VIII. Following Christ While Suffering (1 Peter 3:13–4:19)


VIII. Following Christ While Suffering (3:13–4:19)

3:13-16 Peter lays down a principle for his readers: in general, if you are devoted to what is good, no one will harm you (3:13). But even if you suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. God has you covered either way, so do not fear (3:14). Whatever response you receive from the world, be ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you (3:15). Christians must be a strong witness for Jesus with their lives so that they have opportunity to be a strong witness for Jesus with their words. God is not looking for spectators but “players” who live for their King with righteousness and then give testimony about him with gentleness and respect (3:16).

3:17-22 In this fallen world, all people suffer. But it is better to suffer for doing good—if God wills it—than for doing evil (3:17; see 2:19-20). Again, Peter reminds them (see 2:21-25) that Christ is their supreme example of godly suffering. He suffered for sins—your sins and mine—to bring [us] to God (3:18). He visited the devil and his followers in the spiritual realm and proclaimed his victory over them (3:19). Then he was raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of God with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him (3:22). And if you know Christ, you were raised with him (see Eph 2:6). So your present suffering doesn’t compare to the victory you have, and will have, through Christ.

Jesus spiritually spoke through Noah offering salvation to humanity as he built the ark, but only Noah and his family responded (3:20). The ark provided salvation and deliverance from judgment. Similarly, the believers to whom Peter was writing would be brought to safety through God’s judgment by being united to Christ, the New Testament ark of safety. Deliverance does not come through water baptism but by testifying of entering the ark of safety (i.e., Jesus Christ), which is the basis of spiritual baptism (3:21; see Rom 6:1-7). Jesus now sits at the right hand of God where all authorities, human and divine, are subject to his control.

4:1-5 Therefore, believers are to have the same attitude toward suffering that Christ had. We are to live our remaining days for God’s will and no longer for human desires (4:1-2). Peter lists the kinds of ungodly behavior that unrestrained humanity desires (4:3). Not only do unbelievers do these things, but they also slander Christians because they don’t engage in such wild living with them (4:4). But they don’t realize they will give an account one day to the one who will judge the living and the dead (4:5). Which is worse? Being slandered by the ungodly or judged by God?

4:6 Between Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, he preached to people who had died, proclaiming his salvation to Old Testament believers in preparation for his leading them to paradise (see Eph 4:8-10). It was also the victorious proclamation of the victory of the cross over sin and Satan’s authority (see Col 2:14-15).

4:7 Time is short; the end of all things is near. You and I are on death row; we’re fuses burning out. So, how should we live? From God’s viewpoint, time is the boundary of opportunity. Peter explains how to make the most of the opportunity you’ve been given. At the top of the list is prayer. It replaces self-focus with a God-focus. It reminds us who we are and—more importantly—who we are not.

4:8-9 Then Peter encourages them to love each other (4:8). Biblical love is not defined by our feelings but by sacrificing for the good of others. What’s a practical way we can do this? By being hospitable to one another (4:9). This is one of the many “one anothers” of Scripture. Biblical hospitality is an authentic welcoming and serving, especially toward those who can do nothing in return. Jesus reminds us that what we do for “the least of these” we do for him (Matt 25:40).

4:10-11 We are to serve others based on the spiritual gift we have received. Full-service gas stations are hard to find today. Most are self-service. Unfortunately, many attend church like a self-service station. They fill up on preaching and go home until they need more fuel. But God intends his church to be full service with each member providing for the well-being of others. We are stewards of God’s grace (4:10). We manage something precious that we received but don’t own. And since you are a receptor of grace, you ought to be a conduit for grace. So whatever your spiritual gift, it’s all about God—not you. Whether you speak or serve, it should be done with God’s words and the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. Do you serve your boss with more excellence than you serve God? Eternal glory and power belong to just one of them (4:11).

4:12-19 Peter again returns to the theme of suffering. No one looks forward to suffering. We want to reign with Christ, not suffer with him. But to reign with Christ in glory, we must suffer with him now. Whatever form of suffering God calls you to, don’t be surprised but rejoice instead so that you may also rejoice with great joy when he returns (4:12-13). There is no virtue in suffering as a murderer or thief (4:15), but if we suffer as a Christian we are blessed (4:14, 16). For judgment begins with God’s household. And if God’s fatherly discipline is painful, how much worse will his judgment be on the ungodly (4:17-18)? So if it is God’s will that we suffer while doing good, let us entrust our lives to our faithful Creator even as we entrust our eternal souls to him (4:19).