How to Handle Hostility
1 Peter 3:8–9
1 Peter Lesson #079
January 12, 2017
“Our Father, it’s a great privilege to come together. We’re thankful we have this opportunity to do so and to study Your Word to be reminded, encouraged, challenged. Scripture says that your Word is breathed out by you that we may be thoroughly equipped. And it teaches us and instructs us in the paths of righteousness; it corrects us and rebukes us.
Father, we pray that would be responsive to its teaching to apply what needs to be applied, to correct that which needs to be corrected, and that God the Holy Spirit would make these things clear to us and we would be responsive to His teaching. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles to 1 Peter 3:8. We are shifting gears. For the last several lessons we’ve been talking about the topic of submission. Submission of slaves to masters, submission of wives to husbands, and then instruction to husbands. Now we get into a section from 1 Peter 3:8–12 that is something of a summary. There are five adjectives that are describing Christian character in verse eight, and if those are in place in your Christian life, then it doesn’t matter if you’re a slave, if you’re a wife, if you’re a husband, if you’re a child, if you’re a parent, if you’re a teacher, if you’re a student. You’re going to have no problem being submissive to authority, whatever the authority is that’s over you, because that’s the essence of being grace oriented and understanding these authority relationships because it’s grounded on the character of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When we started this and we started talking about Peter’s illustration of Christ, starting from 1 Peter 2:21–25, I went over and took the time to talk about Christ in Philippians 2 and the importance of that in relation to humility. Humility isn’t being a doormat. Humility is being obedient to the authority that’s established over you—willingly, from the heart, not grudgingly, not resistantly, not in terms of what the military used to call “silent insolence,” but in terms of positive responsiveness.
So that’s embedded in all of these characteristics that we’re getting to in 1 Peter 3:8–9. It’s illustrated by a passage we just finished on Tuesday night in Psalm 34. In fact, were going to see a certain amount of parallel between what is happening here in 1 Peter and what is going on in David’s life in 1 Samuel 21 and 22; which is why, as Peter is going to illustrate what he’s talking about, he goes to Psalm 34, because it’s a parallel situation, parallel circumstances.
Just to remind you of the context of this epistle, Peter is writing to a community of Jewish-background believers who are living in what we would refer to today as central and northern central Turkey. They’re believers in Yeshua, in Jesus, as the Jewish Messiah, and they are living in the Jewish Diaspora. In the Jewish Diaspora they are scattered; they’ve been scattered; the Diaspora actually began in 586 BC and is coterminous with the “times of the Gentiles,” a phrase we have seen already in Luke 21 in the Olivet Discourse as the Gentile empires dominated Jerusalem and dominated Israel.
They live among the Diaspora, which is a word that means “scattered.” They are scattered because of divine discipline, which we studied on Sunday morning, in terms of the fifth cycle of discipline. They’re living in a somewhat unsympathetic, non-responsive environment, just as Jews living in the midst of Gentiles. But then they’ve got this additional problem, and that is that they are Jews who believe in Jesus as the Messiah.
That’s not quite the hostile thing that it becomes after the end of the first century and especially after the end of the third century. Certainly not the circumstances that you run into, for example, if you’re a modern Jew and you trust in Jesus as Messiah. You may not know this; some of you may be interested; some of you maybe not. But just recently, Ariel Ministries, which is Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s organization, published a fascinating biography of Arnold Fruchtenbaum [called Chosen Fruit]. It’s about 350 pages, and I’m about one third of the way through it. It’s really interesting.
I found it fascinating, especially the initial part that talks about his family background as well as the impact of the Holocaust on his parents, how that brought his father and his mother together, and why he was born in Siberia. So that’s part of the diaspora. I’ve just finished reading the section about when he graduated from high school. Right before he was bar mitzvahed, he trusted in Jesus as his Messiah and his father became increasingly hostile to him.
The family moved from Brooklyn to California; his father somewhat hoped that that would cause him to change his mind if he got away from those Christian missionaries back in Brooklyn. But he didn’t, because he understood the truth, and he understood the messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. The last year he was there—talk about a hostile environment—his father refused to talk him—at all. His mother was about the only one in the family who did talk to him. But there was a silver lining in that cloud. Remember, every cloud has a silver lining—but every silver lining has a cloud. Think about it.
The silver lining he had was that he recognized that his father wouldn’t tell him not to go to church, wouldn’t tell him not to read his Bible, wasn’t arguing with him about anything, and so he, for the first time in three years, had the freedom to go to church and to go to Christian organizations, to fellowship with Christians, to read his Bible, and he was left alone completely. So that was the positive side. There are always positive benefits in God’s plan, even when we go through suffering.
But in the early church there was a lot of hostility. Remember what happened to Paul when he took the gospel to the synagogues in Lystra, Iconium, and Derbe, and they ran them out of town when he went to Thessalonica? They ran him out of town from the Jewish community. They would follow him from town to town, causing more and more riots. So there was hostility there.
