“The Good Life” – 1 Peter 3:8-22

Sunday, March 31st, 2019

“The Good Life” – 1 Peter 3:8-22

Often what comes to mind when we think about “the good life” is comfort and prestige. God has a wildly different take on what “the good life” is all about. The Apostle Peter here is telling his readers that if they want “the good life”, their lives should be defined by sympathy, love, compassion, and humility. Their lives should also be free from evil and deceitful speech. The good life is ultimately about doing good to others, not living high on the hog.

Service Orientation: Often what comes to mind when we think about living “the good life” is comfort and prestige. But God’s Word has a very different take on what living “the good life” is all about. The good life is ultimately about living life outward… not inward.

Memory Verse for the Week: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” 1 Peter 3:15

Background Information:

  • These Christians were scattered in five different parts of the Roman Empire, all of them in northern Asia Minor (modern Turkey). (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary: New Testament; Vol II, 389)
  • The important thing for us to know about these “scattered strangers” is that they were going through a time of suffering and persecution. At least fifteen times in this letter Peter referred to suffering, and he used eight different Greek words to do so. Some of these Christians were suffering because they were living godly lives and doing what was good and right (1 Peter 2:19-23; 3:14-18; 4:1-4, 15-19). Others were suffering reproach for the name of Christ (1 Peter 4:14) and being railed at by unsaved people (1 Peter 3:9—10). Peter wrote to encourage them to be good witnesses to their persecutors, and to remember that their suffering would lead to glory (1 Peter 1:6-7; 4:13-14; 5:10). (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary: New Testament; Vol II, 389)
  • Peter had suffered much for preaching the gospel of Christ (see Acts 5:17-42; 8: 1; 12: was no stranger to persecution. Nor were the Jewish believers who had been ostracized by their unbelieving families and hounded by the Sanhedrin. But this was a new experience for the Gentile Christians. Christianity was beginning to be considered a separate religion and not simply a Jewish sect. Thus Christians were no longer protected and were being persecuted by the state. This letter implies that these persecutions were just beginning on the local level. As a small minority, believers certainly must have felt like “strangers in the world” (1:1). Writing from Rome, Peter could see the change in Nero. Surely he could sense the growing threat and would know that more severe persecutions by the state would follow shortly. Peter wrote to encourage and comfort his beloved brothers and sisters and to prepare them for the persecution that was sure to come. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary, 8-9)

 

The question to be answered is…
What is Peter trying to convey to the early church through today’s text?

Answer: That trouble is bound to come and their best posture in facing trouble head-on is by living “the good life”.

The word of the day is Good

What does it mean for the church to live “the good life” in the face of suffering?

  1. Being like-minded | think in agreement

(Ps. 133:1; Rom. 12:16, 14:19, 15:5; 1 Cor. 1:10; Eph. 4:1-6; Phil. 2:2; Col. 3:14; 1 Pet. 3:8)

We strive to be humble and gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love. In all our actions we make the effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3). (2011 Free Methodist Book of Discipline, Par. 7110)

We must all hang together or assuredly we shall all hang separately. (Benjamin Franklin, to John Hancock at the Signing of the Declaration of Independence (4 July 1776)

 

  1. Being sympathetic | resonate with others’ struggles

(Ps. 34:17-18, 71:20-21; Mat. 5:4; Rom. 12:15; 2 Cor. 4:8-9; Jas. 1:12; 1 Pet. 5:7; Rev. 21:4)

A finger never suffers without the brain participating–and no humble member of the true Church of Christ ever suffers without Christ, the glorious Head, suffering in sympathy therewith. (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume 63: 1917, #3545)

A Christian’s caring is not to be simply because he or she understands what another feels. Instead, Christians care deeply about fellow-Christians so that the suffering of one becomes the suffering of the other. Christians are to be emotionally involved with each other. (Peter H. Davids, The First Epistle of Peter, 125)

 

  1. Loving one another | as family

(John 15:12-17; 1 Cor. 13; Eph. 5:21; 1 Pt. 4:8; Heb. 13:1; 1 John 3:10, 4:8-16)

This all is said for no other purpose than that we should have mutual love one to another. (Martin Luther, Commentary on Peter & Jude, 142)

 

  1. Being compassionate | feel deeply & alleviate suffering

(Ps. 116:5; Prov. 19:17; Mark 1:41; Rom. 1:15; 2 Cor. 1:3-4; Gal. 6:2; Ep. 4:32; Col. 3:12-13; 1 John 3:17)

Be compassionate, like “sympathy”, means to be conscious of others’ needs, but includes a drive to alleviate the need in some way…  Believers ought to be deeply touched and moved by the hurts, pain, needs, and joys of fellow believers and then act to help them. They should be affectionate and sensitive, quick to give emotional support (Mat. 11:29) (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary, 86)

God’s love sustains us in our suffering. He ministers to us personally and through the healing environment of Christian community. Divine wisdom in the face of suffering comes to us through scripture, prayer, godly counsel and the work of the Holy Spirit. As we are comforted, we are called to extend God’s comfort to those who suffer. (2011 Free Methodist Book of Discipline, Par. 3222, 62)

 

  1. Being humble | choose kind

(Ps. 25:9; Mic. 6:8; Mat. 7:12; Rom. 12:18; Eph. 4:32; Phil. 2:3; Heb. 10:30; Jas. 4:6, 10)

When you are asked about your hope you are not to answer with haughty words and carry things off with audacity and force as though you meant to tear up trees, but with fear and humility as though you stood before God’s judgment and were making answer. (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of 1 Peter, 151)

