (1 Peter 1:14 NLT). And yet, that is a daily temptation for each and every one of us. When we take our eyes off the prize, we lose our focus. It becomes all about us again. Which is why Paul said, “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:13-14 NLT). In essence, Paul is saying that he girds up the loins of his mind so that he can run the face of life unhindered and freed up to get to the finish line unhampered by the cares of this life.

And Peter gives us a powerful admonition that can either leave us feeling debilitated or exhilarated.

15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:15-16 NLT

These verses have long intimated believers. They sound so impossible. How in the world am I to be holy like God is holy? What was Peter thinking? The answer is really quite simple. He was letting his readers know that, having been chosen by God, they were to live lives that reflected their new relationship with God. They were His children, so they should act like it. They had been “set apart” by God, which is what holiness means, so they lives should reflect a change in behavior. In fact, the word Peter uses is anastrophē, which means “manner of life.” Their set-apartness by God was to be all-encompassing. It was not just spiritual, but physical as well. It was to influence their entire life – from their actions to their attitudes. They belonged to God, so they were to act like it. But the key was keeping their focus on the reality of that calling. It has a future-orientation. It is our life-to-come that should influence our life in the here-and-now. As Paul said, he kept his mind focused on the finish line, not the particular part of the race course on which he currently found himself. Mile ten of a marathon is NOT the finish line. Being in first place at the halfway point of a race does not make you a winner. Standing at the halfway point of a race, admiring how far you have come, will only keep you from getting where it is you need to go. That’s why Paul said, “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize.”

We are on our way to somewhere else. We are passing through this place, with our eyes focused on our true destination. That is why, in the very next chapter of this letter, Peter will remind his readers of this very fact, using very stark terms to explain their new status in this world.

I warn you as "temporary residents and foreigners" to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. – 1 Peter 2:11 NLT

The danger we all face is the tendency to become comfortable in this world. When we find ourselves wanting to make this world our home, we stop running the race set before us. We start taking in the sights along the way, and forget that the finish line is the goal. We start making success in this life our destination. We end up making comfort our goal. We turn the various “mile markers” of life into the finish life of our life, convincing ourselves of having “arrived” and contenting ourselves with all that we have accomplished. But there is no prize for getting halfway to the goal. There are no true blessings that come with only partially running the race.

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. – 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Blessed Is God.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

 

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. – 1 Peter 1:3-12 ESV

Having introduced himself and having identified his audience, Peter now turns his attention to God. After all, his identity as an apostle of Jesus Christ and their position as the elect of God, are both directly attributable to God alone. Peter had not made himself an apostle. His readers had not made themselves children of God. He had been appointed and they had been adopted. Peter begins his address with a reminder of the sovereign role of God in the redemption of mankind. He is the one who is and is to be blessed. He is worthy of praise, glory and honor, because He is the instigator and provider of our salvation. And the apostle Paul would echo that sentiment.

4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) – Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT

4 But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. – Titus 3:4-5 NLT

It was God who provided His Son as the payment for man’s sin. It was God who showed mercy to sinful mankind, offering His sinless Son as a substitute, a stand-in, who took the sins of the world upon Himself, so that the righteous wrath of God mighty be satisfied. And Peter makes it clear that, had Jesus not died, and had not God raised Him from the dead, there would have been no salvation possible for mankind. In fact, in the Ephesians passage above, Paul makes it clear that God provided us with a means of salvation while we were dead. He brought us from spiritual death to spiritual life, all because He raised His crucified Son back to life through the power of the Spirit.

4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. – Romans 6:4 ESV

Peter wants his readers to understand that , beyond a shadow of a doubt, their salvation was the work of God. And it was accomplished through the obedience of the Son and the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ obediently followed God’s will and gave His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). He willingly gave His life, suffering a humiliating death on the cross in order that we might have new life (Philippians 2:8). It had been Peter who preached the following words to the crowds gathered during the Feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit had come upon the disciples.

32 “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. 33 Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today.” – Acts 2:32-33 NLT

And Peter reminds his readers that there is a huge benefit that comes as a result of all of this.

