From: Teaching Guide to 1 Peter Return to Home
By Roland H. Worth, Jr. © 2017
(Chapters Three to Five)
Abbreviations for Translations Utilized in This Volume
GW = God’s Word
NKJV = New King James Version
ASV = American Standard Version
CEV = Contemporary English Version
Darby = Darby New Testament
Holman = Holman New Testament
ISV = International Standard Version
NAB = New American Bible (Revised New Testament),
NASB = New American Standard Bible
NCV = New Century Version
NIV = New International Version
NLT = New Living Translation
NRSV = New Revised Standard Version
RSV = Revised Standard Version
TEV = Today’s English Version
Young = Young’s Literal Translation
The selected translations come from varied spectrums of the religious landscape. From very conservative translations theologically (such as the NKJV and the NASB) to those self-described as mainstream by their advocates (such as the RSV and NRSV), though considered liberal by their critics. (One of the oddities of modern scholarship is that the term “conservative” is gladly accepted but no one seems to want to be known as a “liberal.”) Because of the increasing interest in the study of the Biblical text among contemporary Roman Catholics and because of the great strides made in Catholic Biblical scholarship, we have also included one of the best representations of this tradition, the New American Bible.
* * * * * * * *
Within the marital relationship,
a wife was to live in such an exemplary manner
that her very behavior encouraged
obedience to the gospel (3:1-3:6);
if one was a husband,
then one was to demonstrate an exemplary life through respectful treatment of the wife (3:7):
Commentary and Thought Flow
3:1 A wife’s behavior toward her husband was to be of such a nature that it would not encourage his doubts about her religion but encourage him to want to be part of it. Part of this was recognizing that he was still the final authority figure in the household . . .
3:2 but it also involved such things as her cultivating a life of moral restraint . . .
3:3 and avoiding being a spendthrift on expensive attire.
3:4 Such temptations were to be avoided by emphasizing the development of the inner person and being restrained rather than domineering in relationships with others.
3:5 Although the instruction to be “submissive” doubtless annoyed many wives then—as today—there was a crucial limitation that was easily overlooked: such was not a matter of women being “inferior” to males but of a wife being “submissive to your own husbands” (similar wording in verse 1). The authority/power relationship inside marriage was in mind and not inter-gender relationships at large. In corporate life it is not regarded as demeaning to have less “authority” than someone else, nor should it be in married life.
3:6 Even Sarah—who was the mother of the Jewish nation just as much as Abraham was its father—showed respect toward her husband.
3:7 Lest male egos get overblown and they become over-assertive, Peter promptly demands that husbands not take advantage of their position and warns that if they do God will not listen to their prayers.
GW: Wives, in a similar way, place yourselves under your husbands’ authority. Some husbands may not obey God’s word. Their wives could win these men [for Christ] by the way they live without saying anything. --
NKJV: Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives.
Alternative Readings: Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands [accept the authority of, NLT, NRSV; put your husband first, CEV; yield to, NCV], that even if some do not obey the word [our message, CEV; God’s teaching, NCV], they, without a word, may be won [persuaded, NCV] by the conduct [behavior, NASB, NIV, RSV] of their wives [by what you do, CEV].
Cross-references: One of the reasons (far from the only one) that we remain in a marriage with an unbeliever is the hope that we can win our spouse to the Lord, “For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?” (1 Corinthians 7:16).
Thinking points and questions: The old adage is that, “Actions speak louder than words.” The same is true of our efforts to convert others--a good example will sometimes be far more powerful than the strongest intellectual argument. Perhaps this is because people will sometimes say things they don’t really believe, but rarely do they live in a way they do not believe.
GW: Their husbands would see how pure and reverent their lives are. --
NKJV: When they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.
Cross-references: This verse applies to the family relationship the kind of argument Peter makes in the previous chapter, “Having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).
Thinking points and questions: Our spouses see us warts and all. The blemishes and inconsistencies that may be successfully hidden from others are virtually unhidable from the person we are married to. The “mask” is simply too hard to maintain in that close a relationship. Hence if we don’t live according to the standards we profess it will be brazenly obvious.
GW: Wives must not let their beauty be something external. Beauty doesn’t come from hairstyles, gold jewelry, or clothes. -
NKJV: Do not let your adornment be merely outward--arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel.
Cross-references: The avoiding of excess and show-off-manship was similarly developed by Paul in 1 Timothy 2:9, “In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing.”
Thinking points and questions: Often a face-lift is far cheaper and less painful than a soul-lift. Yet one only affects the way we appear to others while the other controls what we really are.
* One thing these criticized behaviors have in common is that they are never permanent, they have to be changed and replaced time after time. Change becomes change for change sake and not because it is either needful or beneficial. The cultivation of exactly this frame of mind is the basis of the modern advertising business.
* Another element all these things have in common is cost, the buying of self-approval and the admiration of others by what we spend. But if that is the standard, can the poor ever have self-respect? [No.]
GW: Rather, beauty is something internal that can’t be destroyed. Beauty expresses itself in a gentle and quiet attitude which God considers precious. --
NKJV: Rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.
Alternative Readings: Rather let it be the hidden person [character, NAB] of the heart [the inner self, NRSV], with [expressed in, NAB] the incorruptible [imperishable, NAB, RSV; that will never be destroyed, NCV; unfading, NLT] beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit [calm disposition, NAB], which is very precious [of great worth, NIV] in the sight of God [God considers it very special, CEV].
Cross-references: Our inner being can prosper even when our outward circumstances are unpleasant and painful, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians ).
Thinking points and questions: The inner nature we have cultivated is reflected in how we act toward others. If it is guided by self-control and responsible caution, then we are unlikely to antagonize others. However, if we are self-centered and think the world revolves around us, then we will naturally be obnoxious toward others who do not share our high opinion of ourselves.
* Why would the “hidden person of the heart” be of such importance to God? [Because that is where our real character dwells; what others see only exhibits that character. The outward action might only be “public relations pretense,” but the inner nature shows who and what we really are.]
GW: After all, this is how holy women who had confidence in God express- ed their beauty in the past. They placed themselves under their husbands’ authority. --
NKJV: For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands,
Cross-references: The ideal woman pictured at the end of Proverbs is a person who was both a successful businesswoman as well as a respected and intelligent wife, “She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies sashes for the merchants. Strength and honor are her clothing; she shall rejoice in time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness. She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.’ Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:24-30).
Thinking points and questions: Peter’s admonition was not only right, it was the traditional way of doing things. Just because things are “old fashioned” does not necessarily mean their value has passed away. God has given us a mind so we can separate the good and the bad from the “old”--to preserve the desirable while avoiding the mistakes.
* Note, by comparing this fact with the text in Proverbs, we can see that this principle of intra-family relationships did not affect her right and privilege to provide for the family by business activities outside the home. The two went hand-in-hand rather than being contradictory. The great problem of modern society is keeping them that way without the “outside” part overwhelming the family relationships.
GW: As Sarah did. Sarah obeyed Abraham and spoke to him respectfully. You became Sarah’s daughters by not letting anything make you afraid to do good. –
NKJV: As Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.
Alternative Readings: As Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord [master, CEV, NCV, NIV, NLT], whose daughters you are if [as long as, NRSV] you do good [right, CEV, NASB, NCV, NIV, NLT, NRSV] and are not afraid with any terror [without being frightened by any fear, NASB; without fear of what your husbands might do, NLT; fear no intimidation, NAB].
