1 Peter 3:8-22
Finally, be you all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brothers, be pitiful, be courteous:…
I. UNION AMONG THEMSELVES. "Finally, be ye all like-minded, compassionate, loving as brethren, tender-hearted, humble-minded." "Finally" does not point to the close of the Epistle, but to the close of a particular series of injunctions. He has been addressing various classes represented in the Churches; he might have included others, but he will simply address all. He has it principally in his mind to address them on their attitude toward a hostile world; he is preparing the way in exhorting them to union among themselves. Let them all be like-minded, i.e. have the same exalted opinion of Christ and the same views as to the methods of advancing his cause. Let them also be affected along with it (as the literal translation is), i.e. have the same feelings - the same sympathy with truth and antipathy to error, the same feeling of gladness when the cause is triumphing, and the same feeling of depression when it receives a temporary check, yet of hope of its ultimate triumph. Let them also love the brethren, i.e. be drawn to them who have the same views and the same feelings. Let them also be tender-hearted, i.e. considerate of their brethren in distress. Kindness such as was exhibited by the Gentile Christians to the poor saints in Judaea has great influence in promoting unity. Let them be humble-minded, i.e. willing to sink, not the truth, but self; for there is nothing more destructive of unity than self-assertion. It is with a feeling of regret that we have to part with the precept, "Be courteous," as being a distinct recognition of what are called by-works, or accessory virtues. "They are valid only as small coin, and yet conduce to strengthen man's virtuous sentiments, were it even merely by awakening the endeavor to bring this outward form as near as possible to a reality, in rendering us accessible, conversible, polite, hospitable, and engaging in our daily intercourse; which things do promote the cause of virtue by making it beloved (Kant).
II. BEARING TOWARD A HOSTILE WORLD.
1. To bless because called to obtain a blessing.
(1) To bless. Not rendering evil for evil, or reviling for reviling, but contrariwise blessing." There is a law of non-retaliation under which we are placed as laid down by the Master. The magistrate is warranted in proceeding on the principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (administering punishment and administering it in proportion to the offense); and we may be warranted, as Paul was, in taking advantage of the law to shield us from wrong (where more good is not to be gained by waiving our rights). It does not belong to us to say authoritatively what justice demands; and certainly in any action we take or word we utter we are not simply to gratify vengeful feeling. When men emit their malice on us in evil or railing, we are not to reciprocate their feeling in rendering evil for evil or railing for railing; but, as standing on higher ground, and owning another Master (Luke 6:27-29), we are to bless them, i.e. both in act and in word to study their good.
(2) Because called to obtain a blessing. "For hereunto were ye called, that ye should inherit a blessing." We may well study the good of those who injure us, when we think of the large blessing which on our conversion we were called to inherit. God did not then take justice out of us, deal with us according to our deserts, but acted in the most liberal, kingly manner; and should not we deal nobly with others?
2. Citation from the thirty-fourth psalm.
(1) How the blessing is viewed. "For, He that would love life, and see good days." This confirmatory citation (introduced without a formula) extends over three verses. The Septuagint rendering here is, "What man is he that desireth life, that loveth to see good days?" It is implied that it requires an effort to love life, i.e. to have it wisely loved. It requires an effort to see good days, i.e. days in which the blessing of God is enjoyed. The psalmist had probably in his mind length as one element; so "many" is introduced into the Old Testament translation. But it is to be remembered that days, however long or outwardly prosperous, are not good days without the Divine blessing.
(2) Conduct by which the blessing is conditioned.
(a) Righteousness in speech. "Let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips that they speak no guile." When tempted to use bitter or calumnious words, or to use honeyed words for evil ends, let him put a stop to it - holding back his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile. For evil feelings indulged in speech, or deceit in speech found out, may rob him of much of the pleasure of life, if not of life itself.
(b) Righteousness in act. "And let him turn away from evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and pursue it." When tempted to follow mischief which he has devised, or to declare a state of war, let him turn away his feet from the mischief and contrive well doing, let him make peace his object sought, and let his chase after it (as it were fleeing from him) be keen. For evil feelings indulged in act, peace once broken, may lead to the embittering or shortening of life.