In this passage Jesus Christ is presented as “the supreme example of one who suffers for well-doing.” He suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God (18). His sufferings were voluntary and vicarious, for He “made atonement by suffering in the stead of those for whom he offered himself a sacrifice … one righteous man for a world of the unrighteous ” (Roy S. Nicholson, Beacon Bible Commentary Vol X, 290)

 

Conclusion:

In all things, look to Jesus as Lord. Follow His example and be ready to give an answer (lit. ἀπολογία (apologia… apologetic or reasoned-defense) for the hope you have in Him. (John 14:6; Acts 2:21, 17:22-32; Rom. 6:23, 10:9, 14:8; Phil. 1:7, 17; 1 Pet. 3:15)

 If we truly understood what hell was like, we’d be much more motivated to help people avoid going there. (Craig Groeshel, The Christian Atheist, 200)

Here is the irony: Christians are supposed to stand out as distinctive, but when we do, and are mocked or criticized for it, we are tempted to mock and criticize right back — and then we are no longer distinctive, because we are behaving just like everyone else! Another victory for the hostile world: when Christians ‘give as good as they get’, repaying slander with slander, they are colluding with the surrounding world, just as surely as if they went along with immorality or financial corruption. (N.T. Wright, The Early Christian Letters for Everyone: James, Peter, John, and Judah, 78)

The purpose of witnessing is to make something manifest that is hidden. Calvin said that it is the task of the church to make the invisible kingdom visible. We do that, first of all, by the proclamation of the gospel—by evangelism. But we also do it by modeling the kingdom of God, by demonstrating justice in the world, by demonstrating mercy in the world, and by showing the world what the kingdom of God is supposed to look like. That means the church is to embody and to incarnate the life of God’s Spirit in all that it does so that its good works are not hidden under a bushel, but they are plainly in view. We should bear witness to the presence of Christ and to His kingdom in the world. (Sproul, R.C.. What is The Church? (Crucial Questions Series Book 17) (pp. 28-29). Reformation Trust Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

 

Worship Point:

Worship is sweetened when offered by a people united in Jesus.  (Ps. 55:13-14; Prov. 3:5-6, 27:17; Ecc. 4:9-12; Mat. 18:20; Rom. 15:6; 1 Cor. 6:17, 12:5; 1 Thes. 5:11; Heb. 10:25; 1 John 1:7)

We should begin with love for God’s people (1 Peter 3:8). The word finally means “to sum it all up.” Just as the whole of the law is summed up in love (Rom. 13:8—10), so the whole of human relationships is fulfilled in love. This applies to every Christian and to every area of life. This love is evidenced by a unity of mind (see Phil. 2:1—11). Unity does not mean uniformity; it means cooperation in the midst of diversity. The members of the body work together in unity, even though they are all different. Christians may differ on how things are to be done, but they must agree on what is to be done and why. (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary: New Testament; Vol II, 411-12)

 

Gospel Application:

Jesus took on ultimate suffering so you wouldn’t have to. If you are in Christ, your evil has been repaid with ultimate good by Jesus’ death.  (Is. 53; Acts 2:21; Rom. 5:8)

Why would it be better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil? Peter gave the answer in the next verse. Because Christ suffered unjustly so that people might be saved, so believers ought to patiently endure unjust suffering because such an attitude is a powerful witness that could lead unbelievers to Christ. Those who deservedly suffer for wrongdoing can hardly witness to unbelievers. Peter wanted his readers to know that no matter what happened to them, they should keep their integrity, their faith, and their clear consciences. In the end, God would bring them to glory and punish their enemies. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary, 98)

 

Quotes to note…

Regarding the “imprisoned spirits…”

2000 years of Christian thought has not developed complete consensus regarding what Peter is referring to in verses 19-20. There are several plausible possibilities. Please remember, we are reading someone else’s mail approximately 2000 years later, and can often misunderstand things the original audience would have readily understood. If you’ve ever heard someone say, “you had to be there”, then maybe you get the idea. This isn’t to say we should just gloss over these verses. ON THE CONTRARY! Verses like these should drive us to further study God’s Word in order to gain deeper insight into things. Needless to say, this is an “elephant” in the text that is worthy of thorough study. If these verses have piqued your interest, a more exhaustive set of resources surrounding this text is available below.

When believers have Christ set apart in their hearts, the courage he gives them ought to make them always ready to testify about him. Peter called upon the believers not to fear, but he didn’t stop there. Their faith should be active, ready to speak out—prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary, 94)

No one need be poor, because, if he chooses, he can have Jesus for his own property and possession. No one need be downcast, for Jesus is the joy of heaven, and it is His joy to enter into sorrowful hearts. We can exaggerate about many things; but we can never exaggerate our obligation to Jesus, or the compassionate abundance of the love of Jesus to us. All our lives long we might talk of Jesus, and yet we should never come to an end of the sweet things that might be said of Him. Eternity will not be long enough to learn all He is, or to praise Him for all He has done, but then, that matters not; for we shall be always with Him, and we desire nothing more.” (Tozer, A. W. (Aiden Wilson). The Pursuit of God (pp. 27-28). Kindle Edition.)

 

Spiritual Challenge Questions… 

Discuss these with a life-group, family member, or Christian friend to further challenge your growth in applying today’s text. 

  1. What are ways you see like-mindedness in the church? How can you become increasingly like-minded with other believers?
  2. In what ways can you grow in becoming sympathetic and compassionate towards others?
  3. Think about times in your life when others have come against you. In those moments, do you tend to respond in-kind (i.e. repaying insult with insult)? If so, how can you increase in self-awareness so as to better repay evil with blessing?
  4. Are you prepared to tell others about the hope you have in Jesus? What could you do to better prepare for times when you are asked it?