Peter is writing to these Jewish-background believers to teach them how to deal with the hostility that they would face from the world around them, from the Gentile Greco–Roman culture, as well as from within their own Jewish communities. And they might also, because Christians are sinners too, deal with some sort of hostility or people testing from other believers.
We have to understand that the world system surrounds us, so we’re always living in a hostile environment. And even the world system—we will understand it in a minute—penetrates our own defenses and often is a dynamic force in our own thinking. More often than we like to think, our rationalizations for our behavior are not only strengthened by our sin nature, but we select the elements within what seems normal to us because it’s our culture. In this sense “culture” can often refer to those aspects of our belief system that are influenced by our surroundings, by our community, by our American culture as opposed to British culture.
One of the things that we see in this passage is that Peter is emphasizing the importance of the Christian community as a counterculture to the world’s culture. That is something that is often lost today in American Christianity, because part of American kosmic thinking is this idea of rugged individualism—I don’t need anybody. Just me, my Bible, maybe my MP3 recorder or my computer, and God—that’s all I need. That is just blasphemy! Because so many passages in the Scripture talk about how we are placed in the body of Christ for interdependency with other members, and we will see that. That’s what Peter is talking about here—the importance of what should characterize the church as the Christian community over against what is experienced by those in the world or the kosmic system.
As we start, just a reminder of the context in 1 Peter 2:17. Peter said to, “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood.” That’s going to be reiterated here. “Fear God. Honor the king.”
This is developed, then, in those four imperatives related to being submissive—how, in fact, to do that—and we’ve seen this in the last few weeks. Servants, you do it by being submissive to your masters; wives, by being submissive to your own husbands; husbands, by dwelling with them with understanding.
That is how that application comes about. The first thing I want to talk about tonight is that we have to understand this thing that surrounds us—and sometimes penetrates us—and that’s the kosmic system. We’re going to cover briefly in the introduction ten points as a reminder on the kosmic system. This is what I developed for the closing of Tuesday night’s class, because David’s dealing with the same issues in 1 Samuel 21 and 22—with the hostility of the kosmic system around him. So there is going to be a certain amount of redundancy and repetition between the next couple of lessons here in 1 Peter and where we are in 1 Samuel, because obviously there is a very close connection textually. Because we’ve got Psalm 34 growing out of the circumstances in 1 Samuel 21, and we have Psalm 34 quoted here as an illustration of how Christians should be responsive.
Understanding the kosmic system. First of all, we all live within this kosmic system. I remember when I was in the 9th or 10th grade, some pastoral intern from Dallas Seminary came to the church where I grew up and was teaching about the kosmic system. What he said was so far over my head. Of course, I’m talking about Charlie Clough when he was probably in his third year at Dallas Seminary.
I didn’t understand that it was kosmic with a “k.” What he was teaching was straight out of Chafer’s Systematic Theology, but I had never heard it quite addressed that way. So it’s kosmic with a “k.”
- All human beings are fallen sinners.
In Adam’s fall, we sinned all. We’re all fallen sinners. Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” It is that iniquity that has led us astray. We are all corrupt. The starting point is that human thinking is corrupted by sin. So, in terms of that corruption, we are, as Paul puts it in Romans 1:18, “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.”
I am going to develop more on this, but when you suppress the truth, the more you suppress truth, the less you’re able to recognize the truth; and the less you’re able to recognize the truth, the less you’re able to evaluate what is true and determine the difference between truth and error. Because the more we get away from truth, the more our framework for evaluating what is right and what is wrong changes until we reach that point where God indicted Israel in the Old Testament—where He said that they were calling evil good and good evil. That is why we have a lot of the problems in our culture today.
We have rejected, as a nation, the Judeo-Christian heritage that defines right and wrong; as a result of that, because the community of our national culture has moved away from a biblical standard of right and wrong, they are redefining what is right or wrong. As a result of that, they’re losing the ability to determine what is right or wrong, and everything becomes relative. We are galloping towards the motto of the judges period, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
“In those days there was no king in Israel.” What that meant wasn’t that they didn’t have a human monarch, but that they weren’t allowing God to function as the theocratic King of the nation at that time.
Because human beings are fallen sinners, we reconstruct reality according to our opposition to truth. That reconstruction of reality is what we mean by the kosmic system.
- The kosmic system is an organized system of thinking that is in opposition to God. It is juxtaposed in the Scripture to everything that God teaches. The Greek word KOSMOS has a root meaning that means adornment, order, or arrangement. As such, one meaning has to do with the arrangement of human thinking or what we call human viewpoint thinking.
The Greek word itself can refer to the ordered physical world or universe. It can also refer to the inhabitants of the world. It can also refer to and describe the thinking of the world that goes back to fifth century Greek and philosophical Greek.
It can refer to the spatially ordered universe, or to the ordered earth, or to the inhabitants of the earth; but it also refers to the structured thinking.
The Bible talks about God’s viewpoint. In contrast, “There is a way that seems right to a man.” You look at the wisdom literature in Psalms and Proverbs, “There is a way.” There’s a right way—and everything else is a wrong way.
