Instructions for All Christians (1 Peter 3:8-12)


Sermon by Rev. Daniel L. Sonnenberg | November 13, 2011


Text:

8 Finally, all of you be likeminded, sympathetic, loving, compassionate, humble, 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but instead, returning a blessing, knowing that for this you were called that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For, “He who desires to love life and to see good days, let him stop his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and let him do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 Because the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and His ears are open to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against the ones doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:8-12)

Notes:

Peter finishes his instructions on social conduct with this passage. Having written about how to live with ruling authorities, with masters, with wives and husbands, now he gives general instructions to all Christians in how to live within their community.

He tells Christians four things:

  • How Christians should live in community
  • How Christians are called to respond to evil
  • How Christians inherit a blessing
  • How God rewards the righteous and opposes the evil

First, let’s look at…

How Christians should live in community – by being like-minded, sympathetic, loving, compassionate, and humble

 8 Finally, all of you be likeminded, sympathetic, loving, compassionate, humble…

Peter is no longer instructing specific groups of Christians in their relation especially to unbelievers.

Now he is instructing all Christians in their relation to one another, but also in relation to unbelievers. It says, “all of you…”

He begins by describing the kind of people we are becoming by virtue of the new birth – and should work to become in order to live good lives among unbelievers.

All five terms are adjectives that describe the kind of people we should be in community. They are attitudes of heart. They describe what is inside a person.

Often, in the original language, in a list such as this, the most important term or word is the middle word. In this case, it is brotherly love. In total, then, these describe a loving Christian.

So let’s look at each one and see what is contained in the list, what kind of people we should be since we have received the new birth. We are to be…

We are not talking about being clones or Stepford wives or Valley Girls who all use the same words, the same phrases, wear the same clothes or cut our hair the same way. Rather, we have the same overall values, the same goals, the same intentions to glorify God, to enjoy him and to love our neighbors as ourselves, both believers and unbelievers. We are likeminded because we have the mind of Christ by faith in him.

Rom 12:16 Be of the same mind toward one another…

A sympathetic person feels the pain – and joy – of others. We are able to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, because Christ our high priest does the same for us. He sympathizes with our weaknesses because he has known weakness in his suffering and death. We don’t tell others we know how they feel. We simply sit with them and quietly, intently listen to theirs.

A loving person truly cares about others. He or she puts the needs of others in front of his own. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.” We can love others because God first loved us in Christ. In the body of Christ, we are not just fellow travelers in the world, like ships passing in the night, we are family, and family sticks together through thick and thin. Not only that, we love unbelievers because God loves them and because we are commanded to love even our enemies. So we seek the help of Christ to become a Good Samaritan who helps someone not like himself who is in need.

 A compassionate person is kind, tenderhearted, willing to forgive, does not want hold grudges against others knowing that Christ has also forgiven you.

Eph 4:32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

 A humble person does not think too highly of himself, (Phi 2:3) but sees himself as he really is, and considers others more important than himself (Eph 4:2). He humbles himself – trusting that the Lord will lift him up in due time. A humble person has the heart of Christ…

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

All tolled… This is the description of one who is born anew of the Spirit of God. We cannot attain these qualities or characteristics in our own strength or through our own merit, but only through Christ’s imputation of his righteousness and the working of the Spirit in our lives.

Not only that, we can’t attain these qualities without each other, and even without unbelievers. God uses other people to sharpen us. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

Following are two illustrations of these qualities:

First, JACKIE ROBINSON was the first African American to play baseball in the major leagues. Breaking baseball’s color barrier, he faced hostile crowds in every stadium. While playing one day in his home stadium of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, he committed an error. The fans began to jeer him. He stood at second base, humiliated, while the crowd booed. Then, without saying a word, shortstop Pee Wee Reese went over and stood next to Jackie. He put his arm around him and faced the crowd. Suddenly the fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that that arm around his shoulder saved his career.

Second, It is said that Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire, once had captured a prince and his family. When they came before him, the monarch asked the prisoner, “What will you give me if I release you?” “The half of my wealth,” was his reply. “And if I release your children?” “Everything I possess.” “And if I release your wife?” “Your Majesty, I will give myself.” Cyrus was so moved by his devotion that he freed them all. As they returned home, the prince said to his wife, “Wasn’t Cyrus a handsome man!” With a look of deep love for her husband, she said to him, “I didn’t notice. I could only keep my eyes on you-the one who was willing to give himself for me.”

Not only should we live with one another in loving ways. We should be prepared when this doesn’t happen. Let’s look second at…

How Christians are called to respond to evil – by returning a blessing

9ab …not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but instead, returning a blessing, knowing that for this you were called…

Peter tells Christians what we should do when our community fails to surround us with love.  When we are young, we have a somewhat idealized view of the world. We tend to think that there is nothing we cannot accomplish, that everything will keep getting better, and everything will turn out right – in this world. We believe that everyone should live the ideals we described above.

