1 Peter


3. Encouraging suffering churches, 3:13-5:11

i] Living as a believer in the face of suffering


Peter wants his readers to understand that, although they may act in a good and right way toward others, they may still suffer. Suffering for doing right is something we may all have to experience; such is within the plan of God for his people. If it occurs, we need to make sure that our life is honouring to our Lord, such that our suffering is unjustified, rather than justified.


i] Context: See 1:1-2. In 2:11-3:12, Peter examines practical issues related to living for Christ within a hostile secular environment, both summarising his argument, and then supporting it from scripture, in v8-12. Now, in 3:13-5:11, Peter addresses the church as a whole, a church which faces a level of hostility which threatens its very existence. As Best puts it, "they must learn how to suffer, and the place of their sufferings in the purposes of God." In 3:13-22 Peter gets into the issue of unjustified suffering. This subject is covered in two parts: suffering for righteousness sake, v13-17, and the inevitable victory of the faithful who suffer, v18-22. Peter concludes with a word to church leaders, 5:1-11

*Living as a believer in the face of suffering, 3:13-17

*Suffering unjustly for Christ, 3:18-22

*Standing firm in the face of suffering, 4:1-11

*Sharing Christ's sufferings, 4:12-19

*General exhortations for elders and church members, 5:1-11


ii] Background: See 1:1-2.


iii] Structure: Living as a believer in the face of suffering:

Suffering is unfair, but blessing is inevitable, v13-14a.

Admonitions on facing suffering, v14b-16.

A word of encouragement, v17.


iv] Interpretation:

It seems unlikely that suffering for doing good is a universal fact of life in Roman society and that generally a citizen suffered for doing evil rather than good. None-the-less, Christianity was viewed as an innovative Jewish sect and so inevitably faced opprobrium.

In this passage Peter reinforces the truth drawn from Psalm 33 of preserving a good conscience and good conduct when faced with the vagaries of life. "Good behaviour" is the best way of blunting malicious abuse, and a good word (an explanation of "the hope that you have") is the best way of blunting "threats."


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of the passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes Raised to life

Text - 3:13

Suffering for doing good, v13-17: i] Peter commences this new paragraph on the theme of Christian suffering with a rhetorical question. He makes the point that suffering is certainly unfair, but is, at the same time, a blessing in the sight of God, v13-14a.

kai "-" - and. Here functioning as a connective introducing a new thought; possibly translated "besides".

tivV "who" - Interrogative pronoun.

oJ kakwswn (kakow) fut. part. "harm" - is the one harming [you]. The participle serves as a substantive. Given the context, the "harm" is likely to be the trouble, even persecution, that often comes the way of a life lived within a godless society. Given that the substantive participle is future, the assumed verb to-be is probably future, "will be"; "And who will harm you", Weymouth.

ean + subj. "if" - if. Introducing a 3rd. class conditional clause where the proposed condition has the possibility of coming true; "if, as my be the case, [you become eager of the good], then [who the one harming you]." "If you are devoted to goodness, who can harm you?", TNT.

zhlwtai (hV ou) "eager" - [you become] zealots, enthusiasts. Predicate nominative. "If you have a passion for goodness", Moffatt.

tou agaqou gen. adj. "to do good" - of the good. The adjective serves as a substantive. The genitive is adjectival, possibly verbal, objective, "zealots for the good", or attributive. The type of zealot Peter has in mind is the one devoted to moral excellence rather than political revolution. "The good" is possibly that which keeps one under the benevolent gaze of God, so Achtemeier, although Peter surely has a more practical "good" in mind, a societal good, eg., honesty in trade, fairness in dealings, keeping ones word, pious, virtuous ......, so "moral excellence." "Who is to do you wrong if only what is good inspires your ambitions", Knox.


If we are persecuted, even though we are acting rightly, we are "blessed", ie., we are highly privileged before God. Suffering is promised, 2Tim.3:12, and "happy is the man" who suffers for righteousness' sake, Matt.5:10-12. So, we must not see suffering as God's neglect, but rather his favour.

alla "but" - but. Adversative, introducing a "contrasting exception", Dubis.

kai "even" - and = even. Here ascensive, as NIV.

ei + opt. "if" - if. Introducing a conditional clause, 4th. class where the condition is a remote future possibility (a theoretical condition); "if, as may possibly happen to be the case, .... then ....." The apodosis, the "then" clause, is usually formed by an + opt., although there are no NT examples. Here the verb is missing, and we only have the adjective "blessed / happy" = favoured in the sight of God; "you would be blessed." "If perchance ...."

pascoite (pascw) pres. opt. "you should suffer" - you should suffer. The 4th. class condition gives the idea of a possible future suffering rather than a sure event, although this does contradict 4:12f, but in the context, possibility, rather than certainty, is a reasonable way to express the suffering.

