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Bailey Sadler Class

SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE - 2014

 

Study Theme:  Standing Strong In The Midst of Suffering

What This Lesson Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

The focus of this lesson is on living a godly life in the midst of pain and suffering so that others can be drawn to Christ by how they see believers respond.

 

 

July 13

Focused Faith

 

July 20

Active Faith

 

July 27

Enduring Faith

X

Aug. 03

Ready Faith

 

Aug. 10

Joyful Faith

 

Aug. 17

Victorious Faith

 

LIFE IMPACT:

Suffering brings opportunities to point to Jesus.

FOCAL PASSAGE:

1 Peter 3:13-16; 4:1-2

LESSON OUTLINE:

I.    

II.

III.  

No Harm, No Fear, Only Blessing (1 Pet. 3:13-14)

A Choice and an Opportunity (1 Pet. 3:15-16)

Right Thinking with Right Purpose (1 Pet. 4:1-2)

OVERVIEW OF FOCAL PASSAGE:  1 Peter 3:13-16; 4:1-2

Appeals and Promises to the Persecuted (1 Pet 3:13-4:2)

In this section Peter directly faced some of the difficult suffering of his readers. He encouraged them to respond righteously to those who had caused their suffering (3:13-17) by reflecting on Christ’s vindication despite His suffering (3:18-22). He urged a full commitment to God’s will (4:1-6), and he presented Christ’s return as an incentive for watchful action (4:7-11). He demonstrated that a knowledge of future glory provided an additional encouragement to obedience (4:12-19).

Paul instructed his recipients that even if they suffered for righteous living God would bless them (Matt 5:10). He urged them to serve the Lord even in the face of unjust treatment, for that unjust treatment might be a part of a divine plan to glorify Himself (3:17).

In 4:1-2 Peter issued a further call to holy living. He called on his readers to arm themselves by a cocrucifixion with Christ so that sin would no longer be an option for them.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Handbook; General Editor David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.

INTRODUCTION:

 Mankind is born for trouble as surely as sparks (from a fire) fly upward” (Job 5:7).  Wracked with pain, numbed by grief, and mired in misery, Job succinctly stated one of life’s incontrovertible facts—suffering is an essential part of life.  To be human is to experience suffering, to some degree.  What is unique is the ability some people have to not only endure their suffering with grit and grace but to bring something good from their suffering.  Such people are to be admired and emulated.

Some people suffer as a direct result of their faith.  This is true with many religions; it is not unique with Christianity.  But there is a distinct way in which the redemptive suffering of the follower of Christ brings glory to God.  Paul told Timothy, “All those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).  Faithful Christians will inevitable experience some degree of suffering, but how does that persecuted believers respond to his/her suffering?  Therein lies the key.  The believer who joyfully endures suffering draws others to Christ.  And that is the focus of this week’s study—using our faith to draw others to Christ!

Introduction is adapted from the following source:

The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

I.

No Harm, No Fear, Only Blessing (1 Pet. 3:13-14)

13 And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good?  14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.     Has there ever been a time in your life when you chose to endure difficulty for a future benefit?

2.     If so, what impact did it have on you: physically; spiritually?

3.     Are those who do what is good sometimes harmed (v. 13)?  If so, why?

4.     How does Peter’s question in verse 13 impact you?

5.     Who are some of those who might do physical harm to believers?

6.     Who might do spiritual harm to believers?

7.     How might a believer be harmed spiritually?

8.     What is the promise to those who suffer for righteousness’ sake (v. 14)?

9.     Do you think suffering for righteousness is inevitable? Why, or why not?

10.  Do think Christians share the same fears as unbelievers (v. 14)?

11.  How can believers avoid being disturbed by the threat of persecution?

12.  What assurances did Peter give to those who are zealous for that which is good (v. 13)?

13.  So why should I, as a believer, suffer for the cause of Christ?

14.  How does this bless me?

15.  As our culture grows more and more hostile toward the Christian faith, what are some things believers can do to minimize any fear they might have of suffering yet to come?

 

Lasting Lessons in 1 Peter 3:13-14:

1.  Christians face the very real threat of persecution for their faith.

2.  God delights in those who are zealous for doing good.

3.  God pledges His eternal favor on those who suffer for righteousness.

4.  It is wrong and unnecessary to fear that which can bring only temporary harm.

 

II.

A Choice and an Opportunity (1 Pet. 3:15-16)

15 but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.  16 However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame.

1.        How does suffering brings opportunities to point to Jesus?

2.        What do you think it means to honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts (v. 15)?

3.        Do you think this is a critical action?  Why, or why not?

4.        What must I (a believer) be ready to give at any time (v. 15)?

5.        Why do you think Peter urged believers to be ready to respond to questions about their hope (v. 15)?

6.        Do you think this is relevant for believers in today’s society?  Why, or why not?

7.        What does it look like to share the gospel with gentleness, respect, and a clear conscience?

8.        How do gentleness, respect, and having a clear conscience prepare a believer for effective witnessing (v. 16)?

9.        As a believer, do think this approach for sharing the Gospel is best?  Why, or why not?

10.     Why do you think this behavior on the part of a believer would put a persecutor of Christianity to shame (v. 16)?

11.     How would this kind of behavior do that when some people think it is a sign of weakness?

12.     How am I (a believer) to go about defending my faith?

13.     Do you think this is vital for a believer in today’s society?  Why, or why not?

14.     What impact may a serious witness have on those who denounce his/her faith?

15.     Why do I believe in God?  How do I know what I believe about God?  What do I believe about God? Do you think you would be ready today to answer these questions in the face of persecution?  Why, or why not?

 

Lasting Lessons in 1 Peter 3:15-16:

1.  If Christ is to be effectively represented in my testimony, He must be highly exalted in my life.

2.  A reliable Christian witness is perpetually and thoroughly prepared and his or her testimony is kept up-to date.

3.  If someone cannot observe Christ in me, they will not be curious about he hope that I say is in me.

4.  If I disrespect those who need the gospel, I may be denied the opportunity to share the gospel with them.

 

III.

Right Thinking with Right Purpose (1 Pet. 4:1-2)

4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, equip yourselves also with the same resolve—because the one who suffered in the flesh has finished with sin—2 in order to live the remaining time in the flesh, no longer for human desires, but for God’s will.

1.        To what earlier declaration in the letter does the opening clause of verse 1 refer?

2.        How was Christ able to successfully suffer in the flesh (v. 1)?

3.        How are believers to prepare themselves to face suffering (v. 1)?

4.        What do you think the word resolve implies for the believer (v. 1)?

5.        What does “ . . . because the one who suffered in the flesh has finished with sin . . . “  mean to you (v. 1)?

6.        How would you describe Christ’s attitude toward suffering on our behalf?

7.        Of what does a willingness to suffer give evidence?

8.        How am I (a believer) to develop the same resolve as Christ when it comes to suffering for His cause (v. 1)?

9.        What is to shape the way I (a believer) live out my life here on earth?

10.     What are some things you think a believer must do to live the remaining time in the flesh, no longer for human desires, but for God’s will?

