Raised to life. 3:13-17
In 2:11-3:12, Peter tackles the subject of living for Christ. In 3:8-12, he summarizes the principles of Christian living, supporting them by quoting Psalm 34:12-16. Then, in 3:13-22 he gets into the issue of unjustified suffering. The passage has two parts, 3:13-17, and 3:18-22. In our passage for study, Peter wants his readers to understand that, although they may act in a good and right way toward others, they may still suffer. Suffering for doing right is something we may all have to experience; such is within the plan of God for his people. So, when it occurs we must make sure our life is honouring to our Lord.
v13. The opening verse of this section serves as a rhetorical question, although its meaning is unclear. Peter is probably making the point that if we are fair in our dealings with others, honest in business, our word is our bond, ...., then the chances are we will live in peace with our neighbors and those with authority over us. Then again, there is the possibility that Peter is asking "who is there who can do us real evil?" Such evildoers may hurt the body, but not the soul.
v14. If we are persecuted, even though we are acting rightly, we are "blessed", that is, we are highly privileged before God. Suffering is promised, 2Tim.3:12, and "happy is the man" who suffers for righteousness' sake, Matt.5:10-12. So, we must not see suffering as God's neglect, but rather his favour. And when trouble comes our way, we must not fear; we must not be caught up in the panic of those who are devoid of faith. Our ultimate safety rests with God and so we have no need to fear.
v15a. So, instead of being overcome by fear, we must acknowledge as holy ("set apart" - adore, or worship), Christ as Lord, ie. worship him as God. We should do this in our hearts. Jesus is present with his gathered people and he is present in our inner selves. Where he is present, his people respond in adoration.
v15b. Peter sets out two practical ways we can enthrone Christ in our lives; first, speaking for Jesus. Peter probably has in mind a formal defence of the faith in a law court, but his words apply to any situation where a believer is called on to defend their faith. We must be ready, willing and able to speak for Jesus. Peter actually uses the word apologia, a word meaning "a formal reasoned defense" - a reasoned defence of the Christian faith. What's being asked of us is to know and understand the gospel and be willing and able to give a reasoned (logical) account for our reliance on Christ. When we do this, we must do it without arrogance or self-assertion.
v16. Second, behave well. Our witness to Christ will be compromised if our behavior is compromised. If we are good and honorable citizens, even when slandered, then those who malign and persecute us will be silenced and may even come themselves to recognize God's claim over their lives.
v17. In the end, there is value ("it is better"), certainly in the sight of God, when a person suffers unjustly, than suffering justly. A person who suffers justly gets what they deserve, but a person who suffers unjustly is able to honor Christ in the situation.
Serving Christ in difficult times
Jesus calls on us to release his indwelling Spirit within our lives so that, motivated by his compelling character of love, we might begin to realize the kingdom of God within our moment in eternity. Our life will therefore be marked by good and helpful deeds. So, the chances are that we will not have to face societal slander or persecution. But of course, we do live in an imperfect world. In serving Jesus we will end up laying aside much of the bounty of this wonderful creation. Some of our time, energy, money, talent, will be redirected from our own personal use to the kingdom. That's suffering enough, but then we also have to face the irrational hatred of a guilty and condemned humanity. Yet, if suffering comes our way because we walk hand in hand with Christ, we know that there will come a day when the blessings that are ours in Christ will far outweigh the present troubles. So, we need not be afraid of personal criticism and abuse, physical harm or material loss. These are the things that worry those who are of the world. Those bound to this age fear the loss of worldly status and security, but our security is in Jesus. Therefore, we need not be filled with fear, rather let us look to Jesus our Lord and King and rest on him for our security.
In the midst of troubled times Jesus asks us to communicate the gospel of the kingdom. One of the primary ways we do this is by explaining our expectations concerning the dawning kingdom, both for now and the future. That is, we explain the core of the gospel which concerns the "now", and "not yet" blessings of the kingdom. We should do this in a way that does not infringe the personal space of another individual; we are not told to impose ourselves and our message on others. In fact, we are told to explain the gospel when asked to do so. So, we speak of our faith gently and with respect toward those who hear. We do it rightly, even though our actions may be interpreted otherwise. We may well be slandered for acting in this way, but ultimately, those who slander our behavior will be put to shame before the Judge of the Universe.
So then, we may suffer for doing good, but then such suffering leads to glory. To suffer with that expectation far outshines suffering brought on because of evil behavior.
1. Identify the issue which was causing fear in this passage.
2. In v15-17 Peter makes a number of good points regarding witnessing. Discuss:
i) Any clues as to the content of the message;
ii) Method of presentation. (Methodology).
3. Why are we so afraid to give a "reason for the hope that" is in us? How do we overcome this fear?