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1 Peter 3: 8 to 12 Principles of Christian Living

Notes from 1 Peter 3:8–12

The Passage

8Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful (compassionate), be courteous (humble):

9Not rendering (returning) evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise (on the contrary) blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

10 For (quoting from Psalm 24:12 onward)
he that will love life,
and see good days,
let him refrain his tongue from evil,
and his lips that they speak no guile:

11 Let him eschew evil, and do good;
let him seek peace, and ensue it.

12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous,
and his ears are open unto their prayers:
but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. (KJV)

 

Introduction

Of whom it speaks

Jesus: the example of Christian conduct.

The letter of Peter is clearly speaking of the conduct of the Christian, relating the actions, the relationships and the thoughts, of Christians to that of Jesus Christ himself. The key to understanding of whom it speaks is found in 1:16 "Be holy, for I am holy" quoting the Law from Leviticus 11:44.

To whom it speaks

Peter is writing to those who are "sojourners and pilgrims" (2:11) and in particular to Christian Jews "of the Dispersion". However, the letters of Peter are as pertinent to Christians today as there were to the Jews in those days. This letter is written to all who have been "begotton again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1:3).

Here "begotton" is an old word meaning born again. It applies that which Jesus spoke of to Nicodemus:

Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)

The entire letter of Peter concerns those that have been born again – that is who are Christian. The life we lead no longer belongs to ourselves but to Christ. Our conduct needs to reflect this. Are we able to say as Paul was able to write, in the second letter to the Corinthians?

For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you. 2 Corinthians 1:12.

Why and When and Where

The passage before us to day begins "Finally".

Therefore it speaks of, or adds to, what has gone before, and concludes the section. The section began in Chapter 2 verse 1, beginning "Therefore" or "Wherefore".

As you might be able to recall, Peter writes in order to:

1)      Establish in the minds of the believers their true position and share in the Lord Jesus Christ, and contrasts this state with their former as Jews. In Chapter 1:4 he highlights their inheritance is incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.

2)      instruct believers in their conduct which belongs to those who are in Christ Jesus - concluded by this passage we are looking at today. The tenet of the letter is; those sanctified by God need to be holy, in the same way He is holy.

3)      It shows that believers are under the government of God, and in a position of blessing through the grace of God: who once were not a people but are now the people of God (2:10).

4)      Although we have been saved, there will be suffering, and Peter encourages is in this.

 

Exposition

Finally (now the end –de telos)

As Stephen spoke of last week (SBS – see message Wives and Husbands: A meditation on 1 Peter 3:1–9), the Apostle Peter continues to focus on the important elements of relationships, having dealt with relationship involving:

God the father "be Holy for I am Holy" (1:16)
The Spirit "whom we have the truth, and desire to obey" (1:22–23)
Those around us with out "deceit, hypocrisy, envy and all evil speaking" (2:1)
Jesus Christ "be obedient, being now a people of God" (2:4–10)
Gentiles "having your conduct honourable among [them]" (2:12)
Governments "submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake" (2:13)
All people "honour" them (2:17)
Christians/the brethren "love" them (2:17)
Masters/employers "submit" to them (2:18)
Wives "submit" to husbands (3:1–6)
Husbands Live with "understanding, giving honour to wives" (3:7)
Those of the ChurchIn love, with one mind (3:8–12)

In the passage before us, Peter is summing up in these few versus. The letter goes on to exhort us to be loving, kind, and good towards one another, both those that are good to us, but also those that revile us.

Christians as a Witness

Although the world may not necessarily see our relationship with each other, and miracles such as that George Müller recounts of a wife's conduct saving her husband being rare and perhap going unknown, the conduct of Christians together in a congregation, or assembly or church certainly can be noticed. Indeed, the media is the first to highlight conduct amongst Christians that is anything but Christian. The conduct of brothers and sisters in an assembly is a testimony of the life of Christ. And hence Peter after exhorting Believers in their individual relationships, now exhorts them in their conduct as a group.

There is nothing new in this. The letters of Paul also highlight the same thing. The assembly needs to be one of unity. Christ is the head. All others need to be "of one mind".

The Church is "Of one mind"

The church is to be of one mind. There is no room to have individuals puffed up, or full of pride or being vain in any way. An assembly that is not in one mind cannot glorify Christ. Paul prays for the church in Rome thus:

Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like–minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth [voice ESV] glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:5–6.