11.     How am I (a believer) to make living for God’s will the top priority in my daily walk?

12.     What are some things I (a believer) must do to ensure the Holy Spirit’s help to live for God’s will.

13.     Do you think a believer could ever equip him/herself to suffer well as Jesus did?  Why, or why not?

14.     Do you think trusting God in ever circumstance of your life is possible?  Why, or why not?

15.     What are some things that keep a believer from this depth of trust in their life?

16.     If suffering brings opportunities for me (a believer) to point to Jesus, is this a hard thing for me to do during my time of suffering?  If so, why?

 

Lasting Lessons in 1 Peter 4:1-2:

1.  Christ’s suffering and death is the only means in which we also can experience victory over sin and death.

2.  Those who follow Christ are following Him into battle.

3.  To experience the triumph of Christ over sin, we must adopt the mind set of Christ about sin.

4.  I am to live my remaining days on earth in pursuit of God’s will and in denial of carnal desires.

 

CONCLUSION:

As believers, we have an opportunity to distinguish ourselves by doing good, even in the face of hostility by those who would do us harm, question our motives, and impugn our character.  The ability to continue doing good and to be faithful to the gospel, even through suffering, does not come naturally.  It comes by having confirmed Christ as Lord, being confident that our behavior honors Him, thinking in ways that reflect the mind of Christ, and living according to God’s will, which has been revealed in Christ.  Notice that Christ is at the center of it all.  Without Him we are not able.  With Him we find strength to endure.  He becomes our message and He is the reason we have hope.

As you reflect on this study, what are some things that stand out to you?  Is suffering in your life a source of blessing?  Or does suffering fill you with fear?  Does the suffering in your life provide you with a choice and an opportunity for witnessing?  On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), how would you rate yourself on doing good, even in the face of a hostile world?  Are you able to stand firm on your Christian values during times of suffering?  If your rating is not what you or God would like for your life, ask Him to empower you though His Holy Spirit to strengthen your witness during the times of the trials in your life.  He Will! 

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.

 

Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

 

COMMENTARY:

God Is Faithful — Lesson Outline & Commentary

Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word: 1 Peter 3:13-16; 4:1-2

King James Version:

3:13And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?  14But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 16Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.


4:1Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;  2That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.  (KJV)

New International Version:

3:13Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  14But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”  15But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.


4:1Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.  2As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. (NIV)

New Living Translation:

3:13 Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good?  14 But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats.  15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.  16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.


4:1 So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin.  2 You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God.  (NLT)

 

I.

II.

III.

No Harm, No Fear, Only Blessing (1 Pet. 3:13-14)

A Choice and an Opportunity (1 Pet. 3:15-16)

Right Thinking with Right Purpose (1 Pet. 4:1-2)

(NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: The Pulpit Commentary,Believer’s Bible Commentary,” andThe Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)

The Pulpit Commentary;  Volume 22:  Peter-Revelation – 1 Peter 3:13-16; 4:1-2

3:13.  And who is he that will harm you? The apostle, as he began his quotation from Psalm 34, without marks of citation, so adds at once his inference from it in the form of a question. The conjunction “and” connects the question with the quotation. If God's eye is over the righteous, and his ear open to their prayers, who shall harm them? St. Peter does not mean — Who will have the heart to harm you? He knew the temper of Jews and heathens; he knew also the Savior's prophecies of coming persecution too well to say that. The words remind us of the Septuagint rendering of Isaiah 50:9, Κύριος βοηθήσει μοι τίς κακώσει με; None can do real harm to the Lord's people; they may persecute them, but he will make all things work together for their good. If ye be followers of that which is good; rather, if ye become zealous of that which is good, with the oldest manuscripts. The Authorized Version adopts the reading μιμηταί, followers or imitators, which is not so well supported. The genitive τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ admits the masculine translation, “of him that is good,” but it is probably neuter in this place (comp. ver. 11). With the masculine rendering, comp. Acts 22:3, “and was zealous toward God (ζηλωτὴς ὑπάρχων τοῦ Θεοῦ).”

Verse 14.  But and if ye suffer for righteousness sake, happy are ye; better, but although ye should suffer. St. Peter knew that persecution was coming; he wished to prepare his readers for it. He recalls to their thoughts the eighth beatitude, almost reproducing the Lord's words (Matthew 5:10). Such suffering (πάσχειν, lenius verbum quam κακοῦσθαι,” Bengel) would do them no real harm; nay, it would bring with it a true and deep blessing. “Righteousness” here seems synonymous with “that which is good” in the last verse. Christians had often to suffer, not only because of their confession of Christ, but because of the purity of their lives, which was a standing reproach to the heathen. Compare St. Augustine's well-known saying, “Martyrem tacit non poena, sed causa.” And be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled. From Isaiah 8:12. The genitive may be taken as objective: “Be not afraid of the terror which they cause;” or as subjective, “with the terror which they feel.” The former view is more suitable here.

Verse 15.  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. From Isaiah 8:13. The reading of the best and oldest manuscripts here is Κύριον δὲ τὸν Χριστόν, “Sanctify the Lord Christ,” or, “Sanctify the Christ as Lord.” The absence of the article with Κύριον is in favor of the second translation; but the first seems more natural, more in accordance with the original passage in Isaiah, and the common expression, Κύριος ὁ Θεός, is in its favor. Whichever translation is adopted, St. Peter here substitutes the Savior's Name where the prophet wrote, “the Lord of hosts, Jehovah Sabaoth” — a change which would be nothing less than impious if the Lord Jesus Christ were not truly God. “Sanctify him,” the apostle says (as the Lord himself teaches us to say, in the first words of the Lord's Prayer); that is, regard him as most holy, awful in sanctity; serve him with reverence and godly fear; so you will not “be afraid of their terror.” The holy fear of God will lift you above the fear of man. “Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (Isaiah 8:13; see also Leviticus 10:3; Isaiah 29:23; Ezekiel 38:23). St. Peter adds the words, “in your hearts,” to teach us that this reverence, this hallowing of the Name of God, must be inward and spiritual, in our inmost being. And be ready always to give an answer to every man; literally, ready always for an apology to every man. The word ἀπολογία is often used of a formal answer before a magistrate, or of a written defense of the faith; but here the addition, “to every man,” shows that St. Peter is thinking of informal answers on any suitable occasion. That asketh you a reason of the here that is in you; literally, an account concerning the hope. Hope is the grace on which St. Peter lays most stress; it lives in the hearts of Christians. Christians ought to be able to give an account of their hope when asked, both for the defense of the truth and for the good of the asker. That account may be very simple; it may be the mere recital of personal experience — often the most convincing of arguments; it may be, in the case of instructed Christians, profound and closely reasoned. Some answer every Christian ought to be able to give. With meekness and fear. The best manuscripts read, “but with meekness and fear.” The word “but” (ἀλλά) is emphatic; argument always involves danger of weakening the spiritual life through pride or bitterness. We must sometimes “contend earnestly for the faith;” but it must be with gentleness and awe. We should fear lest we injure our own souls by arrogant and angry controversy; we should seek the spiritual good of our opponents; and we should entertain a solemn awe of the presence of God, with a trembling anxiety to think and to say only what is acceptable unto him.

