A wealthy man took a journey carrying a great treasure. A thief joined him to steal the treasure. But the rich man was wise enough to be careful of newfound friends. At night, they stopped at an inn. The rich man let the thief bathe first. Then he hid the treasure under the thief’s pillow. As the rich man bathed, the thief searched for the treasure in vain. He finally gave up. As he departed, the rich man said, “The treasure was closer than you thought.”
This is a sad parable of how many Christians seek to obtain a blessing. In too many instances, our search for blessings is no different than the world. 1 Peter 3:8-12 is a needed reminder that the blessed life is closer than you think if you are a Christian. These verses are transitional. They link what Peter has said about Christian submission and what he will say about Christian suffering. The themes of submission and suffering acknowledge that following Jesus does not guarantee an easy life. But that narrow gate and hard way lead to life.
Ephesians 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” Without Christ, you cannot be blessed. In Christ, you are already blessed! The blessed life is more than a new this, a bigger that, or a better whatever. The text is clear that you can be blessed and burdened at the same time. That is the other side of blessing.
- Christians are blessed because of.
- Christians are blessed in spite of.
Do you want to be blessed? Christians obtain blessings by living like Christ. The blessed life is a life of Christian conduct and conviction.
The Blessing of Christian Conduct
Verse 8 begins with “Finally.” Our text is the end of the section, not the letter. 1 Peter 2:12 says, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable.” Peter fleshes out this honorable conduct by instructing citizens to submit to the government, servants to submit to their masters, and wives to submit to their husbands. After addressing these groups, Peter concludes the section by addressing “all of you.”
- Verse 8 is how we should conduct ourselves toward believers.
- Verse 9 is how we should conduct ourselves toward unbelievers.
Live in Harmony. Verse 8 says, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” The verse calls us to practice five Christian virtues. D. Edmond Hiebert calls these virtues “an ideal portrait of the church.”
First, there is “unity of mind.” This list of virtues begins with a call to unity. The nature of this unity is spiritual, not organizational. It is like-mindedness. The call is for unity, not uniformity. We will not agree on everything. That is a cult, not a church. But we should be united in doctrine, purpose, and mission.
Second, there is “sympathy.” Etymologically, the English word means “to suffer with.” The Greek term calls for greater intimacy. It is to share the feelings of another. Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” In joy and sorrow, we are to sympathize with one another. The one who sympathizes does not say, “I know how you feel.” To say that only reveals you do not know how they feel. Sympathy is more about what you do than what you say.
Third, there is “brotherly love.” This is the heart of the verse. The first and last virtues are attitudes we should adopt. The second and fourth are emotions we should feel. Here is the fellowship we should enjoy. The four other traits do not necessarily involve Christian fellowship. You can practice them toward non-Christians. Not so with brotherly love. John Calvin wrote, “Where God is known as Father, there and only there brotherhood really exists.” The church should be more than a family. It should be a brotherhood. 1 Peter 1:22 says, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.”
Fourth, there is “a tender heart.” The Greek term refers to the visceral parts, which were considered the seat of emotions. The language is used in the Gospels to describe Jesus as being moved with compassion. Jesus was stirred up in his innermost being by human need. Compassion compelled him to action. Like Jesus, we should have a tender heart. It is the opposite of having a hard heart. The term is also used in Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Finally, there is “a humble mind.” This list of virtues begins and ends with the mind. Unity of mind requires a humble mind. Humility is not thinking negatively about yourself. It is not thinking about yourself at all. It is self-forgetfulness that puts others ahead of self. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
- It takes a humble mind to offer help without thinking you are better than.
- It takes a humble mind to receive help without thinking you are less than.
Live in Holiness. Verse 8 teaches believers how to relate to other believers. Verse 9 teaches believers how to relate to unbelievers: “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” Peter describes a holy life by how you respond when you are wronged.
Getting even man’s way. Verse 9 says, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling.” The Golden Rule is to do unto others as you would have them to do unto you. The common rule is to do unto others as they do to you. But revenge, retribution, and retaliation are not Christian options. We must not “repay evil for evil.” People may do bad, harmful, malicious things to you. As Christians, we must not respond in kind. A Puritan wrote, “To return good for evil is God-like; to return good for good is man-like; to return evil for evil is beast-like; to return evil for good is devil-like.” Who are you like? To repay evil for evil accomplishes nothing. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth only leaves everyone blind and toothless.
Likewise, we must not repay “reviling for reviling.” In many instances, one does not because one cannot. If we can, we don’t want to suffer the consequences of doing so. But we are prone to do with our words what we cannot do by our works. For many troubled Christians to whom Peter wrote, talking back was the only way to retaliate. It is not the Christian thing to do. John Trapp said, “To render railing for railing, is to think to wash off dirt with dirt.” Remember how Christ responded to those who reviled him. 1 Peter 2:23 says, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
Getting even God’s way. Verse 9 says, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” When you suffer evil or reviling, do not do what comes naturally. Do not give what you get. At the same time, do not do nothing. Do the supernatural. In response to evil and reviling, bless. The Greek is where we get our word “eulogy.” It means “to speak well of.”Bless those who wickedly slander you with kind words, intercessory prayer, and gospel appeal. This call to radical retaliation echoes the teaching of Jesus. Luke 6:28 says, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
Why bless those who curse you? 1 Peter 3:9 answers: “for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” “Called” is the effectual call of God in Christ. Peter uses the term several times to emphasize that our salvation has a purpose. We are saved from and for. God called you by his sovereign grace that you may obtain a blessing. It is a blessing in the life to come. It is also a blessing here and now.
