The Goodness of God; Suffering for Doing the Right Thing
1 Peter 3:13–17
1 Peter Lesson #082
February 9, 2017
“Our Father, we are thankful for this time we have tonight to be encouraged by Your Word, to work through the Scriptures, to understand what You have revealed to us and what it means to our lives, that we can understand what the Scriptures say, what they mean, what they meant to the original audience and how that relates to our lives, that You have revealed this to be understood. It is not a mystery. It is not something that we have to go into deep prayer and meditation over; it is just a matter of studying the Word, coming to understand the original languages, and then thinking through the thoughts of the author so that we can understand what he means, how that applies to our lives, and then take what we learn in Peter and fit it together with things that are taught in other places of the Word.
Father, we are so thankful that we have Your Word to instruct us, to inform us, to encourage us and strengthen us, because Your Word is truth. And because it is truth, it edifies.
Now, Father, help us to understand what we are studying tonight and put it into practice. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We are zeroing in on a verse that is highly significant, but we won’t get there tonight. And I thought we were; I was actually prepared to begin to talk about what apologetics is all about. It is a term that a lot of people misunderstand and misapply, and it’s a very important topic. But since I am leaving for Kiev next week and won’t be here to teach the next three Thursday nights, I really didn’t want to get started. And then, this afternoon as I was getting ready to pull things together—since we weren’t in Peter last week but were talking about the Bible and borders, immigration, and refugees—I had to go back two weeks and discovered that I have not finished the previous verse or the context.
I think it’s very important, if we’re going to get into 1 Peter 3:15—why we need to give an answer for the hope that is in us—how that is set in the context of 1 Peter 3:13. We are going to look tonight at the doctrine I began the last time, which is the Doctrine of the Goodness of God The main idea, really, in this paragraph and that’s developed in the subsequent paragraphs, is suffering for doing the right thing, suffering for being right—unjust suffering.
Let’s look at the context. Just a reminder that a text taken out of the context leaves you with a con job. And that’s exactly what happens in a lot of messages as I referenced in my rant before I prayed. This is what happens in so many of these topical messages that are advertised that are supposedly scratching some itch—they have taken the text out of the context and you’re left with a con job. The other thing that happens is when you take the text out of the context, you’re left with a pretext. And that too happens.
I gave a lot of illustrations of some verses that are used that way last week when I talked about borders and refugees and what the Bible really says about borders. There is a great cartoon that I’m adding to the PowerPoint presentation last week, where Jesus is instructing His disciples, and one of the disciples raises his hand and says, “Jesus, can you tell us a little bit about immigration?” And Jesus says, “Well, I do know that God built a wall around heaven and there’s only one gate—and there is extreme vetting to get in.” Right on target.
1 Peter 3:13-15. “And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness sake, you are blessed. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.’ But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers…”
Notice, it doesn’t say, “if they defame you as evildoers.”
“When they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
Now, keywords that we look at here. First of all, we see an “if” in the first verse. “If” you become followers of what is good. Notice, “good” is used there; it’s used again in a contrast between evildoers and those who are “doers of good” literally in the text—that’s in verse 13. You have “evildoers” in verse 16 and “good conduct” in 16. Then 17 is “doing good” and “doing evil.” So this is talking about contrasting that which is good with that which is evil and how that works its way out in our lives.
If we are doing well, the normal expectation is that that’s going to bring a certain amount of respect—or people will honor us or affirm what we’re doing. But there are cases when even when we’re doing the right thing … We do everything right. We think through everything. We’re being a benefit to people, a blessing to people. We’re doing everything in obedience to the Lord, and bad things happen. That’s a reason, because of not being taught, that some people, when they hit unjust suffering or difficult times that they don’t deserve, turn away from the Lord. It’s important to understand this doctrine, because what happens is they begin to question the goodness of God, which is the doctrine I began to explain last week.
Now, in verse 13, Peter says, “And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?” There are a couple things we have to talk about here.
First, the word “harm” is really an interesting word. It is the verb KAKOO. The noun form is a word that means “evil”; the verb form just means “to do evil, to do something bad, or for something bad to happen in the sense of misfortune or suffering.” And, in fact, it’s used that way.
But it’s interesting how this word is used in the New Testament. For one thing, it is used in Acts by Stephen in his last message before they stoned him to death.
He talks about how the Jews were oppressed during the time of slavery in Egypt and also others. So, in verse 6 he says, “But God spoke in this way: that his descendants would dwell in a foreign land, and that they would bring them into bondage and oppress them four hundred years.” So, this is talking about something serious. The point is that this verb is only used five times in the New Testament, and each time it’s used it’s talking about serious persecution and oppression. It is not talking about just run-of-the-mill difficult times.