MORE QUOTES TO NOTE:

Martin Luther, Commentary on Peter & Jude…
Therefore to “be of one mind” is, that everyone should regard his own employment like that of others, and that the condition of the married woman is just as good as that of the virgin. All are then indeed alike in the sight of God, who judges according to the heart and faith, and not according to the person or his employment. Therefore we also are to judge as God judges, and then are we of one mind, and unanimity continues in the world, and hearts remain unestranged, so that there is no division on account of external condition. All this I hold to be excellent, and I am well satisfied with every man’s employment, whatever it be, if it only be not sinful in itself. (144)
To be compassionate means to share with and have a heart to feel for our neighbor in his need. When misfortune overtakes him if you are compassionate you do not think, “Ah! it is right; Ah! it is not too much, he has well deserved it.” Where there is love, it identifies itself with its neighbor; and when it goes ill with him, the heart feels as though it were its own experience. (Martin Luther, Commentary on Peter & Jude, 145)
But why should we render good for evil and bless those who curse us? Because, Peter says, ye are hereunto called that ye should inherit a blessing, which means that instead of children of wrath and enemies of God, ye should become children of grace and friends of God through Christ. Consequently, ye have no reason to revile, but to bless. (149)
You have received a blessing from God, not only for yourselves, but also that you may be a blessing to those who are still held by the curse. In other words you are to pray for them that they may also come to faith through your doctrine, patience, and exemplary manner of living. Is your effort in their behalf lost and they rush ahead injuring and cursing you, then consider how highly God has exalted and honored you; for the blessing you shall inherit is not temporal and pertains not to this fleeting life. It is that you are now in the state of grace with God through Christ, that you enjoy the forgiveness of your sins, that you are rescued from death and the power of Satan, and that you now look for eternal life and salvation. (149-150)
That is, whoever would have pleasure and joy in life and would not die the death, but see good days, so that it may go well with him—let him keep his tongue from speaking evil. Let him do this not only in respect to his friends (for that is a small virtue and a thing even the most wicked persons may do, yea, even snakes and vipers), but he says, maintain a kind spirit and keep your tongue silent even against your enemies, though you are incited thereto, though you have cause to rail and speak evil.  (151)
If we follow that which is good, namely, do not reward evil with evil, but be heartily kind and courteous, then there is none that can injure us. For though our honor, life and property be taken away, we are still uninjured, since we have a blessing incomparable, one that none can take from us. Those who persecute us have nothing but prosperity on earth, but afterwards, eternal condemnation, while we have an eternal, incorruptible treasure, although we lose a small temporal blessing. (155)
The method by which, according to them, it must be shown that the faith is a right one, must agree with reason and come forth from the brain. But our faith is above all reason, and it alone is the power of God. Therefore, if the people will not believe, then be silent; for you are not responsible for compelling them to hold the Scriptures as  the Word or Book of God. It is enough that you give your reason from the Scriptures. But if they take exceptions, and say: You preach that one should not hold to man’s doctrine, and yet Peter and Paul, and even Christ, were men. When you hear people of this stamp, who are so blind and obtuse as to deny or doubt that this is  God’s Word, then be silent, speak no more with them, and let them go. But say: I will give you reasons enough out of Scripture. If you will believe them, it is well; if not, I will give you no others. But do you say, Must God’s Word be treated with such shame? Leave that to God. Therefore it is necessary that we thoroughly apprehend this and know how to meet those who now rise up and present such objections. (161)
That is, if you are examined and questioned as to your faith, you should not answer with haughty words and proceed in the matter with contempt and violence, as if you would tear up a tree by the roots. But proceed with such fear and humility as if you stood before God’s tribunal and were there to give answer. For if it were not to come to pass that you should be examined before kings and princes, and had well prepared yourself a long time for the occasion with replies, and thus thought with yourself, “Deliberate, I will answer them correctly,” then it shall be a happy experience for you. Unless the devil take the sword out of your hand and give you a blow so that you stand in shame and have put on your armor in vain, and he takes out of your mouth the reply you carefully prepared, so that it fails you though you had it fairly well in your mind. For he has beforehand tracked out your thoughts. Even this God suffers to take place, that he may subdue your pride and make you humble. (161)
it is right, when you are to answer, that you arm yourself well with passages of Scripture; but beware you do not insist on that with a proud spirit, since God will even take the most forcible reply out of your mouth and memory, though you were previously fortified with all your replies. Therefore, fear is proper. And so, if you are summoned, then may you answer for yourself before princes and lords, and even the devil himself. Only beware that it be not the vanity of men, but the Word of God. (162)