Verse 16.  Having a good conscience. This word “conscience” (συνείδησις) is one of the many links between this Epistle and the writings of St. Paul. St. Peter uses it three times; St. Paul, very frequently. There is a close connection between this clause and the preceding verse. A good conscience is the best reason of the hope that is in us. An apology may be learned, well-expressed, eloquent; but it will not be convincing unless it comes from the heart, and is backed up by the life. Calvin (quoted by Huther) says, “Quid parum auctoritatis habet sermo absque vita.” That, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers. The Revised Version follows the Sinaitic Manuscript in reading, “Wherein ye are spoken against,” and omitting “as of evil-doers? It is possible that the received reading may have been interpolated from 1 Peter 2:12, where the same words occur; except that there the mood is indicative, here, conjunctive, “wherein they may possibly speak evil of you.” They may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ; rather, as the Revised Version, they may be put to shame; that is, “proved to be liars” (comp. 2 Corinthians 7:14). The word translated “falsely accuse” is that which is rendered “despitefully use” in Matthew 5:44. Luke 6:28. It is a strong word. Aristotle defines the corresponding substantive as a thwarting of the wishes of others out of gratuitous malice (‘Rhet.,’ 2:2). For “good conversation,” see 1 Peter 1:15, 18. The Christian's life is in Christ, in the sphere of his presence, he dwelling in us, and we in him (comp. 2 Corinthians 5:17, etc.).


4:1.  Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh. St. Peter returns, after the digression of 1 Peter 3:19-22, to the great subject of Christ's example. The words “for us” are omitted in some ancient manuscripts; they express a great truth already dwelt upon in 1 Peter 2. and 3. Here the apostle is insisting upon the example of Christ, not on the atoning efficacy of his death. Arm yourselves likewise with the same mind. The word rendered “mind” (ἔννοια) is more exactly “thought” (comp. Hebrews 4:12, the only other place where it occurs in the New Testament); but it certainly has sometimes the force of “intention, resolve.” The Christian must be like his Mustier; he must arm himself with the great thought, the holy resolve, which was in the mind of Christ — the thought that suffering borne in faith frees us from the power of sin, the resolve to suffer patiently according to the will of God. That thought, which can be made our own only by faith, is the Christian's shield; we are to arm ourselves with it against the assaults of the evil one (comp. Romans 13:12; 2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:11). For he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin. The thought is that of Romans 6:6-11. Some translate the conjunction ὅτι, “that,” and understand it as giving the content of the ἔννοια: “Arm yourselves with the thought that,” etc.; but this does not give so good a sense, and would seem to require ταύτην rather than τὴν αὐτήν“ this thought,” rather than “the same thought.” Some, again, understand this clause of Christ; but this seems a mistake. The apostle spoke first of the Master; now he turns to the disciple. Take, he says, for your amour the thoughts which filled the sacred heart of Christ — the thought that suffering in the flesh is not, as the world counts it, an unmixed evil, but often a deep blessing; for, or because, he that suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin. If, when we are called to suffer, we offer up our sufferings to Christ who suffered for us, and unite our sufferings with his by faith in him, then those sufferings, thus sanctified, destroy the power of sin, and make us cease from sin (comp. Romans 6:10).

Verse 2.  That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh. On the whole, it seems better to connect this clause with the imperative: “Arm yourselves with the same mind, that ye no longer should live the rest of your time;” rather than with the clause immediately preceding: “He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live,” etc.; though both connections give a good sense. The Greek word for “live” (βιῶσαι) occurs only here in the New Testament. Bengel says, “Aptum verbum, non die fur de brutis.’ “In the flesh “here means simply “in the body,” in this mortal life. “The rest of your time” suggests the solemn thought of the shortness of our earthly pilgrimage: bye for eternity. To the lusts of men, but to the will of God. The datives are normal; they express the pattern or rule according to which our life ought to be fashioned. God's will is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). That will is ever the same, a fixed, unchanging rule; the lusts of men are shifting, uncertain, restless.

SOURCE:  The Pulpit Commentary;  Volume 22:  Peter-Revelation; Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.

 

Believer's Bible Commentary: 1 Peter 3:13-16; 4:1-2

3:13.  Peter resumes his argument with a question: "And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?" The answer implied is "No one." And yet the history of the martyrs seems to prove that enemies of the gospel do harm faithful disciples.

There are at least two possible explanations of this paradox:

1. Generally speaking, those who follow a path of righteousness are not harmed. A policy of nonresistance disarms the opposition. There may be exceptions, but as a rule, the one who is eager for the right is protected from harm by his very goodness.

2. The worst that the foe can do to a Christian does not give eternal harm. The enemy can injure his body but he cannot damage his soul.

During World War II a Christian boy of twelve refused to join a certain movement in Europe. "Don't you know that we have power to kill you?" they said. "Don't you know," he replied quietly, "that I have power to die for Christ!" He had the conviction that no one was able to harm him.

3:14.  But suppose a Christian should suffer persecution because of his loyalty to the Savior. What then? Three results follow:

1. God overrules the suffering for His own glory.

2. He uses the suffering to bring blessing to others.

3. He blesses the one who suffers for His name.

Don't be afraid of men, or terrified by their threats. How well the martyrs lived out this policy! When Polycarp was promised release if he would blaspheme Christ, he said, "Eighty six years I have served Christ and He has never done me wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?" When the proconsul threatened to expose him to the wild beasts, he replied, "It is well for me to be speedily released from this life of misery." Finally the ruler threatened to burn him alive. Polycarp said, "I fear not the fire that burns for a moment: You do not know that which burns forever and ever."

3:15.  In the last part of verse 14 and in this verse, Peter quotes from Isaiah 8:12, 13, which says: "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." Someone has said, "We fear God so little because we fear man so much."

The Isaiah passage speaks of The Lord of hosts as the One to be reverenced. Quoting it, Peter by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says, sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.

To reverence the Lord means to make Him the Sovereign of our lives. All we do and say should be in His will, for His pleasure, and for His glory. The lordship of Christ should dominate every area of our lives—our possessions, our occupation, our library, our marriage, our spare time—nothing can be excluded.

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. This applies primarily to times when Christians are being persecuted because of their faith. The consciousness of the presence of the Lord Christ should impart a holy boldness and inspire the believer to witness a good confession.

The verse is also applicable to everyday life. People often ask us questions which quite naturally open the door to speak to them about the Lord. We should be ready to tell them what great things the Lord has done for us. This witnessing should be done in either case with gentleness and reverence. There should be no trace of harshness, bitterness or flippancy when we speak of our Savior and Lord.

3:16.  The believer must have a good conscience. If he knows he is innocent of any crime, he can go through persecution with the boldness of a lion. If he has a bad conscience, he will be plagued with feelings of guilt and will not be able to stand against the foe. Even if a believer's life is blameless, the enemies of the gospel will still find fault with him and bring false charges against him. But when the case comes to trial, and the charges are found to be empty, the accusers will be ashamed.