Cross-references: This usage of “lord” is found on Sarah’s lips in Genesis 18:12, “Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, ‘After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?’ ”
Thinking points and questions: Every generation seems plagued by one or another failure--not every individual, of course, but a failure that is so widespread it becomes characteristic of that society for at least a few decades. Beginning in the 1960s disrespect toward all authority figures became characteristic of the rising generation. Yet why we need to cultivate the opposite mind-frame: Can we expect others to respect us if we do not respect them?
GW: Husbands, in a similar way, live with your wives with understanding since they are weaker than you are. Honor your wives as those who share God’s life-giving kindness [or grace] so that nothing will interfere with your prayers. --
NKJV: Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.
Alternative Readings: Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with [treat her with, NLT] understanding [consideration, NRSV; be considerate, NIV], giving honor [respect, NCV, NIV] to the wife, as to the weaker vessel [sex, NRSV, RSV; isn’t as strong as you are, CEV], and as being heirs together [joint heirs, NAB, RSV; shares with you, CEV] of the grace of life [gift of life, CEV; gracious gift of life, NRSV], that your prayers may not be hindered [not heard, NLT].
Cross-references: The central practical idea that lies in the word “love” is to avoid doing anything that will harm another, “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10).
Thinking points and questions: The key to avoiding family violence is summed up in that one word “honor:” The person you respect you are going to treat with courtesy and understanding. You are not going to engage in an effort to embarrass or humiliate them or to compel them to give you your way.
1. What does “honor” toward a wife involve? [Courtesy; respect; not verbally or physically abusing her; treating her as someone important to us rather than as a disposable commodity, etc.]
2. What punishment for disrespectful and domineering husbands is mentioned in this verse? [The danger that there prayers would “be hindered:” either the behavior would discourage them from praying at all as they should or--more likely--the idea probably is that God will be less willing to grant a prayer that comes from a person acting this way. Actions toward others in this life have repercussions in God’s attitude toward us!]
These marital precedents of treating others
with concern and respect were to be applied
in all relationships with others; otherwise God
would ignore one’s prayers (3:8-3:12):
Commentary and Thought Flow
3:8 Virtues very similar to those he enjoined on wives (3:4) are applied to one and all: that they be kind and concerned for every fellow believer.
3:9 Instead of loosing their temper and using harsh or vile language when annoyed, they were to exercise restraint so that God might reward them.
Quoting the words of Old Testament scripture (verses 10-12), He argues that this principle of avoiding verbal evil was no new innovation but one that was long demanded of God’s people.
Not just physical nature but also human nature is not a vacuum: it is not enough merely to avoid doing “evil”, but one must positively seek to “do good” as well. And it must be done energetically: One must not only “seek peace” but must “pursue it” as something fervently desired.
Nor can they hope their attitudes and actions will escape Divine notice: He is well aware of their behavior and, because they are seeking out the right goals in life, He hears their prayers. On the other hand God’s “face” is “against those who do evil,” with all that implies of rejection, not hearing their prayers and, perhaps, even going further in action against them.
GW: Finally, everyone must live in harmony, be sympathetic, love each other, have compassion, and be humble. --
NKJV: Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous.
Cross-references: This is an application to everyday life of the Golden Rule laid down by Jesus: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew ).
Thinking points and questions: Peter generalizes from the family to the church: the attitudes you exhibit in family life are to be found in your church relationships as well. This is a good practical test to determine whether we are treating properly our mate: If you treated church members the way you do your spouse, what would others think of you? How long would the relationship last?
GW: Don’t pay people back with evil for the evil they do to you, or ridicule those who ridicule you. Instead, bless them, because you were called to inherit a blessing. --
NKJV: 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.
Alternative Readings: Not returning evil [wrong, NCV] for evil [wrong, NCV] or reviling [abuse, NRSV; insult, NAB, NCV, NASB, NIV] for reviling [abuse, NRSV; insult, NAB, NASB, NCV, NIV; say(ing) unkind things, NLT], but on the contrary blessing [treat . . . with kindness, CEV], knowing that you were called to this [for this very purpose, NASB; this is what God wants you to do, NLT], that you may inherit [obtain, RSV; receive, NCV] a blessing.
Cross-references: Paul presents the same admonition against verbally striking back at our enemies in Romans , “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”
Thinking points and questions: Peter is including evil treatment that comes from church members because in the previous verse he had been stressing that particular relationship and here he is developing it further. Sometimes even in a church relationship we find people acting improperly. Peter’s point is don’t let this provoke you into acting in an unchristian manner as well.
* Why would the actions of a fellow Christian sometimes anger us more than those of an outsider? [(1) Because we expect more from such a person; (2) because of the principles they claim to believe in; etc.]
* What are some reasons to curb our anger when other believers treat us in a vile way? [(1) Think in terms of a particular stupid action or statement we ourselves made and later regretted; (2) consider how much Jesus had to endure from those who claimed to be God-fearing; etc.]
GW: “People who want to live a full life and enjoy good days must keep their tongues from saying evil things, and their lips from speaking deceitful things.” --
NKJV: For "He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.”
Cross-references: This verse and the two that follows quotes from Psalms 34:12-16, “ Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.”
Thinking points and questions: What we say can inflame a situation and make it even worse. We were “not to blame” for the original situation. But if we pour kerosene on a small fire through how we react to it, who is to blame for the “forest fire” that results?
GW: “They must turn away from evil and do good. They must seek peace and pursue it.” --
NKJV: “Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it.”
Cross-references: One Old Testament prophet vividly conveyed the same idea in these words, “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:16-17).
Thinking points and questions: Though people can physically abuse and even kill us, nobody can “make” us change for the better. We “must turn” and we “must seek” a better life. Until we make that fundamental commitment for change things will stay the way they are.
* What are the limitations of civil law in making us do the right thing? [(1) It can punish us for what we do but can’t control what we think; (2) it can’t “catch us” every time we violate the law; (3) we can often find “legal” ways to violate the intent of law without violating its literal wording.]
* What terms are used to show that seeking good and peaceful relationships with others has to be a lifestyle rather than just a wish or occasional endeavor? [“Seek peace and pursue it;” the imagery is of constant looking and effort.]
GW: “The Lord’s eyes are on those who do what he approves. His ears hear their prayer. The Lord confronts those who do evil.” --
NKJV: “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."
Cross-references: Earlier in the same chapter, Peter had already referred to the danger of prayer being hindered by our wrongful attitudes and actions, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).
Thinking points and questions: Although God is willing to “bail us out” of trouble, there comes a point when our chronic stubbornness and rebellion can only be dealt with one way--by letting us endure the consequences of our own folly. Then He no longer can give a “yes” answer to our prayers.
* We often speak in terms of “prayer not being answered.” This is more than a little misleading. Is not “no” just as much an answer as “yes?” God, being all knowing and seeing the far-reaching repercussions of an affirmative answer to our prayers, may have to say “no” to avoid an equal or greater harm to us further down the road—or to someone else.
Ideally this approach to life would produce a
positive response from others, but even if it did not
they should remember that even the
sinless Christ suffered unjustly ():
Commentary and Thought Flow
The generalization was and is valid: what harm can happen to you if you are doing the right thing?
The repeated references in the book to persecution argues that Peter was well aware that there were exceptions and he immediately refers to the fact that they may encounter such. But “generalizations” are just that: statements that either usually apply or normally would apply.