Here is an illustration of that: If a high forest lies before you, or you look upon it as it stretches in its length before you, you cannot well see over it. But if it lies near before you, and you stand above it and look down directly upon it, then you have it in full view. So it is here on earth we can form no conception of this life I speak of now, for it passes on, piece-meal as it were, foot by foot, to the last day; but before God it all stands in a moment. For with him a thousand years are as one day, as Peter says in the next epistle, 2 Peter 3:8. Thus the first man is just as near to him as the last that shall be born, and he sees all at once, just as the human eye can bring together two things widely separated at a single glance. So the sense here is that Christ preaches no more in person, but is present with the word and preaches to spirits spiritually in their hearts. Yet you are not to understand that he preaches in this manner to all spirits.  (167-8)
John W. Bowman, The Layman’s Bible Commentary…
Stated both negatively and positively, then, the Christian is not to “return evil for evil or reviling for reviling” (see Matt. 5:39, 44; Luke 6:28; Rom. 12:14-21); rather he is to “bless” that he “may obtain a blessing” himself (vs. 9). Literally the Greek here reads “Bless … that you may inherit a blessing,” which is much like the third beatitude—”Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). And it is striking that this beatitude of Jesus is actually a quotation from Psalm 37: 11 (a Psalm in which the “meek” man is defined), and that “poor” and “meek” in Hebrew are essentially the same word. It is, says Peter, to such a “humble mind” or to such meekness that the Christian is “called.” Such humble-mindedness issues in blessedness both for the man himself and for all whom his life touches. Again, as we have seen previously (1 : 15; 2:9, 21), Peter thinks of all Christians as having received a vocation or “call” from God to lead the Christian life in its purity and fullness. (142)
Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary: New Testament; Vol II…
Because Christians are “strangers” in the world, they are considered to be “strange” in the eyes of the world. (389)
A devoted pastor was facing serious surgery, and a friend visited him in the hospital to pray with him. “An interesting thing happened today,” the pastor told him. “One of  the nurses looked at my chart and said, ‘Well, I guess you’re preparing for the worst!’ I smiled at her and said, ‘No, I’m preparing for the best. I’m a Christian, and God has promised to work all things together for good.’ Boy, did she drop that chart and leave this room in a hurry!” Peter wrote this letter to prepare Christians for a “fiery trial” of persecution, yet his approach was optimistic and positive. “Prepare for the best!” was his message. In this section, he gave them three instructions to follow if they would experience the best blessings in the worst times. (411)
Love reveals itself in pity, a tenderness of heart toward others. In the Roman Empire, this was not a quality that was admired, but the Christian message changed all of that. Today, we are deluged with so much bad news that it is easy for us to get: insulated and unfeeling. We need to cultivate compassion and actively show others that we are concerned. (412)
Not only should we love God’s people, but we should also love our enemies (1 Peter 3:9). The recipients of this letter were experiencing a certain amount. of personal persecution because they were doing the will of God. Peter warned them that official persecution was just around the corner, so they had better prepare. The church today had better prepare, because difficult times are ahead. (412)
As Christians, we can live on one of three levels. We can return evil for good, which is the satanic level. We can return good for good and evil for evil, which is the human level. Or, we can return good for evil, which is the divine level. Jesus is the perfect example of this latter approach (1 Peter 2:21—23). As God’s loving children, we must do more than give “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” (Matt. 5:38—48), which is the basis for justice. We must operate on the basis of mercy, for that is the way God deals with us. (412)
We can decide to endure life and make it a burden, escape life as though we were running from a battle, or enjoy life because we know God is in control. Peter was not suggesting some kind of unrealistic psychological gymnastics that refused to face facts. Rather, he was urging his readers to take a positive approach to life and by faith make the most of every situation. (412)
As Christians, we are faced with crises, and we are tempted to give in to our fears and make the wrong decisions. But if we “sanctify Christ as Lord” in our hearts, we need never fear men or circumstances. Our enemies might hurt us, but they cannot harm us. Only we can harm ourselves if we fail to trust God. Generally speaking, people do not oppose us if we do good; but even if they do, it is better to suffer for righteousness’ sake than to compromise our testimony. Peter discussed this theme in detail in 1 Peter 4:12—19. (413)
Peter did not suggest that Christians argue with lost people, but rather that we present to the unsaved an account of what we believe and why we believe it, in a loving manner. The purpose is not to win an argument but to win lost souls to Christ. (414)
What does it mean to “sanctify Christ as Lord” in our hearts? It means to turn everything over to Him, and to live only to please Him and glorify Him. It means to fear displeasing Him rather than fear what men might do to us. (414)
One evidence that Jesus Christ is Lord in our lives is the readiness with which we witness to others about Him and seek to win them to Christ. (414)
Our word “conscience” comes from two Latin words: con, meaning “with,” and scio, meaning “to know.” The conscience is that internal judge that witnesses to us, that enables us to “know with,” either approving our actions or accusing (see Rom. 2:14—15). (414)
Conscience depends on knowledge, the “light” coming through the window. As a believer studies the Word, he better understands the will of God, and his conscience becomes more sensitive to right and wrong. A “good conscience” is one that accuses when we think or do wrong and approves when we do right. It takes “exercise” to keep the conscience strong and pure (Acts 24:16). If we do not grow in spiritual knowledge and obedience, we have a “weak conscience” that is upset very easily by trifles (1 Cor. 8). (414)