3 …we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. – 1 Peter 1:3-4 NLT

We are, as Paul says, “his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory” (Romans 8:17 NLT). All because God chose us. All because Christ died for us. All because the Spirit indwells us. But not only has God saved us, He is preserving and protecting us. Our salvation is completely in His hands. Which means, according to Peter, it is permanent and beyond even our ability to lose or screw up. Peter reminds us:

“God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.” – 1 Peter 1:5 NLT

Our salvation is not ours to lose. It is God’s and He finishes what He starts. Paul told the Philippian believers: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 2:6 NLT). He told the believers in Corinth the same thing. “He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns” (1 Corinthians 1:8 NLT).

This was an important detail to Peter and he went out of his way to make sure his audience grasped its full import. He knew they were facing significant issues in their lives. They were suffering for their faith. They were experiencing difficulties in the form of persecution and trials. So, he tells them, “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while” (1 Peter 1:6 NLT). There were going to be bumps along the way. They were going to face hard times. But they could rejoice in the fact that they were saved and that status was not up to them. It was God’s doing. The trials they faced were not signs of God’s disappointment with them or discipline of them. No, Peter reassures them, “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold” (1 Peter 1:7 NLT). The trials were not intended to raise doubts regarding their salvation. They were meant to purify and strengthen their faith as they watched God work in and through the trials. The difficulties of life would make them increasingly more dependent upon God. Paul had learned this invaluable lesson, which is why he was able to say:

“So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NLT

And Peter tells his audience that there was a day coming when they would be able to look back and see that their faith had remained strong, because they had endured to the end. But even that endurance would be the gift of God. It would not be self-manufactured or the result of their own inner-determination. By constantly trusting in God and His saving power, they would be able to endure anything and everything the world could throw at them. And one day, they would stand before God Himself, and receive “much praise and glory and honor.” Not because of what they had done, but because they had kept their faith firmly planted in what Christ had done for them.

Peter makes an interesting observation. He tells them, “You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy” (1 Peter 1:8 NLT).  That is the essence of faith. They had placed their hope and trust in someone they could not see. They were returning love to one they had never met. And they were learning to rejoice, even in the midst of trial and difficulties, because their faith was in someone who was not limited or restricted by time and space. His salvation has a future and a present aspect to it. He has saved us, is saving us and will one day, permanently and completely save us. He who began a good work in us will complete that work. He is not yet finished. But we can rejoice as if it is already done. What Paul told the Ephesians applies to the recipients of Peter’s letter, and to us as well.

6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. 7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. – Ephesians 2:6-7 NLT

Peter points out that the Old Testament prophets had written about this incredible gift from God, long before it ever happened. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, they had prophesied concerning the coming Messiah, not fully understanding the significance of their own words. They wanted to know more about the coming Messiah. They longed to know when He was coming and how He would appear. But that part remained a mystery to them. But, Peter points out, “now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen” (1 Peter 1:12 NLT). We have not only heard the Good News, we have been the beneficiaries of it. We have chosen by God, and been given new life in Christ. The suffering Peter’s audience might be experiencing was nothing compared to the glory they had received in Christ. And the apostle Paul fully concurred with Peter’s assessment of the situation.

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.
 – Romans 8:18 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Chosen By God.

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you. – 1 Peter 1:1-2 ESV

Peter was one of the original 12 disciples of Jesus. The name he uses in addressing the recipients of this letter was the one given to him by Jesus. When Jesus had called him as a disciple, he was known as Simon Bar-Jonah or Simon, son of John. But in Matthew 16:18, we have recorded the occasion when Jesus changed Simon’s name, using the Aramiac word for “rock” – Cephas. From that day forward, Simon would go by the Greek version of his new name: Peter, which also means, “rock.” From all we can read about Peter in the gospels, he was a somewhat impetuous, quick-spoken individual who was anything but shy. He was a natural-born leader who assumed a position of authority among the other disciples and who was always the first to speak up, usually without much in the way of forethought.

On the night that Jesus celebrated His last Passover meal with the disciples, they left the upper room and were on their way to the Mount of Olives, when Jesus warned them that they would all eventually desert Him. Peter quickly spoke up and claimed, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you” (Matthew 26:33 NLT). But Jesus responded to Peter with news that must have caught him totally by surprise. “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me” (Matthew 26:34 NLT). But Peter was insistent, he boldly countered, ““No! Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” (Matthew 26:35 NLT).

Peter was the one whom Jesus ignominiously called, “Satan.” It was earlier in their relationship and Jesus had just told the disciples that He was going to be going to Jerusalem where He would “suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead” (Matthew 16:21 NLT). And Peter, always prone to put his mouth in gear before his brain was engaged, spoke up, saying: “Heaven forbid, Lord. This will never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22 NLT). And that was when Jesus shockingly called Peter, “Satan.” His actual words were, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s” (Matthew 16:23 NLT).

