I Peter 3:8-9 (Part 2)

(A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds)

September 5, 2013

 

In the New Testament there are a number of passages which provide us a summary of the life to which God calls His people.  Some examples are the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, Romans 12:9-20, and Galatians 5:22-23.  In our last session we began looking at 1 Peter 3:8-9 which also contains such a summary. These verses contain a list of six characteristics that should be in the life of every Christian.  I pointed out in the last session the importance of the word “all” in the phrase “let all be” in 1 Peter 3:8.  That word means that the characteristics listed in these verses should be in the life of every Christian.  They are not descriptive of just a few super-spiritual or extra-committed Christians.  This is a description of how all of God’s people should be.  We have already explored the first three qualities on this list.  In our previous session we saw that every Christian should be--

--”harmonious” toward others...we’re to be of the same heart with our fellow believers...

--”sympathetic” toward others...we’re to feel what others feel, to see what others see...

--”brotherly” toward others...we’re to treat those around us as family...


In this session we will explore the final three qualities on this list.

 

Every Christian should be “kind-hearted

1.      There’s an interesting thing about the six qualities listed in I Peter 3:8-9...four of the words on this list are used nowhere else in the NT...and the word which the NASB translates “kind-hearted” and the KJV translates with the concept of “pity” is used only one other time in Scripture...one commentator points out that “Peter has carefully and artistically selected incredibly meaningful, albeit rare, words [with which] to challenge us.” [Sermon-”High 5" from web site]

2.      “Kind-hearted” means to be affectionately sensitive toward others...means to be quick to feel compassion and mercy...and it means being slow to feel impatience and anger…

3.      This is a key quality that is stressed as over and over again in Scripture.  Proverbs 3:3-4 – “Do not let kindness and truth leave you.  Bind them about your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.  So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.”  Galatians 5:22 reminds us that one result of allowing God’s Spirit to control us in that we will be characterized by “kindness.”

4.        Cecil Rhodes was the British statesman and businessman who used his fortune to endow the world-famous Rhodes Scholarships ...Mr. Rhodes was a very formal man and was a stickler for correct dress...a young student who was invited to a dinner party in Rhode’s home...the student had to travel a great distance by train to attend the dinner, and when he arrived at the Rhodes estate his modest clothes were wrinkled and in disarray from the long journey...to his dismay and embarrassment the young man saw the other dinner guests elegantly dressed in full evening wear...after what seemed to the young student a long time, Mr. Rhodes appeared to great the student and the host was wearing a rather shabby, old blue suit... it wasn’t until later that the young student learned that earlier in the evening Mr. Rhodes had been dressed in evening clothes, but when he heard of the student’s dilemma he went back to his room and changed into the old suit to make the young man more comfortable... [Today in the Word, February, 1991, p.10]

5.      That’s what it means to be “kind-hearted”...it is being affectionately sensitive toward others...every Christian should be that way...

 

Every Christian should be “humble in spirit”


1.      The word translated “humble” is another of those words Peter used in this verse which in this precise form is found nowhere else in the NT...it’s made up of two other words...the first part of this word carries the idea of “low” or “lowly”...the second part is the basic word for “mind”...so literally, the word means to be “lowly in mind”...

2.      This the quality which makes it possible for a person to put others first...the quality which causes a person to defer graciously to others instead of insisting on his/her rights and privileges...the KJV translates the word “courteous” which I believe is an excellent translation of the word...

3.      While the world does not recognize this quality as a virtue, in the Bible humility of spirit is consistently portrayed as something to be desired...Jesus, Himself, was characterized by this quality...to a world much like ours, a world which glorified those who were assertive and strong-willed and a world which looked down on those who graciously deferred to others, Jesus came describing Himself as being “gentle and humble in heart...”[Matt.11:29]

4.      If we remember two basic things about life, it will be much easier for us to be “humble in spirit”...

--first, it is easier to be “humble in spirit” when we remember that God is the Creator and we are created beings...we didn’t make ourselves...we didn’t make our world...God made us...God placed us in this world...and we are completely dependent on God for everything...

--second, it is easier to be “humble in spirit” when we remember that our lives are measured by the standard of Christ...while we can always find someone with whom to compare ourselves which will make us feel prideful, when we remember the standard of measurement for our lives is Christ it is clear we all fail to measure up...

And because all people are God’s creation and because all people fail to measure up to God’s ideal, then it follows that not one of us has the right to look down upon or to Lord it over any other person...we each have every reason to be “humble in spirit”... 

5.      I remember reading something interesting and unique about mountain goats...when two goats meet on a narrow trail and have not way to get around each other, one goat will lie down and let the other goat jump over it, then they both continue safely on their way...


6.      That’s a good picture of how Christians should relate to other people... we’re to have the kind of spirit which graciously defers to others ...which instinctively seeks the best for others...that’s what it means to be “humble in spirit”...

