Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Devotional: Suffering Leads to Victory, 1 Peter 3:13-22

Outline 1 Peter 3.13-22

In 3:13 Peter begins the next major section of the letter. Normally we would expect that living lives of humble service and doing right would be welcomed by our neighbors and often it is. But now, Peter points out that living for Jesus often brings trials and persecution from an unbelieving world. Nevertheless, Peter urges us to welcome suffering with joy and by returning good (acts of grace) for evil done to us. This seems odd but it works because our trials and suffering are the way God will bring about his perfect plan for the world and the way that the forces of evil, both physical and spiritual, will be defeated. In addition, this is how God strengthens our faith and builds our character and brings blessing to us now and ultimate blessing in the future. Peter’s encouragements to believers to stand joyfully and graciously in suffering (3:13-17, 4:7-19) frame the example of Jesus (3:18-4:6) whose suffering and death led to resurrection, ascension to the right hand of the Father and the defeat of all the powerful supernatural forces of evil.

Peter begins by reminding us that if we “suffer for righteousness’ sake” (3:14) we will be blessed. If fact, he says it is better for us to suffer for doing good than for doing wrong. If we “set apart Christ as holy,” that is, we recognize him as the ultimate authority and build our lives around him, this will challenge societal norms and sometimes put us at odds with our neighbors and the governmental authorities. However, Peter cautions us to make sure that our “defense” of Christ’s standards is done with gentleness and respect and that our best argument is our good behavior and service to our neighbors. There is great blessing in suffering for Jesus. There is no blessing in suffering because you are acting like an arrogant jerk.

The example of Jesus provides the ultimate expression of how this works. His death, in the body, led to his resurrection and reward; and also provided, not only salvation to the world, but defeated the supernatural forces of evil that had dominated human society for thousands of years. When Jesus died it appeared that the spiritual forces of darkness, Paul’s “principalities and powers,” had defeated God’s plan to save and redeem the world. But, as Jesus’ body lay in the grave, he preached to the supernatural beings who had been imprisoned in the days of Noah. Jesus announced his victory over them and then proved it by rising from the dead. Just as Noah’s family were saved through the destruction of the flood, so we will be saved through the chaos of this life. Jesus “has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” (3:22). As we have renounced these powers through our baptism they are also subjected to us now and, in the future we will join Jesus at the right hand of the Father.

So when suffering comes we can respond as Jesus did, with acts and words of grace and truth. We don’t need to fear because God has won the victory over death and evil and anything the powers of this world do to us will result in our blessing. 

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