The phrase “bring us to God” is a technical term that means “gain audience at court.” Because of the work of Christ on the cross, we now have an open access to God (Eph. 2:18; 3:12). We may come boldly to His throne (Heb. 10:19ff.)! We also have access to His marvelous grace to meet our daily needs (Rom. 5:2). When the veil of the temple was torn, it symbolized the new and open way to God through Jesus Christ. (415)
N.T. Wright, The Early Christian Letters for Everyone: James, Peter, John, and Judah…
How does a Christian behave when surrounded by a world that doesn’t understand what we think we’re about, and is potentially hostile? The answer comes in Peter’s quotation from Psalm 34. Seek peace, and follow after it. It may be hard to find, this ‘peace’ which we’re supposed to be looking for, but we should hunt it down as you would with a favourite book that you can’t put your hand on around the house. You should follow after it in the way you would with a dog that has panicked and run off in a busy town. Don’t expect ‘peace’ to come to you when you whistle. You have to do the work. You have to learn the new habit. (77)
Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary…
Just as different notes form chords to make beautiful harmonies, so different people can live and work together for God. (See Rom. 12:16; 15:5; Phil 1:27; 2:2)” (86)
“When iron is rubbed against a magnet, it becomes magnetic. Just so, love is caught, not taught. One heart burning with love sets another on fire. The church was built on love; it proves what love can do. – Frank C. Labach (86)
“But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”NRSV This warning implies a drastic threat of imminent judgment, not just God’s disapproval. Leviticus 17:10; Psalm 34: 16; and Ezekiel 14:8 refer to the most severe judgment God could have on humanity. Therefore, believers are not to retaliate; instead, they must trust that God will avenge the wrongs his people have suffered. (91)
Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? NRSV Up to this point in the letter, the theme of the persecution facing these young churches has been in the background. At this point, however, it becomes a prominent theme in this letter. (91)
When the Lord ruled their thoughts and emotions, they could not be shaken by anything their enemies might do. God alone is to be feared. When people respect and honor him, they have nothing else to fear. Peter remembered Jesus’ words, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28 NIV). (93)
Peter gave us the antidote for dealing with fear—”in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.” Peter had seen the glory of Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration, and he had seen the glory of the resurrected Lord. He knew Christ had the full glory of God. Once we know and love Christ, opposition and persecution hold no terror for us. But this high regard of Christ in our heart includes—but requires more than—mental assent to his deity. We must love him with all our heart’s devotion. To do this we must…
  • regard his prior claim to all we possess or desire
  • place our future totally in his hands for safekeeping
  • regard his teaching as superior to all earthly wisdom
  • let obedience to him dictate our conduct
  • set aside our personal agenda when asked to do his service
  • Praise Christ as the Lord of all, and your fear of what people can do will melt away (93)
Only he who can say, “The Lord is the strength of my life” can go on to say, “Of whom shall I be afraid?” Alexander MacLaren (94)
ABOVE CRITICISM
You may not be able to keep people from slandering you, but you can at least stop supplying them with ammunition. As long as you do what is right, their accusations will be empty and will only embarrass them. Helping your neighbors and contributing your service to the community will silence the detractors and keep your conduct above criticism. (97)
Warren Wiersbe, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament…
How should Christians act when persecuted by the world?
A. They must be a blessing (v. 9).
Read Luke 6:22-28. We conquer hate by showing love. The best way to meet the slanderer and persecutor is with patience and grace. Let God do the rest!
B. They must keep clean (vv. 10-11).
He refers to Ps. 34:12-16. “He who wills to love life” is the best translation of v. 10. “Eschew” means “avoid,” and “ensue” means “strive after.”
C. They must remember that God is watching (vv. 12-14).
God sees the problems and He hears our cries. He knows how to deal with those who persecute us for His sake. Rather than complain, we should rejoice that we are suffering for His sake (Matt. 5:11-12; Acts 5:41). (748)
A surrendered heart and a good conscience will together give peace when people accuse us falsely. (748)
Peter H. Davids, The First Epistle of Peter…
This does not mean a poor self-concept (“I’m no good“), but a willingness to take the lower place, to do the less exalted service, and to put the interests of others ahead of one’s own interests. This attitude of Jesus is surely a necessity if a disperate group is to be “united in spirit.“ (124-125)
Even the perfect practice of virtue, however, will not always prevent suffering. In fact, some people are so twisted that they will persecute a person just because he or she is righteous, for that righteousness infuriates them. (130)
(V.15) This does not mean to make Christ more holy, but to treat him as holy, to set him apart above all human authority. This sentence is clearly seen in the Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed be thy name.” To ‘hallow’ the name means, not only to reverence and honor God, but also to glorify him by obedience to his commands, and thus prepare the coming of the Kingdom. (131)
R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of 1 Peter…
This sanctifying of him means that we keep ourselves from sin and give the world no cause for slandering either him or ourselves. (150)
We are brought to God (aorist, effectively, actually) when we who are unrighteous are by faith in Christ’s vicarious expiation justified and declared righteous. (157)