This well-intentioned young man would eventually betray Jesus, just as the Lord had predicted. But he would also go on to become one of the most out-spoken and evangelistically minded leaders of the early church. His fiery sermons, preached under the influence of the Holy Spirit after Pentecost, would lead to the salvation of countless individuals. Peter was an impulsive, flesh-focused fisherman who was radically transformed by his relationship with Jesus and, when filled with the Spirit of God, became a force with which to be reckoned in those early days of the New Testament church. Peter became the missionary to the Jews, while Paul was commissioned by Jesus to minister to the Gentiles. Both had highly effective ministries.

Peter refers to himself as an “apostolos” – a Greek word that refers to “he that is sent.” Like the other disciples, Peter was a messenger of the gospel, the good news regarding Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. They were deliverers of the divine plan for man’s salvation. Jesus was the resurrection and the life. He was the Messiah, the Savior of the world, and it was the job of Peter and the rest of apostles to make that news known. Peter took his job seriously. And in this letter, he addresses “God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1 NLT). The Greek word Peter uses when referring to these individuals is parepidēmos and it can be translated “pilgrims” or “strangers.” He wanted his readers to see themselves as aliens, not residents. They needed to understand that, as followers of Jesus Christ, they had become citizens of a new Kingdom. This world was no longer their home. He refers to them as the diaspora or scattered ones. This was typically a term reserved for referring to Jews who had been dispersed and scattered from their homeland of Israel. But in this case, Peter is probably using it to include both Jewish and Gentile Christ-followers who find themselves scattered throughout the various provinces he mentions: Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. Peter’s letter was intended to be an encyclical, to be circulated throughout the various regions listed. It would have been delivered to each and every church located in this provinces, read out loud, and then delivered to the next closest congregation on the list. The recipients of this letter would have been relatively new converts to Christianity who found themselves living in difficult circumstances, surrounded by unbelievers who would have been hostile to their newfound religion.

Peter refers to his readers as “elect exiles.” The Greek word he uses is eklektos and it can mean “elect” or “chosen.” This will be an important theme throughout Peter’s letter. He wanted his readers to understand the incredible significance of their status as children of God. This had been God’s going. He tells them that they were chosen by God, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood” (1 Peter 1:2 ESV). Peter is not saying that God somehow looked into the future and saw those who would accept Christ as their Savior. No, Peter is saying that God chose them because He had already determined to do so, even before they were alive. God had pre-determined their status as His children. The apostle Paul supports this view.

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. – Romans 8:29-30 ESV

4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. – Ephesians 1:4-6 NLT

This was a game-changer. What Peter wanted the believers to whom he wrote to understand was that their status as sons and daughters of God had not been up to them. It had been the foreordained will of God Himself. He had chosen them, not the other way around. And that distinction would be important when it came to any suffering they may find themselves encountering along the way. Peter knew they would find themselves tempted to give up their faith when the going got tough. They would face difficulties in life that would lead them to think that walking away from God would make things easier. But Peter wanted them to know that their salvation had been God’s decision and they were His, whether they liked it or not. Their position as His children was permanent because it was based on Him, not them.

And Peter wanted them to know that part of God’s purpose behind His choosing of them was their ongoing sanctification or growth in godliness, made possible by the shed blood of Jesus and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. God had supplied them with all that they needed to increase in spiritual maturity and grow in Christ-likeness. And Peter asks God to fill them with more and more grace and peace. Even those two things were going to have to come from God.

Peter is preparing his audience to understand the radical significance of their God-ordained salvation. It had not been a matter of personal choice, although each of them had made a decision to follow Christ. This was a case of divine selection. And this viewpoint was important, because the believers to whom Peter wrote were suffering greatly because of their faith. If their “Christianity” had been their choice, it would be easy for them to “choose” to leave it behind, in an effort to make their lives easier. If choosing to become a Christian had resulted in suffering, then choosing to walk away from Christianity made sense. But Peter wants them to know their Christianity wasn’t up to them. It had been God’s choice. They belonged to Him. And any suffering they endured was part of His plan for their lives. Rather than give up, they needed to wake up to the reality that they were the recipients of God’s gracious, undeserved merit and favor. And they would need even more of His grace and peace in the days ahead.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson