COMMENTARY ON FIRST PETER
" 3:8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 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 Pet 3:8-9, NKJV)
One of the secrets to the strength and effectiveness of the body of Christ is its unity. When the wicked join together, they become nearly invincible. That is why God disrupted the building of the tower of Babel. "Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them" (Gen 11:6). In Christ, however, unity, or oneness, is blessed by God, and brings much glory to Him. The Spirit now reasons with us on this matter, urging us to be of benefit to one another, and to be a source of blessing, even to those who despitefully use us. This manner of thinking is strange to the flesh, and is seen as a liability rather than an advantage. We can therefore gauge our own progress in the faith by our response to this admonition. If it seems unreasonable to us, as something that puts us at a disadvantage, we are in the flesh. If, however, we see the sense of it, and are drawn to see it fulfilled in our lives, it is because we are in the Spirit. Again, we are speaking of very practical aspects of our lives. Yet, they are areas in which Divine fellowship and blessing are realized.
EVERY ONE BEING OF ONE MIND
" 3:8aFinally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another . . . " NKJV
The word "finally" means, "to sum up what I have been saying." What the Spirit says here is a spiritually logical conclusion to what has been declared to this point. The truth of God, when embraced by faith, does lead to reasonable conclusions. Faulty teaching leads to faulty conclusions and the embrace of erroneous principles. This is a test of whether or not the truth has been embraced: what conclusions did the doctrine produce?
The admonition is not confined to teachers, or to the ones being taught; the leaders, or the ones being led. Here is something for everyone: "ALL of you." The younger are not excluded. The husbands and the wives are embraced, the master and the servant: "all of YOU." This is another principle of the Kingdom, and is consistent throughout the Word of God: the fundamental responsibilities of men, and central teachings of God's word apply to all of the body of Christ. When the Word of God addresses specific categories of people, the teaching is generally very brief. A quick return is made to the central matters.
"Be of one mind." Here is a blessed condition that is rarely realized in the professed church. Nor, indeed, is it held in high regard. Ponder how frequently this admonition is found in Scripture. "be of one mind . . . stand fast in one spirit, with one mind . . . being of one accord, of one mind . . . Be of the same mind . . . be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment . . . be of the same mind in the Lord" (2 Cor 13:11; Phil 1:27; 2:2; Rom 12:15; 1 Cor 1:10; Phil 4:2). This is not something that is optional, nor is it an elevated status that can only be realized by a few. This is a household benefit.
In God's Kingdom there is only one valid mind-set. It is "the mind of Christ," or "the mind of the Lord" (1 Cor 2:16). Any manner of thinking that deviates from that "mind" is of the flesh, and is to be rejected. In order to be "of one mind," it is imperative that we concentrate on the same thing-the same central, or pivotal, realities. It is a common vision that produces a single mind. This is not a call to be stereotyped and lifeless. There is room for liberty in our thoughts and perceptions. Yet, when we insist on championing this right, we give the advantage to the flesh. Valid perceptions do not conflict with each another.
Having the same mind involves having the same frame of reference-the same foundation for thought. It is looking the same way, concentrating on the same thing, and having the same priorities. It is a "this one thing I do" mentality (Phil 3:13), where everything we think and do is brought into harmony with our quest to know Christ. Having "the same mind" is thinking upon things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report (Phil 4:8). It is determining to know nothing save "Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor 2:2). There may be varying degrees of perception, but they will all be harmonious and will not disrupt the unity of the Spirit. I have rarely heard single-mindedness emphasized among professed believers. It is generally considered idealistic, and not within the realm of possibility. But in our text, it is an essentiality.
"Having compassion for one another." Having compassion is being sympathetic, able to share the same feelings with someone who is burdened or suffering. This cannot be done mechanically, or by rote. It is a Divine trait, as evidenced in the Lord's reaction to His needy people. "In all their affliction He was afflicted" (Isa 63:9). The Spirit says it this way in Hebrews 13:3. "Remember the prisoners as if chained with them; those who are mistreated; since you yourselves are in the body also."NKJV This speaks of a consideration of one another that can only be attained by faith and in the Spirit. Again it is written, "And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it" (1 Cor 12:26), and "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal 6:2).
Compassion is necessary for effective ministry. Just as Jesus being "touched with the feeling of our infirmities" makes Him an proficient minister to us (Heb 4:15), so having compassion on one another enables us to be helpful to our brethren. Many a suffering saint has been sustained by the compassion of kindred spirits. Although such a ministry is not common in our day, we can play a significant role in the body of Christ by soliciting grace to make us productive in this area. The people of God need this compassion.
LOVE, TENDERHEATEDNESS, AND COURTESY
" 8B . . . love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous." NKJV Care must be taken not to place this exhortation in an institutional setting, as though it was speaking only of the brethren with whom we meet. Loving as brethren is not loving as fleshly brothers love. That type of love does not flow deep enough for the saints. This is loving as those who are brothers of Jesus, holding a high regard for all who are joined to Him. Such love is to be "fervent," or intently and with zeal (1 Pet 1:22), and "without dissimulation," or hypocrisy(Rom 12:9). Our love for one another is not heartless or formalistic. Loving as brethren involves praying for one another (James 5:16), teaching and admonishing one another (Rom 15:14), and building up, or edifying, one another in the faith (1 Thess 5:11). It includes considering one another (Heb 10:24), forgiving one another (Eph 4:32), and pleasing one another for good to edification (Rom 15:2). To love as brethren is to prefer one another "in honor" (Rom 12:10).