However, as we grow older we understand that we live in a fallen world. We see that unbelievers act in ungodly ways, but more surprisingly, we may discover the people in the church can sometimes be selfish and proud and hurtful toward one another and that church leaders, who we would expect to be a better example, can sometimes do the same or worse.

I remember the first church split I ever experienced firsthand. I was around 35 years of age. Until then I don’t think I was even aware that there was such a thing as a church split. I was flabbergasted by the way Christians could treat one another.

However, this passage implies that God allows such things in order to accomplish his purpose in us, to help us to grow more like Christ. He suffered because of evil people, and he taught his disciples that they were not greater than the master, that they would suffer too. And so may we. So we should be prepared.

This passage tells us how we are to respond when evil things happen, especially when they are aimed at us. It tells us first what we are not to do. It says we should not respond in kind. We should not return evil for evil or insult for insult. God knows we are tempted to get people back when they hurt us. However, we are to do just the opposite. We are to return a blessing in response to evil.

It tells us This is our calling. It says, “knowing that for this you were called.” We are called to return good for evil. 

We learned in 1 Peter 2 that we are called to do good and to endure suffering patiently following in Jesus steps.

“…if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you.  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…and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.”

Like Christ, we should not return evil or insults, but trust ourselves to God’s justice, knowing that he will judge the evil done to us one day. Instead, when others do evil or insult us, we should return a blessing.

Illustration of Returning a Blessing for Evil:

After the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, no person in all of East Germany was more despised than the former Communist dictator Erich Honecher. He had been stripped of all his offices. Even the Communist Party rejected him. Kicked out of his villa, the new government refused him and his wife new housing. The Honechers were homeless and destitute.

Enter pastor Uwe Holmer, director of a Christian help center north of Berlin. Made aware of the Honechers’ straits, Pastor Holmer felt it would be wrong to give them a room meant for even needier people. So the pastor and his family decided to take the former dictator into their own home!

Erich Honecher’s wife, Margot, had ruled the East German educational system for twenty-six years. Eight of Pastor Holmer’s ten children had been turned down for higher education due to Mrs. Honecher’s policies, which discriminated against Christians. Now the Holmers were caring for their personal enemy—the most hated man in Germany. This was so unnatural, so unconventional, so Christlike.

By the grace of God, the Holmers loved their enemies, did them good, blessed them, and prayed for them. They turned the other cheek. They gave their enemies their not their coat as Jesus taught, but more than that, their own home.

They did to the Honechers what they would have wished the Honechers would do to them. (Reported by George Cowan to Campus Crusade at the U.S. Division Meeting Devotions, Thursday, March 22, 1990.)

Personal application:

How can you do something similar in your family or school or workplace? When your sister or brother hits you or says bad things about you, it says instead of hitting them back or saying bad things back to them, you should do something nice for them – pay them a compliment for something you like about them, make up their bed for them or clean up their room for them. Do just the opposite of what you would like to do.

If someone in school tells lies about you or embarrasses you in front of other classmates, or finds you alone somewhere and beats you up, what should you do? You know what not to do: don’t lie about them or embarrass them or hit them back – unless you feel your life is threatened. Think of something you can do for them that will bless them, perhaps without them knowing it was you doing it for them. Put some cash in their locker inside an unmarked envelope, mail them an article of clothing, or an iPod or something they would consider a blessing. They won’t know who it’s from but God will know.

Same thing with people who do evil toward you in the work place. Find a way to bless them, perhaps without their knowledge, so that you will be returning a blessing for evil. Send them an anonymous gift of money or flowers or a batch of cookies – something you think they would like. They won’t know who it’s from, but God will know. And pray for them too.

That’s what Jesus taught his disciples (in Luk 6:28), “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Praying for them is a way of blessing them.

Paul wrote the same thing in 1Co 4:12 “…when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure…”  When we are insulted, we don’t insult back, we find a way to bless in word or deed or both.

How Christians inherit a blessing

9c …that you may inherit a blessing.

 The context seems to indicate temporal blessings, yet also seems to refer back to future blessings we spoke of in 1 Peter 1 – the glorious inheritance kept for us and granted to us on the last day.

We see something similar – both temporal and eternal blessings for good works – in MAT 19:29 “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life.”

Christians are enabled to do good works – to return a blessing instead of a curse – because of the new life they have received in Christ. But they are also commanded to do good works. We should do what we are now enabled to do.

Similarly, we are promised blessing based on the work of Christ alone, yet we are commanded to do good works in order to receive blessings. We do not work FOR our salvation, but as a RESULT of our salvation. Yet, after we have received the gift of salvation – according to our works – we will receive blessings in this life and the next.

