COMMENTARY ON FIRST PETER
" 3:13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? 14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled" (1 Pet 3:13-14, NKJV)
In Christ, life is viewed from a higher vantage point. From the standpoint of opportunity, it is a privilege. Considered from the view of responsibility, it is a stewardship. Within the framework of stewardship, life is the fulfillment of a purpose-a Divinely appointed purpose. When we are called of God, we are brought into His objective, and given a role to play in its fulfillment. Although some roles are prominent, like those of Moses, Joshua, David, the Prophets, John the Baptist, and the Apostles, all are necessary and significant. Particularly in Christ Jesus, "God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him" (1 Cor 12:18). As we live by faith, we are enabled to fulfill our role, and there is nothing the powers of darkness can do about it. That is the particular vantage point of our text. Our enemies are viewed as impotent to thwart the work of God within us. In the end, faith will triumph, and therefore we are not to be troubled when we encounter opposition, as fierce as it may be. This is a lofty view of life, and can only be entertained by faith. Once seen, it changes the entire perspective of life.
WHO IS HE THAT WILL HARM YOU?
" 3:13A And who is he that will harm you. . . " KJV There are two vital views of this text. First, godliness is, by its very nature, peaceable. The qualities of the wisdom that comes from above-wisdom to live by-accentuate this fact. "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace" (James 3:17-18). When the saints are governed by such wisdom, their enemies will be least likely to oppress them. It is as though God Himself intervenes for them, providing a time for sowing the fruit of righteousness among those who are otherwise hostile to the Gospel. Thus we read of the early church, "And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:46-47). Later, when the Jewish leaders sought to squelch the spread of the Gospel, they yielded to more peaceable impulses "because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done" (Acts 4:21). This was also an area in which Jesus increased as He grew. "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man" (Lk 2:52). Later, when He was at the peak of His earthly ministry, the scribes and chief priests of the people sought to destroy Jesus, but could not do it "for all the people were very attentive to hear Him" (Lk 19:48). This is certainly not the only view of the matter, but it is one aspect of it. God's people are not antagonistic by nature. Possessed of the wisdom that is from above, they are peaceable, seeking to be at peace with all men as much as possible. They are "gentle," even as their Master, not seeking to cause foolish disruption. Living waters flow out from their inmost being, bringing life and refreshment to all who will receive it.
There is another perspective of this text which is also true. "Harm," in this case, means ultimate harm, or thrusting us out of our role in the Kingdom of God. Simply put, it is not possible for our enemies to end the work in us that God Himself has begun. An example of this is found in our Lord's words to His disciples. He warned them, "they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake . . . And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake." Fierce opposition would be experienced by them. He told them, however, that the opposition would "turn out for you as an occasion for testimony." He would give them a "mouth of wisdom" which all of their enemies would not be able to "gainsay or resist." Their ministry would not be thwarted by their enemies! Following the revealing of the vicious antagonism they would experience, Jesus said, "But there shall not an hair of your head perish" (Lk 21:12-18). Divine protection belonged to them, as also declared in Luke 12:7. "But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered." Viewed in the flesh, James was killed with the sword by Herod (Acts 12:2), and Peter and John were severely beaten (Acts 5:40). Why did Jesus say "an hair" of their head would not perish?
This is a way of saying their appointed work would not come to an end prematurely. This manner of speaking was also used in Old Testament times. In a threatening situation it was said of Jonathan, "there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground" (1 Sam 14:45). The people of God are not left to happenstance or the will of their enemies. While persecution and aggressive opposition may be experienced, it will have no lasting effect upon the work they have been called to do.
When the believer has a firm grip on this reality, a certain boldness accompanies Kingdom labors that is indispensable. "So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me" (Heb 13:6). Thus, as we labor in the vineyard of the Lord, we do not devote ourselves to thinking how our labors will be perceived by our enemies, but how they will bring honor to our Lord. God will give us the strength to complete our work! Think once again, "who is he that will harm you?"
FOLLOWING THAT WHICH IS GOOD
" 13b . . . if you become followers of what is good?" NKJV The question is not simply, "who is he that will harm you," but "who is he that will harm you if you become followers of what is good?" There is a certain kingdom mentality that is required here. First, true "good" tends to soften the words and aggression of our enemies, and we must reckon on this. Thus it is written, "A soft answer turneth away wrath" (Prov 15:1). Again, "By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone" (Prov 25:15). This is not simply a principle of living, but one in which Divine activity can be found. As it is written, "When a man's ways please the LORD, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him" (Prov 16:7). Following what is "good" puts the Lord on our side.
What does it mean to follow what is good? Following, in this case, is not as term of distance, but one of nearness. There is such a thing as following from a distance, or from afar (Matt 26:58). A Kingdom follower is an imitator, or one who becomes like what is being followed. The Scriptures speak about following the godly: "be ye followers of me" (1 Cor 4:16). "Be ye followers of me as I also am of Christ" (1 Cor 11:1). We are also admonished to be "followers of God" (Eph 5:21), and "of the churches of God" (1 Thess 2:14). We are also to consider the saints who went before us, following them "who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Heb 6:12). Therefore, to "follow good" is to see what is "good" in the eyes of God, and seek for it to be found IN us.