(3) Reference to the Divine dealing. "For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears unto their supplication: but the face of the Lord is upon them that do evil." The anthropomorphism is marked - the eyes, ears, face, of the Lord. God is no respecter of persons; but he is favorable to the righteous, i.e. the right-speaking and right acting. His sympathies are with them; his providence is in league with them. His eyes are upon them, i.e. to note their condition, to delight in their struggles after conformity to his will, and to send them tokens of his favor. His ears are unto their supplication, i.e. to mark it, to answer it, especially when it rises out of experience of wrong. On the other hand, God is unfavorable to them that do evil things, i.e. make a practice of it, refusing Divine mercy and paying no heed to Divine threatenings. There is not much expressed here; it is only the disjunctive word that suggests the face of God as not full of pleasure, but full of displeasure, upon them that do evil. "With the froward thou wilt show thyself froward." It is well that there should be a deep and widespread impression of the truth that God is contrary to them that are contrary to his laws, and forbids them in their contrariety to have what he promises to the righteous - life and good days.
3. Application of the citation. "And who is he that will harm you, if ye be zealous of that which is good?" The Septuagint rendering of Isaiah 50:9 is, "Behold the Lord, the Lord will help me; who is he that will harm me? There is a way in which we can be proof against harm, i.e. any real injury to our happiness. It is by being zealots, not unenlightened zealots, but zealots of the good, i.e. all that is prescribed by God. So long as the Israelites were zealous in their attachment to God and his ordinances they were invulnerable.
4. Blessedness of suffering for righteousness sake.
(1) The pronouncing blessed. But and if ye should suffer for righteousness' sake, blessed are ye." While proof against harm, they might be called to suffer. In the event of their suffering for righteousness' sake they would come within the scope of the Savior's beatitude, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The preaching of righteousness in the life is offensive to the world, and provokes its dislike and malice. But those who are persecuted because of the right ordering of their life are not to be commiserated: they are to be pronounced blessed. They have the satisfaction of being at peace with their conscience, the satisfaction of enjoying the approval of their God, who will not forget their faithfulness.
(2) Feeling accompanying the blessedness. "And fear not their fear, neither be troubled." It is remarkable how much the apostle's thought runs in Old Testament language. The language here and in the beginning of the next verse is based on Isaiah 8:12, 13. Their persecutors would seek to inspire them with fear, to throw them into a state of perturbation; but let them not fear their fear, neither be troubled. "Should the empress determine to banish me, let her banish me; ' the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof.' If she will cast me into the sea, let her cast me into the sea; I will remember Jonah. If she will throw me into a burning fiery furnace, the three children were there before me. If she will throw me to the wild beasts, I will remember that Daniel was in the den of lions. If she will condemn me to be stoned, I shall be the associate of Stephen, the proto-martyr. If she will have me beheaded, the Baptist submitted to the same punishment. If she will take away my substance, 'naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return to it'" (Chrysostom).
(3) Means of being undisturbed in the blessedness.
(a) Adoration of Christ. "But sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord." Peter gives a Christian coloring to the Old Testament language. Our hearts are our temple; there we are to sanctify Christ, i.e. to hold him as holy. We are to fear him as shown to be holy in his redemption-work, and also as by his redemption-work made our Lord. In the quiet of our hearts habitually fearing him as our Redeemer whose every word is to be obeyed, the fear of man will not find admission.
(b) Apology in presence of men. That we are to be ready with our apology. "Being ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear." Peter begins," Being ready always with an apology," i.e. answer, or defense. It is not intended that we should master Christian apologetics - be able to answer every objection which infidels may start. The apology which is contemplated here is of a much more simple nature, viz. that we should be able to make a plain statement of the considerations that have had weight with us in leading us to be Christians. We are here regarded as having a hope in us, i.e. as a living, active principle. It is true that we belong more to the future than to the present. What is fulfilled is but small in comparison with what is yet to be fulfilled. This hope is rationally produced, and we ought to be able to give a rational account of it. Can we give a clear statement of its nature, and of the grounds on which it rests? It is the hope of salvation, i.e. of ultimate complete deliverance from the power of sin. It is the hope of eternal life, i.e. of the present life being perfected. It is the hope of a resurrection, i.e. of the body laid in the grave being raised. It is the hope of glory, i.e. of our whole nature having a shining form. It is the hope of the glorious appearing of Christ, i.e. to have his own glory fully manifested and to consummate ours. It is the hope of being forever with the Lord, i.e. happy in his presence and fellowship. We rest our hope on the work of Christ. We feel that his righteousness is reason for the accusings of conscience being silenced, and for God bestowing on us all manifestations of his love. We rest our hope on the promise of God in Christ. We have not only fact to rest on, but the expression of fact in word, and to his word God has added his oath, "That by two immutable things [the word and the oath both based on fact] in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have a strong encouragement, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us." We further rest our hope on our experience. "Tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope. What we have already experienced of God does not discourage us; on the contrary, it is strong reason for our looking for the plenitude of the Divine blessing. We are to be ready always with our apology; that does not mean that we are to be always putting forward our apology, for we must use discretion. But we are to be ready with our apology whenever occasion offers. The occasion contemplated is any one asking us a reason concerning the hope that is in us. We are then to be equal to the occasion; we are not to let slip the opportunity of our commending our Master. Let us not be silent through ensnaring fear; but let us come forward and tell what Christ has done for us, and what we expect from him. But let us put forward our apology with meekness. Then must ye not answer with proud words, and bring out the matter with a defiance and with violence, as if ye would tear up trees" (Luther). Let us also put forward our apology with fear, i.e. the fear of damage being done to the cause by the weakness of our apology, leading us to make God our Counsellor.