Note that we need one mind and one voice to glorify God. If the mind is not engaged, the mouth will not speak sense. On the other hand, one cannot comprehend how a congregation can possibly glorify God if they are not of "one mind". Having envy or bitterness between brothers removes the focus from Christ and places it firmly on self – the attitude of "I'm right" or "its my right" has no place before the throne of God. We all come to God, as saved sinners, saved by the grace of God - our position is based on His righteousness: there is none from us.

The example we have is that of Jesus Christ, who was of one mind with his father. He was meek and lowly in heart, and did the will of him who sent him. The one mindedness is a desire only made possible by Christ. Our own fleshly desires are naturally to be single minded – seeking after those things that benefit self, with little regard to those round us – the "me first" syndrome.

The "look after self first" attitude of those around us can soon pollute our born–again minds. Such words are in–congruent in this modern age. Self has a large destructive power. Indeed, much of our so called mental illness epidemic has as its basis self becoming so dominant that it overwhelms all rational thought[1] The Apostles Paul's treatment of this was "I die daily" – not found in any text-book on the subject of mental illness. Self must be thrown off, put aside – the focus of a healthy person needs to be outward, not inward. Inward focus leads to self pity or conversely the exaltation of self – that is pride: and it is pride that speaks "arrogantly against righteousness (Psm 31:18). Indeed the Bible is clear about God's attitude towards pride – he "hates it" (Proverbs 11:2). Pride displaces God from his rightful place; the creator must be the "head of all things". It is pride that led to Adam's fall. It is interesting to listen to modern boards – who when assessing their performance always examine whether that have been in–ward or out–ward looking. An in–ward board can never advance a firm or company far. To grow and move forward, a board needs to be outward looking. A Christian needs to be God–ward looking. Self has no part.

It requires the humbling of one's self. Paul points out that to be in one mind one needs to do nothing through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself or as the NIV puts it: in humility consider others better than yourselves.

This being the very essence of love: considering others better than yourselves.

Discord in an assembly results from unjudged pride and self–importance. Everyone desires to be noticed. The seeking of being prominent or great or heroic or important displaces Christ. It is only by Gods grace we are even in this room together, let along have the hope of eternity.

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, Philippians 1:27

Christians have "compassion for one another"

Peter sees that compassion results from having one mind. It is a great comfort that the Lord's compassions "fail not; they are new every morning" (Lamentations 3:22–23). Our compassion must not fail. Hence the exhortation to "Love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous (or humble).

The basis of all these relationships, whether a man to his employee, an individual to the government or a man to his wife is based on the greatest of all commandments – to love – firstly God, then his neighbour.

The old fashion tenet of "pleasing others" may have died in this modern society, but it is still the hallmark of those that love God, and seek to do his will.

But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. 1 Timothy 6:11

Love, spoken of here, is the love shown by God's example; He laid down his life for us. The shallow earthly love displayed ad–nauseam in our media has nothing to do with the love a man of God displays to either God, his fellow sojourners, or to neighbours. It is love that is linked to the divine indwelling of a Christian with the Holy Spirit.

It is God that makes these desires possible. And it is God's desire that this happens – our relationships must be in accordance to the sovereign will of God.

Christians are tender–hearted

It is love that will lead a Christian to have a heart t is compassionate to those around. The tender–hearted nature of Christ is our example. He did not ever render evil for evil, although it was truly his right (we have no such right), indeed he "answered them not a word". To be tender hearted (pitiful in KJV) is to be affectionately sensitive, quick to feel and to show affection.

A Christian will not use words that seek to do harm – to get one's back up and to return evil for evil. One does not gossip, whisper about or slander anyone, put anyone down, or besmirch another. As Paul puts is:

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4–7

The practical life of a Christian revolves around others. It is based on the hope that is before us, the everlasting blessing which Peter alludes to in the beginning of this letter:

To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 1 Peter 1:4

Our sense of grace must be played out in everyday life – evidenced by the love we practice. Nothing less will present a testimony to the world, that God loved that church and gave his Son to die for her.

Verse 8 ends with being courteous or humble – perhaps humbleminded is a better word. Here we need the right heart attitude – the right spirit. Lowliness, humbleness is not a natural function of a human.

