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Suffering for Doing Good June 11, 2014

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
Tags: , , , ,

Here are my thoughts on 1 Peter 3:8-22.

Summary: Peter begins by exhorting believers to:

  • be of one mind
  • have compassion
  • love each other in Christ
  • be humble.

When they are attacked, they must seek the good of those who attack them, since they have been called to receive a holy inheritance. To support this point, he quotes from Psalm 34:12-16; in light of that passage, they must:

  • avoid profane speech, impious words, and speaking evil about people
  • loath evil and desire God’s glory
  • seek external peace with others.

Indeed, while God is angry with the wicked, He loves those who desire to walk with Him, and He answers their prayers.

Peter then notes that if his readers are ambitious to imitate God, then unbelievers may be overcome by their actions. Yet even if unbelievers attack them, they should be happy; to support this point, he quotes from Isaiah 8:12; in light of that passage, their souls should not become confused in the midst of the attacks of unbelievers. Instead, they must:

  • worship Christ
  • be ready to gently defend their faith when unbelievers attack them – by speaking about their faith with reverence.

Their inner nature must remain holy, so that those who attack them by speaking ill of them will acknowledge that their accusations have no merit. Moreover, if it is God’s will for believers to be attacked by unbelievers, then they will benefit from these attacks. To support this point, Peter reminds them that Christ suffered and died so that everyone could be received into friendship with God; Christ – in terms of His human nature – died violently, yet His human nature was then united to the spring of life. Also, Christ spoke through Noah to his contemporaries and warned them that He would judge their sinfulness; He bore with them, yet they did not believe His messenger, Noah. God then brought a flood on the earth, and only Noah and his family survived in the ark. This story also reminds believers that their baptism confirms their salvation; their souls are now at peace with God, and the resurrection of Christ confirms this great fact. Peter concludes by noting that Christ:

  • has ascended into heaven
  • has supreme dignity
  • is supreme over all of the elect angels.

Thoughts: In verses 19-21, Peter connects the flood that Noah and his family survived with the water of ritual baptism. Leighton offers some insights regarding baptism:

Thus, we have a true account of this power, and so of other sacraments, and we find the error of two extremes. First, that of those who ascribe too much to them, as if they worked through a natural, inherent value and carried grace in them inseparably. Second, the error of those who ascribe too little to them, making them only signs and badges of our profession. Signs they are, but more than signs that merely represent something. They are the means exhibiting and seals confirming grace to the faithful.

I would say that I am guilty of the latter error that Leighton notes above, as my perspective on baptism is that it constitutes another step in a believer’s spiritual walk. Now I should add that baptism is a distinctive step in this journey, as it typically entails the first public declaration of a believer’s faith. As for the former error that Leighton notes above, I have seen fellow believers place undue weight on baptismal ceremonies; also, I know people who were baptized and later wandered away from their faith. Perhaps any believer who is preparing for their baptism should consider how this public declaration of faith should spur them to make further progress in their spiritual walk. In particular, when I was baptized about ten years ago, I felt compelled to set a good example for others through my subsequent words and deeds, and I achieved some success in this regard.

In verse 22, Peter encourages believers in light of the fact that Christ is now seated at the right hand of God the Father. Leighton offers some interesting thoughts on this point:

Would death be a terrifying word? Would it not, indeed, be one of the sweetest thoughts to make us rejoice, to bring our hearts solace and rest, as we look forward to the day of freedom? This infectious disease may stay here all winter and break out again more strongly again next year. [A plague ravaged Lothian in 1645 and first appeared at Newbattle in July 1645 and did not end until the end of 1646. – Editor’s note.] Do not flatter yourselves and think it has passed. But consider how Christ wishes us to contemplate our union with him.

A quick Google search revealed an interesting article on the plague that Leighton references above. Clearly Leighton and his readers were deeply affected by the plague, as about half of the population of Leith perished as a result of the disease. In the midst of great fear and panic, Leighton used this passage to encourage his readers to focus on their awesome status in Christ. Black rats, infected fleas, gangrene, etc. could cause great physical and emotional trauma, yet these temporal troubles could not affect the eternal inheritance that God had stored up for them in heaven. Perhaps we should heed Leighton’s advice in the midst of our contemporary troubles and difficulties by asking God to help us view these setbacks through His eyes.


1. To Elders and Young Men | Ringing In - June 29, 2014

[…] light of the pestilence and other above-mentioned troubles, Leighton and his readers had many reasons to praise God. I am […]

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