Loving as brethren is particularly important because of our status in this world. We are strangers and pilgrims here, not received by the world, and constantly hounded by the wicked one. The love of God's people sweetens the cup of life, and makes our burdens bearable. It also brings honor to God, for He teaches us to love one another (1 Thess 4:9).
"Be tenderhearted." Life has a way of making us calloused and insensitive. We must not allow this to happen. Calloused spirits are insensitive ones, unable to receive from God or minister in His name. One of the great exhortations of Scripture in this regard is found in Ephesians 4:32. "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." The KJV accents the practical part of this word: "pitiful." It involves a compassion that compels the person to pour mollifying ointment into the spiritual wounds and bruises of the brethren. Israel was severely upbraided by God because the wounds, bruises, and sores of her people "have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified (soothed) with ointment" (Isa 1:6).
Some of God's people live continually with great duress and sorrow. Their only repast or place of rest is among the saints of God. The saints are to be sensitive of these situations, not allowing the hardness of earthly concerns to make them insensitive. When Jesus saw a widow from Nain in the funeral procession of her only son, "He had compassion on her," and raised her son from the dead (Lk 7:11-13). He was "tenderhearted," or "pitiful." The people of God do well to culture such an environment as contributes to sensitive hearts. Things must be removed from their gatherings that contribute to hardness and insensitivity. You may have noticed that empty form, levity, and academic approaches to the things of God, all work against compassion.
"Be courteous." Only one other in Scripture mentions this word. When shipwrecked on the island Melita, the chief man of the island, Publius, received them and lodged them "courteously" (Acts 28:7). The word means to be friendly or kindly minded. It involves being gentle, cordial, and eager to be agreeable. It is the opposite of contention and self-centeredness. Being courteous is an aspect of humility, when one refuses to make self and self-interests the focus of attention. Such a person is not overbearing, but is acutely mindful of the needs of others. This grace also involves being friendly-minded, or cultivating a friendly disposition. Most of us could do with some improvement in this area.
These exhortations are a summons to work on the environment of the brethren--a sort of spiritual ecological concern. Where these virtues are found, an atmosphere is created where the Spirit of the Lord can work, and edification and strengthening can occur. This is involved in keeping "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph 4:3). Remember, "the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace" (James 3:16). A lack of consideration for one another stifles spiritual life. Where hearts are not in harmony with the heart of our Lord, the life of God is suffocated. If you have been exposed to a religious atmosphere where these things are lacking, you know the truth of these words. Each of us has a choice set before us to be profitable to God's people.
BEING A BLESSING AND INHERITING A BLESSING
" 3:9 . . . 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." NKJV A retaliatory spirit is an ungodly spirit. When evil is done to us, we are not to "return" evil, retaliating as though there was no God to set things straight. The solemn word is given to us, "See that none render evil for evil unto any man" (1 Thess 5:15). Jesus outlined the proper response to these things. "Do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you" (Lk 6:27-28). Elsewhere the Spirit exhorts, "Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not" (Rom 12:14). "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom 12:20-21). "Recompense to no man evil for evil" (Rom 12:17). Our real foes are not flesh and blood, and we must not conduct our lives as though they were (Eph 6:12). Furthermore, obeying these exhortations will not put us at a disadvantage. Rather, it will bring the Lord by our side, to fight for us. In believing this, we will experience the peace of God.
"Blessing." What is the alternative to returning evil for evil and reviling, or abusive speech, for reviling? It is "giving a blessing instead."NASB Here is an area where much improvement can be realized. Many professed believers have never thought of "blessing" anyone, let alone those doing evil to them and reviling them. Did not Jesus do this very thing when He healed Malchus' ear in the garden (Lk 22:51). When He was on the cross, reviled and oppressed by the people, did He not cry out, "Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Lk 23:34). When He knew the multitudes would leave Him because of His words, He fed them because they were hungry, and would have fainted in the way had He not done so (Matt 15:32).
One of the promises made to Abraham was, "thou shalt be a blessing" (Gen 12:2). That is, not only would blessing come TO Abraham, it would flow out FROM him as well. The same promise was made years later to the Jews. "O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing" (Zech 8:13). To "bless"someone is to bring benefit to them, to give them some advantage. Jesus brings this point home to our hearts. "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven" (Matt 5:44-45). Where men do not conduct themselves in harmony with the life of God, they can make no claim to identity with Him.
Called to inherit a blessing. Why did God draw us to Himself? It was "that ye should inherit a blessing." The fact that it is "inherited" signifies that it is not from this world, nor is it attained through fleshly identity. To "inherit" means to OBTAIN, and to do so from God and in a righteous manner.
Faith removes you from this world, proving your inheritance is not here. The word "blessing" includes the idea of abundance. Thus the Lord speaks of blessing "abundantly" (Psa 132:15). There is a magnitude to the blessing of salvation that is scarcely known among believers. God has not called us to meagerness, but to plentitude and fulness. Believers can afford to give and to bless because they have been called to so much.
This abundance is not of the earth, else we would not be called to "inherit" it. Gross sinners can obtain much of this world's wealth. For this reason alone, we must not regard the world as the object of our attention, or the source the blessing to which we have been called. In Christ we "have obtained an inheritance" (Eph 1:11). While we are in this world, we do not obtain it in its fulness. However, we do receive the Spirit, "the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession" (Eph 1:14)-and the Spirit is "poured out on us abundantly" (Tit 3:5-6). That gift is a pledge of what is coming.
If the people of God will focus their attention on their inheritance, and lay up for themselves treasures in heaven, it will reduce the magnitude of their trials. It will also enable them to bless those who despitefully use them, thereby showing the superiority of life in Christ to death in trespasses and sins.