Guarded Christian Living: A Strong Faith at the Right Time
1 Peter 3:8-12
Turn to 1 Peter 3. I have to admit that of all the passages we have studied so far in 1 Peter, this has been the most challenging. I usually begin by writing out the passage, then reading it over and over again, and then try to organize some thoughts to help bring clarity. And much of what we have been studying in our Peter series is determining to do what is right. Peter has said that we are to be submissive to government. So, I will be obedient to government as long as I am still being obedient to God and my own conscience. Peter has said that I am to be submissive to my employer even if he is crooked. So yes, as long as I am still being obedient to God, I will submit to my employer. Peter has said that wives are to be submissive to their husbands, even husbands who are not obedient to God. So, wives, as long as you are not being disobedient to God, you are to follow the leading of your husbands. Husbands are to be understanding to their wives. So, we as husbands are to strive to understand them.
Now, what we have taught throughout this series is not only are these to be things that we do, but they are to be things that we are to do with the right attitude. Yet because of this struggle, we speak about this in regards to say, love, such as when the Bible says to love your enemies. We may say that we do not “feel” like loving them, but that we choose to love them. Or in marriage, that we “choose” to love our spouse, though there may be times when we do not “feel” like loving them. And sometimes we speak about this with forgiveness, saying I do not “feel” like forgiving, but I choose to forgive. Well, what Peter is going to do this morning, is significantly raise the bar on this understanding and place a higher emphasis on even what we might feel.
So here is what I plan to teach you and where we are going. We are going to look mainly at verse 8 which is the instruction that Peter gives. This is the heart of this passage, the what of the message. Then we will look at verse 9, which really gives us the why of the message. In other words, why the believer should live in the way in which Peter has just taught. Finally, we are going to look at verses 10-12, which is a reference to an Old Testament passage, Psalm 34:12-16, which tells us the how of what Peter has just said. In other words, how the believer can live in the way in which Peter has instructed. So let’s begin by asking the Lord to help us. Father, I pray that You would help us to understand Your Word this morning. May it penetrate deep within our hearts. Give us a willingness to be moulded by Your Spirit, that truth would convict us and change us, so that we would leave this place knowing and living truth, amen.
So, let’s begin with verses 8, and let us notice at the outset that this passage is now inclusive of all. For much of what comes prior to this is to only certain people. Some of it was to employees, some to wives, and some to husbands. But now he addresses “all of you”
“Now to sum up, all of you be like-minded, sympathetic, brotherly, tender-hearted, and humble in spirit.”
1 Pet 3:8 (LSB)
So let us look at the what? What are we to do? We are to actually know and truly experience deep-seated emotional qualities such as to be “like-minded.” This is a word that means more than just our thinking, but a complete attitude of mind, to be in harmony. Then sympathetic, feeling with someone else, hurting with someone else. Then brotherly. Some translations say brotherly love, but the Greek just says “brotherly.” This is thinking of other believers as my brother and sister. Next, tenderhearted, which literally means good bowels. Have you got good bowels for someone? Meaning a deep-seated affection for someone from your gut. Then Peter wraps up these directives with the required heart condition to do all these well, to be humble in spirit. Why humble? Well Peter will later tell in chapter 5 that God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. And a broken person tends not to be a harsh person, he or she is sympathetic. And what Peter is presenting before us are heart attitudes of the true Christian, which eliminates any thought that being a Christian means that we are to live some kind of self-righteous, outward, or legalistic activity, that would cause us to then look down on others in our society. For this is not even a faint understanding of what Peter is talking about here. And if ever there was a passage that presents sincere Christian living, it is here. In other words, if there is ever a time when I might pat myself on the back, I only need to read 1 Peter 3:8, and soon realize that I too have missed the mark.