Since there would be some who would not react in a positive manner even given the greatest good will on their part, they needed to be able to explain why they believed in the gospel to others. The modern inclination to define “faith” as an emotional rather than intellectual manner was clearly far removed from Peter’s mind frame: a valid faith has to be fact based to prove it is not delusional.
Even if encountering criticism, they were not to depart from their normal standards of aboveboard behavior. This way even critics might be driven to feel “ashamed” of their unjust accusations.
If suffering can not be avoided, it is always better that it be for “doing good than for doing evil.” The latter implies that it is deserved recompense; only that which is undeserved has moral value in God’s sight.
GW: Who will harm you if you are devoted to doing what is good? --
NKJV: And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?
Cross-references: Although it is a generalization, the person trying to live faithfully to God is the one most likely to cause another to act in a constructive manner as well, “When a man's ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7). The Bible writers were not so naïve as to believe that this always works, only that it is the best manner to accomplish the result. Jesus, verse 18, is an obvious example of where the best intents and obedience to God did not make His enemies do the right thing.
Thinking points and questions: Peter is not discussing the person who is most interested in self-advancement. Nor the person centered on getting one’s own way. Nor the one who’s overriding compulsion is in winning the argument. In contrast, the one who is most likely to live at peace with others is the one who is obviously striving for the moral path (the “good”) in life.
* What will keep this generalization from working out in practice? [(1) If our religion is obviously a veneer and we have a snobbish attitude; (2) if others are so overwhelmed with prejudice that nothing will convince them in the first place; etc.]
GW: But even if you suffer for doing what God approves, you are blessed. Don’t be afraid of those who want to harm you. Don’t get upset. --
NKJV: But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed. "And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled."
Cross-references: The ending words of the verse are a likely quotation from Isaiah 8:12-13, where the prophet makes the point that if we fear God’s power there is no one else we need to fear, “Do not say, 'A conspiracy,' concerning all that this people call a conspiracy, nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. The Lord of hosts, Him you shall hallow; let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.”
We need not fear them because God is more powerful than they are and able to rescue us from their schemes, “ ‘Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,’ says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 1:8).
Thinking points and questions: The worst thing a vindictive enemy can do to us is kill us--that is the absolute maximum. Yet God is so powerful that He can raise us from the dead--us to a reward and they to answer for what they did.
* Having this kind of reaction is not just a test of our faith, it is also a test of our control. In times of crisis and peril, self-control is usually at the most tenuous and we are most likely to act in a manner that is emotionally satisfying rather than in the manner most geared to accomplish the result we wish.
GW: But dedicate your lives to Christ as Lord. Always be ready to defend your confidence [in God] when anyone asks you to explain it. However, make your defense with gentleness and respect. --
NKJV: But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.
Alternative Readings: But sanctify [honor, CEV; reverence, RSV] the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense [answer, CEV, NCV, NIV; explanation, NAB] to everyone who asks you [demands, NRSV] a reason [to explain, NCV, NLT; to give an account for, NASB] or the hope that is in you, with meekness [gentleness, NAB, NASB, NRSV, RSV; NIV; in a gentle way, NCV] and fear [with respect, NCV, NIV; reverence, NAB, NASB, NRSV, RSV].
Cross-references: The Psalmist pointed out that we should not be ashamed to discuss religion even if the opportunity comes to converse about it with our ruler, “I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed” (Psalms 119:46).
Thinking points and questions: Christianity is a fact based religion: Jesus lived, He worked miracles, He was unjustly crucified, He was raised from the dead. Hence our need to be able to explain our convictions to others. We don’t have to know everything, but we need to know enough to make an understandable case for our faith.
* Modern western civilization is based upon what “I feel” rather than what “I think” or “I know.” The first describes our emotions and the second and third the effort to subject even our emotions to a test of what is objectively true and valid.
1. Just because a person has the truth does that justify them “arguing” it with bitterness and character assassination? What in the verse answers that question? [Instead of vindictiveness, there is to be restraint (“meekness”) and courtesy (“fear”).]
2. If one presents moral and religious differences in an overly aggressive manner what is the most likely reaction? Why? [(1) Rejection; (2) no one likes to be “hammered” on the head—either physically or intellectually. Most individuals can distinguish between conviction and an effort at annihilation. They may not like either but they outright resent the second.]
GW: Keep your conscience clear. Then those who treat the good Christian life you live with contempt will feel ashamed that they have ridiculed you. --
NKJV: having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.
Cross-references: Peter had developed a similar theme of how behavior disarms enemies in the previous chapter, “Having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:12).
Thinking points and questions: Some accusations we immediately dismiss because we know the typical behavior of the person being charged and know that it is thoroughly improbable. Peter is urging that our behavior be like that individual: so consistently of the right kind that even those who set out to criticize us will feel guilty about bringing such accusations. Talk about a high standard!
* Why do people make false charges against Christians? [(1) They have changed their behavior for the better and the very fact that they have changed makes others feel guilty for not having done the same; (2) religious prejudice; (3) hypocrisy—they believe that “every one should do their own thing” except when it involves abstaining from the sins they happen to enjoy; (4) some are just flat maladjusted psychologically and are probably making life miserable for unbelievers as well.]
GW: After all, if it is God’s will, it’s better to suffer for doing good than for doing wrong. --
NKJV: For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
Alternative Readings: For it is better, if it is the will of God [if that is what God wants, NCV], to suffer for doing good [right, CEV, NASB, RSV] than for doing evil [wrong, CEV, NASB, NCV, NLT, RSV].
Cross-references: At some point all believers are unjustly treated because of their faith, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy ).
Thinking points and questions: It is unnatural to want to suffer. The psychological term for it is “masochism.” On the other hand, if there has to be suffering, it is far better for it to grow out of dealing with unjust adversaries rather than it being the retribution we amply deserve.
* Injustice is an inevitable part of life—not for everyone but, certainly, at least occasionally for a good number. That doesn’t make it right. It simply makes it something additional that must be successfully endured.
Christ’s unjust suffering produced
an even greater good:
the preaching of His message
to the living and the dead ():
Commentary and Thought Flow
If unjust suffering came their way they could comfort themselves in recognizing that they were walking in the footsteps of Jesus who had also endured unjust punishment. Although the flesh had been killed, the Holy Spirit had made Him alive.
By that same Holy Spirit Jesus preached to the imprisoned spirits . . .
who had been alive in the days of Noah. (The text can be read either as His having preached via the Spirit to the human souls when they were still alive or now that they were “in prison” awaiting Divine judgment. If the former it would have been a message calling for repentance; if the latter a message of Divine vindication that God had triumphed over His earthly foes.)
Just as the same water that destroyed the vast bulk of the population in the days of Noah, paradoxically, saved the eight individuals who were in the ark (), the waters of baptism similarly save in separating believers from unbelievers. Lest the reference be misunderstood as a reference to the ritual washings so common in Judaism of the day, Peter stresses that what he referred to was not a removal of earthly physical dirt. Instead their baptism had been “the answer of a good--rather than rebellious--conscience toward God;” it expressed their determination to fully and completely obey Him.
3:22 Baptism’s value came through Christ’s resurrection (3:21) and the fact that it had real value was proved by the fact that the One who had commanded and authorized it was now at God’s “right hand” and had “angels and authorities and powers” subject to His rule.
GW: This is true because Christ suffered for our sins once. He was an innocent person, but he suffered for guilty people so that he could bring you to God. His body was put to death, but he was brought to life through his spirit. --
NKJV: For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.