Finally, Peter drives his point home with a quotation from Psalm 34 to tell us

How God rewards the righteous and opposes the evil

10 For, “He who desires to love life and to see good days, let him stop his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and let him do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 Because the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and His ears are open to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against the ones doing evil.”

Note the context of the Psalm. The superscription of the Psalm says that it refers to the time when David pretended to be insane in the court of the Achish. David escaped with his life and expresses relief and gratitude to the Lord (cf. 34:6-8).

Life and good days refer to the present life, but Peter is using the terms in a future eschatological fashion (as in 3:7 – coheirs of the grace of life). However, a few verses earlier (2:24) the “living” refers to the present life, as does the following context (of 3:13-16). “These factors combine to drive one commentator (Goppelt) to (resolute) insistence that we are not to decide between this life and the life to come (in 3:10) . . .” [D.A. Carson,. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. 1037]

John Gill notes: “and so some of the Jewish interpreters understand by life and good days, in the Psalm, such as are both in this world, and in that which is to come.”

Peter’s point is that the Lord himself distinguishes between those who do good and those who do evil (the righteous and unrighteous).

“. . . just as God delivered David from the dangers…among the Philistines, so also God will deliver Peter’s Christian readers from [the dangers] among their pagan communities. . . . God cherishes righteousness and promises ultimate judgment on the wicked . . . the privilege of belonging to God’s redeemed people brings with it the grateful, grace-driven responsibility to pursue righteousness and holiness, not to presume on God’s grace while trying to live no differently from the world.” [D.A. Carson,. Commentary 26 on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. 1037]

These verses illustrate the relative fates of two kinds of people: those God receives and those he opposes. (Tony Bartolucci at http://www.tonybartolucci.com) .

Note the anthropomorphic expressions: first, eyes; second, ears; third, face. These have OT implications. When his eyes and ears are said to be open to people, he shows his care for the elect. When he sets his face against someone, he is demonstrating his anger toward those who do evil.

When God faces his people with eyes and ears open, it is an affirmation of God’s care for his elect. This is evident from Psalm 34 that we read earlier in the call to worship (cf. vv. 7,8,10,17,18,19-20,22).

For example:

  • 2CH 7:15 “Now My eyes shall be open and My ears attentive to the prayer {offered} in this place.
  • 2CH 16:9 “For the eyes of the \Lord\ move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His….”

BUT HIS FACE IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL.

This is clearly a verdict of judgement (cf. Psalm 34:16).

Used 4 times in Leviticus:

For example:

  • LEV 17:10 ‘ And any man from the house of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people.
  • LEV 20:6 ‘ As for the person who turns to mediums and to spiritists, to play the harlot after them, I will also set My face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.

In closing,

This passage does not teach that final salvation is by good works, but rather, illustrates the relation between righteous living and God’s blessing in this life. Peter is writing to believers, so their ultimate fate has been determined. They will receive the imperishable inheritance kept for them in heaven (1:4).

However, it provides a needed corrective to careless, half-hearted Christians living in any age, and a powerful motivation to the kind of holy living to which Peter says all Christians have been ‘called’ (v. 9).” [Grudem, 150]

There was a boy who, when he was in the sixth grade, reported a theft of fifty cents from the “snack box.” A girl Ann and he had been given the responsibility of taking care of the “store.” He turned his back and then quickly turned back around and saw that the fifty-cent piece had been stolen. He went home after he saw that she had taken the money and told his mother. His  mother then told me that he needed to tell my sixth grade school teacher.

He went the next day and told his teacher that he had something private to tell her. They stepped out into the hall and then he told her. She went and told the principal. Instead of the principal removing or disciplining the one who had taken the money, he removed both children. That nearly crushed the boy, because it made him look guilty, also. It bothered im for many years when he thought about it.

Over twenty-five years later, he walked into a funeral home to preach a funeral and saw my sixth-grade school teacher. The first thing that she said was, “Max, I won’t ever get over what that principal did to you. You were doing right in reporting the theft of that money, and he treated you just as though you had taken it.” Max had never mentioned this incident to his sixth-grade teacher and had wondered if she thought that he had taken some money, but when she told him that, he felt a sense of relief in knowing that she knew that he had done right… That made his day.

When we think of how when we do right and feel that it is not being rewarded, that just as it was with his teacher, one day the truth will come forth. Some of you hearing this may have faced trial or persecution for just doing right. Just wait. One day the truth will come out… (Source: From W. Alderman’s Sermon: The Dreamer)

We should do the right thing even when it hurts, because we know that God will vindicate us against our enemies and reward us in the end.


Click here for the series of twenty-three sermons on the entire book of 1 Peter.

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