Verse 19, “This man dealt treacherously with our people, and oppressed our forefathers, making them expose their babies, so they might not live.” That’s Acts 7:19. Now, that’s the same verb there. Those are both related to Israel and the history there with Israel.
In Acts 12:1 it’s applied to persecution in the church. In Acts 12:1, the reference is to Herod Agrippa I. And we read, “Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church.” Now he is not just giving them a difficult time; he’s persecuting them. And they are being arrested. And this would cover the same period of time when Saul was a Pharisee and was persecuting the church.
Acts 14:2, “But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren.” That word “poisoned” is the same verb; it doesn’t mean “poison”; it’s doing harm to them—serious harm. It’s the same word, KAKOO.
In Acts 18:10, this is a situation when Paul is in Corinth. He is experiencing opposition from the Jews that are in the synagogue, and God gives him a promise and says, “for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you [that is, in Corinth]; for I have many people in this city. So God encourages him in the midst of that difficult time.
When Peter uses this word, and he makes the statement in verse 13, “who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?” he’s not saying that if you do good, nobody will oppress you, nobody will persecute you, nobody will do anything ever to harm you. He’s using a word that indicates unusual persecution that is not the norm. He’s not laying down an absolute, universal principle; he is saying, “Normally, you will not be persecuted if you do that which is good.” Although there are exceptions and exceptional situations when that has taken place.
Then we read, “And who is he who will persecute you [I think that would be a better translation] if you become followers of what is good?” The “if” there is a third-class condition, and that emphasizes the fact that maybe you will, maybe you won’t, become a follower, or an imitator, of what is good; it is up to them. The word “good” that is used there is the word good, which is AGATHOS in the Greek, which has the idea of intrinsic value. It’s talking about somebody who is focusing their life on doing that which honors God. AGATHOS is used primarily to refer to that which God produces in our own life through our walk by the Holy Spirit.
The word “followers” is a word that is debated because there’s a textual difference between the word that’s found in the majority of ancient manuscripts, and that’s the word on the bottom. MIMETES, where we get our word “mimic,” means to imitate someone or to be a follower of someone.
The critical text, which is ultimately at this point based on a couple of manuscripts that were found in Egypt, problems with those manuscripts. They are older. The reason they survived is because of the dry climate in Egypt. But Egypt was also a hotbed for heresy.
There’s a lot of debate over this. There’s the one group which dominates a lot of modern scholarship, that older is better. And then there’s the other group that believes that God preserves His Word in the majority of manuscripts and that there are real problems with the “older is better” view. Because a newer manuscript, one that is copied in let’s say the eighth or ninth century AD, can be a faithful copy of an older manuscript that is no longer around from the second century. And then the third century manuscript we have may have errors in it. So, older is not inherently better, even though on the surface it looks that way.
It’s much more complicated than that; I really made that a very simplistic explanation. But I believe that the Majority Text usually presents the better reading. So, what Peter is saying here is, “You are imitators of what is good.” The other word that’s translated in some verses is, “if you become jealous of what is good.” I think the idea there is just “passionate for what is good.” And they can both communicate the same ideas, but just the simplicity of the word “imitators,” that you’re carrying this out in your life…
There’s an emphasis through this section on conduct—all through here. That’s what Peter is talking about is the conduct, or the way of life, of believers. I think MIMETES also fits the context better than ZELOTES.
The author of the New International Dictionary on New Testament Theology makes a comment related to “good” that, “In the Old Testament the concept of the good is indissolubly linked with personal faith in God.” “Good” in the Old Testament isn’t this abstract idea of “the good” which comes out of Greek philosophy. It’s an idea of the good that is intrinsically related to the God of righteousness. So, it is not just an abstract idea.
If you’re familiar with the history of Greek philosophy, this idea of “the good” as an abstract concept runs throughout Greek thought. So, he says, “An idea of the good, freed from the concept of God as personal—comparable with the ideas in Greek and Hellenistic thought—is inconceivable.” The Bible just doesn’t present it that way. God Himself is good—inherently, intrinsically. He’s not just conforming to some abstract ideal.
That’s why we need to understand this doctrine of the goodness of God, based on His character. And it’s one that has been emphasized a couple of times in our study in the Psalms on Tuesday night as we’ve been going through 1 Samuel and dealing with the Psalms that David wrote. And one of these Psalms that emphasizes the goodness of God is Psalm 33:5, “He loves righteousness and justice.”
God abhors unrighteousness and injustice; so He only loves that which conforms to His character. Then in synthetic parallelism, where the second line expands or states an idea in addition to the first line, the psalmist says, “The earth is full of the goodness of God.” “The goodness of God” is used in parallel to summarize those first two words—righteousness and justice.