dia + acc. "for [what is right]" - because of, on account of [righteousness, you are blessed]. Causal. The "righteousness" is not a person's right-standing before God, ie., being a Christian, so Best, rather it is the business of doing the right thing / being a good citizen.


ii] Peter now goes on to detail some practical advice on facing suffering with regard fear, witnessing and moral behaviour, v14b-16. When trouble comes our way, we must not fear; we must not be caught up in the panic of those who are devoid of faith. Our ultimate safety rests with God and so we have no need to fear.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument.

mh fobhqhte (fobew) aor. subj. "do not fear" - do not fear. A subjunctive of prohibition. There is a likely allusion to Isa.8:12, LXX, where "the fear of them" is the fear of the people of Israel for the Assyrians. So, says Peter, don't be afraid of God's enemies as they were. Peter's readers will be able to stand before their persecutors, particularly if they fear (respect) the Lord.

autwn gen. "what they" - [the fear] of them. Kelly thinks this is an objective genitive, "do not be afraid of them", Dubis suggests a subjective genitive, "do not fear what they fear." Possibly even adjectival, possessive, "do not fear their fear." Israel was afraid of the enemy, whereas Peter's readers need not fear their persecutors. "Do not fear their threats", Phillips.

mhde taracqhte (trassw) aor. subj. "do not be frightened" - neither be troubled, frightened. A subjunctive of prohibition.


Instead of being overcome by fear, we must sanctify (acknowledge as holy, "set apart" / adore / worship) Christ as Lord, ie., worship him as God. Peter says that we should do this in our hearts. Jesus is present with his gathered people, and he is present in the inner self; where he is present, his people respond in adoration. Peter goes on to outline two practical ways we can enthrone Christ in our lives, v15b-16. First, speaking for Jesus, v15a. Peter probably has in mind a formal defence of the faith in a law court, but his words apply to any situation where a believer is called on to defend their faith. We must be ready, willing and able to speak for Jesus. Peter actually uses the word apologia, a word meaning "a formal reasoned defence" - a reasoned defence of the Christian faith. What's being asked of us is to know and understand the gospel and be willing and able to give a reasoned (logical) account for our reliance on Christ. When we do this, we must do it without arrogance or self-assertion.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative, here to a contrasting point.

en + dat. "in [your hearts]" - [sanctify = reverence christ as lord] in [the hearts of you]. Local, expressing space, metaphorical; "in your very being."

aJgiasate (aJgiazw) - "set apart / revere" - sanctify. Here, the idea is "adore", or "venerate", in the manner of "being prepared to give an answer ....... and keeping a clear conscience"; "reverence (acknowledge as holy) Christ as Lord." "Concentrate on being completely devoted to Christ", Phillips.

kurion (oV) "as Lord" - [christ] lord. The NIV takes "Lord" as the complement of the direct object "Christ" standing in a double accusative construction. This seems the best approach, but of course, "Lord", or "Christ" may stand in apposition to each other, either "honour Christ, that is the Lord", or "honour the Lord, that is Christ." Most translations agree with the NIV, but note that the ESV treats it as appositional in line with the MT; "in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy."

e{toimoi aie "Always be prepared" - always be ready. This construction is adverbial, modal, expressing manner, "being prepared." Usually crafted in English to begin a new imperatival sentence although the clause is closely tied to the preceding clause in the Gk. in a sentence which runs from v14b to 16; "On the contrary, you must enthrone Christ as Lord in your hearts, being ready at all times, whenever you are asked by anyone to give an account of the hope which you cherish, to rise up in its defence", Cassirer. With persecution in mind, Peter points to the necessity of giving Christ a unique place in our lives, of enthroning him, acknowledging the importance of being willing to defend the Christian faith, particularly before a court of law, but in such a way as to not provoke hostility, so "with gentleness and reverence."

proV + acc. "to give" - toward. Here adverbial, expressing purpose; "for an answer" = "in order to give an answer."

apologian (a) "an answer" - a defence. Better, "give an explanation of our belief." The word has a technical background, being used of a "defendant's rebuttal of charges", Best, which may confirm that Peter is thinking, not so much of personal evangelism, but of a defence mounted in a law court. This certainly fits in with the context. "Always be ready to make your defence", Williams.

panti dat. adj. "to everyone" - The dative is adverbial, reference / respect; "to make a defence with respect to all those who ask ....."

tw/ aitounti (aitew) dat. pres. part. "who asks you" - asking [you]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "everyone", dative in agreement with "everyone", as NIV.

logon (oV) "to give the reason" - a word, a rational account. Best just to view "a word" as the accusative complement of the direct object "you", although the classification is debated in a person-thing construction, as here; see Dubis. In this context, a rational account of the gospel.

peri + gen. "for" - concerning, about. Expressing reference / respect.

thV ... elpidoV (iV ewV) gen. "the hope" - the hope [in you]. Probably in the sense of what we believe, our faith. Peter holds the words "faith" and "hope" closely together such that at times it is hard to distinguish between the two.