Further Insights into the “Imprisoned Spirits” in vv 19-20:

(vv. 19-22) A wonderful text is this, and a more obscure passage perhaps than any other in the New Testament, so that I do not know for a certainty just what Peter  means. At first sight, the words read as though Christ had preached to the spirits, that is, the souls who were formerly unbelieving at the time Noah was building the ark; but that I cannot understand and I cannot explain it. And there has been no one who has explained it. Yet if anyone is disposed to maintain that Christ, after he had suffered on the cross, descended to these souls and preached to them, I will not dispute it. It might bear such a rendering. But I am not confident that Peter meant to say this.
     Yet the words may well be understood in this sense; that our Lord, after his ascension to heaven, came and preached in spirit, yet so that his preaching was not in the body. For he speaks not with a natural voice; he no longer does what pertains to the natural functions of the body. Therefore it must also follow, as it seems, that inasmuch as he preached to the spirits in that same spiritual body, such preaching must also be a spiritual preaching, so that he did not go there in the body and with oral preaching. The text does not require us to understand that he went down to the spirits and preached to them at the time of his death. For this is his language: “in which”; namely, when he had been put to death in the flesh and made alive in the spirit—that is, when he had unclothed himself of his fleshly existence and had passed into a spiritual being and life, just as he now is in heaven—then he went and preached. Now he certainly could not have descended to hell, after he had taken to himself such a new existence; wherefore we must understand that he has done it after his resurrection. (Martin Luther, Commentary on Peter & Jude, 166-167)
One good explanation, however, is that the “spirits in prison” are the fallen angels of Gen. 6 who consorted with the daughters of men, “going after strange flesh” as Jude 6-7 explains it. The word “prison” in 3:19 refers to the place of judgment mentioned in 2 Peter 2:4, “chains of darkness.” It was this violation of God’s order that helped bring on the Flood, which explains why Peter mentions Noah. Note too that Peter’s theme is the subjection of angels to Christ (v. 22). These fallen angels were not subject to Him, and therefore they were judged.
   Between His death and resurrection, Christ visited these angels in prison and announced His victory over Satan. The word “preached” in 3:19 means “to announce” and not “to preach the Gospel.” Jesus announced their doom and His victory over all angels and authorities. It is likely that at this time Christ “led captivity captive” (Eph. 4:8), rescued godly souls dwelling in Hades (see Luke 16:19-31), and took them to heaven. There is not one hint here of anybody having a second chance to be saved after death. (Warren Wiersbe, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament, 749)
     So on the cross, our Lord suffered and died. His body was put to death, and His spirit died when He was made sin. But His spirit was made alive and He yielded it to the Father. Then according to Peter, sometime between His death and His resurrection Jesus made a special proclamation to “the spirits in prison.” This raises two questions: Who were these “spirits” that He visited? What did He proclaim to them?
     Those who say that these “spirits in prison” were the spirits of lost sinners in hell to whom Jesus brought the good news of salvation have some real problems to solve. To begin with, Peter referred to people as “souls” and not “spirits” (1 Peter 3:20). In the New Testament, the word spirits is used to describe angels or demons, not human beings, and 1 Peter 3:22 seems to argue for this meaning. Furthermore, nowhere in the Bible are we told that Jesus visited hell. Acts 2:31 states that He went to “hades” (NASB), but “hades” is not hell. The word hades refers to the realm of the unbelieving dead, a tempo- rary place where they await the resurrection. Read Revelation 20:11—15 in the New American Standard Bible or the New International Version and you will see the important distinction. Hell is the permanent and final place of judgment for the lost. Hades is the temporary place. When a Christian dies, he goes to neither place, but to heaven to be with Christ (Phil. 1:20—24).
     Our Lord yielded His spirit to the Father, died, and at some time between death and res- urrection, visited the realm of the dead, where He delivered a message to spirit beings (probably fallen angels; see Jude 6) who were somehow related to the period before the flood. First Peter 3:20 makes this clear. The word translated “preached” simply means “to announce as a herald, to proclaim.” It is not the word that means “to preach the gospel” that Peter used in 1 Peter 1:12 and 4:6. Peter did not tell us what Jesus proclaimed to these imprisoned spirits, but it could not be a message of redemption, since angels cannot be saved (Heb. 2:16). It was probably a declaration of victory over Satan and his hosts (see Col. 2:15; 1 Peter 3:22).
     How these spirits were related to the pre-flood era, Peter did not explain. Some students believe that “the sons of God” named in Genesis 6:1—4 were fallen angels who cohabited with women and produced a race of giants, but I cannot accept this interpretation. The good angels who did not fall are called “sons of God,” but not the fallen angels (Job 1:6; 2:1, and note that Satan is distinguished from the “sons of God”). The world before the flood was unbelievably wicked, and no doubt these spirits had much to do with it (see Gen. 6:5-13; Rom. 1:18ff.). (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary: New Testament; Vol II, 416)
    The words in which also form a break in thought here and refer back to “in the spirit” in the previous verse. The meaning of making a proclamation to the spirits in prison is not completely clear, mainly because the word translated “spirits” (pneumata) can be used to refer to human spirits, angels, or demons (the singular pneuma is also used to refer to God’s Holy Spirit). The passage further indicates that these “spirits in prison” are those who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water.NIV This passage has been tackled by many scholars over the years and given a variety of interpretations. Three main questions arise: (1) Who were the “spirits” to whom Christ made his proclamation? (2) When did Christ make this proclamation? (3) What was the content of this proclamation? Following are the main interpretations of Peter’s words:
    (1) Some explain that between Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, he went to the realm of the dead, to hell or hades. There he preached to “the spirits in prison”—meaning either all the people who lived before him who had died and gone to hell, or the fallen angels who had sinned by marrying human women before the Flood (a view highly dependent on apocryphal literature). The content of Christ’s proclamation may have been to offer the sinful people a second chance at salvation (this is most unlikely because nowhere in Scripture does God offer a “second chance”), or to tell the sinful people and/or fallen angels that their condemnation was final and eternal. Still others say that Christ was preaching to all those who had repented before they died in the Flood. They had been “in prison” awaiting their release by Christ into heaven. They say that Christ, between his death and resurrection, announced salvation to God’s faithful followers who had been waiting for their salvation during the whole Old Testament era.