This was our Lord's experience in suffering for well-doing. Men rejected Him, both in His pre-incarnate testimony through Noah and in His First Advent as the Son of Man. He was baptized in death's dark waters at Calvary. But God raised Him from the dead and glorified Him at His own right hand in heaven. In the eternal purposes of God, suffering had to precede glory.

This was the lesson both for Peter's original readers and also for us. We should not be upset if we experience opposition and even persecution for doing good, for we do not deserve better treatment than our Savior had when He was on earth. We should comfort ourselves with the promise that if we suffer with Him, we shall be glorified with Him (Rom. 8:17). Furthermore, the sufferings now are not worthy to be compared with the glory that awaits us (Rom. 8:18). The afflictions are light and momentary; the glory is eternal and weighty beyond all comparison (2 Cor. 4:17).

4:1.  There is a close connection between this section and the preceding (cf. 3:18). We have been considering Christ as an example of One who suffered unjustly. He suffered at the hands of wicked men for the cause of righteousness. Since this was so, His followers should arm themselves with the same mind. They should expect to suffer for His name. They should be prepared to endure persecution because they are Christians.

Whoever has suffered in the flesh, that is, in the body, has ceased from sin. The believer is faced with two possibilities—sin or suffering. On the one hand, he can choose to live like the unsaved people around him, sharing their sinful pleasures, and thus avoid persecution. Or he can live in purity and godliness, bearing the reproach of Christ, and suffer at the hands of the wicked.

James Guthrie, a martyr, said just before he was hanged, "Dear friends, pledge this cup of suffering as I have done, before you sin, for sin and suffering have been presented to me, and I have chosen the suffering part."

When a believer deliberately chooses to suffer persecution as a Christian rather than to continue in a life of sin, he has ceased from sin. This does not mean that he no longer commits acts of sin, but that the power of sin in his life has been broken. When a man suffers because he refuses to sin, he is no longer controlled by the will of the flesh.

4:2.  During the remainder of a believer's earthly life, he is not controlled by human passions but by the will of God. He prefers to suffer as a Christian rather than to sin like the unbelievers. He would rather die than deny his Lord. The rest of his time in the flesh means the remainder of one's life here on earth. The believer chooses to live these years for the glory of God rather than for the gratification of sensual appetites.

SOURCE: Believer's Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.

 

The Complete Biblical Library Commentary: 1 Peter 3:13-16; 4:1-2

3:13.  The word "and" shows cause and effect, basing verse 13 on the preceding verse. Peter indicated that since the believers are righteous and God is watching out for them, no one can "harm" them (kakösōn, injure, damage, hurt; as in Acts 18:10, "No man shall set on thee to hurt thee") as long as they continue to be "followers" (mimētai, imitators; as in 1 Corinthians 11:1, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ") of that which is good. Peter did not want the believers to feel overwhelmed by persecutions. Though such may come, God will never allow the testing to be more than His servants are able to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).

3:14.  Peter said that if the believers, for righteousness' sake, should "chance to suffer" (as Alford translates it), they are "happy" (makarioi, supremely blessed, fortunate; same word as in Matthew 5:10). So they should not fear their enemies' threats; they should not be made "afraid" (phobēthēte, alarmed, frightened) by their "terror" (phobon, alarm, fear). They need not be "troubled" (tarachthēte, disturbed, agitated) nor live in fear of what might possibly happen. The Greek construction ("but and if") suggests that suffering pain for righteousness' sake will be a rare thing; it may happen, but probably not. Believers should be prepared whatever happens.

3:15. Peter told the believers how to deal with opposition. "Sanctify" (hagiasate, hallow, make holy) is a word the pagan Greeks used to describe the setting apart of a temple to be used only for sacred purposes. "The Lord God" (kurion... ton Theon, God as Lord) might be changed to "Christ as Lord" (kurion... ton Christon, on the basis of very reliable Greek texts). Peter directed the believers to set Christ apart as Lord in their hearts—as their only Master—and be ready always to give verbal defense of their inner hope. "Be ready" (hetoimoi, prepared, adjusted) at all times with an "answer" (apologian, a clearing of oneself, defense; as in Acts 22:1, "Hear ye my defense"). They should be able to give the "reason" (logon, word, utterance, verbalization) of their inner "hope" (elpidos, happy anticipation, expectation).

The Greeks liked to debate issues of all kinds. Peter indicated the believers should be ready to discuss their faith openly. This calls for a clear understanding of their beliefs and for skill in presenting it. It does not negate the need for guidance and inspiration by the Holy Spirit which Jesus promised (Matthew 10:19). On the contrary, Peter said they should give their witness not in a highhanded, cocksure manner but with "meekness" (prautētos, humility, mildness) and "fear" (phobou, terror, fear, not of man but of God; that is, with reverence and dependence on divine guidance and inspiration).

Believers should not be surprised if they suffer in spite of the fact they are living godly lives. They should be prepared to give the right kind of answer in the face of rejection or persecution. They should not retaliate in self-defense or seek revenge. The best "answer" they can make is to live in such a way no one will believe the accusations.

3:16. In order to give an effective witness, Peter said they need a "good conscience" (suneidēsin... agathēn, guiltless moral consciousness). This sense of innocence will result from their good "conversation" (anastrophēn, manner of life) in Christ. There will be nothing in their lives to make them ashamed; but those who "speak" (katalalōsin, speak against, as in 2:12) evil of them will be "ashamed" (kataischunthōsin, dishonored, confounded) in the very matter wherein they falsely accuse the believers. "Whereas" may be translated "wherein." Their accusers will be "put to silence" (2:15). "Falsely accuse" is the same strong word (epēreazō) used in Luke 6:28; it means revile, insult, slander, spitefully abuse. The answer to false accusations is a godly life.


4:1.  Peter next identified himself with the believers. In the light of how Christ has suffered "for us," he told them to "arm yourselves" (hoplisasthe, equip yourselves with armor) with the same "mind" (ennoian, intent, thinking) as Christ. He "endured the cross, despising the shame" for "the joy that was set before him" (Hebrews 12:2). This same attitude of sacrificing self, enduring patiently, and rejoicing in tribulation will equip the believers to face false accusations and to resist sinful temptation. Peter indicated the reason they suffered persecution was that they had "ceased" (pepautai, stop, come to an end) from sin. If they had approved the loose living of their heathen neighbors, they would not have "suffered in the flesh."

4:2.  Peter showed that the change salvation brings into a person's life is very real, a complete about-face. No longer will the believer "live" (biōsai, spend an existence) the remainder of his "time" (chronon, while, season of time) in the "flesh" (sarki, physical body) catering to the "lusts" (epithumiais, strong desire, craving) of men. Instead he will yield himself to the "will" (thelēmati, desire, pleasure) of God. Man is self-centered by nature and is under great pressure to be concerned with his own comfort, pleasure, and security; but the believer who copies Christ is concerned with pleasing God, not himself.

SOURCE: The Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Acts.  Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.