Jesus referred to this, and He talks about, “Broad is the way that leads to destruction.” “Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life.” There are many different paths on the wrong way. You have philosophical paths, you have religious paths, you have irrational paths, mystic paths—all kinds of different paths. Because everyone’s doing what’s right in their own eyes, so it just multiplies over time.
But that’s always juxtaposed in Scripture to God’s absolute. There’s one way of thinking that is God’s way of thinking, and that’s juxtaposed to all human viewpoint. Human viewpoint becomes a term that we use to describe this. But we could also use other terms, such as Satan’s viewpoint, the world system, pagan viewpoint; all of those would basically represent the same thing.
The head of this type of thinking, and the one who originated it is Satan. That’s why he is given these kinds of titles.
2 Corinthians 4:4 says he’s the “god of this age.” The Greek word there for “age” is AIŌNOS. It’s not the word KOSMOS, but it has to do with the time period in which this philosophy operates. So the Germans, who are so philosophical, developed a term for this called the “Zeitgeist”, which means “the spirit of the times.”
Satan is the god of this age, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:4. In John 16:11, Jesus said he’s “the ruler of this world”; he’s the ruler of this KOSMOS. So he’s the ruler of this type of thinking; he’s the one who originated it. In Ephesians 2:2, Paul says that the Ephesian believers “once walked according to the course of this KOSMOS, according to the prince of the power of the air,” connecting the kosmos to Satan. The term “prince of the power the air” is another term for Satan.
- When we look at satanic thinking, there are two basic elements: there is autonomy, and there is antagonism.
Autonomy refers to everything that’s related to self; it’s related to independence. That word “autonomy” has to do with self-law. Man becomes a law unto himself—or any creature becomes a law unto himself—and rebels against God. In that autonomy we see the essence or core of arrogance, which is anything that affirms or emphasizes self: self-absorption, self-indulgence, self-justification, self-deception. You recognize those as the arrogance skills. Self-reliance—in a bad way.
Self-reliance, where you’re so deeply dependent upon yourself and asserting your own independence, that you’re no longer dependent upon God. You are either God-reliant or self-reliant in the Scriptures, one or the other; and the only way we can be God-reliant is if we are trusting in the Lord. Self-assertion. We assert our own ideas, our own opinions, our own values. It’s just self, self, self. It’s all self-absorption.
That represents one aspect of kosmic thinking. The other is antagonism. Because when we assert ourselves over against God, then we are going to become antagonistic to God. Because we are going to say, “I’m going to assert my ideas against God,” and God is going to say, “that’s wrong.” Then we’re going to get mad at Him, because He won’t let us have our own way.
Antagonism is expressed hostility to the Word of God, hostility to divine viewpoint—or even establishment truth, hostility to Christians because they just represent God. The very fact that you have a Christian having his presence in Congress is just absolutely anathema to a lot of atheistic, self-righteous unbelievers. They just hate the idea that somebody can be a Bible-believing Christian and have any say in anything; because, ultimately, they have rejected God. So there’s hostility to anyone who stands for the absolute truth of the Word of God. That’s point number three.
- Thus the thinking of the world is juxtaposed in Scripture to the thinking of God.
There is only one way. Jesus said, “I am the truth.” That means that anything that disagrees with Jesus is not the truth. You’re not left with another option: Jesus is either the truth, or He’s a liar. You have to be intellectually honest there. If He’s a liar, then He’s the most deceptive Person in all of human history and He’s leading billions of people to their eternal death. So God’s thinking is divine viewpoint; man’s thinking is human viewpoint.
- All systems of human thought, except for the Bible, are grounded on these two things— autonomy and antagonism.
Now the kosmic system includes all unbelievers. They can’t think any other way, because they don’t have divine truth. No matter how moral they might be, no matter how much they steal ideas from Christianity … Think about it. If God created everything, and everything runs the way God says it runs, then the only way you can have a measure of stability is to do things God’s way. Whether they like it or not, they have to borrow from God in order to make life work for themselves.
So all unbelievers operate in the kosmic system, and a lot of believers operate in the kosmic system because they don’t know any biblical truth. This is what we see in Romans 12:2.
Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world.” The assumption there is that as a believer you are already conformed to the world in your thinking from the minute you got saved, because you haven’t had any divine truth yet, other than the gospel. After you’re saved, what you do then? Well, you have to quit thinking like the world. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renovation [or overhaul] of your mind [of your thinking].”
That’s an important word there, because the word that’s in the Greek relates to, as part of the semantic range of a word we’re going to run into in a little while related to being like-minded. We do this to prove that God’s will is good, acceptable, and perfect. In other words, we’re out to prove something; we’re to demonstrate something in our lives. That’s part of our mission: to demonstrate that what God says is true, that it’s good and acceptable and perfect.
- Sin and the sin nature produce kosmic thinking and are reinforced by it.