    (2) During Noah’s building of the ark (120 years), Christ’s “spirit” was in Noah preaching to all the unbelieving people. First Peter 1:11 refers to the “Spirit of Christ” residing in the Old Testament prophets, and 2 Peter 2:5 describes Noah as “a herald of righteousness” (NRSV). This view takes Christ’s reference to Noah literally and holds that the “spirits” were humans (rather than angels or demons). Christ spoke through Noah to the people for 120 years as Noah was building the ark (Genesis 6:3). During that time, God was waiting patiently for any to repent of their sins. But none did. These unbelievers on earth were the “spirits in prison” who were imprisoned by their sin, or they were the souls of the evil human race of that day that are now “in prison,” hades (they died long ago in the Flood), awaiting God’s final judgment at the end of the age. Those who consider this to be the correct meaning of Peter’s words consider that Noah and his family were a righteous minority among a huge majority of evil people. Just as Noah faced unjust persecution, so Peter’s readers were also facing unjust persecution. Just as Noah had no converts, they might not either. Just as Noah knew that judgment would come soon, so Peter’s readers knew that God would soon judge the world. Ultimately, as Noah and his family were saved from the  floodwaters, so those who believe will be saved from eternal death.
    (3) Between Christ’s death and resurrection, or after Christ’s ascension, he preached the triumph of his resurrection to the fallen angels. The verb “made a proclamation” most likely means “proclaiming” or “heralding,” and not preaching the gospel (as it is used in 4:6). It is likely that Christ was simply making the announcement of his finished work on the cross and, by so doing, declaring his victory. (See Colossians 2: 15, where Paul discusses disarming and making public display of demonic forces.) The “prison” was an abyss near heaven, a kind of “storage place” for the evil angels. His declaration confirmed the testimonies of Enoch and Noah. By doing this, it confirmed the condemnation of those who had refused to believe, while assuring the salvation of Noah and believers. The spirits are fallen angels typified by those who instigated gross immorality in the days of Noah—such are the “sons of God” spoken of in Genesis 6:2. Many scholars favor this view because 2 Peter 2:4-5 and Jude 6 link “the angels that sinned” with the judgment of the Flood by God in the days of Noah. According to these verses in 2 Peter, these angels of God were cast into hell, literally Tartarus, a place of confinement prior to their judgment. Tartarus, therefore, is the prison mentioned here. Sometime after Christ was “made alive in the spirit” he made a proclamation to these fallen angels. (See discussion of Tartarus in 2 Peter 2:4.)
   Therefore, to answer the three key questions noted above: the fallen angels were the spirits; the time of the proclamation is not known for certain, but either it was between Jesus’ death and resunection or at the time of his ascension; the content of Christ’s message was to proclaim his victory to the fallen angels. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary, 100-102)
BIBLE MYSTERIES
After our best effort to figure what some Bible verses mean, we have to sit back and say, “We’re not sure. We’ve got some ideas, but we’re not certain which is right. We just don’t know.” Some Bible passages, and this is one, puzzle portentous theologians and baffle bespectacled textual scholars. Yet certain truths about these mysteries can help us today:
  • God’s character is love, not malice or deceit. Whatever is happening here, God is reaching out to lost creatures, for whom he cares deeply.
  • God speaks. While we puzzle over what, where, and how this happens, we can see that God is not focused on himself in some odd meditational stupor. God communicates.
  • God triumphs. Christ victoriously preached to the spirits, indicating his power, control, and transcendence over all spiritual beings and authorities.
  • God saves us. That’s his business. We need it and God does it. God exerts himself to rescue the needy.
Bible mysteries tell us this much, and sometimes that’s enough. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary, 102)
Verses 19-20 form a parenthesis between 18 and 21 and constitute what is generally conceded to be one of the most difficult NT passages to interpret. It has been made the basis of such unscriptural doctrines as purgatorial sufferings and posthumous salvation. A careful study of the voluminous literature on this passage reveals that each commentator has his own solution and interprets it according to his theological predilections.
Some of the interpretations are as follows:
1. Christ, in His preincarnate state, preached to the spirits now in prison. This was done by the Holy Spirit in the preaching of Noah, but only Noah and his family believed and were saved.
2. He preached to the victims of the Flood who turned to God before they perished in the mighty waters of the Deluge.
3. He went in His spirit into the realm where only spirits could go, and proclaimed the righteousness of their judgment because they did not believe the preaching of Noah.
4. He went in the power of the Spirit and proclaimed himself Victor, and led the OT saints (“prisoners of hope,” Zech. 9: 12) on high (cf. Eph. 4:8-10), thus separating the paradise section of Hades from that of the wicked spirits.
5. He went in the non-corporeal mode of His existence, upon which He entered immediately after His death, and proclaimed victory over the defiant and destructive fallen angels whose seductive power polluted the antediluvian world and caused the Flood (Gen. 6:1-8) . His proclamation of victory over all evil was bad news for the evil spirits.
6. He went in His spirit, not bodily form, between His crucifixion and resurrection, and proclaimed the gospel message, to set free those who once were disobedient but believed on Him after their death at His preaching.
   These interpretations differ on four main points only outlined here but on which fuller treatment will be found in the references given below. Those differences concern: (1) the time when this preaching may have occurred; (2) the subject matter of this preaching; (3) the persons preached to; and (4) the result of this preaching. A study of the reference materials will convince one of Dr. Paul S. Rees’s conclusion that c ‘no consensus as to its interpretation appears anywhere on the horizon. Of this we may be certain: “The passage holds out no hope for the impenitent, it forbids the notion that those who during their earthly life refuse the Gospel of God’s grace may have a second chance in the world beyond, and may be ultimately saved.” (Roy S. Nicholson, Beacon Bible Commentary Vol X, 290-291)