 

DIGGING DEEPER:

Suffer—The Greek word Peter used for suffer in 3:14 is paschoite, the form of which stresses the fact that suffering while real and perhaps frequent, is not perpetual or permanent.  The possibility of suffering was a constant threat.  It could come at any time.  But it would not be an endless experience.  Peter’s use of this particular word would have served to encourage his readers.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Suffer: The Greek word for suffer (v. 14) is pascho, a word that suggests “to have been affected by something, the effect usually being painful.”  The word is used in the gospels to refer to the suffering of Christ, such as in the passion predictions (Matt. 16:21).  In some usages the word can imply death (1 Pet. 3:18).  Peter not only wrote of the suffering of Christ for the redemption of sin, but he also indicated that suffering naturally befalls Christians.  They can be prepared for it by adopting the same attitude Christ had toward it (4:1).

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Blessed—“Happy” in the KJV for blessed in 3:14 is slightly misleading, for the Greek word makarioi (as in 4:14) emphasizes not the effect of being blessed—happiness or joy—but its motive.  Makarioi is the same word used in Luke 1:42 when Elizabeth exclaimed that Mary was “the most blessed of women.”  Mary’s subsequent life could not be accurately characterized as “happy.”  Simeon’s prophetic declaration that Mary’s heart would be pierced through as with a sword (2:35) would indeed come to pass, but she certainly was uniquely favored as the mother of the Messiah.  The same intent is seen in Matthew 5:11: “You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me.”  Being reviled, persecuted, and slandered does not make one “happy,” but there is divine favor at work “because your reward is great in heaven (v. 12).  The brunt of God’s reward will be realized only in glory, but the assurance of eventually receiving it instills within the believer the determination needed to persevere through the present pain.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Happy:  The Greek word for happy (makarios, v. 14) is also translated as “blessed,” as in the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-11).  A person can be happy or blessed because of favorable life circumstances or because of divine favor.  Happiness based on life circumstances will vary because the circumstances vary; happiness because of divine bavor is constant, because the Lord is constant.

 

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND READING:

 

Hope For Persecuted Believers—The Lord Is Good

By Mark A. Rathel

Mark A. Rathel is associated professor of theology at The Baptist College of Florida, Graceville, Florida.

S

IMON PETER WROTE his first epistle to Christians in Asia Minor experiencing persecution.  He encouraged believers by reminding them of the nature of salvation, then hope Christians experience in Christ, and the heavenly inheritance belonging to those who follow Christ.  In response to their sufferings and persecution, Peter challenged his readers to a lifestyle of personal and corporate holiness.

In 1 Peter 2:1-10, the apostle challenged his readers to a new understanding of the church.  The church is God’s chosen people, a spiritual temple, and priests in His service.  Before proclaiming a radical understanding of God’s people, Peter commanded his readers to mature in relation to salvation (1 Pet. 2:2).  He focused on the vital importance of the entire Christian community growing spiritually together.  All the verbs in 1 Peter 2:1-3 are plural, addressing the entire Christian community.  Peter detailed two specific matters in the spiritual growth of the community.  First, together believers must decisively put away attitudes destructive to the development of the community, namely, wickedness, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander.  Second, like the strong cravings of babies for milk, believers must eagerly desire the spiritual nourishment of the Word of God.  The Word of God is “pure” (uncontaminated) and “spiritual.”  The term “spiritual” means “reasonable.”  The encourage Christians to spiritual growth, Peter reminded believers “the Lord is good” (v. 3).

What is the meaning of the adjective “good,” the Greek word chrestos?  What is the background of the concept “good” in ancient Greek?  What is the meaning of “good” in Hebrew, particularly Psalm 34:8 that Peter quotes?  What does the adjective “good” mean as a description of God?

The Greek Term

People used the ancient Greek term chrestos (good) to describe things, people, and occasionally gods.  The corresponding verb chresteuomai, which does not occur in secular Greek, means “to be good, kind, or benevolent.”1  The adjective functions as a relational term to describe either the standing of a person or thing in relation to others or the purpose to the person or thing.2  Applied to things, the term described what was “useful, good of its kind, serviceable.”3  In particular, the term denoted something “superior for a particular purpose.”4  The term occasionally denoted the good as opposed to evil.  As applied to people, the term described people as “honest,” “upright,” or “conforming to the rules” or simply a “good person.”  Yet, even as a descriptive moral term for people, chrestos retained the concept of usefulness or fulfillment of purpose.  Hellenistic culture uplifted the ideal of morality as that which was useful in society at large.5  Because a “good” person reached the condition in which he or she possessed a genuine goodness of heart, the individual possessed of heart, the individual possessed the capacity to show or demonstrate kindness to others.

In secular Greek the term rarely described the gods because the ancients regarded the concept of a “good king god” with disdain and not a concept worthy of a deity.6  On the rare occasions in ancient literature in which the term “good” (cherstos) was applied to a god, it described the benevolence of a god who had supposedly provided wealth or healing.7 

Hebrew and the Septuagint

In 1 Peter 2:3, Peter quoted Psalm 34:8 from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.   Cherstos serves as the translation of the Hebrew noun tob.  The usages of the Hebrew term parallel the usages outlined for the Greek term as descriptive of moral goodness, practical good, and quality.8  The term most frequently described a person, especially in the ethical sense.  The most characteristic usage of cherstos (good) in the Septuagint occurred in the context of worship and praise of God.9  In contrast to the hesitancy at which Greeks applied the concept “good” to a god, the Hebrew Bible frequently described God as “good,” particularly in the Psalms.  Rather than “good” describing only an attribute of God, the Psalms primarily use the word to highlight God’s actions on behalf of His people’s welfare.10 

Peter focused on Psalm 34:8.  The psalm celebrates God’s deliverance of the afflicted and highlights God’s greatness, answered prayer, divine presence, and abundant provision.  The psalmist commanded his readers to “taste,” “see,” and “fear.”  To “taste” required one to “examine by sampling.”11  Believers “taste” God by seeking shelter in Him (Ps. 34:8) and submitting to God in fearful respect (v. 9).12

The New Testament

The Greek term chrestos (good) occurs seven times in the New Testament.  The term describes Jesus’ easy yoke (Matt. 11:30), better wine (Luke 5:39), God being good to the ungrateful (6:35), Him showing kindness that leads to repentance (Rom. 2:4), good morals (1 Cor. 15:33), and the act of being kind (Eph. 4:32).  Peter used chrestos to describe God succinctly: “the Lord is good” (1 Pet. 2:3, emphasis added).

The central message of Psalm 34 correlates with four aspects of the message of 1 Peter to believing sufferers.  First, the psalm highlights God’s delivering the afflicted.  Second, the psalmist encouraged believers to hope (trust) only in God.  The noun or verb “hope” occurs five times in 1 Peter (1:3,13,21; 3:5,15).  Third, David praised God for deliverance from all his “sojourning,” a term the Septuagint used (or “fears” in HCSB; Ps. 34:4), again a term describing the pilgrims Peter was addressing (1 Pet. 1:17; 2:11).  Fourth, both Psalm 34 and 1 Peter highlight the importance of the “fear” of the Lord (Ps. 34:9,11; 1 Pet. 1:17; 2:17-18; 3:2,14-15).13

Peter appealed to the readers’ past experience of God’s goodness in salvation in  encourage them to further growth “unto salvation.”  The verb “taste” in a metaphor describing personal experience and involvement in the past.14  In their Christian experiences, the readers had experienced the “goodness” of God in His mighty actions on behalf of His people.

