Be Righteous, 1 Peter 3:8-17
If you should suffer for righteousness sake, you will be blessed.
Here are four questions to help us work through this text that calls us to be righteous. “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous…if you suffer for righteousness sake, you will be blessed.”
How is “be righteous” different from “be holy”?
A previous passage called Christians to holiness. (1:13-21). This text emphasizes righteousness. Those two words overlap in meaning and practice. There is a difference in nuance. Holiness is to be set aside, or dedicated, to God’s purposes. Righteousness is to conform to God’s standards. Technically, holiness is a character that results in righteous behavior while righteousness is specific to behavior itself. So, Peter gets down to specifics.
The righteous practice unity, sympathy, brotherly love, and humility (vs. 8). The righteous response to reviling is to bless. (vs. 9). The righteous choose good over evil in word and deed, and pursue peace rather than enmity. (10-12). They speak up for Jesus and maintain a good conscience. (vs. 15-16).
When is a Christian excused from righteous behavior?
If doing the right thing causes embarrassment, costs us our job, results in being ridiculed or bullied, or brings actual suffering and harm (vs. 14), “it is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” (vs. 17). Righteousness honors Christ, while fearing no evil. Even in the face of mistreatment, it acts with gentleness and respect. (vs. 15).
How is right living connected to enjoying life?
The righteous are sometimes persecuted, but that is not the usual circumstance. In most contexts, right living results in a long life of good days (vs. 16). Peter quotes Psalm 34:12-16 which describes the blessed life of a righteous person. God created the world and us, then gave us standards as to how to live our best life in the world. When we live according to righteous standards, a blessed life results.
Yes, in a fallen world, there is suffering. As Peter reasons, if then you suffer, let it be for doing good, not for being evil.
What will happen when we practice righteousness?
“For to this (righteousness) you were called, that you might obtain a blessing (vs. 9)…But even if you suffer for righteousness sake, you will be blessed.” (vs. 14).
If you practice righteousness, you will tend tolive a long life of good days (vs. 10), though it is possible to experience seasons of rejection and persecution.
If you practice righteousness, you may draw someone to Christ and have the opportunity to share your reason for hope. (vs. 15).
If you practice righteousness, you definitely will receive a blessing (vs. 14).
For enlightenment and discussion:
How does making choices for good rather than evil actually add years to our life?
What does it mean to “see good days”?
Is it your expectation to be appreciated or to be persecuted for your good behavior?
How does our good behavior result in shame on those who slander our choices?
How can we be prepared to offer a defense to people to ask about our reason for hope?
Be Baptized, 1 Peter 3:18-22
Baptism…now saves you
The gospel is defined and summarized as the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15:1-4). Given that, 1 Peter 3:18-22 is a “gospel” text:
was “put to death.” vs. 18
While his body was entombed (burial) his spirit “proclaimed to the spirits in prison.” vs. 19
This was followed by “the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” vs. 21.
1 Peter encourages believers who suffered persecution, a persecution that was only going to increase in intensity, to not grow ashamed of their faith and relationship with the Lord. In the verses immediately preceding this text, Peter had acknowledged that the righteous may suffer for their good deeds. This section of the letter comforts their suffering by reflecting on the suffering of righteous Jesus himself. This paragraph begins “For Christ also suffered.” (3:18). The next paragraph begins “Since therefore Christ suffered.” (4:1). The words in between tell the story of Christ’s suffering and ultimate victory. Point being: his story can be our story – death, burial, resurrection to victory.
This passage is famously known as one of the most difficult and mysterious in scripture. It is easy to get lost in discussions about the spirits in prison, what Jesus proclaimed among them, and the relation of Christian baptism to the story of Noah, and the matter of our conscience. Therefore, it is worthwhile to point to the primary function of this scripture in context: We may suffer for choosing righteousness, but none are more righteous than Jesus, and none suffered more than Jesus, so take heart!
6:9 reads, “Noah was a righteous man” who lived in a time of great wickedness.
1 Peter 3:18 identifies Jesus as righteous, but suffering at the hands of the wicked. Peter’s original audience received the call to be righteous, but lived in a culture of wickedness. Likewise, any generation, including ours, should not be surprised when our righteousness is unappreciated – persecuted, even.
Yet, we can take consolation in that, as flood waters lifted Noah and his family to salvation from wickedness and receded to place him on a cleansed earth, so the waters of baptism, in a retelling of the faith story of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, saves and cleanses. The purpose of our baptismal bath was not to remove dirt from our bodies, but sin from our consciences. The efficacy of baptism is in the power of the resurrection of Jesus. As a righteous sufferer, he ascended to heaven as victor. Our hope is to join him in the same manner.
For enlightenment and discussion:
What were the reasons for Jesus’ suffering?
What is the “prison” mentioned in verse 19?
Besides Noah, what are some other stories about the loneliness of the righteous?
How does it help for those who suffer for righteousness sake to know that others have suffered before them?
How was this passage helpful to Peter’s audience as they suffered through persecution from Roman state and local governments, idol promoters, and militant Jews?
How do the stories of Noah and Jesus help all believers overcome the shame of rejection and persecution?