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Living for God

In his first epistle, Peter discusses the universal sinfulness of man and how the cross of Christ resolves the problem of sin. Christ’s power to change the hearts of believers is the focus of the writer. Making one’s conversion effective and living for God involves the suffering of the flesh. The life that is expected of the believer after he gives himself to Christ demands no easy journey. The constant barrage by the enemy and the natural pull of sinful flesh necessitates that church members fortify their soul temples with the life-giving Spirit of Christ.

Peter transitions from marriage relationships (1 Peter 3:1–7) to church relationships (vv. 8–12). The ideal church is here presented. In describing the Christlike church (1 Peter 3:8–12), Peter uses the Greek word homophrones, which is translated “one mind” by the KJV and “harmonious” by the NASB. The core idea in the Greek is “to be like-minded.” “It describes an inner unity of attitude that makes division and mutiny within the body of Christ unthinkable.”[1] This does not mean that believers in the Christian church must think, believe, and behave precisely the same way. The central issue may not be the differences of opinions in the church but how these differences are handled. Believers must not live in conflict with each other but strive to maintain a common commitment to the truth that will generate an inner unity in motive and purpose and an external unity in behavior (Phil 1:27–28; Gal 3:28). A very good example of such unity is vividly expressed in First Corinthians 12:1–26 where the concept of unity in the church is illustrated by an allusion to the human body. All members have a reciprocal relation and submissiveness to the head. Each has its appropriate place and use (vv. 12–26), but all members of the body work together toward a common purpose. 

After calling believers to live in Christlike unity, Peter, in verses 10–12, quotes from the pen of David (Psalm 34:12–16) to explain how one can inherit a blessing. In these verses, Peter admonishes the believers to live in peace with each other. The Greek word peace means “agreement between people.” Special blessings are directed toward those who model this loving and humble behavior. First Peter 3:12 seems to define the specific blessings that one can experience by turning away from evil and striving to do good.

In the OT, the eyes and face of the Lord represent His care and watchfulness over His people (Prov 5:21; Zech 4:10) and judgment (Gen 19:13; Lam 4:16) respectively. His eyes signify “His all-seeing omniscience, whereas His face in this context represents the manifestation of His anger and displeasure (Ps 76:6–8).”[2] The wrath of God is against those who do evil.

Peter admonished the believers of his day and well as ours to live humbly and to respond to the persecutions and suffering in Christlike manner. For that reason, Ellen G. White cautions believers:

Crucify self; esteem others better than yourselves. Thus you will be brought into oneness with Christ. Before the heavenly universe, and before the church and the world, you will bear unmistakable evidence that you are God's sons and daughters. God will be glorified in the example that you set.[3]

Believers during Peter’s time lived in hostility and persecution under the Roman Empire. As a result, he gives five principles believers need to embrace to equip and defend themselves against the threats of an unbelieving, hostile world: “a passion for encouragement, goodness and unity” (v. 13); “a willingness to suffer” (vv. 14, 17); “a devotion to Christ” (v. 15a); “a readiness to defend the faith” (v. 15b); “a pure conscience” (v. 16); and “the triumph of Jesus’ suffering” (vv. 18—22). The author focuses on the suffering of Christ that serves as a model for the Christian suffering in this world. The Greek word used to refer to the suffering of Christ in 1 Peter 3:18 is hapax, which means “of perpetual validity, not requiring repetition.”[4] Likewise, believers should arm themselves with the same attitude toward suffering. The Christian should be willing to suffer because he or she has chosen to live a righteous life. It is thus better to do right and suffer than to commit evil and live a temporary life of ease.

Baptism fits well into this context of suffering. By experiencing baptism, the believer participates in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ. Baptism attests not only to our death to sin but also to our resurrection to a new life in Christ Jesus (cf. Rom 6:4, 5). White states:

Baptism is a most solemn renunciation of the world. Those who are baptized in the threefold name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, at the very entrance of their Christian life declare publicly that they have forsaken the service of Satan and have become members of the royal family, children of the heavenly King.[5]

Peter, after having talked about the suffering of Christ and His resurrection, describes the Christian, who after going through the ritual of baptism, experiences what Christ experienced.

