1 Peter 3:8-9 ~ 20090329 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
03/29 1 Peter 3:8-9 God honoring Conduct; All of You
8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For "Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." 13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.
Peter has given instruction in how to conduct life in a way that proclaims the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness. We display the attributes of God by submitting to authority, authority in government, authority in the workplace, authority in the home. Our conduct puts God on display even when - especially when submitting to authority that is corrupt and ungodly. Now Peter concludes his exhortation to live in such a way that unbelievers notice our conduct and are drawn to Jesus by giving us five summary attributes that we are to display; unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, tender heartedness, and humility of mind. He begins and ends his list with attributes of the mind or thinking. They are compound words; like-minded and humble-minded. There is a significant focus in the bible on the mind and the thinking:
Mark 12:30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind...
Philippians 2:2, 5 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind...Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Unity of Mind [omofronev] - this is what Jesus prayed for in John:
John 17:21-23 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
What does he mean by unity of mind or unity of thinking? What's your favorite color? That's mine too. What's your favorite food? That's mine too. What do you think about the president? That's what I think too. Does unity of mind mean that we are all cloned into robots that think the same things about everything? Or is it something deeper and richer than that? It ought to be the sincere endeavor of every believer to so saturate our minds in the scripture that on the great issues of God and salvation we joyfully embrace the same truths. There are secondary issues that are less clear, but on the things on which the bible is clear, we must submit to God's authority and wholeheartedly embrace his revealed truth. We share a common biblical world view and we share a common aim and purpose. Let's not leave what this is unstated. God is God and we exist to bring him praise. In Peter's language we exist (2:9)'to proclaim the excellencies of him'; 'that they might... glorify God' (2:12). We glorify God as we direct attention to Jesus with our words and our conduct. Our world view must be God centered. How do we make progress toward unity in thinking? It requires saturation in the word of God both individually and corporately. It requires fellowship and communication, effort in study and a teachable spirit.
Sympathetic [sumpayeiv]- Sympathy is entering into and experiencing the feelings of others. Not only are we to be on the same page with the truths of scripture, but we are to bear one another's burdens; grieve with those who are experiencing sorrow, and rejoice with those who are experiencing joy (Rom.12:15). This requires effort of a different kind. Some people are hard wired to be sympathetic - my wife is one of these. Our cat just had kittens this week, and she was entering into labor right along with our cat. She is by nature a sympathetic person. But whether this comes naturally to you or not, we are all called to be and do all of these. The things that come less naturally to us, we must exert special conscious effort.
Brotherly Love [filadelfoi] - this is the centerpiece of the five admonitions. Peter has already pointed us to this in 1:22:
1 Peter 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,
(also Rom.12:10; 1Thess.4:9; Heb.13:1; 2Pet.1:7). In Christ we have become siblings and we are to have brotherly affections toward one another. This is the mark by which others will know that we are Christians (Jn.13:34-35).
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The first and the last words in this list have to do with the mind. The second and fourth have to do with the emotions. This word 'brotherly love' is more than emotion. This involves the will. It is an action word. You won't often find brothers sitting around saying 'I love you' to each other. But brothers do love and it is a love that runs deep. It is a love that is expressed in action. Love at its core is seeking the highest good of the person loved. Here's one way my brother expressed his love for me: my brother was a smoker. He once told me 'if I ever catch you smoking, I will kill you' - and I knew he was serious. At least in that instance, had my highest good in mind. Brotherly love can be costly. Seeking the highest good of the person you love may require you to inconvenience yourself greatly. Because 'God caused us to be born again' (1:3), we are his children. In Jesus Christ we are now brothers and sisters. We must love one another.
Tender hearted [eusplagcnoi]- Literally translated, this term 'eusplangknoi' is 'good boweled' The bowels were thought to be the seat of emotions. In fact, we say 'I have a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach; my stomach is in knots; I have butterflies in my stomach; or this is my gut feeling.' This refers to the deepest of human emotions. The verb in the gospels is used exclusively of Jesus:
Mark 1:41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.”
Mark 6:34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.