To "follow good" means to "DO good." Jesus admonished us to "do good"(Lk 6:35). Believers are admonished to "do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Gal 6:10). Those who are blessed with abundant resources are exhorted to "do good," becoming "rich in good works" (1 Tim 6:18). Solemnly, we are warned not to forget to "do good" (Heb 13:16). Things that are "good" will hold up in the day of judgment. These are works that will stand the test of fire, and transport into the world to come. They are not deeds that are self-centered. Rather, they are characterized by a love, first for God, then for our fellow man. This is in strict keeping with the two greatest commandments of the Law (Matt 22:37-40).
Doing good is not devoting ourselves to a special project, although there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Much of the contemporary church, I fear, thinks of doing good only periodically, and when special needs arise. Following good, however, goes far beyond that. It involves a heart that desires to "abound unto EVERY good work" (2 Cor 9:8). It enters into labor with the expectation of being "fruitful in EVERY good work" (Col 1:10). One of the qualifications for widows receiving support from the church is this: "if she has diligently followed EVERY good work" (1 Tim 5:10). Someone sure to be used by God is one "prepared for EVERY good work" (2 Tim 2:21). Believers are admonished to be "ready for EVERY good work" (Tit 3:1). There is also the matter of being "complete," for fully equipped for "EVERY good work" (Heb 13:21).
All of this is involved in being "followers of that which is good." It is a different motive for living-one that puts self on the periphery of life instead of at its center. The world calls men to become absorbed with themselves, seek their own interests, and ignore the call of the Almighty. That type of living tends to agitate life, making it more difficult to live. Those who can recall their former manner of life will acknowledge this is the case. As it is written, "What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death" (Rom 6:21).
Following what is good moves you more fully into the realm of blessing. It neutralizes the wrath of your enemies, which would be far worse if it were not for your pursuit of the good. It also draws you deeper into the will of the Lord and your ministry in His Kingdom. No person will be fruitful for the Lord who is not following after good. The Lord has not called us to a religious profession, but to participation in His good and acceptable and perfect will (Rom 12:1-2). He will enable you to fulfill your ministry as you follow what is good, and your enemies will not be able to cut that ministry short.
SUFFERING FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS' SAKE
" 3:12 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled." NKJV Our text will not produce naive disciples who imagine they will never encounter trouble or difficulty. Some display their ignorance by insisting that faithfulness to God frees men from opposition and danger. Thus, when they read "And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath" (Deut 28;13), they suppose they are in charge of every situation. However, this is not a fair representation of the case. If their assessment were true, this verse would have to be cut from our Bibles.
Even though He has said no one can ultimately harm us if we follow what is good, yet the Spirit says there will be times when we "suffer for righteousness' sake." Earlier, the Spirit spoke of "suffering wrongfully," and suffering for doing well(2:19,20). In the fourth chapter, we will read of being "reproached for the name of Christ" (1 Pet 4:14). The flesh views this as being contradictory-i.e., no one harming us, yet we suffer!
There are different kinds of suffering intended by this text. There is suffering certain losses because of following truth and goodness. Many believers have endured the plundering or confiscation of their possessions because of their faith (Heb 10:34). Some have been beaten miserably for their testimony (Acts 16:23). Others have had their names reproached, suffering dishonor among men (2 Cor 6:8). Still others have simply had their message ignored and rejected (Jer 18:18). All of these, and more, are suffering "for righteousness' sake," or because you are righteous.
Some have ceased to be aggressive for the Lord in order to avoid these sufferings. The Spirit affirms this type of action constitutes a denial of Christ. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us" (Rom 8:17). To close our mouths and cease to pursue what is good and righteous in order to avoid the repercussions of that commitment, and the wrath of our enemies, is disastrous.
The point of our text is that believers are more apt to lead a quiet and peaceable life by devoting themselves to following good, than by agitation, insurrection, and demonstration. This conflicts sharply with a social or political view of life, which encourages taking matters into our own hands.
YOU ARE BLESSED. Note how the Spirit raises us into the heavenly places. Even though we "suffer for righteousness' sake," we "ARE BLESSED." There is a "fellowship" with Jesus in this suffering that can only be grasped by faith. The suffering is in the flesh, the blessedness is in the spirit. In such suffering, we are being counted worthy of the Kingdom for which we suffer (2 Thess 1:5)-that is a blessing. Because of the suffering, we receive consolation from the Lord Himself. "For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ" (2 Cor 1:5)-that is a blessing. Blessing comes from God, and proves to be greater than any circumstance in the flesh-even suffering. It is to your advantage to suffer with Jesus, for then you will reign with Him.
Knowing that believers will confront the animosity and threats of men, the Spirit comforts our hearts. "AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED."NASB The same words were spoken to Israel concerning their enemies (Isa 8:12). Whether it is a giant Goliath, a rampaging Sennacherib, or an intimidating Herod, the work of God cannot be stopped by such enemies! They cannot stop God from blessing you, but can only prove to be an occasion for further blessing. You must believe that! Like the threats of Goliath, the words of our enemies are intimidating to the flesh. Such fears, however, will move us out of the work of the Lord, for "fear has torment" (1 John 4:18).
Although times will come when we are "troubled on every side" (2 Cor 4:8; 7:5), we must not allow our hearts to be troubled. Our times, as well as our ministries, are in the hands of the Lord. The righteous, unintimidated by the threats of their enemies, are "bold as a lion" (Prov 28:1). When professed believers are fearful of their enemies, that very fear moves faith out of their hearts. That is why Jesus associated fear with "no faith" (Mk 4:40). Let us boldly pursue doing good and fulfilling our ministries without the fear of man.