Here, as elsewhere in the NT (Rom 1:29–31; Gal 5:19–21), Peter portrays the immoral and indecent actions practiced by members of Asia Minor. These immoral acts can be divided into three categories: (1) sexual sins, such as lust and indecency; (2) sins of intemperance, such as drunkenness; and (3) wrong religious practices, such as worshiping idols.

Scriptures suggest that servants of God must abstain from intoxicating drink and even from the appearance of any evil connected with it. Their drinking habits are a concern for “not indulging in much wine.”[6] Simon Tugwell highlights, “There are wines so weak that they cannot intoxicate. But the word of God is like a strong wine and it does intoxicate.”[7] By forsaking the former (weak wine) and clinging to the latter (Word of God), we choose to serve God and the community in a better way. The Word of God saturates and intoxicates, a fact that cannot be hidden. As it is written, “two things a man cannot hide: that he is drunk, and that he is in love.”[8] Accordingly, let us abstain from drinking wine and choose to be in love with Jesus. Above all, may the words of Paul to the Ephesians be an admonishing appeal to all to “ . . . be filled with the Spirit,” (Eph 5:18).

As believers who expect Christ’s soon return, there are things that need to take special priorities in the life of the Christian. First, there should be a purposeful prayer life or, as Peter calls it, a “spirit for the purpose of prayer” (1 Pet 4:7, NAS). Believers are encouraged to pray intelligently—focused and alertly. Every Christian should consider prayer seriously. Second, believers must have forgiving love. “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8, NAS). Peter directly quotes Proverbs 10:12. The meaning of the phrase in Proverbs and Peter is that love should covers the sins of others and does not sir up frictions. “Love shown in forgiving others will win forgiveness for yourselves: ‘Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.’”[9]

Regarding the phrase “Love covers a multitude of sin,” Luther says: “The covering up relates to man not to God. Nothing can cover thy sin before God except faith. But my love covers my neighbour’s sin, and just as God covers my sin if I believe, so ought I also to cover the sin of my neighbour.”[10] The kind of love that covers the multitude of sin is none other than agape love. Hence, “the evidence of agape love is action, not words. The extent of agape love is sacrifice. Thus, believers are to love each other ‘deeply.’ This word means ‘to be stretched.’” "True agape love is constantly being stretched to the limit by the demands made on it. This is precisely where agape love shines, because it is not exhausted when it becomes difficult or inconvenient.”[11] The Greek word translated fervent in verse 8  signifies “stretching or straining and pictures a person running with taut muscles, exerting maximum effort.”[12] Ancient Greek literature uses the ektenes to describe a horse stretching out and running at full speed. Therefore, mutual love should be the supreme concern of believers’ relationships. Such love is not sentimental but sacrificial and requires a stretching of believers’ every spiritual muscle, in spite of insult, injury, and misunderstanding from others.

It suffices to say that the most important thought that the Christian needs to take away from this lesson is that we cannot produce these behaviors by ourselves because in us “dwell nothing good” (cf. Rom 7:18). These can only spring forth from the “incorruptible seed” that we have been born from (1 Peter 1:23), the indwelling Spirit of Jesus. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing (John 15:5). Therefore, we must by prayer and assimilation of God’s Word through study abide in Jesus and rely on His power to generate the Christlike fruits that are discussed throughout Peter’s epistle.



[1]David Walls and Max Anders, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1999), 11:51.

[2]John MacArthur, 1 Peter (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2004), 194.

[3]Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church. (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1948), 9: 188.

[4]MacArthur, 1 Peter, 207.

[5]White. Testimonies for the Church. 9:91.

[6]Armin W. Schuetze, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, The People's Bible (Milwaukee, MI: Northwestern, 1991), 56.

[7]Simon Tugwell, Early Dominicans: Selected Writings (New Jersey, NJ: Paulist Press, 1982), 202.

[8]Jonathon Lazear, Meditations for Men Who Do Too Much (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1992), 12.

[9]The Pulpit Commentary: 1 Peter, ed. H. D. M. Spence-Jones (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, 2004), 173.

[10]John Peter Lange, Philip Schaff, G. F. C. Fronmller and J. Isidor Mombert, A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: 1 Peter (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2008), 77.

[11]Walls, Holman New Testament Commentary, 72.

[12]MacArthur, 1 Peter, 241.

 

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