Alternative Readings: For Christ also suffered once [once for all, NASB, NIV, NRSV, RSV; once for all time, NLT] for sins, the just [innocent, CEV; righteous, NAB, NIV, NRSV, RSV] for the unjust [guilty, CEV, NCV; unrighteous, NAB, NIV, NRSV, RSV], that He might bring [lead, NAB] us to God, being put to death in the flesh [physical death, NLT] but made alive by [in, NAB, NASB, NCV, NLT, NRSV, RSV] the Spirit.
Cross-references: Jesus’ death made reconciliation with God possible. Without it, our sinfulness would have kept us apart, “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight” (Colossians 1:21-22).
Thinking points and questions: Jesus did not die for us because we were outstanding examples of good character. He died for us because we were not such and without His sacrifice we would never have the opportunity for acceptability with God.
* On rare occasions we might be willing to “take the blame” for something that is some one else’s fault because we realize that we can handle the situation better than they can. But if that is rare, how much rarer and more eloquent the moral perfection of Jesus--who was willing to outright die so that those worthy of death might not!
GW: In it he also went to proclaim his victory to the spirits kept in prison. --
NKJV: By whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison.
Cross-references: Some think that the writer returns to this theme in 1 Peter 4:6, “For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”
Thinking points and questions: Some say that Jesus preached in His Spirit after His death. In other words a message that God’s promises of old had finally been fulfilled; a message of triumph. In effect this would have been part of their Divine punishment: learning that God’s plans had triumphed on earth over all their opposition.
Others say that Jesus had preached by the medium of the Holy Spirit—in the ancient past--to those now dead. A message of repentance would obviously have been their greatest need in the years when Noah was building his ark—but a message they conspicuously did not respond to, making them conspicuously parallel to most in Peter’s own age.
GW: They are like those who disobeyed long ago in the days of Noah when God waited patiently while Noah built the ship. In this ship a few people--eight in all--were saved by water. --
NKJV: Who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.
Alternative Readings: Who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited [God was waiting patiently, NCV; patience of God kept waiting, NASB] in the days of Noah, while the ark [boat, CEV, NCV, NLT] was being prepared [construct(ed), NASB], in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water [brought safely through, CEV, NASB; saved from drowning, NLT].
Cross-references: What distinguished Noah from everyone else was the fact that he had faith that God would fulfill His threats (far too often we only think in terms of God fulfilling His promises), “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:7).
Thinking points and questions: Spiritual success is not counted in mere numbers. Only eight people out of an entire generation entered the ark.
* Being in a minority for the sake of being in a minority is to show immaturity and childishness; being in a minority in order to do what is right is to show one’s character and faithfulness to God.
* It is not being in the majority or being in the minority that makes one “right;” that is accomplished only by actually doing God’s will.
GW: Baptism, which is like that water, now saves you. Baptism doesn’t save by removing dirt from the body. Rather, baptism is a request to God for a clear conscience. It saves you through Jesus Christ, who came back from death to life. --
NKJV: There is also an antitype which now saves us--baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Alternative Readings: There is also an antitype which now saves us--baptism [Corresponding to that, baptism, NASB; that water is like baptism, NCV; this is a picture of baptism, NLT; this water symbolizes baptism, NIV] (not the removal of the filth [dirt, NAB, NASB; NCV, NIV, NLT, NRSV, RSV] of the flesh, but the answer of a good [clear, CEV] conscience toward God) [an appeal to God for a good conscience, NASB, NRSV; an appeal to God from a clean conscience, NLT; pledge of a good conscience toward God, NIV; promise made to God from a good conscience, NCV], through [by, NIV] the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Cross-references: Other New Testament passages also stress the importance of baptism in God’s plan for discipleship. For example, Mark 16:16, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”
Thinking points and questions: There is a great irony here: the very same water that destroyed the earthly population simultaneously saved those who were in the ark. A “two-edged sword,” not in a temporal, but in a spiritual sense!
GW: Christ has gone to heaven where he has the highest position that God gives. Angels, rulers, and powers have been placed under his authority. --
NKJV: who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.
Cross-references: Jesus Himself made such a claim to ultimate authority after His resurrection, and it was the basis of His command for the apostles to share the message of His life and teaching with others, “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Thinking points and questions: Jesus enduring the death on the cross was rewarded by a grant of authority over God’s people (see Matthew 28:18 above). Our willingness to endure the difficulties and trials of life is rewarded with an eternal home in heaven. In neither case does the pain and suffering go unnoticed.
Those who permitted suffering to
encourage them in the right direction
would find it causing them to
set aside the excesses of behavior that characterized
their lives before becoming Christians (4:1-4:8):
Commentary and Thought Flow
4:1 Since personal suffering warned them of the danger of sin, it caused them to avoid it and to adopt the same frame of mind of Jesus: He endured pain with dignity and honor and so should they.
4:2 No one can change their past life, but they can change their future conduct. If satisfying their personal desires (“lusts”) had been their guiding star in the past, doing God’s will should be their new standard in the future.
4:3 Looking at it from a human standpoint, their past lives had given them more than enough opportunity to engage in excesses of all kinds. It was now time for them to move beyond such things to maturity.
4:4 Yet a change in lifestyle such as this caused astonishment among those they had previously counted as friends. Their inability to comprehend the change would cause them to “speak evil of you.” (Hence the world’s willingness to criticize a reformed sinner while allowing the unreformed individual to go undenounced—though doing exactly the same thing--is nothing new. The world neither then nor today can quite grasp how any one would change for the better—only for the worse.)
4:5 Those who engage in such unjust criticism do not have to answer to us but to Christ’s judgment.
4:6 Those who were spiritually dead had the good news of how to escape from sin—the “gospel”--preached to them because God was going to judge them “in the flesh” for what they had done and not done. (If this is a reference to the literal dead, the point would, be God’s vindication over evil through Jesus—He shared His triumph first hand with them.)
4:7 The culmination of the world as they knew it was “at hand” so they needed to be “serious” and abundant in prayer.
4:8 The coming events were not to paralyze them. Instead, even knowing that a crisis hour was approaching, they were to express in word and action “fervent love for one another.” Love will “cover a multitude of sins” because--when forgiven--God then judges us by what we are now rather than what we had been before being pardoned.
GW: Since Christ has suffered physically, take the same attitude that he had. (A person who has suffered physically no longer sins.) --
NKJV: Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.
Alternative Readings: Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh [in his body, NCV, NIV; suffered physical pain, NLT], arm [strengthen, NCV] yourselves also with the same mind [the same attitude, NAB, NIV, NLT; the same way of thinking, NCV], for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from [broken with, NAB; finished with, NCV, NRSV; decided to stop, NLT] sin.
Cross-references: Paul describes this destruction of the power of sin to control our lives as one of self-crucifixion, “And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians ).
Thinking points and questions: We are dealing here with what should be, not necessarily what is. Because we have endured hardship, we learn from it and set our lives aright. Hence we are led to a voluntary self-destruction of evil behavior (see Galatians above).
* “The school of hard knocks” is the expression often used of learning the right way by doing something very stupid. In the moral field, too, we sometimes only learn the need to make the right choices due to having to endure the pain of discomfort (“sufferings”) from having made the wrong ones.
GW: That way you won’t be guided by sinful human desires as you live the rest of your lives on earth. Instead, you will be guided by what God wants you to do. --
NKJV: That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.
