1 PETER 3:13-16; 4:1-2
In reading Peter’s epistles, I am reminded of a casual remark made by a former fellow student and dedicated pastor. He shared that as he tried to study in sermon preparation, his mind would wander from member to member as he recalled the special events they faced. He admitted his burden for them usually overcame his need to study. He would get up from his desk and go to them. He was not a dynamic preacher, but he was one of the best pastors I have known. When he was stricken with a terminal disease, he was steadfast in his dying commitment. Opining that we preachers must sometimes be called on to show people how to die, he did.
Peter’s letter shows the same balance of thought. Teachings about theology are interspersed with practical applications. Our assigned texts reflect that balance. He refers to Psalm 34:15, “The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.” In the words of Proverbs 16:7, “When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
So, the Bible promotes Christian zeal (3:13-14). It makes two applications. First anyone’s life that is characterized by doing good usually is held in high regard in the community. This is essentially the message of the admonition to be a good citizen in 2:11-14. Second, Peter the realist knew that soon Christians would suffer for simply standing for Jesus, “for righteousness” sake (v. 14). His language brings us back to our Lord’s sermon on the mount (Matt. 5:10), “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Further, the gospel itself is a source of division in some homes as Jesus predicted: “They will be divided, father against son, son against father, mother against daughter, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law” (Lk. 12:53). We have witnessed some of those family tensions arising when, for example, a member marries a cultist or a Muslim. But when suffering for righteousness’ sake remember that our opposition can harm the body, but not the soul (Matt. 10:28).
Some Christians are fearful of witnessing because of the possibility of offending someone. As an aside, I think something unspoken is involved, mainly, how to draw the net. What will I do if the person says yes to the offer? Suppose you and the unsaved read Romans 10:9-10 and nothing happens. Go back to the Scripture that says if you confess and believe you are saved. God said it, and that settles it. We depend on the trustworthiness of God’s Word and not on our feelings. Remember the cardinal rule in witnessing. Don’t bruise the fruit. If the person says “No,” then leave the way open for someone else to share.
In sharing your faith, be prepared with a ready explanation (vv. 15-16). You do not have to be a trained theologian to describe the kind of person you were before Jesus came into your life and the difference He makes in the way you think and act. Let your changed life refute any snide remark about your character, or as the Bible says, “speak evil of you as evildoers.” They may “be ashamed that falsely accuse” you.
Finally, a ready faith shows itself as one does God’s will (v:1-2). The Bible points to Christ who set the example by suffering in the flesh. He showed His victory over the flesh. Peter was present in Gethsemane (Mt. 26:36) when Jesus prayed for the Father to remove the cup of suffering from Him (26:39). Peter commands us to arm ourselves with the same mind of Christ. The word used here for mind means to arm yourselves with the same resolve. As Hebrews 12:2 states, “Who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame.” That is, His death on the cross is the greatest act of love of all time, because He died for sinners, but He did not want to do it. Peter makes the application clear. We must put aside the flesh with its sins and give our all to Christ. There have been, and will be, courses of action that we would prefer not to take, but if going the difficult way is God’s will, then we will follow His will.
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