(c) Way in which we are to be ready with our apology. "Having a good conscience; that, wherein ye are spoken against, they may be put to shame who revile your good manner of life in Christ." We must have materials for our apology, else we shall never be ready with it. These materials are to be supplied from a good life, which is here viewed in connection with having a good conscience, i.e. habitually acting according to our convictions of duty. When spoken against, we shall best put our revilers to shame by recounting facts which can bear the light. In the absence of these, no amount of skill of speech will make us good apologists, whom fear cannot disturb.
(4) The blessedness brought out by contrast. "For it is better, if the will of God should so will, that ye suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing." It is better, subject to the condition of the Divine willing of suffering. He does not say how it is better. His former thought was that in suffering for our faults there is not the noble element that there is in suffering for well-doing. Thus is he helped to rise to the sublime height of Christ's suffering.
5. Blessedness of suffering for righteousness sake illustrated by the example of Christ.
(1) In bringing us to God Christ suffered not for his own sins. "Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God." Stress is to be laid here, as at the close of the second chapter, on the exemplary character of Christ's sufferings. But Peter could not regard these in their lower aspect without also bringing in their higher aspect. The great object of Christ was to bring us to God, i.e. not merely into a state of reconciliation to God, but into a state of fellowship with God. His suffering was for this end. He suffered for sins; and so far he might seem to have the character of an evil-doer. But the sins were not his own; as it is added that he was the Righteous One (Peter's designation of Christ in Acts 3:14) for the unrighteous, i.e. us who needed to be brought to God. The idea of substitution is not brought forward, but it is in the background. We are rather to think of advantage conferred as giving Christ indisputable authority as example. Do we suffer for well-doing? Christ, it is said, also suffered, by whose well-doing (the thought is) we are so mightily advantaged. But the apostle has a look beyond this; of which he gives a hint in the word "once." Christ suffered once; i.e. suffered, and then passed into a state in which he suffers no more. So we are to understand that we have this to comfort us (Christ being our Example), that our suffering is only once; it is what comes after suffering that is permanent.
(2) His being put to death was followed by his being quickened. "Being put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the spirit." There is a resuming of the thought of suffering in connection with its worst and last phase. Though the Righteous One, he was treated as a malefactor, and put to death ("killed" is Peter's word in Acts 3:15); he thus came within the scope of his own beatitude, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." His suffering in the interest of human well-being was followed, as has already been indicated, by his suffering no more. It is now declared that it was followed by his being quickened. It is further declared that it was followed by his resurrection and ascension; and before he leaves his theme, it is declared that it is yet to be followed by his coming to judgment. Thus no sooner did he suffer, than he came to be in the ascendant. The starting-point of his after-suffering career was his being quickened. His being put to death was in the flesh; i.e. on the side of his nature by which he was connected with earth and had a mortal existence. His being quickened is contrasted in being not in the flesh, but in the spirit; i.e. on the side of his nature by which he was above earth and had an immortal existence. At death there takes place a separation of soul and body. During the time Christ's body was in the grave his soul was in Hades. It was Peter who showed himself alive to this important fact in his comments on the words of the sixteenth psalm, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell," in his sermon on the day of Pentecost. The expression of the fact in the Apostles' Creed is that he "descended into Hades." By "Hades" is denoted the invisible world, with the special association of the world of the dead. Between our death and the resurrection we are to be in art incomplete state in so far as soul and body are not to be united. Our Lord's identification with us extended to his being for a determined time in this incomplete state. At our death (if we axe in Christ) we believe that there is to be a quickening of us in spirit in connection with our being placed under higher conditions. So we would seem to be taught here, regarding our Lord, that the extinguishing of his life in the flesh was immediately followed by a quickening in that which could not die, and had a separate existence. While his body was not yet quickened, there was a bursting forth of glorious activity in his spirit in the new sphere of things and altered conditions into which he passed.