Cross-references: A key reason for doing this and putting God and His Son first lies in what they have done for us, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Thinking points and questions: Life always involves setting priorities. When doing right has priority over doing what provides immediate (but temporary) pleasure we have laid the ground work for a pivotal change in our lives.
* The term “lusts” tends to mislead us into thinking that the scriptures are only rebuking sensual desires. In many passages—such as this one—there is no hint of such a narrow meaning for the term: rather, it refers to any “lust” (desire), even for things that would be right in and of itself if we made it only part of our life rather than its central purpose.
GW: You spent enough time in the past doing what unbelievers like to do. You were promiscuous, had sinful desires, got drunk, went to wild parties, and took part in the forbidden worship of false gods. --
NKJV: For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles -- when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.
Alternative Readings: For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles--when we walked in [living in, NAB, NIV] lewdness [debachery, NAB, NIV; immoral, CEV; licentiousness, RSV, NRSV], lusts [evil desires, CEV, NAB, NCV; passions, NRSV, RSV], drunkenness, revelries [orgies, NAB, NIV; wild . . . parties, NCV, NLT], drinking parties [carousing, NAB, NIV, RSV, NRSV; drunken parties, NCV], and abominable [detestable, NIV; disgusting, CEV; hateful, NCV; lawless, NRSV, RSV; terrible, NLT] idolatries.
Cross-references: Ezekiel addressed a similar plea to
similar vein in the very next chapter, Ezekiel 45:9, “Thus says the Lord God:
‘Enough, O princes of
Thinking points and questions: Are we slaves to the worst our society has to offer? These people had been, but Peter urges them to shed such excesses rather than continuing to live down to the worst behavior found in their world.
* Think back on your life. Wasn’t there something that you repeatedly did that was foolish, reckless, dangerous or sinful? Would it be any real value to go back to such a life? Who would be benefited? How? [Going back to such behavior—and it could be any of numerous things—would simply be to renew the danger to our health, self-respect, and honor rather than to accomplish anything of value. The pleasure would be temporary and the guilt abiding.]
GW: Unbelievers insult you now because they are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of wild living. --
NKJV: In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.
Alternative Readings: In regard to these, they think it strange [very surprised, NLT] that you do not run with them [join them, NRSV, RSV; plunge with them, NIV] in the same flood of dissipation [many wild and wasteful things they do, NCV; excesses of dissipation, NRSV; wild profligacy, RSV], speaking evil of you [blaspheme, NRSV; curse you for it, CEV; heap abuse on you, NIV; insult you, NCV; malign you, NASB; vilify you, NAB].
Cross-references: Part of this reaction comes from a sheer inability to understand that a person might want to change for the better, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Thinking points and questions: Because we have learned better and changed our lifestyle, people will sometimes accuse us of hypocrisy. Why do they do this instead of applauding those who have the guts not to remain slaves to their worst instincts? [If they admitted it was good that we changed, it would be to admit that they too should have done the same. That admission would make them feel guilty and many fear “feeling guilty” far more than the sin that caused the feeling of guilt.]
GW: They will give an account to the one who is ready to judge the living and the dead. --
NKJV: They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
Cross-references: The resurrection of Jesus not only vindicated Jesus’ authority to teach, it also proves that God is quite capable of bringing us all to an ultimate judgment, “Because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead" (Acts ).
Thinking points and questions: Just because there are not immediate consequences does not mean that we escape those consequences. People sometimes think that if God doesn’t hurl a lightning bolt at them when they’ve done something outrageous they are home safe. The pagan gods acted that way. The true God is eternal and gives them a lifetime to set things aright--that way they are totally without excuse in the final judgment.
* The fact that there is a judgment implies that there is a serious danger that we are not living as we should and have violated Divine moral principles. If not, why would there be need for a general judgment?
GW: After all, the Good News was told to people like that, although they are now dead. It was told to them so that they could be judged like humans in their earthly lives and live like God in their spiritual lives. --
NKJV: For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
Alternative Readings: For this reason the gospel was preached [proclaimed, NRSV] also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh [judged for what they have done in this life, CEV], but live according to God in the spirit [live in the spirit according to the will of God, NASB; live in the spirit as God does, NLT, NRSV].
Cross-references: Consider 1 Peter in deciding the meaning of this verse, “By whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison.”
Thinking points and questions: Like 1 Peter 3:19, the current verse has been interpreted two very different ways: as referring to either something Jesus did between His death and the resurrection or to preaching to those who later died. The reference to being judged as those “in the flesh” would seem to argue that in this passage at least the latter is far more likely to be the case.
* Note the theme of the inescapability of judgment regardless of when one lives or dies. What was true of long ago was true in Peter’s day—and ours as well.
GW: The end of everything is near. Therefore, practice self-control, and keep your minds clear so that you can pray. --
NKJV: But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.
Cross-references: Steadfastness is essential, as Jesus Himself warned in a passage that has been applied both to the A.D. 70 fall of Jerusalem and the final end of the cosmos (the principle would be the same in either case), “But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:13-14).
Thinking points and questions: No one knows the date of Jesus’ final coming, but everyone can know the need for preparedness for it. It’s rather like medicine: If we have the medicine that will cure us of a deadly disease and refuse to take it, we have no one but ourselves to blame for our self-destruction. The same is true if we refuse to accept and use the “spiritual medicine” that is the one escape from sin, that is Jesus.
GW: Above all, love each other warmly, because love covers many sins. --
NKJV: And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins."
Cross-references: The final words of the verse may be intended as a quotation from Proverbs 10:12, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.”
Thinking points and questions: Love covers the sins of others by encouraging them to reform; love covers our sins by applying that reform principle to ourselves.
* One may forgive others because the offense is long ago or such a minor grievance that it isn’t worth harboring the grievance; only love causes us to forgive sins when they are numerous or especially painful.
Virtuous behavior was inherently praiseworthy
but each believer still needed to also be able
to explain why they were Christians (4:9-4:11):
Commentary and Thought Flow
4:9 One expression of love of Christians toward each other (verse 8) was to “be hospitable.” But it was not to be a friendliness of obligation but one that was “without grumbling” about the real or imagined “inconvenience” of it.
Furthermore everyone had an ability (“gift”) of one type or another and it was both their privilege and duty to utilize it in their relations with each other.
standard of teaching, however, was to be whatever “the oracles of God”
proclaimed and nothing else. By this
means they would glorify God “through Jesus Christ.” These two ideas are joined together in that the
oracles of God for this age are the teachings God revealed through Christ.
GW: Welcome each other as guests without complaining. --
NKJV: Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.
Cross-references: God looks not only on what we do but the motives out of which we act and the attitudes we manifest in what we do, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Thinking points and questions: Note carefully the last two words of the verse! How many people there are who will do the right thing--grudgingly and of necessity rather than out of any enthusiasm!
* Why are there situations when we don’t want to do the right thing without griping about it? [(1) It’s an inconvenience; (2) it concerns people who especially aggravate us; (3) we do it because other people expect us to rather than out of any willingness, i.e., we do it to save “face” rather than to be of assistance.]
GW: Each of you as a good manager must use the gift that God has given you to serve others. --
NKJV: As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
Cross-references: Those gifts that God has provided us should be a cause of greater humility rather than conceit, “For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).
Thinking points and questions: Our abilities, talents, and skills were never intended for us to gloat over but to be used, as this verse points out, in benefiting others and not just ourselves.