Because God is righteous and just, that is reflected and displayed in His creation. So, the psalmist says, “If you look at the earth, if you look at His creation, in a nonverbal sense of revelation, it reveals the goodness of God.” God has supplied us with everything that we need for food. He’s given us everything we need to live, to enjoy life. He’s blessed us with physical beauty around the world in all of His creation.
Everything in creation echoes the character of God. This is the same thing the psalmist said when he wrote in Psalm 19, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament [or the earth] shows His handiwork.” It is echoed in Romans 1:18-20 which says that God’s invisible attributes are made visible. We see who He is through that which is clearly seen. So, His invisible attributes are manifest through the things that are clearly seen. So how can something invisible be clearly seen? So, Paul’s making the same point in Romans 1.
Psalm 31:19 says, “Oh, how great is Your goodness, Which you have laid up for those who fear You.” So here it’s talking about the goodness of God in terms of that’s the foundation for God’s blessing in our lives—that which He’s laid up, or provided, or set aside for those who fear Him. That’s those who are wise, those who are maturing believers. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” “Which You have prepared for those who trust in You.” So, these blessings from God’s goodness have been prepared from eternity past.
“For those who trust God,” not in the sense of justification, but those who lived their lives trusting God and being obedient to Him. Then it’s displayed in the presence of man; we’re testimonies before the world.
So, when we look at the essence of God, as I pointed out last time, we look at these basic attributes—His sovereignty, His righteousness, His justice, and love. Righteousness, justice, love, fit together, as I pointed out last time, like primary colors, like red, blue and yellow. And these attributes of God are broken out like this, and we understand the components. We talk about them in an academic way, but they are blended together in the personality of God.
The same way is true for all of us. We can sit down and somebody can describe you in terms of eight or 10 attributes, but, in reality, those are blended and mixed together in your personality and in who you are. The righteousness and justice of God, which reflects the standard of His character, which is righteousness—justice is the application of that to His people, to the world, to creation—and His love, which is His care and seeking to do the highest and the best for the objects of His love.
Breaking this down:
1. That God is good is clearly stated numerous times in the Psalms, and it’s primarily found in praise psalms and passages that describe the praise of God in the temple or in the tabernacle.
Passages like Psalm 34:8, which we studied not long ago. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Tasting is the idea of fully experiencing it. It isn’t the idea of going through the grocery store on a Saturday where you’re just tasting samples of food, but it is tasting, eating it, making it completely part of you, sitting down at a meal and fully experiencing the goodness of God in your life.
Psalm 25:8, “Good and upright is the Lord; Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.” That’s the outworking of God’s love. He teaches us about sin and what the dangers are of sin and what the consequences are. In Psalm 54:6, “I will freely sacrifice to You; I will praise your name, O Lord, for it is good.”
We he talks about the name of the Lord, “name” in Hebrew thought wasn’t just a label, but it said something about the object that is named, or the person that is named. So, when we read phrases like, “Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” it is talking about, “Believe on who He is, on His character.” And here praising God’s name is praising His character, praising His attributes.
Psalm 69:16, “Hear me, O Lord, for Your lovingkindness [Your faithful, loyal love; Your CHESED] is good; Turn to me according to the multitude of Your tender mercies.” So “mercies” there is parallel to lovingkindness; it is CHESED, the goodness that comes from His faithfulness to His covenant.
Psalm 86:5, “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive.” This is because you are rightly adjusted to the righteousness of God, so God’s justice is satisfied, His love is free to flow, and He forgives us. He is ready to forgive. He’s “abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.”
Psalm 100:5, again just the blanket statement, “For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth [that is, that which is revealed] endures to all generations.” Other Psalms emphasize this, such as Psalm 106:1, “Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!” It clearly just states this as His character.
Psalm 107:1 says almost the same thing, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!” Psalm 118:1, Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!” Psalm 118:29, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!” Psalm 135:3, “Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good.”
Psalm 136:1, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!” Again and again and again, you have this drumbeat in the Psalms that God is good; He is good to us. Well, why do bad things happen if God is so good? Maybe it’s because we have a distorted understanding of what goodness is; maybe we have a superficial understanding of what God is teaching us by letting us live in a fallen world, that living in a fallen world and experiencing the consequences of sin and evil is not because God is not a good God. Maybe there is a higher reason that we’re not informed about, that we don’t know about. We are informed about it generally, but not specifically.
This is what Job ran into when he dealt with all of his suffering. God asked him a series of rhetorical questions starting in Job 38, and the whole point is that, “If I answered you, Job, and told you why this suffering happened to you, you couldn’t understand it any more than you can understand the mechanics of creation. So, just trust Me” —that’s the point.