So you have this interplay. The sin nature thinks of ways to suppress truth and to organize its thought systems apart from God, and that develops all these different philosophies and religions, but that in turn reinforces the sin nature. So you get this codependent spiral between the function of the sin nature and the world system. The world system often provides the philosophies and the religions and the rationalizations that we use to justify what makes us feel comfortable, other than doing what God says, the way God says to do it. This is really an important point, that we see that codependency between kosmic thinking and the sin nature.
- Since God is Truth and Light and in Him is no darkness; the opposite is true of Satan. He’s the father of lies. He lives in darkness. Even though he can manifest himself as an angel of light, he is in darkness.
Jesus said it this way in John 8:44. This is another one of His statements where He is currying favor with the Pharisees; I’m being facetious. “You are of your father the devil.” He is talking to the religious leaders in Israel, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.” It’s either Jesus who is the truth or it’s Satan, who is the lie.
“When he speaks a lie [that is Satan], he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” So the juxtaposition is God is light and in Him there is no darkness, and Satan is a liar from the beginning—the beginning of human history.
- Political leaders … Who knew? It’s nice to have some people that we think are better than others. There are a few that are really trying to apply the Word of God in their own spiritual life and in their political thinking.
Those who represent the world system: religious leaders, political leaders, philosophers, the everyday person, are all characterized by the sin nature.
If they are Christians when they’re characterized by their sin nature, then they are friends with the world. The Scripture says that those who are friends with the world are enemies of God. That’s a pretty strong statement—that we are one or the other; we’re either letting the world shape our thinking, which makes us enemies of God, or we’re letting the Scripture shape our thinking.
- The solution is the spiritual life given to us through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. In John 16:33, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you.” That’s what He taught about Church Age doctrine at the Upper Room Discourse.
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.” No matter what’s going on in the world around you—the hostility of the kosmic system is always going to be there, but in Jesus there should be tranquility. An application of that would be in the body of Christ, functioning within the church, that is, walking by the Spirit, there should be tranquility. But it’s not going to happen unless you’re all walking by the Spirit.
“These things I’ve spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation [you’ll have adversity; you’ll have hostility; you’ll have rejection; you’ll have difficulty, because you’re dealing with other sinners]; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” And when Jesus said, “I have overcome,” He uses a perfect tense, which means it’s a completed action at that point. He’s not overcoming the world—in process; He’s not going to overcome the world the next day when He goes to the Cross; He has already overcome the world and defeated it. That word for overcoming is the Greek word NIKAO, which means to be a victor. That relates to us as believers becoming victors in our spiritual life and receiving special awards, rewards, and inheritance blessings.
Now I’m bringing inheritance in here because last time, as we finished up in 1 Peter 3:7, we were talking about husbands and how they are to live with their wives and honor their wives. They are to treat them as heirs together of the grace of life; that refers to being heirs of God, that first category of inheritance that’s true for every believer.
Tonight, in 1 Peter 3:9, we’re going to see another reference to inheritance. We are to obey God in all of these attributes so that we may inherit a blessing. That is talking about blessing in time—as well as in eternity. That’s the other kind of blessing, that comes as a result of spiritual growth and obedience.
Romans 12:2 says that we are to “be transformed by the renewing of our mind.” That’s the only solution—to walk by the Spirit, to take in the Word of God, apply the Word of God, and let our thinking be transformed.
Then the last point in this introduction.
- The kosmic system values power. It values self-sufficiency as opposed to God-dependency. It values self-assertion instead of asserting the truth of God’s Word and asserting the values and character qualities that God espouses.
We’ve got a new game. When you get saved there are new rules; you move from being an unbeliever and operating according to the rules of Satan, the rules of the kosmic system, the rules of your culture, to where you are now in a countercultural game. There are new rules; you’re on a new team. We are on God’s team; we are not on Satan’s team anymore, and we function differently. We have a higher calling. We’re not going to lower ourselves to the standards of others, no matter who they are—whether they are unbelievers or whether they are carnal believers. We’re going to take the high road; we’re always going to operate on these qualities that are emphasized here.
Before we get into the text itself, I have three points of basic summary. As we look at this section, it sets us up for the same kind of situation that David faced. He is surrounded by Saul and Saul’s army, and he’s in a hostile environment. What Peter is doing is juxtaposing the Christian community as it should be—the church as an oasis of tranquility and peace and stability in contrast to the world.
I hear so many different stories from people who are in petty little situations at their office, or on their team at work, or with other people who are vindictive and filled with revenge. They’re always out for themselves; they are totally self-absorbed; they’re lazy; they’re irresponsible; they take credit for other people’s actions. All these kinds of things take place in the world. When we come to be with other believers, those kinds of things should not characterize the body of Christ. That’s what Peter is talking about here.
- We are all members of the body of Christ. That happened the instant we trusted in Christ as Savior, and instantly we are part of that organism.
That doesn’t mean that our characters have been changed—that’s the process of spiritual growth. But what undergirds that is realizing the interdependency of every member of the body of Christ. We’re members of one another; we’re not just individuals; we’re not a bunch of separate atoms just floating randomly in space. We are brought together into an organism, and we are members of one another.
