A Bible Study exploring all the 3:16s in the Bible as they illuminate
- the Human Condition
- God’s Revelation of His Plan
- God’s Fulfillment of His Plan
- Our Response (Current location of study)
“having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” – 1 Peter 3:16
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is 1 Peter 3:15, which directly precedes this week’s focal verse and is a crucial part of the thought process. The passage is part of a section of 1 Peter 3 (verses 8-22) dealing with suffering. In it Peter is talking specifically about suffering among believers from persecutions for their faith.
In Chapter 1:6-7 Peter says, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Notice that he says the purpose or result of the suffering is to prove the genuineness (or quality) of their faith, much like fire is used to test the quality of gold. This faith is deemed more precious than gold.
He then (6 verses later) makes a “therefore” statement, which is always a key in scripture to connecting what’s been already said with what’s about to be said: “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” His goal, then, in this letter is to prepare his readers for appropriate action and to encourage them to more fully rely on the grace of God’s salvation through Jesus. These two goals should frame our understanding and exploration of his points in Chapter 3 where we’ll pick up starting with verse 8.
“Finally, all of you,“
Here’s another transition word that tips us off that we need to look back at previous sections to gain proper context – the word “finally”. Peter has been addressing several groups of people prior to this, and to understand the context for his discussion we need to look back to Chapter 2, verses 12 to 15. (Of course, the entire letter is a cohesive thought and really should be considered as a whole, but for the purposes of this study I’ll limit myself to these excerpts.)
“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. Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.“
Peter emphasizes that our behavior should be motivated by our visibility to others. In other words, be ever mindful that we are on display to the world as God’s representatives and should reflect His character. He also emphasizes that our choice of behavior in reference to societal structure should be “for the Lord’s sake”. Then he proceeds to address specifically the behavior of servants, wives, and husbands. Then he finishes with the statement in Chapter 3, verse 8, “Finally, all of you…”
“have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”
Peter lists a number of admonitions (unity, sympathy, brotherly lover, etc.) for better interpersonal relationships within the Christian body. Then Peter adds additional encouragements of Christian behavior by quoting from Psalm 34:12-16.
“For ‘Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’“
Now Peter turns to living among and responding to non-believers, especially in the face of persecutions for one’s faith. He says, including this week’s 3:16 verse,
“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.“
I have often thought of these verses more in the context of having a testimony prepared to discuss my faith with nonbelievers, and that’s not a bad interpretation. However, these verses are more specifically aimed at those who are being persecuted for their faith and are having to defend their faith in times of ridicule. Peter says to make your defense “with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience…”
I used to have a pastor who would commonly encourage us not to be a “jerk” for Jesus. In other words, it is in times of persecution that we need to be especially on our toes to make sure that what comes out during this testing, as mentioned above from Chapter 1, “may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The next 3:16 study will come from James.