* We all have some ability, skill, or talent to be proud of. The problem arises when we forget that others do as well.
GW: Whoever speaks must speak God’s words. Whoever serves must serve with the strength God supplies so that in every way God receives glory through Jesus Christ. Glory and power belong to Jesus Christ forever and ever! Amen. --
NKJV: If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Cross-references: God has revealed His “words” or “oracles” through the Scriptures, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Thinking points and questions: We are not free to invent a new religious doctrine or system. Instead, that which we teach is to be derived from the word God has revealed in the Bible.
* Although we can develop our abilities we all have innate ones and it is not a matter of conjuring them up out of clear air. Hence the challenge is to determine which one(s) we have and to work on making them better.
Rather than despairing when faced with
the coming period of persecution,
they were to be proud that were able to imitate
the example set by Jesus.
The reason was that this adversity was
but the beginning of God’s judgment
on both believers and unbelievers alike ():
Commentary and Thought Flow
One of the most perplexing things an honorable person must face is being abused and mistreated because of holding to upright standards. So Peter feels it appropriate to warn them that it was not really “strange” at all . . .
because they were partaking of “sufferings” like Christ did, i.e., if Jesus was persecuted it should come as no surprise that they were as well. Yet their time of “exceeding joy” would inevitably come when Christ returned.
If one is insulted for being a Christian it is an indication that God has blessed and that His Spirit is with them. In other words, if they lacked these characteristics, there would have been no reason for unbelievers to speak ill of them in the first place—they would have been just as bad as anyone else.
They were not to let this teaching be misinterpreted as meaning that they were to take pride in any punishment that came their way: if they had done evil toward others they had earned retribution.
On the other hand, if they suffered because they were Christians there was nothing to “be ashamed” of. Indeed, they should “glorify God” for the honor.
This was important because a time of judgment was imminent that would first test believers and then, in even worse form, unbelievers. He leaves the fate of the latter open—as if unwilling to spell out the details lest Christians gloat or non-Christians use it as an excuse for further anger at believers.
4:18 Quoting Old Testament scripture, he reminds them that even the most “righteous” individual will barely be counted worthy of salvation and (again leaving the nature of the punishment to the imagination of the reader), “Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” Not only will they fail to gain salvation but the ominousness of the question itself assumes severe punishment in some shape or form.
In light of the certainty of their salvation if they persevere and in light of the certainty of punishment of those who reject God, they should “commit their souls” to Him while enduring persecution, confident that He is “faithful” and will do right by them.
GW: Dear friends, don’t be surprised by the fiery troubles that are coming in order to test you. Don’t feel as though something strange is happening to you. --
NKJV: Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.
Cross-references: Since Jesus was mistreated for serving God, it is not surprising if we are as well, “Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also” (John ).
Thinking points and questions: It is not as strange as we might think if we go through a period of criticism for being a follower of Christ. Indeed, it would be odd if we did not go through such.
* People often fall into the trap of thinking that “bad things don’t happen to good people.” Fewer will happen to them, certainly. But the example of Jesus shows that there is no guarantee of immunity from the sufferings of life no matter how pious we are or how beneficial and useful we are to others.
GW: But be happy as you share Christ’s sufferings. Then you will also be full of joy when he appears again in his glory. --
NKJV: but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
Cross-references: Christ rewards us for successfully enduring such adversity, "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew ).
Thinking points and questions: We are optimistic and upbeat when we are misused not because the pain itself is desirable, but because we know we will be well rewarded for triumphing over it.
* In the current world, we are willing to endure a lot of annoyance, difficulty, and obstruction if the goal we are working for is considered sufficiently important. Give an example of this. [Searching for a better job; searching for a position when we are unemployed; working to complete and perfect some important project; etc.] The same principle is at work in enduring hardship for our faith: what we “get” out of it is so vitally important, eternal redemption.
GW: If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed because the Spirit of glory--the Spirit of God--is resting on you. --
NKJV: If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed [are you,] for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.
Cross-references: In a similar manner, Jesus’ enemies also struck out at His reputation during His ministry, “For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' ” (Luke 7:33-34).
Thinking points and questions: Not everyone thought Jesus was someone important. To use the modern expression, some people “hated His guts.”
* God’s Spirit is resting upon us when we endure unjust character assassination. This can be taken in either or both of two senses: the fact that we are unjustly libeled is a major evidence that God’s Holy Spirit has been placed within us or that we have the divine attitude (spirit) when we endure such tribulation.
GW: If you suffer, you shouldn’t suffer for being a murderer, thief, criminal, or troublemaker. --
NKJV: But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters.
Cross-references: Government properly exists to punish those who endanger others, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Romans 13:1, 4).
Thinking points and questions: No matter how much good a government does, unless it firmly punishes those who do harm to others it has not lived up to one of its most basic obligations.
* What happens when a government does not punish blatant evil? [Several reactions are possible, including, (1) people start ignoring the laws themselves since it is not being applied to others; (2) they start taking the law into their own hand—in its most extreme form what used to be called “lynch law” or “vigilante justice.”]
GW: If you suffer for being a Christian, don’t feel ashamed, but praise God for being called that name. --
NKJV: Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
Cross-references: The apostles practiced what they preached in this matter, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance” (Romans 5:3).
Thinking points and questions: The apostles endured immense hostility for their loyalty to Jesus. A number died violently as the result. Yet some will drift away today because “their feelings got hurt” by a fellow church member!
* Why are we tempted to react this way? [(1) We expect better out of Christians than non-Christians; (2) we expect a level of perfection that often simply does not or even can not exist among mere mortals; (3) our culture has put too great an emphasis on how we “feel” rather than on doing right regardless of how we “feel.”]
GW: The time has come for the judgment to begin, and it will begin with God’s family. If it starts with us, what will be the end for those who refuse to obey the Good News of God? --
NKJV: For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?
Alternative Readings: For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God [God’s family, NCV; God’s own children, NLT]; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of [outcome be for, NIV] those who do not obey [fail to obey, NAB] the gospel of God?
Cross-references: Jeremiah spoke of how God’s temporal/earthly judgments were inflicted upon both His own rebellious people and the surrounding evil world as well, “For thus says the Lord: Behold, those whose judgment was not to drink of the cup have assuredly drunk. And are you the one who will altogether go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, but you shall surely drink of it” (Jeremiah 49:12).
Thinking points and questions: Sometimes people fall into the trap of thinking that because they are of the “right” religion and go through the “right” religious acts, that they can continue doing whatever evil things they had done before their “conversion.” But God judges us, too, and will no more condone such things than He will in the life of the outright non-Christian.
* If religion becomes an “excuse” instead of a positive, reformed way of life it is only an empty shell of what it should and can be.
GW: If it’s hard for the person who has God’s approval to be saved, what will happen to the godless sinner? --
NKJV: Now "If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?"
Cross-references: Peter may be referring to Proverbs in this verse, “If the righteous will be recompensed on the earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner.”
Thinking points and questions: The apostle depicts the hopelessness of the unbeliever. If the believer is barely counted worthy of salvation, what hope is there for the person who cares nothing about and even scorns Christianity?
* There is a desperate need for balance in our spiritual life. On the one hand we should be proud that we have changed for the better and are continuing to spiritually grow. On the other hand, we should never let this degenerate into the complacency that implicitly thinks we’ve “earned” salvation because we are doing such a good job of moral living. Even for the best person there is still the need for grace to remove the imperfections.