What action did Peter urge from his readers?  In 2:4, he encouraged them to come continually (proserchomai) to God, a term the Septuagint used to describe priests approaching God (here Jesus) to worship.15  Simon Peter’s was a reminder that, even in the face of persecution, the Lord is worthy of worship.                                                                                                                                                                           Bi

1.    (chresteuomai, to be good) in Spicq, Theological Lexicon of the New Testament [TLNT], trans. Earnest, vol. 3 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 511. The verb chresteuomai occurs only in 1 Corinthiand 13:4, “love is kind” (HCSB).

2.    Weiss, (chrestos, good) in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament [TDNT], ed. Friedrich, trans. and ed. Bromiley, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 483.

3.    (chrestos) in Liddell and Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, rev. Jones and McKenzie (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1940), 2007.

4.    “65.25” (chrestos) in Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains [Louw and Nida], 2nd ed., ed. Louw and Nida (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989), 1:623.

5.    (chrestos) in Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature [BDAG], 3rd ed., rev. and ed. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 1090.

6.    Weiss,(chrestos) in TDNT, 485.

7.    (chresteuomai) in TLNT, 512.

8.    (tob, good) in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. Harris (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 1:345.

9.    Weiss, (chrestos) in TDNT, 485.

10.   Smith, Words Speak: A Word Study of the Book of Psalms (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1984), 38.

11.   Ibid.

12.   VanGemeren, “Psalms” in The Explositor’s Bible Commentary, gen. ed. Gaebelein, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991), 284.

13.   Schreiner, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, Jude., vol. 37 in The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadmen & Holman, 2003), 101-102.

14.   “90.78” (geuomai, to experience) in Louw and Nida, 808.

15.   Schneider, (proserchomai, to come to) in TDNT, ed. Kittel, trans. and ed. Bromiley, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 683.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 40, No. 1; Fall 2012.

 

Persecution and Tribulation For Early Believers

By Dale “Geno” Robinson

Dale “Geno” Robinson is pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church, North Highlands, California.

I

N ROMANS 8:35, near the end of his life,1 Paul put forth a song of victory over persecution and tribulation:

Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  (HCSB)

Paul saw those difficulties as natural consequences of his faith, causing him pain, but received with joy.  Persecution was the religious and legal punishment he and other believers received from Jews and Gentiles because of their Christian faith.  Tribulation was their experience of persecution.  It was as the cost of doing missionary business, the ongoing hardship they experienced because they proclaimed the gospel.  It was the pain and anxiety they suffered at the hands of their Jewish or pagan neighbors because they were believers.  The Jews saw them as heretics.  The pagan on the street saw them as suspicious disturbers of society.2  

Opposition at the Outset

The early believers were not surprised when they were persecuted.  Christ warned His disciples they would be arrested, arraigned, and physically punished for being His followers.  He endured resistance, hatred, persecution, and death.  He taught that His disciples could expect nothing less (Mark 13:9-13; Luke 21:12; John 15:20-21). 

Jewish Persecution

Pilate, as Roman governor of Judea, limited Jewish persecution of dissidents like Christians.  When Lucius Vitellius became Roman governor of Syria in AD 36, he deposed Pilate.  A period of benign Roman neglect allowed the Jews to exert a greater police power than before.3  They imprisoned Peter and John.  A jealous conspiracy by Hellenistic Jews resulted in Stephen’s stoning death, an action that would have been impossible under Pilate.  The Sanhedrin felt empowered enough to license Saul of Tarsus to harass Christians as far away as Damascus (Acts 4:1-22; 7:54-60; 9:1-2; 1 Cor. 1:23).

Diaspora Jews regularly disturbed the common peace with rioting and violence.  Their public protesters were so disruptive in Rome that in AD 49, the emperor Claudius expelled them all from the city.  Suetonius, the Roman historian, suggested that reaction against the teaching of someone named “Chrestus” caused it all.  Many scholars assume this referred to the teaching of Christ. 4

Believers bore the brunt of Jewish anti-Christian rage.  In Thessalonica zealous Jews rioted because Paul’s preaching led many to Christ.  When they could not locate Paul, they turned on his host, Jason.  They forcibly entered Jason’s home, beat him, and dragged him before the magistrate.  Though Jews had caused the riots, Jason had to post the bail (Acts 17:9).

Pagan Persecution

Pagans persecuted Christians because they, as Christ’s followers, rejected the veneer of false religion that covered the economic, cultural, and political life of that society.  The rioters in Thessalonica were correct: “These that have truned the world upside down are come hither also.”5   

Economic Persecution

Christian preaching was always a threat to some group’s livelihood.  In Philippi Paul and Silas cast a “spirit or prediction” out of a slave girl (16:16-19, HCSB), they seized Paul and Silas and marched them to the authorities for punishment.

Ephesus, which was the center of worship of the goddess Diana, attracted thousands of tourists and worshipers.  The local merchants had a thriving trade in tourist trinkets and silver replicas of the Temple of Diana (also called Artemis).  A problem arose because Paul was too successful in gaining converts (19:1-41).  The silversmiths and other craftsmen feared that the growth of this new imageless faith was a threat both to their livelihood and their religion.  They rioted; caused great public disturbance; and almost lynched Paul’s helpers, Gaius and Aristarchus.  Finally, the magistrate was able to calm and then dismiss the disorderly crowd.  Paul wisely heeded the advice not to appear in public, and later quietly left town.  These Christians were persecuted because their faith threatened the economic well-being of certain interest groups.6 

Cultural Persecution

By AD 64, government officials and pagan men on the street alike recognized Christianity as a separate, yet suspect religion.  Christians had become numerous enough that some people saw them as being a subversive threat.

Everything Christians did was counter-cultural to almost everything in pagan society.  By rejecting idol worship and denying the reality of local deities, believers excluded themselves from the civic life of their cities.  They would not attend public festivals that honored these gods nor would they participate as local magistrates and priests—each of which was as much a religious as a civic responsibility.  Their practices of sharing their goods and of remaining celibate ran against common mores.  A “tolerant” society that expected everyone to live according to the cultural norms was repulsed by the Christians’ adamant refusal to do so.7

Christian religious practice also seemed antisocial.  Their secret meetings in secluded places at odd hours caused some to think they were plotting against society.  Because they spoke figuratively about drinking Christ’s blood and eating His flesh, literal-minded pagans thought they were cannibals.  The practice of sharing a holy kiss between Christian brothers and sisters at communion gave rise to whispers of incest.8

Pastor Clement of Rome writing about AD 94 remembered this anti-Christian anger as “envy and jealousy.”  This jealousy led to the torture and death of Christians of all stations.  Persons carrying out vigilante “justice” persecuted believers like the Danaids and Dircae (figurative terms for certain women who were martyred because of their faith).  Clement tells us that “after they had suffered terrible and unspeakable torments, [they] finished their course of faith with steadfastness.”9