In 2 Chronicles 7:3 we read, “When all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed their faces to the ground on the pavement, and worshiped and praised the Lord, saying: “For He is good.”
This is a parallel. 2 Chronicles is post-exilic, so this is talking about that. “And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks the Lord: For He is good.” Again and again, the goodness of God is the basis for worship.
2. One way that theologians describe the attributes of God is to categorizes His moral attributes.
For example, one theologian that is often quoted today. His Systematic Theology is a textbook a Dallas Seminary; it replaced Louis Berkhof which replaced Lewis Sperry Chafer. I’m not recommending Erickson’s Christian Theology, but it’s interesting that he breaks down God’s moral purity. When he talks about His attributes, he breaks down that moral purity as holiness, righteousness, and justice.
That’s the same basic thing that I’ve been saying here in terms of God’s righteousness, justice, love, and His eternal life. He defines God’s integrity as His genuineness, His veracity, His faithfulness, and then he draws out that this involves His benevolence, which means His grace, His mercy, and His persistence. Different theologians will organize these attributes in different ways, but at the core, the idea of God’s goodness relates to how they understand the moral purity—or what we would call the righteousness—of God.
3. The goodness of God involves primarily His righteousness and His justice; often theologians will also define these two together as His integrity or His holiness. Such as in Psalm 33:5, which I’ve mentioned already, “He loves righteousness and justice.”
But holiness is a little different concept. I remember first hearing this many, many years ago. I don’t know who I heard from first, but it’s very, very common; and I’ve come to question this because holiness is really a distinct idea.
4. Holiness describes the uniqueness of God.
It’s the Hebrew word *QODESH from the verb *QADOSH, which means that God is unique, He is set apart, He’s distinct, He’s one-of-a-kind. Part of that is, of course, His righteousness and His justice, because He’s the standard of what is right. But He’s unique. And we see this in the way it’s used.
Exodus 15:11, “Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” There is nothing like Him; He is totally unique and distinct. In fact, Millard Erickson, in his Christian Theology recognizes this. I ran across this when I was reading him on the goodness of God, and I thought, “Well, he’s done a very good job here.”
He said, “The Hebrew word for ‘holy’ (— ָ קדוֹשׁ qadosh) means ‘marked off’ or ‘withdrawn from common, ordinary use.’ The verb from which it is derived suggests to ‘cut off’ or ‘to separate.’ Whereas in the religions of the peoples around Israel the adjective holy was freely applied to objects, actions, and personnel involved in the worship, in Israel’s covenant worship it was very freely used of the Deity himself.”
What he’s pointing out here is that in the worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the word is used more than it is to the gods and goddesses of the pagans—overwhelmingly so—to emphasize that He’s different from all those other gods. So even though the word in Hebrew is used to describe objects and actions and sometimes people, that’s minimal; the God of the Bible is different from all of the other gods.
I’ve got two other verses in my notes to go through on that. Leviticus 11:44-45, God says, “For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy.” See, it ultimately goes back to, because God is a certain way, we are to imitate Him.
Leviticus 11:45, “For I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” We are to be set apart to Him because He is the unique and distinct God.
The fifth point in understanding the goodness of God. 33:21
5. Righteousness describes the perfect standard of God’s character.
Righteousness says, “This is what’s right.” Now it’s right not because God conforms to an external or abstract idea of what is right. People get that idea, and then they create this abstract idea, which basically becomes another idol. Then you come along and you say, “Well, God does X, Y, and Z,” and then they’ll say, “Well, if He does that He can’t be righteous, because X, Y, or Z doesn’t fit my idea of righteousness.”
For example, some millennial may come along and say, “Righteousness is social justice. You say God doesn’t believe in social justice. Therefore, God can’t be righteous because my idea of righteousness includes social justice.” So, we have to see what the Bible says.
The Bible says that God is righteous. He, in and of Himself, His actions and His revelation, defines what righteousness is; and it’s embedded within His character. It’s not something He conforms to. So, our idea of righteousness needs to conform to God’s character, not some abstract idea.
You see this with Christians all the time where they generate some kind of idea of Jesus or God that’s not based on the Bible. Then, if they start reading the Bible, they get all confused because God doesn’t fit their idolatrous concept of Jesus or God. We have to get rid of those things and just focus on what the Scripture says and what the Scriptures describe.
Now righteousness comes from the Hebrew word TZEDEQ, which can mean righteousness as the standard of God’s character, or it can also refer to the application of it—His justice. Same thing is true in the New Testament. The quality of righteousness is indicated by the word DIKAIOSUNE which can be both; in the same way, it can be the standard of righteousness or the application of that standard.