That’s the importance of the body Christ, that when we face challenges in life, we face the hostility of the world, we face difficulties in our own personal life, or our spiritual growth, we have a team that supports us. We have a team that comes together on the basis of the Word of God. It’s not on the basis of this pseudo feel-good, let’s all hold hands and sing Kumbaya kind of emotional psychobabble nonsense you get, but a team that plays on the basis of the rules of the Word of God.
Paul says, in Romans 12:5, “So we, being many [that emphasizes our individual natures], are one body in Christ.” That’s not just a unity in Christ—that is talking about a practical value, on the ground, of our interdependency. We are “individually members of one another,” and that’s important.
We are members of one another. That’s a different term. It’s not just that we play on the same team. There’s a more fundamental and foundational unity there, an interconnectedness because we’re in the body of Christ.
In Ephesians 4:25, Paul is addressing the problem that creates disunity and fragmentation in a local body of Christ because of the deceptions that were going on there, apparently. He said, “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor.’ ” Why? “For we are members of one another.” So, truth should characterize our relationships with one another, not lying and deception, which is characteristic in the unbelieving community.
- Therefore, we’re to be a community that differs from the way the world does things. We don’t do things the same way, because we have a different playbook. The Church needs to be a refuge from the kinds of insults and competition and arrogance and hostility that come from those outside the church.
This was a problem in Ephesus. It was a problem in Corinth. It was a problem in Philippi—big problem in Philippi. And wherever there are sinners, there is going to be a problem; that is because they’re not following the divine solution. But when we implement the divine solution there can be harmony and tranquility.
- Peter is addressing a community to teach them how they are to address the various assaults that are coming from outside the church—from without—and by application from within.
He’s focusing on the fact that they’re living in a hostile environment, but it also has application in case there are problems with other believers.
- In order for the Christian community to be what God intended, then certain qualities should and must be present. Now those qualities are summarized in different ways, with different terms, in different passages, but Peter uses five here in 1 Peter 3:8. They’re translated this way in the New King James: being of one mind—thinking the same thing; having compassion for one another; brotherly love; being tenderhearted; and being courteous. Those are the five attributes; we will talk about those in just a minute.
- These flow out of a basic orientation to grace and humility. What is humility? It is submission to God’s authority. God says this is how you relate to people, and so you do it. It may not feel comfortable, it may not be what you like, but this is how you do it. So that’s humility and grace orientation, and that becomes the basis for authority orientation and submission.
See, this a problem we get in this war-between-the-sexes mentality; they have taken these passages where Paul talks about wives being submissive to the husbands, and Peter talks about this, and they blow it out of proportion. The ultimate framework for this has got to be understood. Paul and Peter are not singling out either males or females for some sort of special browbeating. Okay? He’s not a misogynist, and he’s not mad at men, either. Okay? That’s not the point. The fact is that he’s applying to both the men and women that which should be true of every single believer. Okay?
In Ephesians 5:2, Paul says, “Submitting to one another in the fear of God.” That’s your first use of “submit”; it applies to every believer. What Peter says here, in 1 Peter 3:8–9, applies to every believer. What he said in 1 Peter 2:17 applies to every believer. He’s just giving instances of it in between—to slaves, to wives, and to husbands. It also applies to masters and children. It’s true for every believer; so he is not picking on anybody.
What we learn from all of this is that it’s about God’s plan. That’s the focus. Once we get saved, it’s about God’s plan. We’re playing for the other team; we’re running to the other goal. Okay? To put it in a football analogy. We’re under a different rulebook. It’s about Jesus. It’s about serving the Lord—no matter what. It’s no longer about me.
This is a hard thing for us to learn. How many of us still struggle with the fact that when I’m explaining the gospel to somebody and they reject it, that we feel that they’re rejecting me? They’re not rejecting me. They’re rejecting God; they’re rejecting Christ. But that’s such a hindrance for most of us in giving the gospel, because we don’t want that rejection.
We get the superfluous overflow of that directed towards us, but they’re not rejecting me. Just like Samuel. When Israel wanted a king, God told Samuel, “They’re not rejecting you; they’re rejecting Me.” That’s the real issue. They’re not rejecting us; they’re rejecting God. It’s God’s plan, it’s Jesus that we’re serving, and it’s the mission that He gave us. That’s what everything is about.
It’s not about our feelings. It’s not about our wishes, our wants, our desires, because a lot of that comes out of our sin nature. Our sin nature creates a comfort zone, and we want to stay in that comfort zone because of the deception of the sin nature. It would’ve been much more comfortable for Peter and the other disciples to stay in Jerusalem.
What was the last thing Jesus said? “I want you to take the gospel to Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and the uttermost part of the world.” What did they do? They stayed in their comfort zone. They camped out in Jerusalem. They lived in Jerusalem. They didn’t go to Judea and Samaria. So what did God do? God came in and He brought testing; He brought adversity and persecution in Jerusalem so they had to leave.