Roman historians disliked Christians.  Tacitus (AD 55-120) reported they were “hated for their abominations.”10  Suetonius (ca. 70-140) said they were “a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition.”11  Much later, church father Tertullian (ca. 150-222) recalled that in times of national anxiety, catastrophe, or raging inflation the mob would make Christians the scapegoats.  Inevitably someone would  raise the city, “Throw the Christians to the lions!”, as if that would cure everything.12

Roman Persecution

The Roman government was at first indifferent to Christians, but over time came to see them as atheistic threats to the essential fabric of the Roman state.  Nero was the first emperor to persecute them.  He blamed them for the great Roman fire of AD 64, and punished them with ferocity for the trumped-up charge of “hatred of mankind.”  He had them draped with animal skins and thrown to fierce dogs to be torn apart.  He crucified them or coated them in tar and lit them to illuminate his garden at night.  Both Peter and Paul were martyred at this time.  This first imperial persecution was limited to Rome and lasted only a short while.13 

Official persecutions receded into the background because of Roman political upheavals and civil wars for the next 30 years or so.  The next such persecution occurred from 91-96 specifically in Rome and Asia Minor.  The emperor Domitian declared himself a god equal to other Roman gods.  He had large statues of himself set up all over the empire and demanded that each citizen offer obeisance to him at least once a year.  People who failed to honor his deity, including close relatives, were killed outright.  Christians, of course, flatly refused to worship anyone other than Christ and thus faced persecution.14 

Following Christ in those first days of belief was no easy adventure.  It was a choice many made with the full knowledge of its difficulty.  The discomfort and pain were real, as both the neighbors and the government persecuted believers.  Because Paul had set the example, however, all could sing, “We are more than victorious through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37, HCSB).             Bi

1.  About AD 54-59, Harold S. Songer, “Romans, Book of” in The Holman Bible Dictionary (HBD), general ed. Trent C. Butler (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1991), 1202-1207.

2.  Heinrich Schlier, “Θλίβω θλῖψις” (thlibo, afflict, thlipsis, tribulation) in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, ed. and trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 143-48.  See also J. Vernon McGee, Reasoning Through Romans, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Pasadena, CA: Thru the Bible Books, 1973), 155.

3.  “Lucius Vitellius,” Livius.org [online; accessed 04 October 2010].  Available from the Internet: www.livi-us.org/rome.html;  Bo Reicke, The New Testament Era: The World of the Bible From 500 BC to AD 100 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1968), 191-92.

4.  Suetonius, “Lives of the Twelve Caesars: Claudius 25,” quoted in C. K. Barrett, ed., The New Testament Background: Selected Documents (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1961), 14.

5.  Acts 17:6, KJV.

6.  Acts 19:21—20:3; “Demetrius” in HBC, 352; Mitchell G. Reddish, “Ephesus” in HBD, 424-28.

7.  Arthur E. R. Boak & William G. Sinnigen, A History of Rome to AD 565 (New York: Macmillan, 1965), 399; “Christian Persecution,” UNRV History [online; accessed 21 July 2010].  Available from the Internet: www.unrv.com.

8.  “Christian Persecution,” UNRV History [online; accessed 21 July 2010]. Available from the Internet: www.unrv.com.

9.  Clement of Rome, 1 Clement  5-6, trans. Roberts-Donaldson.  Early Christian Writings [online; accessed 30 August 2010]. Available from the Internet: www.earlychristianwritings.com.

10. Tacitus, Annals 15.44, in Barrett, The New Testament Background: Selected Documents, 15-16.

11. Suetonius, Nero 16, in Barrett, The New Testament Background: Selected Documents, 16.

12. Tertullian Apology 40.

13. Tacitus, Annals 15.44, in Barrett, The New Testament Background: Selected Documents, 15-16.

14. Reicke, 293-94.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Fall 2011.

 

Peter’s Eschatological Understanding

By Mark R. Dunn

Mark R. Dunn is pastor of Crestview Baptist Church and adjunct professor at Dallas Baptist University, both in Dallas, Texas.

“THE END OF THE INTERNET

Congratulations! This is the last page.

Thank you for visiting The End of the Internet.

There are no more links.

You must now turn off your computer

and go do something productive . . .

Go read a book, for Pete’s sake.”

I

 FOUND THAT POSTING while browsing online recently.  Though meant to produce a chuckle, these words, if true, would be devastating to many Internet addicts.  The suggestion to do something productive, like reading a book, is intriguing.  The essential book to read is, of course, the Bible.  Its message regarding the end of time is far too important to ignore.  Innocently the suggestion above refers to “Pete;” ironically the Apostle wrote: “Now the end of all things is near” (1 Pet. 4:7)1 and had some productive suggestions to do before the end.

Eschatology is the theological study of “the end of all things.”  Eschatology presents the last category of theological inquiry, following the grand doctrines of God, man, Christ, salvation, and the church.  As a discipline, eschatology points to a future time when history will be changed so radically that a new state of reality must be described.2

Eschatology includes individual concerns such as death, judgment, resurrection, and afterlife, as well as cosmic concerns such as the end of history and the transformation of the world.3  Among these issues, judgment is the central biblical concern.  Judgment looms as God’s final act in this era.  Peter taught that God’s pending judgment has grand implications for life prior to the end of time.  God’s judgment will be serious for all and devastating for many.  From a biblical perspective, the impact of God’s judgment on one’s life cannot be overstated.  Thus judgment is the most compelling reason to have godly productivity in one’s earthly life.  This expresses the core of Peter’s eschatological message.

Peter’s coverage of eschatological concerns is not exhaustive, yet both Petrine Letters  are saturated by an eschatological outlook.4  Peter crafted his epistles to encourage readers to pursue the lofty goal of persistent righteous living despite suffering persecution and enduring the scornful pressure of false brethren.  To encourage his readers, Peter appealed to eschatological hope.  Peter showed that a basic eschatological understanding answers present challenges—to the pursuit of righteousness and faith.

In his letters Paul affirmed that things will not always be as they are.  Though the promised end of the age seems distant, 1 Peter 4:7 declares its nearness—vindication and judgment approach.  God’s people must anticipate the arrival of the end.  In his first epistle, Peter lightly referenced this teaching.  But responding to continued suffering, Peter’s Second Letter vividly explains more about the approaching end of the world.

Peter’s declaration “the end of all things is near” appears amid his discussion of Christian suffering in a world saturated with immorality.  His remarkable statement implies that Christian suffering will soon disappear.  It follows the announcement in 1 Peter 4:5 that the abusers of Peter’s readers will answer to the judge of the living and the dead.  Thus judgment, the core eschatological theme, prompted Peter’s declaration that the end of all things is near.

That any biblical promise can be thought of as “near” is a troublesome concept for many.  Peter stated that scoffers brazenly declare that life continues as it has since creation (2 Pet. 3:3-4).  How does one handle the concept of time when discussing its ending?  Peter asserted that God does not evaluate timing as humans do: one day has the significance of 1,000 years and vice versa (v. 8; see Ps. 90:4).  This is hardly a concession to the skeptics.  God does not watch the clock and neither must His followers.  Far more important to God is human development.  Peter’s eschatological emphasis rests on how his readers should productively use their earthly lifetimes and the end approaches.