In fact, I ran across another good quote on this from one of the first very first books I copied when I was in seminary—back before you had computers and everything else. There were just so many really old books that were no longer in print, and the only way you could get these books into your library was to copy them. I learned this from Randy Price. Randy and I would sit up sometimes all night long copying books and notes and things like that. If you look at my library, I still have all kinds of volumes of books that are just copies that we bound together so that we could have these.
This was one of them, a very well respected book. But Christian books and scholarly books don’t sell a whole lot, so they’ll be in print for a while—two or three years—and then they disappear.
But that’s what this quote is based on. It says,
“This root [the root for TZEDEQ] basically connotes conformity to an ethical or moral standard. It is claimed by Snaith (N. Snaith, Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament, Schocken, 1964, p. 73) ‘the original significance of the root qdx to have been “to be straight.” But he adds that it stands for a ‘norm.’ …”
[See, when we talk about the character of God and the norms and standards of God, this comes out of the very language that is used to describe God. His righteousness sets the norm; it sets the standard for what is right or wrong.]
“Qrdrx, then, refers to an ethical, moral standard and, of course in the Old Testament, that standard is the nature and will of God.”
[It is not something that is abstract. That is what you get from Greek philosophy—making these ideas abstract values. In the Bible they are integral to God.]
“The Lord is righteous (qyî;dAx) in all his ways and holy in all his works’ (Psa. 145:17).”
In Habakkuk 1:3 we read, “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil,” so God’s righteousness excludes all evil. Habakkuk says, “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours.”
Habakkuk was really irritated with God, because he starts off self-righteously saying, “God, look at these people!” He’s really upset with the immorality and the idolatry of the people in the southern kingdom. He says, “God, You’ve got to punish Them! They are horrible!” And if God were a Texan, He would have said, “I’m fixing to.” And God said, “The Babylonians are coming.” I can just see Habakkuk; his mouth dropped open and he said, “How can use them? They are worse!”
This is from Habakkuk’s statement. He is saying, “God, you can’t look on evil,” recognizing that that that’s true, but he’s applying it in a wrong way. He is saying, “You can’t look on evil, how can you use them?” And God is going to correct him and say, “I’m basically a distinct, holy God and I can use them for my purposes if I want to.”
James 1:13 articulates the same principle in the New Testament and says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” Now God tests us, but He doesn’t tempt us; and that’s the difference between giving somebody an external option to sin and then enticing them internally.
Testing comes two ways. If you’ve been on a diet, and some of you have, and you have gone through a period of time where you haven’t had any sugar, chocolate cake, ice cream, or pasta for three or four weeks, but you eat a good healthy meal and then somebody comes over and offers you chocolate cake, it’s really easy for you to say, “No. I’m not attracted to that,” because your appetite’s been satisfied. But then, if you haven’t eaten in two or three hours and you’re really starting to get hungry and somebody offers you that piece of chocolate cake, they might be lucky if they have all their fingers still attached when you pull it back. Because now there’s something inside you that is drawn to that, and you have this internal drive to consume that chocolate cake.
Well that’s how sin works. God tests us externally. The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness, or a better way to phrase it is God creates opportunities where our faith is tested to see we will apply the Word or not. But He doesn’t internally test us; He’s not trying to trip us up or cause us to fail.
Job 34:12 says, “Surely God will never do wickedly, Nor will the Almighty pervert justice.”
Psalm 89 is a tremendous Psalm; it’s a meditation on the Davidic covenant. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne.” I love this verse. This is the verse on the integrity of God. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne, and because that’s the foundation, then genuine mercy and truth can come out from it. Because of who God is, as a righteous and just God, then He can be truly merciful to people and He will be faithful. I think the word there translated “truth” is EMET which is related to the verb AMEN. But we’ll talk about this—I think on Tuesday night—that often, older translators took that as meaning truth in an objective sense; but a lot of newer, recent studies take it is being faithful, which I think is probably a better rendition.
Psalm 97:2, “Clouds and darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.” It is a restatement of the same idea from Psalm 89.
Psalm 9:4, “For You have maintained my right and my cause; You sat on the throne judging in righteousness.” Psalm 9:8, “He shall judge the world in [by] righteousness [that’s the standard of His judgment], and He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness.”
There’s many other verses. Psalm 33:5, Psalm 35:24, Psalm 89:14, which I mentioned already, are verses that reinforce the idea of God’s righteousness and justice; that allows Him to be truly good to us.
6. Justice is the application of God’s righteousness.
We looked at righteousness is the standard of God’s character, and justice is its outworking. Deuteronomy 32:4, “He is the rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice.” This isn’t using a form of TZEDEQ; it is using a different word, a synonym MISHPAT, which means the execution or outworking of righteousness, or executing a judicial decision.