Luke 7:13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”
This is being good hearted or tender hearted, sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. This was the emotion that motivated the good Samaritan in Luke 10:33; it was what caused the father to run to embrace his prodigal son in Luke 15:20. In Ephesians 4:32 we see that this emotion toward each other is rooted in the mercy that we have experienced from God in the forgiveness of our sins:
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Humble Minded [tapeinofronev]- Peter has highlighted attitudes of the mind, emotions, will, emotions, and now back to the mind. First he said we are to have unity of mind; now he says we are to have 'humility of mind'. What does that mean? Are we to be so modest in our thinking that we don't claim to know anything for sure? Here's a tension I want to highlight. We are told:
Jude 1:3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
How do we reconcile this command to fight for truth with the command Peter gives us here to be 'humble-minded'? In 1908, G.K.Chesterton, a British writer said:
"What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert - himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt - the Divine Reason... We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table" [Orthodoxy, p.31-32; cited in Piper, Brothers We are Not Professionals, p.162]
Humility of mind is not the abandonment of conviction but a subordination to God and his truth. Jesus said 'you will know the truth and the truth will set you free' (John 8:32). Speaking truth is an instrument for salvation of unbelievers and as such it is an essential part of love. We do not know everything; 1 Corinthians 13:12 says 'now I know in part'; and yet we are told:
Titus 2:15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
Humility of mind is not being wishy-washy about the truth. If it were we could have no real substantial unity of mind. That's why Paul can put unity of mind together with striving for the faith of the gospel:
Philippians 1:27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,
True humility is a gift. If it were something we could attain, we would be proud of attaining it. Humility of mind is the gift of receiving the good news and standing firmly on the rock solid truth of the good news, knowing that we did nothing to deserve it. Anything we know we know by the grace of a merciful God who chooses to reveal himself to us. And what God has revealed to us in his word we can proclaim with absolute confidence and with humility of mind.
So we are to embrace fellow believers mind, emotions and will; with brotherly love, with sympathy and a tender heart, with unity and humility of mind. But we are to go beyond this. Peter says:
3:9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling...
One commentary I read said that verse 8 addresses the Christian's relationship with fellow believers and verse 9 addresses our relationship with unbelievers. An older commentary I read got it right. This was written in 1658, so the language is more difficult to follow. Alexander Nisbet said 'The children of the Lord may resolve not only to meet with hard usage and bitter language from the profane or those that are without, but even from their fellow professors' (p.129). He's right. I have learned from personal experience that the most painful blows you take in ministry with other Christians are the ones you take from within the group of believers. You are on the front lines of ministry and you take a bullet. That's no surprise. The surprise comes when you examine the wound and you realize the shot came from behind - from one of your own. Brothers and sisters, that ought not to be, but it is. And Peter, writing to believers living in a hostile community, knew that this would be the case for them as it will be for us, and he gave us some clear instruction on how to deal with it. When that happens, whether you receive evil, whether you receive insult from the world outside or from those that claim to be your brothers and sisters, do not repay with evil and with insult. When that happens, your flesh rears its ugly head and demands retribution. We might even justify it as righteous indignation. We have been hurt, we have been wronged, we have been sinned against and we want it to be made right - or more than right. That is what the laws of retribution were for - an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I feel that if you took out my eye, I am justified in taking your head off. If you knocked out my tooth, I have the right to kick all your teeth down your throat. But the New Testament takes us further than simply not paying back more than is deserved. It takes us even further than not demanding immediate justice at all but leaving room for the wrath of God. Peter calls us to more than relinquishing our rights or passive inaction. Peter calls us to bless those who insult us and do evil against us. Don't be satisfied to simply let it go; do good to the person who wronged you and pray that God would bless them.
Romans 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
Jesus taught us:
Luke 6:27-36 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (cf. Matthew 5:38-45)
This takes us back to what Peter said in 1:15 'but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,' - our being kind to those who mistreat us reflects the character of God who was kind to us when we were his enemies.
Peter gives us the reason for this conduct:
9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
We have been called to bless those that injure us. This is the fourth reminder in Peter that God acted to call us to himself; in 1:15 'as he who called you is holy'; 2:9 'proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness'; 2:21 'to this you have been called'. In 2:20-21 Peter encouraged servants that suffering for doing good is what they have been called to do:
2:20 ...But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
All the way back in Genesis 12, God's called Abram to be a blessing to all the nations.
Genesis 12:2-3 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
We are called to be a blessing to those around us, even to our enemies; especially to our enemies.
Now this all sounds good. It sounds right – until we walk out those doors and someone says something or does something to us that isn't right. Then it all comes apart. What do we do? How can we possibly respond the way Peter commands us to respond?
"when Christianity calls upon us to do what does not seem humanly possible it shows us its genius - supernaturalism. Peter, of all men, should know what the grace of God had done for him in this respect. He had been not only fast with the sword; he had been quick with his tongue." [D.J.Kenyon, He that will Love Life, p.197; cited in Hiebert, p.214]
Here's the point. We cannot do this apart from the grace of God at work in our lives. The power of God has to be at work in my life to create the desire to respond this way to the various circumstances that confront me each and every day. This is not normal or natural. This is supernatural. And Peter tells us 'if you respond this way, if you allow the power of God to work in your life so that you bless your enemies, you will inherit a blessing'. We're going to look more at what that means next time.
8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.