Living HOPE Series
  • When Jesus asked his disciples. "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" Peter responded "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus promised Peter that upon the Rock of that confession He would build His church. The truth of who Jesus is empowers common man to speak the message that opens the doors of heaven to sinners. Join us to learn strong principles for Godly living and reach new heights in our faith as we work our way through Peter's writings which evangelize the lost and instruct the church.
5a. Live to Defuse Conflict (I Peter 3:8-12)
  • As believers and followers of Jesus, we are to live harmonious lives. Conflict is inevitable. When more than two people come together the potential for disagreement increases. Resolution glorifies God.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance - What are the central ideas of this text?
    • God calls us to live as a community of faith in a way that reflects Him. – I Peter 3:8-12 
    • God calls us to be zealous for righteousness. – I Peter 3:13 
    • God calls us to righteous living even in the face of suffering and opposition. – I Peter 3:14-17
  • Implications - What questions should the listener be asking?
    • What traits characterize your community of faith? How are you and your community of faith doing with “giving a blessing” as a response instead of lashing back? 
    • What does it mean to be zealous for what is good? 
    • How do you keep being and doing good in the face of opposition? Why do you keep doing good in those situations?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide 
  • Interpretation - What is the text telling/showing us?
    • What does it mean in a community of faith to have “unity of mind?” 
    • What does having sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind look like in the church? What should it look like? 
    • What kind of evil and reviling is Peter referring to in verse 9? 
    • What is the reason the text gives us that we should we not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling? 
    • How can we bless those who may revile us? What is the blessing we may obtain if we live as those who give a blessing? 
    • What doe it mean to be zealous for what is good? 
    • What does verse 15 mean when it says to be prepared to “make a defense?” Who would be those who ask us for the reason for our hope? 
    • Jesus suffered. What was the purpose and effect of His suffering? For whom did He suffer? How did His suffering end and achieve its purpose? 
    • Is it God’s will that we suffer?
  • Implementation - What should the listeners response be?
    • How should you live as a part of your church family? Why? 
    • Have you experienced evil against you or reviling? If so, how did you respond? How should you have responded according to this text? 
    • Why should you respond to evil with a blessing? How can you bless in such situations? 
    • What does it mean to “seek peace’ and how can you do that? 
    • Describe the kind of life you should lead as a believer according to this passage. How can you do that? 
    • How is Jesus an example to you of how you are to live in the face of rejection and evil? Why is Jesus the best example? 
    • How can you “do good?” What does it mean for you to do good? 
    • How can you be ready to give account for the hope that is in you? What is the hope that you have? 
    • What does it mean to you to give account of your hope “with gentleness and respect?” To whom is that gentleness and respect aimed and why?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as compiled by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation - What's generally going on in this area of scripture?
Having written to his readers concerning the principle of submission and how it works out in the context of civil government, slaves and masters, and the marriage relationship, Peter moves on to the matter of good, evil and suffering (meaning suffering which comes from others and from the world in opposition to one’s faith in Jesus, as opposed to the suffering which comes from the hard things of life such as disease, death, distress and the like). He starts his injunctions about these matters with a general statement in verse 8 as to how Kingdom citizens are to live as a community of faith, as well as from an individual perspective: we are to have “unity” of mind, meaning, essentially, “oneness,” compassionate feelings for one another, deep and harmonious friendships, serve one another, and be humble in mind. These virtues and lifestyle approaches were in marked contrast to those of the secular person in Peter’s day.

In particular, the secular (meaning, Greco-Roman) mindset concerning humility was that it was regarded as a sign of weakness and even shame, and represented an inability to defend one’s honor, and only those with a lowly social status were humble. However, for the believer, Peter is writing that humility is to be a way of life, and that it derives from a high opinion of God as opposed to a low opinion of self; it recognizes that the believer’s “status” in Christ is an undeserved gift from God, and that the believer is fully dependent upon God and owes Him service to others as a reflection of who He is and what He has done. What a high standard and calling, to be sure, but one that is fully attainable because the believer has been “born again” (I Peter 1:3) and thus enabled to live a life that is like that of Je us. Bu t in verse 10, Peter gets right to the matter of evil. It seems from the tenor of the verse, that Peter’s readers were suffering some kind of attacks from those around them, particularly of the verbal kind, including being reviled and slandered for their faith (I Peter 3:9 & 16). There was apparently other suffering of some kind (I Peter 3:14, 17), hence Peter’s insistence on the matter.

Peter deals with the matter using a rhetorical device, typical of the day, to answer the allegation or question of the imaginary person in the audience. In this case, the imaginary person might say, “If I am so passionate about and sold out to Jesus that I am living totally righteously, then why would anyone want to attack me?” (I Peter 3:13, my paraphrase) What was happening to Peter’s readers was evil in the face of their right living; but is was their – and it is our – responsibility not to retaliate (cf., Matthew 5:9-12; Romans 12:14- 21; Peter 2:23). Instead, just as Jesus, the believer is to bless, and the result is God’s blessing, whether in this life or in the life to come (I Peter 3:9). Peter then quotes from Psalm 34 to reinforce his point. In addition to giving a blessing, it is the believer’s – and it is our – responsibility to be proactive in the opposite direction of evil, namely by seeking peace and doing good, as to do so reflects who God is. Peter notes that God is watching His children and hears their prayers in their circumstances, just as God heard Jesus’ prayers, the clear implication being that He responds to the prayers of His children. Moreover, Peter underscores that God is against the evildoer, even if the evildoer does not get his “comeuppance” in this life.