“A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.” That makes Him good. He is truly intrinsically good.
Isaiah 30:18, “Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice.” We see that both grace and mercy are said to come from God because He is a God of justice.
“Blessed,” and the word there “blessed” doesn’t mean happy. It has this idea that we’ll see in one of the verses we’re studying, in verse 14, the next verse in 1 Peter; it has the idea of being privileged, that we’re privileged to wait on Him.
Isaiah 58:2, “Yet they seek Me daily, and delight to know My ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and did not forsake the ordinance [or the commandments] of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; They take delight in approaching God.”
7. Benevolence, a word we read and hear something about in Scripture as the good will of God. If you break it down coming from the from the Latin: “bene” meaning good and “volence” from [I think it’s] velle, which is the word for “will.” It emphasizes the grace and the love of God that gives or distributes His goodness to man.
8. In conclusion, Psalm 107:31 says, “Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness.” We ought to think about that. When we give thanks to God, we thank Him for different things, but do we thank Him because He’s good to us? “Give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” So the goodness of God is related to His grace, His common grace, to bring people to Himself.
Romans 11:22, also another New Testament passage, “Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God.” On the one hand, He is good, but the other hand emphasizes His judicial punishment. “Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity [that is, those who rejected God received His judgment]; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will [come under His condemnation] be cut off.”
When we read about this verse talking about followers of what is good, the goodness ultimately is defined by God. And where this goes contextually in verses 14 down through 17, is that when we suffer for righteousness sake, which is what’s brought up at the beginning of the next verse, “even if you should suffer for righteousness sake,” we think, “Lord, I’ve done everything right. How can I end up being persecuted?”
Or, “How can this happen to me? I’ve been obedient. I’ve been to church. I’ve been giving. I’m studying the Bible. I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do. How can You let this happen to me?” What are we doing? We’re questioning the goodness of God. That’s why I took the time to go through this. This is foundational to understanding who God is; He defines goodness in and of Himself.
Then, coming from that framework, Peter says, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake [and maybe you will, maybe you won’t], you are blessed. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats nor be troubled.’” I put that into italics, which it probably is in your English, because that’s a quote from a verse in the Old Testament in Isaiah 8:12.
Isaiah 8:12 starts off where God is announcing a judgment that is going to come upon Israel. The Assyrians are going to come, and they are going to move through the land like a flood. They’re not going to destroy the southern kingdom, but that flood tide of the Assyrians will come right to the very walls of Jerusalem before God stops them. So, there’s going to be horrible calamity.
The Northern Kingdom’s defeated in 722 BC, and then the Assyrian army will invade further south. It’s pictured as a river that comes because, of course, the central river in Assyria was the Euphrates River. So, it’s pictured as this flood tide that will come.
This is the same time … Notice, it’s Isaiah 8. What comes to your mind? Any verses come to your mind? Isaiah 7:14, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son.” Isaiah 9:6, “And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” It is messianic; this whole three chapters in Isaiah is messianic.
In the middle of this there is another sign it’s given. If you remember Isaiah chapter 7, the king of Israel. Ahaz is the king in Judah. He’s scared to death because the king in the north has allied himself with the kings of Syria, and they want to come and destroy him. They want to destroy the seed of David, the line of David. Ahaz is a pagan, but he doesn’t want to see his dynasty wiped out and his children wiped out, and so God gives him a sign, a sign of faithfulness; it is going to be the birth of Immanuel.
A lot of people get confused, because there’s a second signed that’s given there that’s a sign related to what’s going to happen at that event. It’s not the promise of the virgin birth; it’s related to a son that is going to be born to Isaiah, and that son is mentioned in the first part of this chapter.
God gives him a name. That name is to indicate something about the judgment that’s coming. The name is one of my favorite names in the Old Testament, but you never hear anybody name their children this name. It’s Mahershalalhashbaz: “swift is the booty, speedy is the prey.” The focus is: This judgment’s coming, the Assyrians are coming, and they’re coming fast! And before he’s old enough to talk, all these things are going to happen and will take place; this prophecy will be fulfilled.
In the midst of that, God speaks a prophecy of comfort to Isaiah, and He tells him not to worry about these pagan people that surround him. God says to him, “Do not say, ‘A conspiracy,’ concerning all that this people call a conspiracy.” Because the people had rejected truth, they are saying, “Oh, this is just a conspiracy. We don’t need to worry about the Assyrians.” If you differ with the majority view, then they would threaten you—not unlike today.