 

Every Christian should not “return evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead…”

1.      Of the six characteristics listed in these in I Peter 3:8-9, this one is most difficult cultivate...because natural tendency strike out in anger at those who mistreat or misuse us or those whom we love...it has been said that every person has the choice of responding to others in one of three ways—

--we can live by returning evil for good...that is how Satan chooses to respond to others...

--we can live by returning good for good and evil for evil...that is how most people choose to respond to others...

--we can live by returning good for good and good for evil...that is how Christians are to respond to others...[Wiersbe, p.80]

Dr. Jack MacGorman, one of my seminary professors, has written: “The world at its worst return evil for good.  The world at its best returns good for good and evil for evil.  But the follower of Jesus Christ is commanded to return good for evil.” [commentary on Romans]

2.      This part of God’s Word reminds us that the highest way of relating to others is the way God chooses--the way of returning good for evil...we are not to respond to those who harm us with an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” type mentality...we are not to be driven by a desire to “get even” or to “strike back” ...that’s a principle which occurs over and over again in the NT...

--listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:38-45a...

--listen to some statements Paul wrote in Romans 12...

3.      Now, what are we to make of statements like that?....do they mean that if--

--someone breaks into our home in the middle of the night to steal our property that we should get up to welcome them and help them load their truck?...

--find someone trying to steal our car that we should offer them the keys to make their task easier?...

--someone takes one of our children or loved ones with intent of harming them that we should sit back and do nothing?...

Of course not!


4.      There’s a principle of biblical interpretation which I refer to as the “common sense” principle...Bible is practical book...don’t think in this book God instructs us do things which conflict with the common sense He gave us when He placed us in this world... common sense tells me these statements—

--don’t mean that to be a spiritual person, a committed Christian I must sit back and let anyone do anything he/she may desire do to me or my loved ones...

--however, do mean that I’m not to be dominated by a vengeful, get even type mentality...

5.      The principle being taught when someone harms us, when someone offends us, when someone treats us wrongly, our immediate response should not be to find way to strike back or get even with that person...our first response should be to find a way to be a blessing to that person...

--word translated “blessing” in I Peter 3:9 interesting word...word from which our word “eulogize” comes...it means to speak well of another...

--when deliver eulogy at funeral, don’t tell the bad things may know about a person...focus on the good things...

And Peter is saying here is that when someone harms you, don’t look for the bad in that person, look for the good...don’t strike back in anger...instead, speak well of the offending person...

6.      How can we do that?...how can we overcome our natural desire to strike back at those who harm us and bless them instead?...want to share with you three suggestions…

(1)  Remembering the way God has treated us helps us to bless those who harm us - God’s treatment of us is summarized by the word “grace.”  Grace means God gives us what we need, not what we deserve.  Remembering that God treats us with grace should help us treat others in the same way.  Because we are forgiven people, we must be forgiving people...understanding how much the Lord has forgiven us should create in us a predisposition to be forgiving toward others...our willingness to forgive others is sure sign that we have been forgiven...if we—

--have really experienced in our lives the forgiveness of God...

--know what means to have been cleansed from our sin...

--are recipients of the grace of God...


then will be forgiving toward others...there is no surer sign that we have been forgiven than our willingness to forgive...conversely, a harsh, unforgiving spirit is a sure sign that we do not know what  means to be forgiven by God...

 

(2)  Remembering that the evil and the insults of others often come out of a deep spiritual or emotional need in their lives helps us bless those who harm us - If we can overlook their behavior and focus on the need from which their behavior arises, we will find it easier to resist the temptation to strike back in anger.  The person who is rude, hurtful, inconsiderate toward you may be merely acting out deep hurts or insecurities or disappointments in his/her own live.  Viewing such a person through eyes of compassion will help us respond to them with gentleness and love instead of vengeance and anger.  Before you lash back at some person who offends you pause to ask yourself:

--What is happening or has happened in this person’s life to make him/her so angry?

--Is this person upset with me or is he/she upset with some situation about which I have no knowledge.?

 

(3)  Remembering that we are Christ’s representatives in the world helps us bless those who harm us - People are making judgments about the Lord we serve by what they see in us.  We are called to be living testimonies to God.  We are called to call other people to relationship with God.  We cannot do that when we return evil for evil and insult for insult.

                                           CONCLUSION

1.      What does a real Christian look like?  How can you tell if a person is a genuine Christian?

--you can’t tell by nationality because there are Christians from every nation...

--you can’t tell by race because there are Christians in every racial group...

--you can’t tell by age because there are there are Christians in every age group, from young children to senior adults...

--you can’t tell by economic status because there are Christians who are very wealthy and those who are very poor...

--you can’t tell by education because there are Christians with advanced degrees and there are Christians who have no formal education...

2.      But in I Peter 3:8-9 we are told how to identify those who are really followers of Christ...real Christians are—

--harmonious

--sympathetic

--brotherly

--kind-hearted

--humble in spirit

--forgiving

3.      May our lives be characterized by those qualities...

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