Altogether, the life mantra for the believer is to do good in the face of evil, and keep on doing good. The believer is not constrained by the vagaries of the world, and is not bound by sin any longer (see Romans 6:6-12); he or she is thus able to live a Godly life that respects and offers good to others. Indeed, Peter writes, even when one is reviled for one’s hope in Christ (including in a formal setting such as a court), the response is to be able to give a reason for that hope, with “gentleness and respect” (I Peter 3:15) meaning that the response derives from love and grace. The believer is not to be afraid of the “revilers” or of their own social standing or status, or of anything else, but to respond out of holiness, and with the knowledge that behavior which is good and Christlike speaks the lie to the false accusations, even if those accusations lead to suffering (I Peter 3:14, 16 & 17). After all, Peter writes, Jesus went before all His followers as the victim of evildoers; and He responded with blessing and the ultimate service, namely His life, in order to allow righteousness to triumph (I Peter 3:18). Indeed, Jesus’ righteous example and obedience to the Father resulted in His resurrection from the grave and full defeat of evil and sin and His glorification (I Peter 3:22). God’s will is always that His children do right, even in the face of suffering, and that suffering can be expected, though it is not God’s will per se, but it is present since the world has rejected God (I Peter 3:17).

In referring to Jesus as the model of how the believer is to respond to unjust “suffering,” in verses 18-22, Peter provides a lesson in the doctrinal truth about Jesus and the effecting of salvation. He notes the following: one, that Jesus died, meaning that Jesus was a human being and did die a literal physical death on earth; two, that Jesus died for sins, meaning that His death was for the purpose of “paying” the sin debt as an atonement for sin; three, that Jesus died once for all, meaning that His death was sufficient for all sin for all time; four, that Jesus died for the unrighteous, meaning that Jesus’ death was effectual for all but limited to those who respond to Him in faith, and effectual in accomplishing all that God intended; five, that Jesus died to bring the unrighteous to God, since the unrighteous are dead in sin and unable to effect their own salvation; and six, that Jesus was resurrected by God the Holy Spirit, that the resurrection was in the realm of the spiritual and hence Jesus received a glorified spiritual body.

Peter’s references in verse 19-21 to Noah and to baptism are among the most difficult in the New Testament to interpret. Two items of background need to be mentioned as they were relevant to Peter’s readers. The first is the book of I Enoch, which was written and edited over several centuries prior to Peter’s day, and with which Jewish believers would be familiar. The book speaks of God’s judgment that will end the present age of evil and bring about a new creation under God, and in so doing, refers to fallen spirits (angels) and of Enoch’s assignment from God to speak a word of God’s judgment to them as they were held “in prison,” and trumpet God’s victory.

It therefore seems that in verse 19 and 20a, Peter is saying that it was the resurrected Jesus who proclaimed the victory over sin and evil to the fallen angels. Such an interpretation avoids the erroneous interpretation that Jesus somehow after His resurrection preached the gospel to those already dead to give them a so-called “second chance” at salvation. The second item relates to Noah and the references Peter makes to Noah. In the area where Peter’s audience lived (Asia minor), there were multiple flood stories, and when Jewish people moved into the area, they brought with them the biblical story of Noah. There was a town in the region where it was thought that the ark of Noah had come to rest, and local Roman coins even had Noah’s “image” on one side of the coin. In short, Noah had become something of a local in the area such that Peter’s reference to Noah would not have been unexpected but in fact would have been a way to underscore the truth of what Peter was otherwise writing.

Thus, Noah and his family represent a picture to Peter’s readers of themselves, and that God will go to great lengths to save them through the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is thus not baptism itself that saves, but rather the “waters of God’s grace” and it is baptism that is a picture and proof that one has sought a “good conscience” and a cleansing from sin and unrighteousness. All told, these two references by Peter say that Jesus was resurrected, proclaimed victory to fallen angels, and that as God saved Noah and his family, God saves those who appeal to Him in the power of the resurrected Jesus who is above all powers, even if the number is small. In this life are evil and suffering. Evil derives from the rejection of God and the Savior, Jesus, and issues in the hatred of Jesus, for what He stands for, and for those who follow Him. Suffering in this passage is the reviling, rejection, slander and opposition to Jesus’ followers. It can run from basic shunning, to making fun of and ridiculing belief in Jesus, to slander and baseless charges against believers, to outright persecution in the form of loss of jobs or even arrest.

In the face of evil and suffering, what is the believer to do. He or she is to do good, to bless, to live in a way so as to shine light on Jesus, and to be ready to give an account (literally, make a defense of) one’s faith and the basis of one’s hope. In the end, the believer is to place his or her trust in the righteous judge who will take care of His children in the end for His sake. By living this way, we give again witness to the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, and underscore His greatness. We have the power to live in this way – living to do good – because we are new creations endowed with the power of God living in us. What a high calling; but as with living to submit, what a privilege! We can live purposeful lives that reflect our glorious Savior as we do good to those who would otherwise seek evil for us. Christlikeness is the picture and is our calling.