See, you have a choice. You can either leave your comfort zone out of your own volition in obedience to the Lord, or you can leave your comfort zone because God’s got a flyswatter after you. And He’s going to cause that trouble. You’ve got an option: do it God’s way out of your own volition, or do it God’s way as a result of a little divine discipline.
So it is not about how we feel, it is not what we think, it is not about our prerogatives; it is about what the Lord wants to accomplish, the mission. As such, the Scripture says that we are to love our enemies. We are to love those who mistreat us and bless those who curse us. This is what Jesus says in Luke 6:27, “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies.” That includes people who believe differently; that involves militant Muslims. That’s a hard thing for a lot of us. Because not only is that a personal issue, but it’s a national issue, because they have declared war on the West—even though the West is trying to ignore it.
But we are to love our enemies. That doesn’t mean we don’t go to war against them. That’s the tension we have. We are to love our enemies, and we are to do good to those who hate us. We are to bless those who curse us; we are not to react in anger; we are not to react in resentment or bitterness. We are to be even more kind and generous.
I read a testimony of a believer who was serving in the military, and as he was serving in one of his early assignments, probably in boot camp or one of the other training situations, he came under assault from another soldier. I’ve heard this from many, many guys here in the congregation; when they were in boot camp and they were going through basic training, every night these guys—believers—would take out their cassette player or something and they would spend time in the Word and praying. They would focus on their biblical study and get that in every single day if they could.
So that’s what this soldier was doing, and he was always getting ridiculed by another guy in the barracks. One night as he was praying, all of a sudden he was hit in the side of the head with a muddy boot. So what’s your natural reaction? That’s right! “Let’s go to Fist City; let’s fight.” “You want to fight?” Take him on. The next morning, the guy who threw the boot found the boot cleaned, polished, spit-shined—first class condition—boots lined up at base of his bunk. See, he was blessed instead of cursed. As a result of that, according to this guy’s testimony, several of the men in his unit came to believe in Jesus Christ. That’s the difference! Believers respond differently than unbelievers. We don’t let the sin nature cause us to react that way.
So we’re to, “Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also.” That’s not a pacifist verse. Dan Inghram wrote his master’s thesis on this verse. What that means is that if somebody insults you, just ignore it and move on. Don’t seek offense; don’t take offense. Because the issue isn’t your feelings, or whether you’ve been offended; the issue is the mission for Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 3:8 summarizes this. As he’s bringing this to a conclusion, talking about submission, explaining how to honor the people, love the brotherhood, fear God, and honor the king, Peter summarizes it in relation to “all of you.” He says, “Finally, all of you [this relates to every believer].”
“All of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous.”
These are five qualities that are expressed by five adjectives. If you look at the verse in your English text, it says “all.” You’ll notice that “of you be” is in italics. That’s because “of you be” is not in the original—it’s implied. “All” and then it just has all, same mind, and compassion for one another—and that’s not even in the original—brotherly love, tenderhearted, and courteous. The verb is left out. This happens a lot in Greek. When you are emphasizing something, you drop out the verb, it’s implied; it’s called an ellipsis. The only thing that would make sense is a “to be” verb here, which is how they’ve translated it. But it is translated as an imperative. It would have to be an imperative verb—this is a command. This is not an option. This is not a suggestion. This isn’t something that might work out for you someday, “So give it a try.” This is an order for every believer.
Be likeminded. That has the idea of being in harmony, being harmonious, not having discord.
Sympathy is the second word. That is pretty much based on a transliteration, but it has the idea of understanding the suffering of one another.
The third is brotherly love, PHILADELPHOS. This is where we get the name for our city Philadelphia, which was named for a city of like name in Asia Minor in Turkey. But it means “to love one another.”
Then, to be “kindhearted to one another.”
“Courteous” is completely wrong, because the Greek word there is very important; it means “to be humble toward one another.”
Let’s take these apart one by one. The first word is HOMOPHRON. That’s an interesting word, because the root PHRON comes from the verb PHRONEO, which means to think—not to emote, but to think. The HOM at the beginning—the H represents the rough breathing mark—is from the Greek word, HOMOS, which means the same, as opposed to HETEROS which means something different. Okay? We get words like homogenized milk. The “homo” at the beginning of homogenized means everything is made the same. Okay? Homosexual means the same sex.
So HOMOPHRON means to think the same. This is the only time this word is used. In fact, most of the words that are used here—I think three of the five—are only used this one time in all of the New Testament. But it’s clear that it is a synonym for another phrase that is more common, which is “to think the same thing” or “to be like minded.”
We look at this particular word and think about it. As [Edward Gordon] Selwyn says, in his well-known commentary on 1 Peter, “It reflects a common heritage of faith and ethical tradition.” Let’s break that down a little bit. When he says, “It’s a common heritage of faith,” they all believe the same thing. That’s what Paul says in Ephesians 4—one faith—we all believe the same thing. And, in the Old Testament, Amos 3:3, “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” If we don’t have the same belief, then we can’t be united. We all have to submit to the teaching and believe what the Word of God says. We have “a common heritage of faith.”