Second, behave well, v16. Our witness to Christ will be compromised if our behaviour is compromised. If we are good and honourable citizens, even when slandered, then those who malign and persecute us will be silenced and may even come themselves to recognise God's claim over their lives.

alla "but" - but. Most likely serving to introduce a qualification of "being prepared to make a defence to anyone ..........,however, gently / meekly and with a measure of respect." The qualification is usually tagged onto v15 for readability. A rude and aggressive defence in a Roman law court would not go down well with the authorities.

meta + gen. "with" - with, in company with [meekness and fear = respect]. Here adverbial, introducing a modal adverbial phrase expressing manner; "venerate ....... being prepared ........ however, with gentleness and respect" = "gently and respectfully."

econteV (ecw) pres. part. "keeping [a clear conscience]" - having [a good conscience]. This participle is handled in numerous ways, often treated as imperatival. If we take the adverbial construction "being prepared", v15, as an imperative, "be prepared" = "always be ready to make a defence ....", REB, then this participle would be attendant on "be prepared" and therefore an imperative, "keep your conscience clear", REB. Yet, it is probably adverbial, modal, expressing manner, and further modifying the verb "to venerate, revere, honour", v15. "Venerate ........ in the manner of being prepared to give an answer ....... and in the manner of keeping a clear conscience." "Good" is something like "clean", so a morally right conscience in thought and deed. The point is, don't provide an opponent with grounds for their vilification, but "venerate / honour Christ" with godly behaviour.

iJna + subj. "so that" - that. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose, "in order that", or possibly hypothetical result, "so that." "So that ..... grievous disappointment should be suffered by those who defame the holy lives which you lead as men united to Christ", Cassirer.

en w|/ "-" - in which = in the matter concerning which [you are spoken against]. Introducing an adverbial clause, probably temporal, but possibly reference / respect, so Dubis. "So that, when you are the victim of evil speech, those who revile your good Christian behaviour may be ashamed", Achtemeier.

oiJ ephreazonteV (ephreazw) pres. part. nom. "those who speak maliciously against you" - the ones mistreating, reviling [may be shamed, humiliated, dishonoured]. The participle serves as a substantive, subject of the verb "may be ashamed, "the ones reviling your good conduct in Christ." Note that the NIV is simplifying the Gk. Peter is describing malicious charges brought against believers, both in court and in the public arena. Elliott suggests that the passive verb "may be shamed" is a theological passive - possibly with eschatological overtones, but certainly that their slander will be shown to be without substance and that therefore they will be silenced.

uJmwn gen. pro. "your" - [the good conduct] of you. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or verbal, subjective, "by your good conduct." Obviously moral good is in mind; their good character is being slandered.

en + dat. "in" - in [christ]. The preposition en is usually taken as local in this phrase, expressing sphere / incorporative union; "in their relationship with Christ" = "as Christians."


iii] Peter concludes with a word of encouragement, v17. In the end, there is value ("it is better"), certainly in the sight of God, when a person suffers unjustly, than suffering justly. A person who suffers justly gets what they deserve, but a person who suffers unjustly is able to honour Christ in the situation.

gar "-" - for. More reason, explanatory, than cause, possibly even serving to introduce an emphatic concluding statement. There is value (doing good / better), certainly in God's sight, when a person suffers unjustly rather than justly. There is a possible eschatological overtone here where suffering in this world unjustly is being compared with suffering justly on the day of judgment, although present suffering is surely in mind.

kreitton adj. "it is better" - it is better [doing good]. Comparative of agaqoV "good". It is better to suffer as a good person, because our unjust suffering may well honour Christ, a suffering more positive than negative. On the other hand, suffering as an evil person has no positive value, no positive end. As noted above, Peter may have in mind eternal judgement when he refers to suffering as an evil person.

ei + opt. "if" - if [the will of god wills]. Introducing an irregular 4th. class conditional clause, where the condition has a remote future possibility of coming true (a theoretical condition); "if, as may possibly happen to be the case, .... then ....." See v14. "if, and there is a chance that this may happen one day, the will of God wills us to suffer, then it is better doing good than it is to suffer for doing evil." "If it is God's will, it is better to suffer doing the right thing than the wrong thing", Barclay.

qeloi (oV) opt. "will" - wills. Variant indicatives exist. The sense being "purposes; "if the will of God wishes it to be." As a sovereign God, everything is in his hands such that the circumstance of life is properly a matter of his will. Taking the next step and arguing that God wills unjust persecution moves beyond the teaching of scripture.

pascein (pascw) pres. inf. "to suffer" - [than] to suffer is. The infinitive serves as the subject of the assumed verb to-be.

kakopoiountaV (kakopoiew) pres. part. "doing evil" - doing wrong, evil. This participle, as with "doing good", is adverbial, possibly taking an instrumental sense, "by doing evil", although often treated as causal, "for doing wrong", Moffatt, Berkeley, Barclay, ....


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