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“Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;[a] 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing . . .” (1 Peter 3:8-19)
Called to be like Christ
This section is jam-packed with commands––be of one mind, have compassion, be tenderhearted, don’t pay back evil with evil, don’t lie, turn from evil and do good…and there’s more. The summary of this section is “be like Christ.” How can we do this? Because of our Christian identity––we have been made like Christ and so we are to be holy like Christ. Peter exhorts us to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts” (3:15). Our hearts are to be holy so that the Holy God may be Lord of our hearts and our lives. As Christians we are called to be like Christ, and to be like Christ all the time, everywhere, in each relationship. We do this together as the people of God. And so Peter begins, “Finally, all of you…”
Finally, All of You (vs. 8-9)
“Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this” (vs. 8-9). We are called to be like Christ, and Peter shows what this looks like.
But how should we respond when we are wronged? Again, like Jesus. Jesus says on the Sermon on the Mount to love you enemies, bless those who mess with you, pray for those who persecute you “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Mt. 5:43-45). When you give unmerited, undeserved love to those who don’t love you or aren’t lovable, you act as sons of God and are like the Son of God. It’s not enough to just leave the room or bite your tongue or hide, you are to respond with blessing.
Inherit a Blessing (vs. 9-14)
“Knowing that you were called to this that you may inherit a blessing” (vs. 9). The Father’s treatment of us directs our treatment of others. This is really important to understand because it removes your expectations, your mind, your actions from normal economy. God operates with his children, not by the economy of pay-back, but by the economy of grace. He has blessed us, and so we should bless others. If the contractor working on your bathroom delivers a mess of lies, don’t pay him back with the same currency. Peter says when you bless, you will be blessed.
So is this the prosperity Gospel? Maybe a little bit. “Do you want to love life? Do you want to see good days? Do you want to unlock your heavenly blessings?” Peter says, “Stop sinning!” A good life is a godly life. Peter quotes from Psalm 34, the psalm David wrote after feigning madness in front of Abimelech, the king of Gath (1 Sam. 21:10-15). Peter says this guy knows the secret to a blessed life––with giants, flung spears, pretend madness, cave hiding, long-suffering.
David says that we must restrain our tongue from evil and deceit, turn away from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it. The confidence to do all of this because God is God. He is the God who sees and the God who hears and the God who vindicates. His eyes are on the righteous, He hears their prayers, His face is against those who do evil (vs 10-12).
Fear and Sanctify the Lord (vs. 13-16)
Peter knows that fear is a central concern for those threatened with suffering or persecution or sickness. And so in verses 14-15 he quotes from Isaiah 8 when a joint invasion force of Syria and Israel is preparing to attack Jerusalem and Ahaz, the king of Judah. God told King Ahaz not to fear because it will be unsuccessful. But instead of trusting the Lord’s promise, King Ahaz makes a plea for salvation to the king of Assyria and pays protection money out of the temple treasures (2 Kings 16:8). But Lord speaks to King Ahaz, “Neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for you a sanctuary” (Is. 8:12-14). Armies are surrounding you, and it’s scary. Who are you going to fear? Do you turn to medication, your bank account, your ability to negotiate peace? Let the Lord be your fear. Let the Lord of Armies be your sanctuary. Our modern understanding of sanctuaries are safe, quiet places. But a sanctuary in the biblical sense is a holy place where the Holy God dwells. Peter has called us the spiritual and holy house. As we are faithful to our calling to be and building the holy house of God, God defends his holy house and promises to be our sanctuary.
But we don’t merely hunker down in our holy sanctuary. We are to “be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks for the reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (vs. 15).This hope is the “living hope” we received when we were born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1:3). Our hope and our faith are in Jesus who God raised from the dead and gave Him glory (1:21). Our hope is in the God and Father of Jesus who raised him from the dead and promises to do this for us. Our hope is the gospel that we preach.
The Just for the Unjust (vs. 17-18)
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” Our hope is grounded on Jesus, the just One, who suffered for the unjust. When we hear the gospel, we should be ashamed. Peter says that “those who revile good conduct in Christ may be ashamed” (vs. 16). Jesus was just––he followed what was good, he was full of compassion, he loved his brothers, he was tenderhearted, he didn’t return evil for evil, and he suffered for our sins. That means that we should be ashamed. God uses the shame and guilt of our sin to draw us to Jesus. “We’ve murdered our Messiah. What shall we do?” Peter’s answer is for you to repent and go to One who can bring you to God (Acts. 3:38-39).
The Lord our God is calling you now. How can we come to God? We must be brought to God by Jesus. The Just brings the unjust. The Righteous brings the reviler. The Holy One brings the sinner. But we can’t be brought to God without being made like Him. We are called to be like Christ and we have been made like Christ. Because of this, sanctify the Lord God.