It was, then, in his postresurrection state that Christ went somewhere and preached something to certain spirits in some prison. All these terms call for an explanation.
    A number of alternative interpretations have been given. (1) The spirits are the souls of the faithful of the OT and the “prison” is simply the place they remained awaiting Christ, who proclaims his redemption to them; (2) the spirits are the souls of those who died in Noah’s flood, who are kept in Hades, and who hear the gospel proclaimed by Christ after his death and before his resurrection (or heard the gospel in the days of Noah before being put in “prison”); (3) the spirits are the fallen angels of Gen. 6:1ff., and the prison is where they are kept bound and hear the proclamation of judgment by Christ (or a call to repent given in the days of Noah); (4) the spirits are the demons, the offspring of the fallen angels of Gen. 6:1ff., who have taken refuge or been protected (rather than been imprisoned) in the earth and the proclamation is that of Christ’s (postresurrection) invasion of their refuge, or (5) the spirits are the fallen angels, but the preacher is Enoch, who proclaimed judgment to them.
    In order to decide among these alternatives, we need to examine the meaning of each term in context in the light of its linguistic background. “Spirits” in the NT always refers to nonhuman spiritual beings unless qualified (as, e.g., in Heb. 12:23; see Matt. 12:45; Mark 1:23, 26; 3:30; Luke 10:20; Acts 19:15-16; 16:16; 23:8-9; Eph. 2:2; Heb. 1:14; 12:9; Rev.16:13, 14).35 Thus one would expect it here to mean angelic or demonic beings. Were there then spirits that were disobedient in the days of Noah? A reading of Gen. 6:1-4, especially as used by Jews of Peter’s day, makes it clear that these “sons of God” were associated with Noah and interpreted as angels who had disobeyed God and were subsequently put in prison. In 1 Enoch, for example, Enoch sees a place of imprisonment and is told, “These are among the stars of heaven that have transgressed the commandments of the Lord and are bound in this place” (21:6).36 Here, then, we have an event that includes all the elements to which Peter refers, spirits (angels, stars, Watchers, and spirits are used interchangeably by 1 Enoch) that were disobedient (“transgressed the commandment of the Lord”) and were therefore put in prison (“This place is a prison house of the angels; they are detained here forever,” 1 Enoch 21:10), all of this happening with relation to the days of Noah.
    Christ, then, journeyed to this prison, which 2 Pet. 2:4 describes as Tartarus (cf. Rev. 20:1-3), but along with Jude 6 gives no spatial location, unless Tartarus (cf. Rev. 20:1-3), but along with Jude 6 gives no spatial location, unless Tartarus itself serves to locate it in the netherworld. While there he “preached” to these spirits. In the NT the Greek term keryssö normally refers to the proclamation of the kingdom of God or the gospel (e.g., 1 Cor. 9:27), but it does on a few occasions retain its secular meaning of “proclaim” or “announce” (e.g., Luke 12:3; Rom. 2:21; Rev. 5:2). Furthermore, while Peter refers to the proclamation of the gospel clearly four times, he never uses this verb to do so. Although the NT never speaksof anyone ‘s evangelizing spirits, it does speak of the victory of Christ over spirits (e.g., 2 Cor. 2:14; col. 2:15; Rev. 12:7-11; cf. Eph. 6:11-12, which implies the same, and Isa. 61:1; Jon. 3:2, 4 in the LXX). Moreover, I Enoch also has a proclamation to spirits in prison (16:3), and it is a proclamation of judgment. Thus it seems likely that this passage in 1 Peter refers to a proclamation of judgment by the resurrected Christ to the imprisoned spirits, that is, the fallen angels, sealing their doom as he triumphed over sin and death and hell, redeeming human beings.
    20 It is precisely this contrast between the spirits and human beings that occupies the next step in the argument. The angels were “disobedient” to God (while not totally clear in Gen. 6, it is very clear in 1 Enoch 6), and with them in the time of the deluge the majority of people. But God did not immediately destroy them, for he was patient (“when the patience of God waited”) 40 Gen. 6:3 was interpreted in Jewish tradition as an indication of this patience (so Targ. Onk.), or, as the Mishnah says, “There were ten generations from Adam to Noah, to show how great was his long-suffering, for all the generations provoked him continually until he brought upon them the waters of the flood” (m. Aboth 5:2). Furthermore, the ark was itself presumably some time in building,41 so there is a further indication of patience even after judgment was decided upon (2 Pet. 2:5 adds that Noah was preaching throughout this time).On the other hand, in contrast to the spirits, eight people were saved (Noah, his three sons, and their wives). Although they were only “a few, “43 they formed the righteous remnant of the time. And these were saved “through water,” which captures the image of the ark passing through the water of the flood. (Peter H. Davids, The First Epistle of Peter, 138-141)
    We now see why Peter stops with the vivificatio in v. 18 and does not at once proceed to the resurrectio by saying “raised up.” The latter term is regularly used so as to include both the vivification of Christ’s dead body and its appearances to chosen witnesses. Peter must restrict his thought to the vivification because he intends to speak of what occurred before Jesus appeared to his disciples on earth. Until Easter morning Christ’s body lay dead in the tomb while his spirit (in English we may also say his “soul” because we use “soul” much as we do “spirit”; to use in the Greek would be wrong) was in heaven. Then Christ’s spirit was suddenly reunited with his body. This is the vivificatio.
    In that instant, after body and spirit had been united, Christ left the closed tomb. The linen wrappings were suddenly empty and lay flat, the body having miraculously gone out of them (John 20:5-8), mute, but eloquent, evidence of what had occurred. In that instant, but timelessly, Christ in his human body and spirit descended to hell and did what Peter relates. In the other world time and space as we know both here on earth do not exist. Our minds are chained to both in their thinking and in their language; hence we ask so many useless questions where acts that take place in eternity and in the other world are concerned. In the other world no act requires time for its execution. This is really inconceivable to our minds; we are compelled to speak as if time were involved and must thus ever tell ourselves that this is not in fact the case. In this way we are kept from deductions that are based on our concepts of time. knowing that such deductions would be false. How long after the cloud enveloped the ascending body of Jesus did it take that body to reach heaven and the right hand of God in the glory of heaven? This part of the ascension was timeless. (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of 1 Peter, 161-2)

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