So, God’s final words here are, “nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” That’s the promise. Peter borrows that phrase and, again, I think of this as another indication that he’s writing a Jewish background audience, because when he quotes from that Old Testament passage, he expects his readers to understand its significance—that the Southern Kingdom was going to go through an oppressive time. The northern kingdom would go out and be scattered throughout the Assyrian Empire, the southern kingdom would go through this oppressive war, and he’s drawing a parallel that you shouldn’t be afraid because God is still in control no matter how bad things go.
He says, “But even if you should suffer [and the word there is PASCHO].” You’ve often heard me talk about verbs as a present active indicative, or a present active imperative, or a subjunctive; those are moods in the Greek. This is called an optative, and there are only 70 of them in the New Testament. An optative has a distinctive nuance or meaning, and that is that it’s talking about something that is possible.
So, he says, “If you should suffer”; this is possible that this could happen to you. “If you should suffer for righteousness’ sake [you’ve done everything right, but you’re still going to suffer]. Jesus did everything right and He still suffered.
It says, “If you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed [MAKARIOS].” MAKARIOS sometimes has the idea of happy, but usually it’s the idea of privilege. It’s a privilege to suffer for the Lord and to carry out His will. We can think of many of the disciples who were killed—martyred. Only one disciple died of natural causes, and that was the Apostle John; all of the others died for their faith.
The argument here is that Peter is saying, “If you suffer for righteousness’ sake, you’re privileged. And don’t be afraid of their threats—don’t give in.” You don’t have to move into panic palace, and you don’t have to get all upset and fall apart and cry and get on Twitter and get on Facebook and tell everybody what’s going on. You just trust the Lord.
As a result of that, what you are demonstrating is hope. The way we go through trials is we show that our confidence is not in this life; it’s in the Lord. And we’re going to go through health crises, we’re going to go through financial crises; we’re going to go through family crises and job crises, but we’re not going to let that wipe us out, knock us down, because our confidence is in the Lord.
That helps us understand what Peter says next. He says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” I’m going to come back, and I want to do a study, two or three weeks, talking about how we make a defense, how we answer those who ask for a reason for the hope. But first we have to understand this context.
First of all, we are told, “sanctify the Lord in your hearts.” That’s the word HAGIAZO; it means “to sanctify; to set apart”; and one nuance is “to honor.” It’s the idea that respect the fact that you’ve been set apart in Christ. In your life you need to reflect that in terms of honoring the Lord in your mind. The word “hearts” there is not an emotive term; it is a thought term.
The word KARDIA talks about the center of our soul, which is our mentality. You don’t answer emotionally; this is going to talk about answering intellectually, with your mind. “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.” Honor the Lord God in your mind—or in your thinking—to paraphrase it.
“And always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you.” Now this is the Greek word APOLOGIA which is the word from which we get our word apology, but this isn’t talking about an apology. This was a legal term that would represent a lawyer making his case before a jury. He’s building his case, he’s making an argument, he’s presenting the facts, and so that’s the idea here. If somebody asks you, “How come you’re not knocked down and wiped out by disasters in life?” Then you can explain the gospel to them. It’s part of giving the gospel, what’s usually referred to as apologetics.
Now, apologetics, as we understand it today, is a legitimate discipline. I think it should be another category of systematic theology, as many people do. A lot that has been written and said about apologetics over the last 30 years is just amazing. And I remember a professor in seminary said, “Apologetics were at the forefront in the second, third, and fourth centuries in the early church.” Why was that? Because they were a minority in a hostile culture. The intelligentsia, the academia, was all against Christians. So, as they were constantly being attacked intellectually for their faith, they had to answer and give evidence for why Christianity was true and why they believed it.
When Christians are in a minority culture, they need to think deeply about how they answer the charges brought against them that are hostile to Christianity. In a Christian dominant culture, you don’t have to think about things that much. So, in the last 50 years, as we’ve seen a change in terms of the culture around us accepting biblical Christianity, and as that his turned against us, we need to be always ready; we need to apply this.
He didn’t say, “Be sometimes ready.” If you been a believer for more than two years, you should be ashamed if you can’t rattle off five areas where you are giving evidence of why you believe the Bible is the Word of God, why you believe in the resurrection, why you believe in the miracles, why you believe in creation—all of that. That’s what he’s talking about. Explain why you believe that this is true.
Of course, to make a statement like that, as we are going to see, it implies a certain understanding of what truth is. If you say, “I believe this is true,” then you have to understand what “belief” means and you have to understand what “truth” is. You are making certain assertions there.
We have to talk about these things. Because when we talk to somebody, when we witness to them, they may ask us certain questions. Now, not everybody will. There are a lot of people who won’t ask anything more difficult than, “Will you please read that verse to me again?” But there are other people who have—especially the older they get, the more they have heard various “fake news statements” about what Christians believe and what the Bible says and the truthfulness of the Bible—heard all of this; that doesn’t mean that they’re not positive.