Loving in word and in deed and in truth

Our love needs to be in word (ie tongue) and in deed and in truth. It was Jesus who was meek and lowly, unlike his brethren who vied for his right hand. Contentions are not possible from a meek heart – for indeed the meek shall inherit the earth. The problem here is the idea of being meek, being the servant, being last, not first, taking the lowest place, not the place of honour – is generally alien for humans. But as Jesus says:

[O]n the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves (Luke 22:26).

This clearly a warning to those that govern – the employer or the husband – they must govern as a servant – with a servant like attitude. The heart attitude needs to be full of love, serving to please God, not serving to fulfil the ambitions of self. The need for brother loving should be obvious, since we all belong to the same family of God. However, the practicalities often are not borne out. Indeed, in the modern church, it appears that distancing one from another is a mechanism to save interaction[2]. Without interaction, the self defence mechanism is not needed – yet Peter says here – you need to interact, furthermore, it needs to be done to ensure the other person is benefited.

Who knows or even cares what a brother or sister needs or wants during the week provided they appear now and again in the pew on Sunday. And one wonders how long a person could remain absent from this assembly before it was noticed. For certainly in the world one can be absent from the community for months or, as tragically shown in Europe, years before the community notices the person is absent – perhaps dead.

The reason for interaction; to be of one mind, to love one another is plainly put - "that you may inherit a blessing" (verse 9). Hence, by the grace of God, there flows a blessing to favour those that love one another.

The Moral Government of God

The next section deals with the moral government of God. Peter, having encouraged Christians to walk a path that reflects that of Christ now he reminds us of the unchanging principles of God. God governs impartially, unchangingly, and perfectly. This contrasts with today's governments of selfishness, that struggles for power and glory, has endless strife, and is full of greed and corruption – whether in the church or without.

Peter does this by quoting the Old Testament – Psalm 34. It is noted that the grace of God does not set aside the government of God. We reap what we sow. We cannot escape the consequences of our sin, just the consequences of God's judgement. Our life should be full of communion with God.

The relationships spoken of up to now are generally all mediated through voice – the tongue, whether used to speak of or to the employer, wife, husband or the next door neighbour. Our tongue needs be engaged: directed from a clear conscience and mind, not rendering evil for evil, but showing love. James demonstrates the problem with the tongue:

And the tongue [is] a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. James 3:6

We need to control the tongue! The Greek rendition of the Psalm states emphatically to refrain or restrain the tongue from evil. This takes a complete change of heart attitude – one needs to turn away from evil and do good. A Christian must depart evil – get away from it. This may mean turning off the TV or indeed removing it from the house altogether (as we would contend – the TV has no place in a believers home, generally), or counting to one hundred every time you respond to criticism. The turning aside is not from something to nothing – one needs to actively pursue good. He or she also needs to pursue peace. Start with reading the bible and spending time in quiet meditation. Nothing sooths the agitated mind better than prayer and reading Bible.

Like in any pursuit, it you loose sight of the quarry – keep going, don't give up. Peace is possible – peace with the Lord Jesus Christ, peace with your situation, peace with your spouse, neighbour, employee. Everyday, one needs to get and up and actively think about pursing Godliness for the day – in the power of the Holy Spirit. Pray about each every morning upon rising.

Our blessing is that the eyes of God the Father are on us and his ears are open to our prayers – communion is established between God and ourselves. God's whole mind is occupied with his saints. Unlike us, who spend considerable time switched off, it is guaranteed that God is entirely focused.

The final phrase is a word of warning. It comes back to Peters quote from Leviticus, Be Holy for I am Holy.

 

Endnotes

[1] I'm not saying that all psychiatric illness is of one's own making, for organic disease does exist, leading to profound morbidity in this area, along with external influences such as abuse, war or poverty, but selfishness, the constant inward looking, or "navel gazing" is very destructive.

[2] Social distancing is a mechanism, especially of our youth, whether by shutting off – plugging into a headset – or just not becoming engaged in the group which enables a reduction in responsibility to the group as a whole. Modern society does this well, especially in cities, where one neighbour usually only barely knows that other.

 

David L Simon (CCC 1 May 2007)
Edited 11 October 2011
\Peter\Some principles of Christian living – meditations on 1 Peter 3 v8 to v12