GW: Those who suffer because that is God’s will for them must entrust themselves to a faithful creator and continue to do what is good. --
NKJV: Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.
Alternative Readings: Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God [suffer for obeying God, CEV] commit [entrust, RSV; trust, NCV] their souls to [have complete faith in, CEV] Him in doing good [right, CEV, NASB, NCV, NLT], as to a faithful Creator [for He will never fail you, NLT].
Cross-references: The Psalmist had this attitude, “Pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, for You are my strength. Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.” (Psalms 31:4-5).
Even in death, Jesus manifested this mind-frame, “And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last” (Luke ).
Thinking points and questions: We ultimately have to entrust our future to God because there is no way we can be sure that we can be steadfast without His strength and assistance. As human beings we have our limits; with God’s help we can surpass those limits.
Being a local church leader as well as an apostle,
Peter feels it his special right to call upon
the community leaders to preside over the churches
with restraint and for their collective
(rather than merely personal) benefit (5:1-5:4):
Commentary and Thought Flow
5:1 Peter shared with certain of his readers a position of direct leadership among Christians and could not be accused of being unaware of their special problems in giving local counsel and advice.
5:2 He demands that they be honest leaders and serve the interest of the entire congregation rather than feathering their own nest. Nor were they to accept the position of leader except “willingly;” it was not to be a case of permitting themselves to be pressured into taking it.
5:3 In exercising their authority, they were to avoid acting as if they were dictators (“lords”) over the church but to exercise their influence and control in such a manner as to be “examples to the flock” as to how they should exercise power if it comes their way.
5:4 Just as all Christians had been instructed in the earlier part of the book to be faithful, the church leaders were reminded that it was similarly their duty in their exercise of office . . . so that they would also gain the honor of a “crown of glory” when Christ appeared.
GW: I appeal to your spiritual leaders [or pastors or elders]. I make this appeal as a spiritual leader who also witnessed Christ’s sufferings and will share in the glory that will be revealed. --
NKJV: The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed.
Cross-references: Formal local church leadership was so important to the well being of the group, that selection was not to be indefinitely delayed. After time for them to exhibit their abilities, the time for their appointment would arrived, “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you” (Titus 1:5).
Thinking points and questions: Rather than addressing them as a superior (apostle) he addresses them as one who is also struggling as an organizer (elder) in the local congregation where he resides. Hence his words can’t be dismissed as those of one who does not know the problems of local leadership, since he himself has faced those difficulties. He has “walked in the shoes” of those he is giving advice to.
GW: Be shepherds over the flock God has entrusted to you. Watch over it as God does: Don’t do this because you have to, but because you want to. Don’t do it out of greed, but out of a desire to serve. --
NKJV: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly.
Alternative Readings: Shepherd [care for, NLT; tend, NAB, NRSV, RSV] the flock of God which is among you [that is in your charge, NRSV], serving as overseers, not by compulsion [because you think you must, CEV; because you are forced, NCV] but willingly [voluntarily, NASB; because you are happy to serve, NCV; something you want to do, CEV], nor for dishonest gain [greedy for money, NIV; merely to make money, CEV] but eagerly.
Cross-references: Willingness to serve as a leader should grow out of love of Christ over all earthly alternatives, “This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead. So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’
“He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.’ He said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep’ ” (John -17).
Thinking points and questions: Consider the two wrong reasons for accepting church leadership that are mentioned in this verse: (1) being forced into it (“by compulsion”), and (2) in order to take advantage of the office for “dishonest gain.”
1. How might one be “forced” into the job? [(1) Being “guilt tripped” by others; (2) being greeted with the fact that they have already been selected; (3) the post is unwillingly taken--to maintain acceptability and respect in the eyes of others even though they are convinced that the necessary qualifications and skills are not present.]
2. How could a position of leadership be used for “dishonest gain”? [(1) by siphoning money off for purposes other than that for which it was intended; (2) to gain friendships that permit one to sell products that are either fraudulent or exorbitantly expensive in contrast to their real worth; (3) by encouraging members to accept others who are working from such an agenda, either out of friendship with such people or in order to share in the profit.]
GW: Don’t be rulers over the people entrusted to you, but be examples for the flock to follow. --
NKJV: Nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
Cross-references: Under the Old Testament also, leadership was supposed to be characterized by being beneficial to others rather than domineering. The do-it-my-way-or-else mentality led to the dividing of God’s people into factions that could be destroyed, “The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered” (Ezekiel 34:4-5).
Thinking points and questions: Contrast being an “example” with the popular adage, “do as I say, not as I do.” What is wrong with the latter? [(1) It excuses us from what we know is right; (2) it makes us hypocrites; (3) it provides an easy tool for unbelievers to use to dismiss the demands of the gospel.]
GW: Then, when the chief shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. --
NKJV: And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
Cross-references: The chief shepherd is Jesus, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep” (John -15).
Thinking points and questions: The fact that the local leaders have a superior authority they must answer to, reins in the temptation to abuse their position. Also notice how their own salvation hinges upon how they use--and do not misuse--their church office.
* Think in terms of where you work. What usually happens (sooner or later) to the person who has blatantly abuses his or her position of trust? [Usually, though not always, it comes back on them and they land up losing it. If this does not happen, the staff still realize that the higher leadership has not lived up to its own duties, creating discouragement, resentment, and even despair among them.]
The example of the respect the chronologically young
were to give to those who were older was to be
duplicated by all Christians in their attitude
toward their Creator (5:5-5:7):
Commentary and Thought Flow
5:5 Those who were young in age were to treat older people—both “elders” as office holders and “elders” as more advanced than they in years—with the deference due them. On the other hand, regardless of age all members were to be “submissive” to others and humble when the others were in the right. There is a time to stand up for oneself and a time to yield and they were to be aware of that difference no matter how old they were.
5:6 This is a self-humbling that must come from within rather than due to coercion or peer pressure. If one practices it, God will give us honor when the right time comes.
5:7 Often people strike out at others because they are so concerned over personal matters that they lash at any one that irritates them. Instead they were to humble themselves (verse 6) and cast “all your care” upon their loving God, thereby making life emotionally easier both for themselves and those they would otherwise disturb.
GW: Young people, in a similar way, place yourselves under the authority of spiritual leaders. Furthermore, all of you must serve each other with humility, because God opposes the arrogant but favors the humble. --
NKJV: Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."
Cross-references: The closing admonition of the verse against pride is rooted in the wording of Proverbs 3:34, “Surely He scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble” (Proverbs ).
Thinking points and questions: This verse is often read as an admonition to the younger generation to respect the older one. Though not impossible, the preceding verses pertain to church leadership and, therefore, in this context, those in directing positions in the church seem to be most likely in mind or, at least, the main ones. Why might young people be pointed to as in special need of the admonition to recognize or respect their “elders” in either sense?
[(1) In some cultures youthful defiance becomes a status system among the young; (2) even when this is lacking, there seems an inherent inclination in the young to think that they are astute and perceptive enough not to need the insight of those in positions of authority—in other words, not so much rebellion as excessive ego.]
* Does the mind frame that leads to disrespect always pass away as one gets older? Explain your answer. [No. Early 21st century western culture has an inbred “anti-authoritarian” attitude even when the authority is benign, well-intended, and attempts to be constructive. Furthermore the simple truth is that there is a part of the psyche of virtually every human being of any chronological age that wants to be able to do whatever pleases the fancy without having to explain or justify it to anyone else—an “inner child” that refuses to grow up.]