Then he says, “a common heritage of ethical tradition.” What that means is we believe in the same values of right and wrong, what is correct and what is incorrect. This is the idea here: because we have a common belief system, we have a common behavior system. We’re all going to play according to the same rules and the same rulebook that God has given us.
The problem is that we all face the same three enemies—the world, the flesh, and the devil. The flesh represents the sin nature. Any of us as believers, when we stop walking by the Spirit, then the sin nature gets control and that can cause all sorts of problems. That’s what Paul lists in Galatians 5:19 and following, the works of the flesh, which include strife, divisions, and all kinds of disorder.
That’s how that section in Galatians starts, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Only by walking by the Spirit and letting our beliefs and actions be transformed by the Word of God, will the Spirit be able to produce the kind of unity and oneness within a local church that will exhibit the characteristics of Christ.
That doesn’t mean it’s all going to be perfect. That doesn’t mean that we’re not going to have problems and issues between different members of the local church. But together we stand in unity on what we believe and our common mentality of behavior, and then we stand against the world system. So that’s what this like mindedness is all about. We find this a number of places in Scripture, because this was a problem in churches in the ancient world as it is today.
Romans 15:5, “Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you [that’s a grace idea] to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus.” The phrase “according to” in the Greek means “according to a standard.” We’re of the same mind according to one standard; that’s the only way we can have unity, and that’s according to the thinking of Jesus Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 13:11, Paul ends his 2 Corinthian epistle, “Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded.” This is not some secondary idea. We are to be of the same mindset toward everything. “Live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”
Philippians really has a lot to say about this. In Philippians 2:2, “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind [think the same way].” Don’t be divided. Don’t have conflicts between you.
Philippians 2:5, “Have this mentality [PHRONEO—same idea] in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” Then he addressed the problem in the congregation that was causing a lot of waves outside of even Philippi, “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in the same mind in the Lord.” Any people who have personal problems need to focus on being of the same mind in relation to, or according to Christ Jesus, as Paul put it in Romans. None of this can happen apart from walking by the Spirit and applying the Word of God in our life.
So first of all, be of one mind. Second, have compassion for one another. This is the Greek word SUMPATHES, which is obviously where we get our word sympathy. It’s just transliterated, or brought over into English, and it means to have an understanding of what other people are going through. It’s not just patting them on the back or feeling sorry for them; it’s caring about their needs and their joys, and as they are going through difficult circumstances, being willing to encourage them.
Two verses illustrate this. Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” This all flows from having relationships—knowing other people in the congregation. You can’t know everybody at the same level or the same depth. That’s impossible, but this is having some intimate relationships with different people where you can encourage them and strengthen them. When they go through good times we rejoice with them; when they go through hard times we weep with them.
1 Corinthians 12:26, Paul says, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.” See, some people get so caught up with privacy that they don’t want anybody else in the congregation knowing that they’re going through anything. I don’t think that fits with this verse. How can “if one member is suffering the whole body suffers” if nobody knows about it? Because there’s an interdependency within the body of Christ.
That doesn’t mean you go around and tell everybody about every hangnail and paper cut and everything that goes on in life, but we’re talking about the difficulties that people face—when somebody loses their job, when they go through unemployment, when they’re facing a medical crisis, when there is a loss of a loved one, when there are other significant issues in life. We don’t want to burden people with the nonessentials, but we care about each other.
Then we come to the third example, the third adjective. We have brotherly love. This is the word PHILADELPHOS, and it means to love someone in the family. Because it using the word PHILOS, which comes from the verb PHILEO, it’s not talking like AGAPE. The meanings of AGAPE and PHILEO can overlap, but the distinction is that PHILEO indicates a more intimate love—not a more emotional love, but a more intimate love. You know the other person, there’s a relationship there, so it’s a more intimate involvement with someone else.
We’re to love one another—it’s not just at arm’s-length. We are to love one another. Some people make it more difficult to do that, and I understand that. Some people are very difficult. We’ve had some folks in this congregation—I’ve had folks in every congregation—that just make it difficult, socially, for anybody to be close to them. That’s more their problem than anybody else’s. But we all run into that.
One thing I learned years ago. I was a counselor in my first year at Camp Peniel; I think it was about the fourth camp of the summer. We had one more to go after that, and because Mike Turnage had had a brain tumor, I had been picked at the last minute to also run all the canoe trips that summer. I was a cabin counselor one week, then on a canoe trip the next week, and then a counselor—and I was tired.
I was tired of some little kids that were somewhat of discipline problems. It was a Sunday afternoon and the bus was going to get there in a couple hours, and I was worn out. I was laying on my bunk, and I said, “I need to pray about my attitude, because my attitude just really stinks!” I prayed that the Lord would change my attitude. I fell asleep and slept for about 30 minutes. When I woke up, I was refreshed, my attitude changed, and I learned a lesson there that as I face crises in life—and I don’t want to do what God wants me to do—I need to pray that God will help change my mind, the Holy Spirit would help transform my thinking, so that I can apply what I know I ought to apply—willingly and happily—even though it may not be exactly what I want to do.