(3) Being quickened, he was also active in Hades. "In which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, which aforetime were disobedient, when the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a-preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water." In the spirit quickened, he was also active in a particular form. The congenial abode of Christ in Hades was Paradise, or the abode of the blessed dead. But he did not simply abide in Paradise; he went from it to the abode of the unsaved dead. This is here called a prison, being the place where there is meantime abridgment of liberty. He penetrated even to this department of Hades, and preached. This is a word of evangelical sense in the New Testament, and [is to be interpreted in accordance with the reference to Christ's death going before, and also in accordance with the preaching of the gospel in 1 Peter 4:6. We may understand that in Paradise he not only manifested himself as the Incarnate One, but also announced his death and his soon-to-be accomplished resurrection. And we are not to think of other announcement than this in the place where spirits are imprisoned. It is not said that he preached unto all the spirits in prison, but only unto a section of them, viz. the spirits of them that perished in the Flood. It cannot be said of the antediluvians referred to that they were very unfavorably situated for trial. There was addressed to them a call to repentance; for Noah preached - preached what their sins would bring upon them (according to the revelation made to him), but also preached the means of deliverance. He preached not only by word, but by act. And God was not in haste to destroy. "My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years." During all the time the ark was a-preparing the long-suffering of God waited, i.e. not to destroy. But the men of Noah's time were disobedient, i.e. refused, made light of proffered deliverance; and as they were overtaken by an earthly judgment, which was so complete that only eight souls ("so few as eight") were saved by means of the water, with regard to which the others, to their destruction, were skeptical. And they are here represented in the next world as spirits in prison. And yet to them Christ went and announced his death and coming resurrection. There is a certain mystery resting upon this fact which it was not the purpose of God by Peter to remove. It was sufficient to emphasize the fact that, so far from being crushed by death, he was gloriously active, even in the world of the unsaved dead. Seeing that the full significance of the fact has not been disclosed, it would be wrong to be dogmatic; at the same time, we are bound not to let go the fact which is to be regarded as an important addition to the facts contained in the Gospels. What has been given as the interpretation was substantially what prevailed until the time of Augustine. The Augustinian interpretation, the influence of which is evident in our translation, starts frown the assumption that Peter does not intend to bring out an antithesis between what was done to Christ in the flesh and what was done to Christ in the spirit. It also proceeds on the assumption that it was not Christ that preached, but Noah. There was not a proper going from one place to another, and after Christ's death. The preaching was not founded on Christ's death. It was addressed not properly to spirits, but to men in the flesh. These were not literally in prison, but in the prison of sin. They were not properly aforetime disobedient, but disobedient when Noah preached. Thus does the long-prevailing Augustinian interpretation break down along the whole line.
(4) Not held in Hades, he reappeared in resurrection-form and with resurrection-power on earth. "Which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." Water saved the eight; so water saves us still, i.e. in the antitype, the type being now baptism. How does baptism save us? It may be said of the Flood that it was the baptism of the earth. It was associated with the washing away of the filth of the old world; it was also associated with the bringing forth of a renovated world. So baptism is associated with the putting away of the filth of the flesh; it is also associated (which is to the purpose here) with the interrogation of a good conscience toward God. At baptism there used to be transacting by question and answer such as this: "Dost thou renounce Satan?" "I do renounce him." "Dost thou believe in Christ?" "I do believe in him." "Dost thou take thy stand by Christ?" "I do take my stand by him." Of the new life thus entered on by explicit covenant the efficient cause was the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus the apostle gets back to his line of thought. So far from being crushed by death Christ was not held within the world of the dead. The quickening which pervaded his spirit extended also, and from his spirit, to his body. He reappeared for a time on earth in resurrection-form, bringing in glorious resurrection-power first for the souls of men - of which the earthly channel is baptism.
(5) Having risen from earth, he now reigns from the right hand of God in heaven. "Who is on the right hand of God, having gone into heaven; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him." So far from being crushed by death, Christ is now established at the right hand of God. After having, as typified in baptism, efficiently left a channel of regenerating influence for men, he left earth. As he went from one department of Hades into another, so he went up from earth into heaven. In heaven he is at the right hand of God - gloriously reigning there, angels and authorities and powers, even all the orders of the heavenly hierarchy, being made subject unto him. If Christ, then, suffering for righteousness' sake, thus came to be in the ascendant, shall not we, suffering for righteousness' sake, come to be in the ascendant too, all the more that He is now in a position to bring this about for us? - R. F.
Parallel VersesKJV: Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: