1 Peter: Lesson 9: A Focus on How the Christian Lives, Peter’s Conclusion


In chapter 2, Peter instructed how Christians are to relate and function within the general structures of society (2:11-17).  He followed this by a focused instruction of how Christians should live in a household, often when someone is the only Christian (2:18-3:7).  Peter now alerts us he is concluding this section by beginning with “finally.”  This section is not to any specific group, such as husbands or wives, but to “all of you.”  So, Peter moves away from specific relationships or strategic behaviors and emphasizes embodied qualities, instead, the character and disposition all Christians are to have.

The Qualities for Every Christian

Read 1 Peter 3:8

  • Based on how Peter starts this section, what larger group is he focusing on, where the Christian Is to exhibit these characteristics?

“unity of mind”: homophron.  Not in the LXX and only found here in the New Testament.  This refers to “a common pattern of thought” or “shared mind.”  In religious usage, this referred to a unanimity borne from a common faith and shared tradition.

  • How does one get this common and unified way of thinking?

“sympathy”: sympathes.  Again, only used here in the New Testament.  An attitude inclined toward acts of mercy, particularly among the weak or distressed.

“brotherly love”: philadelphos.  A common word, but the adjectival form here is not used elsewhere in the New Testament.  This is an idealized from of familial love.

“tender heart”: eusplanchnos, “healthy entrails.”  One’s insides are well so someone can be affectionate or compassionate.  We refer to the “heart” (not than intestines or bowels) as the seat of emotions, especially compassion or mercy.

“humble mind”: tapeinophron, “humble-minded.”  This quality was most out of step in the Roman and Greek world, applying to persons of low status and often considered a vice.  Jewish Christians would not find such humility as odd, for Proverbs lists humble-mindedness as a virtue (29:23, LXX): “The Lord supports the humble-minded with glory.”  The Hebrew text reads “a humble spirit.”

This humbled mind doesn’t derive from a low opinion of self, but from a high opinion of God—realizing our salvation is all His doing.  If salvation is, in part, our doing, being arrogant becomes easy, where one can boast in his doings and abilities.

Read 1 Peter 3:9

Peter now branches out, dealing with Christians relating to those outside the Church.

“bless”: eulogeo, the secular meaning is to speak well of someone, especially in public.  In this context, “blessing” comes with a religious meaning from the Septuagint: “to call upon God to bless.”  A believer’s response to verbal abuse isn’t answering insult with public praise but involves praying for the abuser (Luke 6:28) so God might grace them with the benefits of salvation.

“to this”: Grammatically, “to this” can point forward: Bless others so you will be blessed.  “To this” can just as well point backward: Bless others since you are called to a [future] blessing.  Either way, one cannot escape the connection between faith and the living out of one’s faith.

“obtain”: kleronomeo.  This is the word for “inherit.”  Obtain is receiving something because of many possible reasons; inherit, is only because you were born into the right family and the father leaves you an inheritance.  For some reason (the theology of the translators?), the ESV obfuscates the meaning.

Elsewhere in 1 Peter, we find this prepositional phrase in two other places: 1 Peter 2:21 and 4:6.  

  • In 4:6, the usage is almost identical, where Peter’s “to this” points to what directly came before: “they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5). 
  • In 2:21, it’s the same, pointing back, to doing good while enduring suffering (1 Peter 2:20).

In this verse, the flow of Peter’s thinking is also pointing back.  He is offering a reason for not repaying evil for evil but, instead, blessing others in the face of verbal abuse: To this (not retaliating) you were called, that you may inherit a blessing (3:9b). 

  • Discuss what this “blessing” may be.  Why?
  • How does Peter kill the idea that he means, “By returning a blessing for insult, you cause yourself to receive a blessing, that is, to be saved”?  

The journey Christian begins when God calls (1:15, 2:21, 3:9, 5:10), redeems (1:18), and gives spiritual birth to someone as His child (1:23).  This journey ends on the Last Day with the revelation of Jesus Christ (1:13) and His glory (4:13).  Then, the Christian receives his inheritance (3:9), exaltation (5:6), and full salvation (2:2), all of which God established (5:10).  In between, is the time of sojourn (1:17, 2:11, 4:2, 5:10) when a Christian lives as a blessing to others because of the blessing awaiting him.  God calls the Christian to a life of active blessing not passive hostility.

Read 1 Peter 3:10-12

Peter cites Psalm 34:12-16 to bolster and support his argument.  Here, he conforms the promise that those who live in faith will inherit salvation (the blessing).  He slightly adapts the psalm from the Septuagint to tie it more closely to vs. 8-9 recontextualizing it so the “life” and “good days” are set into a framework focused on Christ’s return on the Last Day.

Ps 34:12-16, MT Ps 34:12-16, LXX 1 Peter 3:10-12 How Peter Adapts Psalm 34
Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good?   Who is the man who desires life, who loves to see good days? Who desires life, to love and see good days,   He leaves out the question.  He will use his own to start the next section in 3:13.     “Life” here is not a happy life on earth but “the grace of life” (3:7), eternal salvation.    To “love” life is to love the Christ who will come revealing that salvation.   To “see good days” is to see what is now unseen, the glory awaiting Christians when Jesus returns.  
Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.   Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. let him keep his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.   Identical except for the imperative change from 2nd person “keep your” to 3rd person “let him.”
Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.   Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.   Imperative changes from 2nd person “turn away… seek” to 3rd person “let him turn away… let him seek.”
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.   The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayer. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayer.   In the psalm, “the Lord,” is the God of Israel.  Here, the focus is on Jesus Christ.  
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to destroy the remembrance of them from the earth. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil. Peter leaves out “to destroy their remembrance” because his focus is to comfort suffering Christians.   He does this consistently throughout his epistle (3:16b, 17; 4:5, 18b; 5:5b).

Peter concludes by coming full circle to 1 Peter 2:12: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” 

Understanding our Suffering

This section, 1 Peter 3:13-17, repeats and builds on 1 Peter 2:19-20.  Here, however, Peter moves beyond confessing Christ to apologetics (not “I’m sorry” but being able to defend your belief).  Like Peter earlier used Sarah as an example, here he uses Jesus.

Read 1 Peter 3:13

Isaiah 50:9, LXX: “Behold, the Lord helps me.  Who will harm me?”

  • What is the assumed answer to the rhetorical question?
  • What does Peter mean by his question since he also mentioned they suffered from accusations (2:12), ignorant talk (2:15), evil and insult (3:9, 4:14), threats (3:14), and malicious talk (3:16).

Read 1 Peter 3:14

suffer for righteousness’ sake”: Greek, pascho.  Peter could have used many other words but chose pascho to link the Christian’s suffering to Christ’s.  1 Peter makes this connection quite strongly, using pascho (“to suffer, endure evil’) and pathama (“suffering”) 16 times: 9 referring to Christian suffering (2:19, 20; 3:14, 17; 4:1, 15, 19; 5:9, 10) and 7 to Christ’s suffering (1:11; 2:21, 23; 3:18; 4:1, 13; 5:1).

  • Does Peter see persecution as something good in itself?  If not, why should a Christian suffer?
  • If the Christian does suffer for doing what is right, what will he be?  How can this shape our behavior?

Jesus’ suffering ended in victory.  So also the Christian, whose suffering leads to victory when they receive praise, glory, and honor when Christ returns (1:6-7), benefiting from with God’s grace (2:19-20), and living in a state of blessedness (3:14).

Peter’s reduplication and repetition, a hallmark of Asiatic Greek, doesn’t occur only with the content of his letter.  Peter also repeats the sound of the words to reinforce the repetition of the themes.  Knowing the Greek his recipients spoke, he wrote, “But the fear of them do not fear.”

Read 1 Peter 3:15-16

The Christian hope: “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).

honor Christ the Lord as holy: “Honor” is not in the text.  “Holy” (Greek, hagiazo, “sanctify”) is a verb and the only imperative, command, in vs. 14-17.  So, everything in these verses flow from this “holy-ing” or setting Christ apart.  Scripture rarely has people as the subject, the doers of “sanctify” and the Lord as object, the receiver of this action.  When Scripture does, it is to recognize who God is. 

  • Numbers 20:12: “The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not believe me, to sanctify me before the children of Israel, you will not bring this congregation into the land I am giving them.’”
  • Isaiah 8:11-13: Thus, says the Lord, “Do not be afraid of their [the Assyrian’s] terror, nor be troubled.  Sanctify the Lord himself, and he will be your fear.”

Thus, when Peter commands the recipients of his letter to “sanctify” Christ as Lord, it is to recognize who He is and what is the result of Him being Lord.

  • In the context of Peter’s letter (as “aliens” without the presumed right to speak), what prompts the Christian to take what is “in [his] heart” and make it outward?
  • In Peter’s flow of thinking, what comes first, the spoken Word or the life one lives?
  • The defense of the Faith follows being asked.  Though true, what three terms does Peter use to emphasize the readiness a Christian should have to make such a defense?
  • In what way should the Christian defend the hope he has?

“good conscience”: Peter mentions this but does not say how this comes about.  Grammatically, this also flows from “sanctifying Christ as Lord.”  However, one can only do this if first enabled to do so.  In next week’s Lesson, Peter will answer how someone first gets the “good” (or clean) conscience before God.

  • When you are prepared to articulate what you believe and why, what are you doing to Christ?

Christ’s death ransomed Christians from a futile way of life (1:18-21; 2:21-25) and so, in response, we love (1:8), honor (2:7), and set Him apart (treat Him as holy) as Lord (3:15).  The defense of the Faith is the follow-through of all this.

  • What is a pragmatic reason for being able to defend the Faith?

Read 1 Peter 3:17

  • Peter uses no command here.  So, what is the impetus for suffering “if that should be God’s will”?

Here, Peter isn’t only saying that doing good is better than doing evil.  Though he does say this, the distinctive is “if that should be God’s will.”  This links to the Christian’s hope, of what awaits him on the Last Day, which is the ultimate expression of God’s will. 

Peter adapts the structure of a proverb, which includes three elements.  First mentioned (or assumed) is something “good” or “better.”  Next, two verbs state the actions or experiences being weighed against each other.  Last comes the concluding comparison.

Bible PassageWhat is “Better”First VerbSecond VerbClosing Comparison
Matt 5:29Better [to enter the kingdom of God, stated in 5:20] and lose one of your members than your whole body be thrown into hell.
Luke 17:2Better if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown in the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble.
1 Pet 3:17Better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Remember, this flows from “sanctifying Christ as Lord.”  Thus, the Christian understands, it is “better” to suffer in this life for doing good, than to suffer at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Pet 1:13) for doing evil.

Like the earlier section built on 1 Peter 2:19-20, this one, 1 Peter 3:18-22, corresponds to and builds on 1 Peter 2:21-24.  Peter expects the receivers of this letter to know the history or Noah, and a lesser extent, Enoch.

in 1 Peter 4:1-11 we have suffering (1 Pet 4:1; 3:14, 17-18), the slander of pagans (1 Pet 4:4; 3:16) and the called-for good conduct (1 Pet 4:7-11; 3:13, 16). One might think that in so short an argument, this much repetition would not be necessary, but that would be forgetting that this is Asiatic rhetoric, which has as its trademark repetition, reduplication, even redundancy and certainly dramatic hyperbole.

In the vice list (1 Pet 4:3) Peter lines up Greek words so that the sound-alike ones are bunched together in threes: aselgeiais, epithymiais, oinophlygiais, followed by kōmois, potois kai athemitois. Again, I must stress that this material was meant to be heard: a fair bit of its persuasive power depends on the way it sounds.