Some years after that—not long—I was teaching an in-school suspension class with a bunch of snotty-nosed middle schoolers—junior high kids—and nothing can be worse than a bunch of juvenile delinquents in an in-school suspension class. There were many mornings I woke up and the last thing I wanted to do was get in the car and drive to school and face these little brats. Because they really were—they were just incorrigible.
They couldn’t stick to the rules of the school long enough to get out after three days. There was one girl that was just lovely. She was there for over 65 days. She didn’t care, her parents didn’t care, and she was just absolutely hostile to everything. The last thing I wanted to do was face that. But I would pray about it, and God would change my attitude.
So that’s important, because none of this comes naturally. If you think this is impossible, guess what? It is! Just remember—you’ve heard it all your lives: The spiritual life isn’t difficult, it’s impossible. You can’t do it on your own. It is a product of God the Holy Spirit and your willingness to walk by the Spirit.
Loving one another. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples [not that all men will know that you are believers, but you are learning the Word of God and applying it in your life], if you have love for one another.”
Now this is repeated. This command to “love one another” is repeated at least 10 more times in the New Testament. In John 15:12, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:17, “These things I command you, that you love one another.” Paul, in Romans 13:8, “Owe no one anything except to love one another.” In 1 Thessalonians 4:9, “For you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.” In 1 Peter 1:22, what we’ve already seen so far, “Love one another fervently with a pure heart.”
We’re to “Love the brotherhood” in 1 Peter 2:17. In 1 John 3:11, “We should love one another.” 1 John 3:23, “That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” In 1 John 4:7, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” That’s talking about spiritual growth—it’s not just automatic from salvation.
1 John 4:11, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:12, “No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us [that’s fellowship].” On and on and on.
Now the fourth word is to be tenderhearted, and this is the word EUSPLAGCHNOS. The EU indicates doing something well, or good, or beneficial towards others; and SPLAGCHNOS is usually related to mercy or compassion. It’s an action type of noun, where you are doing something merciful to help others in a difficult situation. Believers are challenged to be compassionate to those who are enduring difficulty in many places.
Philippians 2. A major theme in Philippians is this idea of unity in the body and being like-minded. “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ [and there is], if any comfort of love [and there is], if any fellowship of the Spirit [and there is], if any affection and mercy.” That’s the idea—and there is.
Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering.” Same idea.
Then the last word is “being humble.” I’ll make this really brief; there is a lot I could say about this. Humility is one of those words that changed its meaning because of the teaching of Christ. A lot of words change their meaning over time. In Middle English it was a real insult for somebody to say that you were “nice.” I actually remember being in a teen Bible class when I was about 15 years old, and half the Bible class was on the word “nice,” that it was a word you should never use. I don’t know about that, but its original meaning was “to be stupid or ignorant.” It wasn’t until the 16th century that it began to change its meaning and to have the idea of being something positive, something that was appropriate, or something that was attractive, and that’s based on what the Oxford English Dictionary gives as the background for that.
Meanings change with language. TAPEINOPHRON. PHRON we’ve already seen; it has to with thinking—thinking of yourself as being lowly. The basic meaning was “to be low.” It originally talked about people who are on the dregs of society, the lowest of the lower social economics in society. It was that the bottom of the rung—and it was always in insult. Jesus came along and said Christians are supposed to be humble. That really didn’t sound right to a lot of people. Because, up until Jesus, this is a negative word. It is a bad word. In fact, in Greek culture you were to be self-assertive, you were to assert your own rights, you weren’t supposed to give up your rights.
But see, you are compared to a slave. Jesus came as a slave, as a servant, to God. He gave up His rights. He said, “It’s not about Me. It’s not about what I want. It’s not about how I feel. I don’t want to go the Cross. I’m sweating blood. Father, let this cup pass from Me.” But Jesus focused on the mission, and He went with the joy set before Him—joyfully. It’s not just a matter of doing what God says, but not doing it grudgingly, but doing it out of a genuine response of obedience.
Next time we’ll come back and talk about 1 Peter 3:9, “Not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing.” Now that’s really hard. Somebody insults us and we want to throw it back at him. But what did Jesus do?
“Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” What we do is we turn it over to God and the Supreme Court of Heaven. Let Him handle it. We just move on like nothing ever happened and let God take care of it. He is the Judge of all things, and He’s going to do the right thing. Then we’ll get into how Peter is using Psalm 34 here.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things. Help us to apply them. Help us to recognize that all these characteristics can’t be just manufactured on our own, but we have to be walking by the Spirit.
We have to be taking in the Word, thinking it through, applying it, praying that you would manifest these characteristics in our lives. When it’s difficult, help us to do what we need to do and what the right thing is.
Work in us, as Paul says, “both to will and to do Your good pleasure.” We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”