GW: Be humbled by God’s power so that when the right time comes he will honor you. --
NKJV: Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.
Cross-references: God never loses sight of who we are, what we are, and what we do, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ ” (Hebrews 13:5).
Thinking points and questions: Humility is easily seen as a guarantee of failure--after all, who will notice you if you aren’t constantly pointing out your virtues and successes to others? Here, though, is a case where humility causes you to be noticed and advanced. In other words, what we are is so obvious that the need for bragging is removed. When we fail to have any virtues worth noting it is only then that bragging and self-congratulation is necessary—to make up for what we lack.
GW: Turn all your anxiety over to God because he cares for you. --
NKJV: casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
Cross-references: Jesus spoke about this at great length in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew -34), a text which ends with the admonition in verse 34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Thinking points and questions: Reliability is one of the hardest things in the world to find: A car that will run right. A politician who will honestly strive for the good of the constituents. A repair person who knows enough about the product to fix it right. On the spiritual and eternal level, however, there is God: always there, always knowing, always concerned, always holding ready an eternal reward if we are but faithful.
Patient humility under stress would not go
unrewarded: God would reward them
for resisting the temptations
of the devil that came their way
through trial and adversity (5:8-5:11):
Commentary and Thought Flow
5:8 Fighting the devil was a serious business because he was both their “adversary” and as dangerous as a hungry lion seeking a meal.
5:9 In resisting him they were to remember that they had not been targeted for special attention as if they were especially evil or bad: similar sufferings were common among brothers and sisters scattered throughout the Roman world.
If they persevered through the adversity, they would be established more “perfect” in character and faith than when they had begun. This would be the work of God utilizing their suffering to make them better than when they had begun.
God should be honored both now and throughout the future because He exercises His power on behalf of the believing community.
GW: Keep your mind clear, and be alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion as he looks for someone to devour. --
NKJV: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
Alternative Readings: Be sober [control yourselves, NCV; discipline yourself, NRSV; on your guard, CEV; self-controlled, NIV], be vigilant [alert, NASB, NIV, NRSV; careful, NCV; stay awake, CEV; watchful, RSV]; because your adversary [enemy, CEV, NCV] the devil walks about [prowls around, NASB, NIV, NRSV, RSV; sneak(s) around, CEV] like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour [attack, CEV; eat, NCV].
Cross-references: The image of the devil as not only an antagonist but as an angry foe is also found in Revelation 12:12, “Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time."
Thinking points and questions: A lion is a braggart: with his mighty roar he terrorizes others into irrational fear or hopelessness. He “psyches them out,” where they are mentally disarmed—before he acts at all. Peter’s point is that no matter how powerful the devil may seem, God has given us the power to outwit him and outlast him. His “roar” is loud; his abilities critically limited by Jesus’ triumph over Him in the resurrection.
Be firm in the faith and resist him, knowing that other believers throughout the world are going through the same kind of suffering. --
NKJV: Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
Cross-references: One of the reasons we can successfully endure these difficulties is the recognition that the ultimate reward far outweighs the current discomfort, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans ).
Thinking points and questions: “Hard times” are not unique to any one place—or era: whatever happens to us either is happening to others, has happened, or will happen. We are not in it alone.
* Why do we fall into that self-centered stance of thinking that something bad is only happening to us and no one else? [Sometimes conceit; sometimes lack of knowledge about what is happening elsewhere. Furthermore, what happens to others we only know intellectually; what is happening to us we know on the emotional level and those emotions can easily override the facts that our mind tells us.]
GW: God, who shows you his kindness [or grace] and who has called you through Christ Jesus to his eternal glory, will restore you, strengthen you, make you strong, and support you as you suffer for a little while. --
NKJV: But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.
Alternative Readings: But may the God of all grace [undeserved kindness, CEV], who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect [complete, CEV; restore, NAB, NIV, NLT, NRSV, RSV], establish [confirm, NAB, NASB; steady, CEV; support, NLT, NRSV], strengthen, and settle you [establish you, NAB, NASV; firm, CEV; make you . . . steadfast, NIV].
Cross-references: God calls us with a purpose, that we might gain eternal life, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12).
Thinking points and questions: Everything has a price: You can’t get a job unless you meet the educational requirements. You can’t buy the car unless you have the down payment. You can’t gain eternal life unless you are willing to pay the price of temporary criticism, discomfort, and even injustice. God promises us the ultimate triumph, not honor and glory from others in the interim of this life.
GW: Power belongs to him forever. Amen. --
NKJV: To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Cross-references: One of the reasons--but certainly not the only one--that we glorify God is because of the rewards He has promised to us, “And has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:6).
Thinking points and questions: Just as God is personally eternal, He is also eternally deserving of respect, honor, and praise. After all, the triumph we obtain over the limitations of this life and over sin and even over death itself is made possible through Him.
Farewell and expressions of concern for them all
Commentary and Thought Flow
Silvanus had served as scribe for this letter. They should not consider that this is all that needed to be said; Peter had written “briefly” and to the point with the central goal of imploring them to stand firm in the “true grace of God” that was available for all of them.
The church in
The customary ancient greeting of
friends was a “kiss of love” on the cheek and they were to be sure to so treat
all fellow believers. Finally, Peter
prayed that “peace” would be on them and “all who are in Christ Jesus,” an
expression Paul uses as a synonym for being a church member and Christian (Roman
6:3-4; Ephesians -22).
GW: I’ve written this short letter to you and I’m sending it by Silvanus, whom I regard as a faithful brother. I’ve written to encourage you and to testify that this is God’s genuine good will [or grace]. Remain firmly established in it! --
NKJV: By Silvanus, our faithful brother as I consider him, I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand.
Alternative Readings: By Silvanus, our faithful brother [faithful follower of the Lord, CEV] as I consider him, I have written to you briefly [this short letter, CEV, NCV, NLT, NRSV], exhorting [encouraging, NIV] and testifying [assur(ing), NLT; declaring, RSV] that this is the true grace of God [how kind God really is, CEV] in which you stand [remain firm in it, NAB; stand fast in it, NASB, NIV, RSV].
Cross-references: Peter was not writing anything new to them, but was emphasizing the need for them to live the truth they already knew. That theme arises again in 2 Peter 1:12, “For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth.”
Thinking points and questions: Peter wrote of “grace,” yet time and again speaks of the responsibilities we have as well. Hence “grace” (God’s unmerited favor) is not something to be taken for granted, it is something to be lived through a life of faithful discipleship.
GW: Your sister church in Babylon, chosen by God, and my son Mark send you greetings. --
NKJV: She who is in
Cross-references: This may well be the Mark who was a
co-traveler with the apostle Paul, “And Barnabas and Saul returned from
Thinking points and questions: Peter was not ego-centric: the whole world did not revolve around him. He recognized that others were also concerned with them and conveys their best wishes as well. And this even though he was one of the most important apostles of all!
GW: Greet each other with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ. --
NKJV: Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to you all who are in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Cross-references: This greeting was one owed to all one’s fellow Christians rather than just to the ones they especially liked and felt close to, “Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss” (1 Thessalonians 5:26).
Thinking points and questions: Every society has a way of showing friendship and goodwill. In the ancient world it was a kiss on the cheek. In western society, it is a handshake or hug. The outward form may well differ, but conveys the same intent.