And do not leave this morning thinking Peter has given us some things to do. No, for Peter has been teaching us that we have been called by God, we have been born again, we have been filled with the Spirit. Therefore, this is what is mow to flow from the heart of the believer as we grow in Christ. Look again at the words Peter chooses to use: sympathy, brotherly, tenderness, and humbleness. And as we look at such things, we notice that these are such heart issues. In other words, these go way beyond some kind of surface character, or these go way beyond just saying, “well I choose to love you.” And I thought as I looked at these things, being sympathetic, being brotherly, being tender, being humble. How do we teach our children such things? By rules (maybe partly), by regulations, by regiment? And when I look at such a list, I see that they are really “feelings.” Can we say that in our evangelical circles? For we have been warned many times of our feelings. And rightfully so, for we cannot run our lives by feelings. For we cannot look at a situation in life and conclude that though the right thing to do is this direction, yet I “feel” like I should go in this direction. No, we cannot do that. For “feelings” cannot trump what is right and what is wrong. But what is different about these “feelings” is one, is that they are commanded by God; and two, is that they are right feelings. Be like-minded, be sympathetic, be brotherly, be tender-hearted. In other words, they are not feelings that cause us to respond against the truth. No, they are the right feelings that I would not say cause right action, but they are right feelings that align with right action.
Don’t miss this as Peter is teaching here that it is not enough that we show the right Christian charity, without it coming from a heart that is truly Christian. And again, how do we better instill these things in our lives? How do we teach these to our children? Do we command our children to have such feelings of character? One child hits another child and we say to them, say you’re sorry. Sorry. No, you need to say it like you mean it. In other words, you need to say it like you feel it from your bowels! And what is easier? To just teach the instruction or to live the instruction. I think we can teach the instruction by words to little children to some extent, but we cannot teach the instruction to our kids as they get older without living it.
And I think we would admit that this passage is getting to the core of all of Peter’s teaching thus far. For he commands us to be obedient with our whole beings. And you may be thinking, this is deeper than me, this is a more committed walk than I am capable. Yet why would God actually command us to do something that He has not given us the strength to do? And remember, this is Peter, a normal person. A man whose name was Simon, which means “shaky one.” Yet as he grew in his faith, he began to fit the name which Christ gave to him, Peter, a rock, a man of depth, stability, strength. And so, Peter, as should we, started to think very deeply about His faith and His relationship with Christ. This is pretty deep for a common fisherman. And remember he started out by cutting a guy’s ear off.
Now, maybe we cannot command this type of character that tends so much towards feelings. But we can say this for sure (notes), God has commanded us to “feel” this way. Again, we try to get around this sometimes with love. We might say to someone who is struggling to love, that they need to love even though they do not feel like loving. And therefore, we use words like, I choose to love you, even though you are a scoundrel. Yet how do you choose to be sympathetic, tender, and humble, when you do not feel it at all inside of you? So, what does this teach us about ourselves? It teaches us of our shortcomings, doesn’t it? For God has said something about our character, something that we seem to be unable to do.
We would not expect this from God. True, God chose the nation of Israel not because there was anything great about Israel, but the Lord chose them in their smallness and even in their rebellion against Him. And God chose to love Israel. Deuteronomy 7, He chose them to be His treasured possession. But this choosing to love the nation of Israel does not play out in words only. Listen to the words of Yahweh when Israel was floundering around in their sin in the book of Hosea, “When Israel was a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son” (Hosea 11:1 [LSB]). As over and over agains He weeps over His people. And listened to the words of Jesus years later when His people were still in rebellion:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you did not want it.”
Matt 23:37 (LSB)
See, these are not just stoic words, I choose to love you. For we must hear the heart of both the Father and the Son as they express that emotion and depth of their love for Israel. So, there can be something missing within us. In other words, if my sadness and concern is for the events of my own day and circumstances. But I cannot seem to be all that distraught about the hardships of others, there must be an issue with my own heart for it is not in tune with what God is asking of me. And there can be something missing within us if we say the words, I choose to love, I choose to forgive; though this is not what is in my heart. Now look at verse 9:
“not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but giving a blessing instead, for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.”
1 Pet 3:9 (LSB)
So that “we do not return reviling for reviling.” That phrase there “reviling for reviling.” Some of your Bibles will say, “insult for insult” or “insult with insult.” The prior term “evil for evil” is referring to someone who has harmed you, hurt you. Whereas the term “reviling for reviling” focuses more on hurtful words. So, in one sense, Peter is warning that if someone sins against you, do not respond back. If someone hits you, don’t hit back. Or if someone screams at you nasty words, do not return with the same. Now we get that, don’t we? In other words, we know this is not easy to live out, but we get the importance of the proper action here. We would all agree that this is the proper Christian way. Yet Peter does not stop there. Middle of verse 9, “but giving a blessing instead.” See, this answers the question of why? (notes) So that we are a blessing. Really Lord, is this required? Can I not just drop it and never speak to them again? We might think Peter, this is a little too radical. Can’t I just choose to love? Common Peter! And even if I do this, how can I have the proper emotion within me so that it is not just an action without true meaning. Because if it is just an action without a true heart, we would tend to call that being hypocritical, and we would be right.
Well this is the reason for verses 10-12, as they help us here. They help us to put right feelings behind the right actions. The right feelings behind the right actions. Maybe at home with a difficult spouse, a disobedient child, a stubborn parent, a trying boss, or a disagreeing neighbor. Maybe someone from your past who has greatly hurt you. Or someone who was completely opposed to you at work this week. And we are not saying that we condone the wrong, or that we do not discipline our children, or that we do not confront a sinning brother. But we are talking about our heart response toward someone else, even if they have treated us wrongly.
So, now we add to the list of Peter’s: those who are under government, those who work for someone else, wives submitting to husbands, husbands caring for their wives, and now to “all of you” who in some way may be treated unfairly at times. And what we are trying to discover is how we are to allow our outward response. Not just in what we might say, but how it can actually come from a right heart that is truly sympathetic, brotherly, tender-hearted, and humble in spirit.
“For, ‘The one who desires life, to love and see good days, Must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. He must turn away from evil and do good; He must seek peace and pursue it.’”
1 Pet 3:10-11 (LSB)
So, how? First (notes), we must repent of wrong feelings. We notice in this Old Testament passage the words, “we must turn away from evil.” Turning away means to repent. This literally means to change your mind from what you at first desired, to what you know is right. John Piper says that we are to turn against those emotions which are not the ones described here in verse 8. If the feelings inside of me are not things such as sympathy or tender-heartedness, then repent of those emotions. Lord, take these things out of my heart.
Secondly, we must come to Christ. “And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God (1 Pet 2:4). Come after Him, don’t run to someone else with your complaint. Bring it before the Lord. The Lord desires that we would do this. Jesus said:
“28 Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Matt 11:28-30 (LSB)
Look at the previous verses:
“Therefore, laying aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
1 Pet 2:1-3 (LSB)
Lord, I am coming to You because You are a good God. I know that Your Word, Your truth is good. Grant deep within my heart the same goodness and kindness that you have shown me, that I would now show compassion to others. Impress on my heart this deep, loving, depth that You gave to me. I have people come to me many times with things that are hard to bear. And certainly not in a proud way, but in a very humble way, I have learned with my own burdens to share those things with the Lord. Tell Him my heart, my desires, my hurts, my concerns. Come to Christ.
And finally, when we come to Christ and tell Him what is on our heart, we must then ask Christ for help. “For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous,
And His ears attend to their prayer” (3:12a). Ask Him to help you. Lord, help me! Lord, help me to get the right feelings, the right emotions with the right action. Lord, would You change my heart so that it is right.
Peter says to us in verse 9, “do not return evil for evil,” words for words, but “bless.” When someone lashes out at us, what is our tendency? Lash back. When someone says to us, you’re ugly. We lash back, well, you’re ugly. When someone hits us from behind in hockey, we want to give them a good slash in the back of the legs. In fact, we do not have to teach our kids to hit back, they retaliate quite well. We do not have to learn to get mad at someone who crosses us or maybe disagrees with us. And yet the opposite of this is blessing. Kind words, not just words, but kind words from a kind heart. Not from a hypocritical heart, but kind words from truly a changed heart. And you might be sitting here this morning thinking Mark, you don’t know how so-and-so has hurt me. True, but Peter is addressing who in verse 8) “All of us.” In fact, Peter has used the word to a great extent of those who are called. So, he is really saying, all of you are called are respond like this. If you are a slave of JC.
“For to this you have been called, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps, who did no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; who being reviled, was not reviling in return; while suffering, He was uttering no threats.”
1 Pet 2:21-23a (LSB)
So, when we are encouraged to respond properly even when we do not “feel” like it. And I am not opposed to choosing to love or choosing to forgive, but we cannot settle there, just choosing something that is not our actual heart. Therefore, we must look to Christ to help us bring our whole being along or something is missing. Remember Joseph. He said, how can I do this wicked thing and sin against God? Notice he did not say, “how can I do this thing because it is wicked.” He already knew that, that was obvious to Joseph, for he knew God’s truth. Therefore, Joseph’s dilemma was that he did not want to sin against God. The truth he knew caused his heart to refuse sin. In other words, Joseph’s heart aligned with the truth he knew.
Now also notice at the end of verse 9, “but giving a blessing for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” Here we are to give a blessing, so that, we may inherit a blessing. We can struggle with these types of passages at times, especially those of us with a little more of a Reformed slant, those verses that give direct commands and results. Bless others, so that, you are blessed yourself. Also, Matthew 5:7 states a very similar promise, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” It would seem that those who are merciful get mercy. Mercy gets you mercy. Therefore, our theology cannot miss this. That we are to pursue this with all our being and strength. And I hope as we continue on in these weeks and months and years together, that we will do our best to teach both God’s call and election, and the believer’s responsibility. Because the Bible teaches both of those things. Paul wrote:
“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; [there is the effort on behalf of the believer], for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” [there is the sovereign work of God]
Phil 2:12-13 (LSB)
So never miss the sovereign work of God. But never miss the passion and desire of the one whom God has called. Turn back to 1 Peter 1, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again (1 Pet 1:3a [LSB]). Mercy. This is where it all starts for us. And without mercy, we would not have life. Without that mercy, I would have never had a love for Christ and known what He did for us, my wicked heart would have been still dead. And who did this? God. This was nothing that was earned and nothing that we did. And now all Peter is saying is that the believer, the one who was given mercy by God. The one on whom the Lord bestowed such mercy, now, bestows blessing upon others. This effort on our part does not save us. That is all of God. No, this is the response of the person who has been truly saved by God. In fact, this kind of changed life, gives evidence of something that has already occurred in the life of the believer. The one who has received a blessing is to give a blessing, so that, he or she might inherit a blessing.
And what is the blessing here? Well it doesn’t tell us, but let me share a thought. Imagine the joy that we will someday know fully when our complete forgiveness. Which we know in principle now, is fully revealed to us. When the reality of those who rejected Christ becomes even clearer for us. When we better understand the wrath of God and the eternal destiny of the unsaved. When we know the sinfulness of our own hearts. And someday we stand before God, and He says to us, “well done, thou good and faithful servant.” And all the Lord is asking of us, is to show that same mercy and blessing to others, who are undeserving as we were. And that it is not only an outward act, but it is an action that comes from a right heart. Let’s pray. Lord, we praise You this morning for the challenge of Your Word. Would You plant it deep within us? That we would act in a way that has been given as an example for us by Christ. For we ask these things in the name of Christ, amen.
What is Peter commanding? To actually know and truly experience deep-seated emotional qualities such as: like-mindedness, sympathy, being brotherly, tender-hearted, and humbleness. Why is Peter commanding us this? So that we are a blessing instead of returning evil for evil (vs 9). How can we be obedient to this command? We must repent of wrong feelings (vs 3:11), come to Christ (2:4), and ask Him for help (vs 3:12). Finally, notice Peter’s words in verse 10, “for the one who desires life, to love and see good days.” See this is the way in which the Christian is to enjoy life. And who does not want to see good days. Now we sort of think, if this happens in the world. Or if this sin in government was addressed, things would be better. Or if my job changed, then things would improve. No, actually Peter says that if you live with a changed heart, you will see good days.
So, may we heed the words of Peter this morning. May we strip away wrong thoughts and feelings, and work towards the same heart that Christ had. That we would ask Him for this kind of heart. And look what Peter will encourage us with in 1 Peter 5:7, “Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (pray) Lord, may we lean more and more on Christ, that we would learn to have the kind of character that You had, that we would not be conformed to the former lusts which were ours in our ignorance, but like the One who called us, we would holy in all our conduct, in all our being, in all our emotions and thoughts. That our changed actions would reveal our changed hearts. And all God’s people said, amen.