- The blessing is experienced fully in heaven.
- The blessing is experienced freely on earth.
How you treat others is how God will treat you. Take matters into your own hands, and you get what you get. Put it in the hands of God, and obtain a blessing. This is not tit-for-tat legalism. It is divine reciprocity. “Obtain” means to inherit. An inheritance is a gift, not a reward. Leave it in God’s hands, you will obtain a blessing. Can you stand to be blessed?
The Blessing of Christian Conviction
In verses 10-12, Peter quotes Psalm 34:12-16. He does not cite the reference. The language of scripture flows out of him. He assumes the readers will catch the reference. Peter begins this Old Testament quotation with the preposition “For.” Then he cites scripture. The connection is significant. Christian conduct must be rooted in Christian conviction.
Ecclesiastes 2:17 says, “So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.” It does not have to be that way. Verse 10 addresses “Whoever desires to love life and see good days.” John 12:25 says, “Whoever loves his life loses it.” That’s a warning about putting anything ahead of Christ. Loving life is life in Christ, not without him. To love life is to see good days. It is quality of life, not the quantity of life. The Gospel Transformation Bible notes, “The good life is the hard life of trusting Christ.”
The Good Life Defined. Verse 10 defines the good life as godly conversation and conduct.
Godly Conversation. Verse 10 says, “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.” The good life begins with good speech. James 1:26 says, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” You are not godly if you cannot control your tongue.
Verse 10 says, “Keep your tongue.” “Keep” is a forceful term that means to cease and desist. It is spiritual warfare against sinful words. We cannot win this battle alone. Pray Psalm 141:3: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.” We need God’s help to know when to be quiet. We also need God’s help to keep our tongues from evil. Verse 8 speaks of evil acts. Verse 10 speaks of evil words. We must wage war against both. But there is another battle to fight. Verse 10 says to keep your “lips from speaking deceit.”
- Evil is slanderous speech.
- Deceit is subversive speech.
1 Peter 2:22 says, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” To be like Jesus, we must keep our lips from speaking deceit.
Godly Conduct. Verse 11 says, “Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.” Godly conduct involves doing right before the Lord and toward others.
Do right before the Lord. Saving faith involves true repentance. Repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of ways. Verse 11 summarizes repentance negatively and positively. We must “turn away from evil.” Our ways and words can be evil. We must “turn away” from both. The verb means “to turn away from.”There are times to fight and times to flee. We should fight evil around us. We should flee the evil within us. Galatians 5:13 says, “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.” Don’t give the flesh an opportunity to do evil. With holy aversion, practice any evasive measures necessary to turn away from evil.
Likewise, we must “do good.” Godliness is not what you do not do. It is about what you seek as well as what you shirk. You must do good. It is Peter’s repeated call to practical holiness. Godliness is not the zealous observance of a religious to-do list. Doing good is the best way to turn away from evil. Spiritual development does not happen by merely pulling weeds. You must plant flowers. Galatians 6:10 says, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
Do right toward others. Verse 11 says, “Let him seek peace and pursue it.” Peace is more than the absence of animosity or hostility. Peace is a positive and productive relationship that is the result of spiritual wellbeing. Peace is elusive because we are sinful. It only took one chapter to devolve from eating forbidden fruit to the premeditated murder of one’s bother. The former was the result of the latter.
We must be like Christ, not like Cain. To be like Jesus, seek peace and pursue it. Peace does not happen automatically. We must seek it. Worldly people look for trouble; godly people look for peace. We diligently search for it. When it slips away, we must pursue it, like a hunter chasing its prey. It is a difficult pursuit. But it is worth it. Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”
The Good Life Defended. Edmund Clowney wrote, “Christians are free from vindictiveness because they trust God’s justice; but they are free for blessing because they know God’s goodness.” Verses 10-11 are about what the godly do. Verse 12 is about what God does: “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
The Lord’s posture toward the righteous. Verse 12 says, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous.” This is an anthropomorphism. God is omniscient. He sees everything. Yet his eyes are on the righteous. The Lord watches over those who trust and obey him. Verse 12 says, “And his ears are attentive to their prayers.” The God who has eyes has ears, which are attentive to the prayers of the righteous. It is the picture of our heavenly Father leaning over to hear the faintest cry of his children.
- Nothing is too small for God to care about.
- Nothing is too big for God to handle.
If this is the Lord’s posture, what an insult prayerless is to God.
The Lord’s posture toward those who do evil. Verse 12 says, “But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” This is the third reference to the anatomy of God. The face of God is the favor of God. Numbers 6:26 says, “The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” It means the Lord looks upon you with divine favor. The opposite is for the to turn his face against you. This is the Lord’s posture toward those who do evil.
Verse 12 is the fifth mention of evil in this passage. It refers to the words or actions of believers and unbelievers. If you do not know Christ, the Lord’s face is against you. But if you profess faith in Christ but live your way, the Lord’s face is against you. Peter ends his quote without including the second clause of Psalm 34:16: “to cut off the memory of them from the earth.” Because of the finished work of Christ, your failure is not final! You can begin again.
- Run to the cross.
- Follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ.
- Trust God’s eyes, ears, and face.