Jesus declared the nearness of God’s kingdom in His ministry (Matt. 4:17; 10:7; Mark 1:15; Luke 10:9-11; 21:28-31).  John the Baptist made the same declaration (Matt. 3:2).  Paul asserted that salvation was now nearer (Rom. 13:11).  James proclaimed that the Lord’s coming is near (5:8).  John twice stated that the prophesied events in Revelation were near (Rev. 1:3; 22:10).  Each of these authors used the same wording as 1 Peter 4:7, showing the pervasive New Testament witness that the end is eschatologically near.

Old Testament prophecy also refers to the proximity of eschatological events that are distant in human terms.5  The end of time, with its dreadful events, influences present living because of its certainty.  Though still future, its uncertain timing simply makes it too close for comfort.  Thus the prophets called people to repentance and holy living.

Both of these emphases appear among Peter’s eschatological remarks.  First, Peter, a master at preaching repentance (Acts 2:38; 3:19-20), gave the clearest biblical explanation in 2 Peter 3:9 of the seeming delay in the end of time: God has paused so people will have an opportunity to repent.  The final judgment will destroy ungodly people (v. 7).  People will have no chance for repentance after judgment.  Therefore, God delays.  Second, Peter saturated his epistles with the word “holy,”6 quoting Moses’ command to be holy (Lev. 11:44-45) and appealing for holy living at the climax of his description of events at the end of time (2 Pet. 3:11).7

Peter discussed the timing of the end.  He asserted it would come as a thief (v. 10)—sudden and unexpected.8  He acknowledged that its coming is both near and delayed.  His insistence on the unexpected nature of its arrival emphasizes the biblical concern for human progress toward repentance and life transformation.  Heaven refuses to subject its spiritual objectives to the human demand for time tables.  Thus Peter seriously taught that although the end is delayed, it is near and thus could happen any time.

To warn against complacency, Peter vividly painted “the end of all things” in 2 Peter 3:10-12.  Fierce judgment is portrayed by apocalyptic conflagration.  The heavens disappear with a “loud noise”—the “whizzing sound of rapid motion through the air like the flight of a bird, thunder, fierce flame”9—resulting from the countless elements of the universe exploding into nothingness.  Some think the word “heavens” refers to the sky and outer space;10 others see a reference to the unseen spiritual realm,11 governing human life in  this world.  The word “elements” is also vague, referring to the physical universe beyond the earth in verse 10, but including the earth in verse 12 because a new earth is needed in verse 13.  The apocalyptic vision is meant to be both vague and vivid to enhance the emphasis on judgment: Earth has lost its covering—it is now exposed to the judgment that has drawn near12—nothing hides its occupants from the searching eyes of the judge.

Fire is the tool of God’s judgment.  Jesus often spoke of fiery judgment (Matt. 13:40; 25:41; Mark 9:43-48; John 15:6).  The Old Testament had portrayed fire as a tool God used to bring judgment and to purify sinfulness and uncleanness (Lev. 10:1-3; Isa. 6:5-7; 66:24).  The cosmic conflagration first burns away all elements to disclose the works of humankind.  Thus in an apocalyptic flash, judgment faces humankind.

Simon Peter revealed two important signs of the approach of the end (2 Pet. 3:1-9).  First, scoffers will challenge the truthfulness of Christ’s promised return as Judge.  Another sign is people would ignore the significance of God’s Word.  By God’s spoken word, this world was created.  All who live benefit from God’s creative word.  By God’s word, the world was judged in Noah’s day.  God’s tool of judgment was water, an element of creation.  Now God’s Word promises the end of all things by fiery judgment.  Those who scoff at and ignore God’s Word will be unprepared when the final day comes.

Peter’s greatest contribution to eschatological study was his discussion of eschatological ethics.  First Peter 4:7-11 provides four exhortations about how to live as God’s people in light of the approaching end.  Prayer tops the list, keeping open the vital link with the Lord and providing wisdom for facing suffering and preparing for judgment.  Next, Peter told his readers to love others.  Christian love encourages the saints and answers worldly hostility.  Peter then commanded hospitality, echoing Jesus’ command to go the extra mile even in the face of persecution.  Finally, Peter encouraged the use of spiritual gifts to serve others.  Instead of their watching the clock until the end of the age, Peter wanted his readers to live for Christ among people whose empty lives were getting alarmingly short.13

After describing the end, Peter discussed essential actions dictated by the approach of the end (2 Pet. 3:14-18).  Believers must live in peace with God and pursue pure living.  The believer’s objective is to be found spotless on the day the Lord returns.  Peter also warned his readers to be on guard to avoid being carried away by immorality into spiritual uncertainty.  Above all, believers must grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter’s final eschatological teaching was to glorify Christ.  The purpose of all eschatological activity is God’s glory.  God’s followers must reflect the character of the coming final events.  The gospel message, Christ’s followers, and eschatological passages have one goal: to glorify the risen Lord who has promised to return to receive His children and judge the living and the dead.            Bi

1.    All Scripture quotations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

2.    See “Eschatology” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary (ABD), Freedman, ed., vol. 2 (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 575.

3.    Aune, “Early Christian Eschatology,” ABD, 594.

4.    Davids, The First Epistle of Peter  (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 15; Ericson, “Peter, Second, Theology of” in Baker Theological Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), 606.

5.    See Isaiah 13:6,9; 19:19; 46:13; 51:5; Jeremiah 48:16; Ezekiel 7:7; 12:23; 22:4; 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:1; 3:14; Obadiah 15; Zephaniah 1:7,14; Zechariah 14:1; Malachi 4:1.

6.    Holiness was consistently on Peter’s mind; he used the word “holy” 13 times in his 2 epistles.

7.    The build-up to this climactic statement follows the epattern of Peter’s speeches in Acts 2—3.

8.    Jesus (Matt. 24:42-44; Luke 12:39-40), Paul (1 Thess. 5:2), and John (Rev. 3:3; 16:15) used the figure of a thief to describe the unexpected return of the Lord.

9.    Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. vi (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1933), 176.

10.   Green, The Second Epistle General of Peter and the General Epistle of Jude (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), 137; Kistemaker, Exposition of James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude in New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002), 336.

11.   Moo, 2 Peter and Jude in The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 189.

12.   See especially Isaiah 21:1-3.  See also Job 20:27-28; Psalm 18:15; Isaiah 47:3; 57:12; Jeremiah 49:10; Ezekiel 16:36-42,57-58; Hosea 2:2-3; Matthew 10:26; Luke 12:2; Ephesus 5:13; Hebrews 4:13.

13.   McKnight, 1 Peter in The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 237-239.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 40, No. 1; Fall 2013.

 

BIBLE CHARACTER TRIVIA

 

What Is The Answer To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia Question Found? (08/03/14) Who wanted most to live in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple?  Answer next week:

The answer to last week’s trivia question:  (07/27/14)  Which honorable counselor was waiting for the Kingdom of God?  Answer: Joseph of Arimathea; Mark 15:43.