by Mark Dever
Have you ever been tempted to surrender control of your life to any of Christ’s enemies? May 30 is Memorial Day in the United States. This month we remember those who’ve fought to establish and defend the freedoms we enjoy. And from the surrender of Fort Ticonderoga to the surrender of Germany 170 years later, surrender has always meant to submit to a new master. When you became a Christian, you did that. Peter was reminding these Christians here that that is what they had done when they became Christians. So he says in 3:15 that they were to sanctify, or set apart, “Christ as Lord in your hearts.”
Our hearts are by nature rebellious. Having been surrendered to Him, they should now be those places where His rule and Word hold sway. We should want to follow Him, even if following Him involves suffering. And because this world is in rebellion against God, then our former false peace will leave, and we will become the focus of a pitched battle, sometimes around us, sometimes inside of us. Following a good God in an evil world will sometimes involve suffering. What does following Christ as Lord mean for you? In 1 Peter 3:8–22, Peter spells it out for us. In verses 8–9 he addresses how Christians should live, in verses 10–17 he looks at why we should live that way, and then, in verses 18–22 he gives us some examples.
How we do this is found in verses 8–9 and is pretty straightforward: “To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead.” Following Christ implies doing all these things.
Of course, it’s easier to list these things than to live them. Sometimes the love that we profess to others has to make some hard choices. And more times than not, that will mean God in His love showing us some further way that we can die to ourselves, as our minds become rightly concerned with others, as we begin to put ourselves in their position and feel with them what they feel, as we begin to recognize the family relation that He has put us in with each other, so that everything from our passions to our own self-estimates are put in service not of ourselves, but of others. Finally, this can progress even to the point of being able to take insults being thrown at us, and return not with more of the same, but, as Peter says here, with blessing. We do this as a way of acknowledging our own brokenness before the Lord and utter dependence on His grace. That’s how we should live if we’re really following Christ.
On the question as to why we should live like this, Peter says that we should do this basically because it is God’s will. He quotes the Old Testament in verses 10–12 to prove it. And Peter’s quotations here from Psalm 34 and Isaiah 8 show that he is drawing this issue to the basic issue of the fear of the Lord. These Old Testament passages both talk about fearing God alone. Christ, he says in 3:15, is to be recognized as the Lord in the Christian’s heart, and if He’s recognized there, obedience to His purposes will follow. Christians are called to set apart Christ as Lord in their hearts, as opposed to anything else. And that isn’t like what the people around these early Christians were doing; and it is also unlike what they were tempted to do themselves. They were tempted not to recognize Christ as their Lord, perhaps simply because it was too hard.
Who lives like this? Peter gives some examples at the end of chapter 3. His first example is Christ: “For Christ also died for sins once, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit” (3:18). Again and again when Christ was tempted, He refrained from evil. Christ obeyed God even when it meant suffering to the point of laying down His life. And Christ was made alive. Christ was vindicated in His life of obedience to God the Father.
He is our supreme model in doing good and obeying God. He is a model of following God, even when it involved suffering. And He is a model of being vindicated finally in His obedience. How encouraging to Christians who suffer in faithfulness to be shown that suffering is followed by glory!
The other example that Peter gives is Noah (3:19–20). Many people have been confused by what Peter meant here in His words about Noah. They’ve wondered if Jesus during His time in the tomb went to a place where the dead from the Old Testament were waiting for them. This medieval idea was called “the harrowing of hell.” But there is a straightforward explanation of what Peter meant here. He’s saying that the Spirit of Christ preached through Noah to those who were finally disobedient when they were alive at the time of the flood. But Peter’s point is that Noah and his family obeyed God even when it was difficult to do so, and they were then vindicated.
This is the biblical pattern. Suffering, then glory. The cross, and then the crown. Is this the pattern of your life? Are you willing to follow Christ as Lord? If not, then how do you follow Him?