I’ve heard some people indicate, “Well, you know, I talked to them for five minutes. They didn’t want to believe the gospel, so they’re not positive.” Think about the Apostle Paul for just a little bit! From the time of the crucifixion, around AD 33 to the time—I believe Paul was saved somewhere around AD 39 or 40—you have six or seven years. Up until that time that Jesus ambushed him on the road to Damascus, you would’ve sworn up and down, “This guy is never going to see Heaven. This guy hates God. He’s turned his back on God; he is locked into negative volition. He is murdering Christians, he’s persecuting Christians, he’s locking them up in jail. He has one of the greatest intellects of our time, and he can refute all these statements that the Christians made; he can turn their arguments inside and out. Saul will never be a Christian.” Guess what? It’s not dependent upon your opinion; it’s dependent upon God the Holy Spirit.
And God uses us—and is pleased to use us—to give a rational, cohesive explanation of the gospel to people. A lot of times it’s rather simple. Sometimes the questions are more difficult. We have to go look at sources. Every one of us does. I do; everybody we know does, just to help them think through the issues. It may take a long time; it took a long time with Saul.
Most of you know this story. Many of you were here at the time when I led Jim Callahan to the Lord after 30 years of witnessing to him. He was the Professor of Military Science at Stephen F. Austin when I went there as a student in 1970. It only took 30 years to lead him to the Lord. God had to bring a little lymphoma into his life before he was really ready to listen; but he did, and he trusted in the gospel. A little help from Gene Brown and a couple of others helped bring that out. But I had to go through a lot of Christian evidences and talked through a lot of things with him.
So that’s what we do. We are to prepare to give a defense. How do we do that?
“To everyone.” Notice it doesn’t say, “sometimes to some people.” It says, “Always be ready.” Now you may never be called to be ready. You may never have to pull those arrows out of your quiver, but you are to, “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” Because it’s a “reason” tells you that Christianity’s rational. It is not based on “rationalism” in the classical philosophical term, but it’s based on reason. And we can describe that to people and explain to them why we have this hope—this confident expectation within us.
But we do it with gentleness and fear. Other passages I’ll bring into this. We’re to be patient—30, 40, 50, 60 years. I’ve known a lot of Christians that after five minutes of trying to shoot people with their gospel gun, if they don’t respond right away they start getting pretty irritated and impatient.
It’s with gentleness and meekness; it may take a very, very long time. In fact, you may witness to somebody for 60 years in your life, and then you die, and then at the funeral is when they trust Christ. But what you did was you laid a foundation—for 60 years—because you were patient and kind and gentle.
Notice, there is a semi-colon there, so the sentence doesn’t end there—it could be a comma. We are “to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;”
“[in order to] having a good conscience …” See, if you blow it—and every one of us has done this. We’ve gotten impatient. We’ve let it devolve into an argument over who’s right and who’s wrong. Then what happens? We know that’s wrong. We blew that whole opportunity to witness.
So, what Peter is saying here is in order to have a good conscience, “that when they defame you as evildoers [a person you been witnessing to now slanders you and maligns you], those who revile your good conduct in Christ may [will] be ashamed.” They will abuse you, they’ll mistreat you, but the issue is your good conduct—living the right kind of life.
We’ve seen this word used numerous times as we go through 1 Peter. 1 Peter 1:15, “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct [in your way of life].” 1 Peter 1:18, “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers.” 1 Peter 2:12, “Having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles.” All this same word, ANASTROPHE.
Wives, by your conduct you may win your husbands in 1 Peter 3:1. And 1 Peter 3:2 talks about lifestyle—how you live your life; that’s very important.
Then he concludes, “For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” We just have something in us that says, “If I’m suffering from doing good, that’s not right.” Well, it’s not right, but that’s the way it is living in the devil’s world.
So again, he uses the word suffer; he uses the word PASCHO, talking about enduring persecution or hostility. Then “doing good” or “doing evil.” He puts these compound words in there: AGATHOPOIEO and KAKOPOIEO. They just simply mean—they are contrasted with each other— “doing good or doing evil.”
How we live our life is important. It is our nonverbal apologetic. It is our nonverbal defense of the gospel. What we say and what we do says something about us. But evangelism always has to end in actually telling people the gospel, helping them to understand it, and doing it in a kind, patient and gentle way.
Next we will start into a little introduction into what biblical apologetics is really all about.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things and reflect upon Your truth. Help us to apply these principles, these commands. Help us to be motivated to learn and to study so that we can give honest, solid answers to people who are looking for answers—and being able to tell the difference between those who are just wanting to argue and those who really want answers. Help us to be faithful witnesses of Your grace and of the Cross. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”