1 Peter - Lesson 9
By Curt Niccum
1 Peter 3:8-17
Background Information for the Teacher
- The class can show that everything Peter said within the Household Code applies to all Christians.
- The class will see that Christ’s holy Lordship takes precedence over all worldly claims to lordship, but also controls our response to an unholy world.
- The class can explain that the unique nature of Christian life will call for a response by the world and that Christians must be ready to reply appropriately.
- Bibles for every student
- Copies of worksheet for lesson #9
- If devotional period is desired, you may need songbooks and to designate people for singing, praying, and scripture reading.
Concerned about the impact of persecution on the church, Peter writes 1) to assure the Christians of their place in God’s kingdom and 2) to urge them to live as members of that kingdom rather than to capitulate to the surrounding culture. Peter now applies to every Christian the principles he gave to Christian slaves and Christian wives. He prefaces this teaching about how Christians relate to nonbelievers with a reminder of the types of attitudes and behaviors Christians must have toward other Christians. He again holds up Christ’s attitude as the pattern to be followed when being punished unjustly and reminds his readers that every worldly response to Christian action is an opportunity for Christian testimony.
Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class
Devotional Period (5-10 minutes)
- Read 1 Peter 3:8-17.
- Sing two songs
- I Love to Tell the Story
- Living for Jesus
- Prayer (some appropriate subjects for prayer are listed below)
- For courage to proclaim the gospel truth in situations where compromise looks appealing.
- For those visiting today looking for a place to worship God
- For members to identify visitors and share with them what is important
- For missionaries
Introduction (2 minutes)
- Welcome visitors.
- Distribute study sheets.
Evaluation (5 minutes)
- Ask members to share stories about opportunities they had to do “good” (as God defines it) in the previous week.
- Discuss any positive reactions this “good” produced in others.
Review (5-7 minutes)
- Remind the class that in the previous sections Peter adopted language about family strength, but that even when addressing specific situations (like slavery and Christian women married to unbelieving husbands) he offered advice applicable to all.
- Note that in the section to be examined to day, Peter now clearly applies the stated principles to all and looks to Jesus as the example for every Christian.
- Ask if anybody compared this text with Romans 12 as suggested in Travel Tip #8. Discuss the similarities.
Learning Experiences (20 minutes)
- Having worked from traditional categories belonging to the Household Code, Peter now addresses all Christians with the conclusion to all that has been said. First, though, he prefaces his remarks about how Christians should live in a pagan world with instructions on how to deal with fellow Christians in times of trouble. Although external persecution on the church can make it stronger, it also strains relationships. Peter reminds his readers that especially in these times harmony in the church isa necessity (3:8).
- To maintain harmony the following traits/attitudes are needed: sympathy, brotherly love, compassion, and humility.
- Have the class discuss how each of these contributes to harmony and unity.
- In verse 9 Peter reminds all Christians that they are called to imitate Christ. He employs the language used in 2:21-25 to summarize the entire teaching. Peter’s return to the issue of what type of speech characterizes Christians suggests that this may have been a specific problem in some or all of the churches to which he writes. Most today will recognize that this still remains a prevalent sin in the church. The “natural”tendency is to repay insult with insult. The “spiritual” tendency, though, is quite different. We hand out blessing because we will receive blessing.
- The class could share contemporary examples of how Christians sometimes insult and slander, sometimes even other Christians. One could also mention the attempt by the Christian Chronicle to offer balanced coverage of the national candidates during the 2000 election. Their inclusion of Democratic candidates and issues resulted in more mean-spirited mail than any other topic ever covered by the paper. Whether you leave it to class discussion or employ this particular story, be careful. A rather heated debate could result. This, of course, would produce results contrary to Peter’s admonition.
- Discuss what Peter might mean by “blessing” in this verse. Q: How does one “bless” a persecutor? A: Although several answers may be offered, anything in terms of speech that benefits the oppressor will be correct. The Greek word for blessing is the combination of two words: “good” and “word.” Christians are to offer a good word rather than a bad one, even in the face of evil.
- Have the class provide examples of Christians blessing their oppressors.
- Peter supports his instructions by returning again to Psalm 34 which discusses appropriate speech patterns. This time he quotes several verses from it. Note that our behavior towards others has significant ramifications. Those who bless others will be blessed themselves.
- First, there is the prospect of loving life and seeing good days. This should not be immediately interpreted as referring solely to life in heaven. Peter assumes that this result may be more immediate in verse 13, but if circumstances turn sour for Christians in this world, it certainly applies to our living hope in the age to come.
- Second, the efficacy of prayer depends upon it. If we bless others, God hears our prayers. This reiterates what Peter has just told Christian husbands (3:7) and supports Christ’s own teachings about prayer (mentioned in the previous lesson).
- Although Peter does not spell out the consequences for the ungodly in the immediate context, that they are not good is clear. “The Lord is against those who do evil”(verse 12). On the other hand, those who bless their persecutors will be blessed (verse 13).
- Quoting from Isaiah 8 where the Lord instructs Isaiah to remain loyal to God and not be persuaded by the misguided beliefs of the people around him, Peter exhorts the Christians of his day to remain holy in an unholy world. (See Isaiah 8:11-15, this is also the passage that Peter quotes referring to the stumbling block or rock of offense in 2:8). Their primary loyalty is toChrist. His Lordship is holy. The world may offer a number ofcompeting “lordships.” The challenge is to hold fast to Christ the Lord and to seek opportunities to attest God’s goodness in the face of human evil.
- The world, whether positively or negatively, will react to the presence of God’s people. Christians should anticipate this, not only to be ready with a good word, but to be ready with a great answer when asked about their hope.
- Peter again reminds Christians of the need for a Christlike response when sharing the Christian message.Gentleness, respect, and good behavior are prerequisites to creating an environment in which people will listen. (Note also 2 Timothy 2:14-26 where Paul identifies being quarrelsome with youthful lust.)
- Peter closes with a reminder of the consequences of Christian action in the world. Verse 17 may be paraphrased: “It is better to suffer in this age for doing good than in the age to come for doing evil.”1 (“If God wills” just reinforces the hypothetical nature of Peter’s topic. Peter continues to hope that governmental opposition will not develop. See 3:13-14.)
Application (10 minutes)
- Directing the class in a discussion of the proper way to handle opposition would be beneficial, but the proper attitudes and behavior of Christians in these situations has been discussed at length in this and previous classes.
- Perhaps most of the application time should be spent thinking about and composing the answer for the hope Christians have. Many Christians today have not consciously reflected on what their response would be, and yet we are always to be prepared. There are several options for the teacher at this point. You could make this a class project, have the class divide into small discussion groups, or you could call on individuals. Whatever option you choose, have the class spend some time preparing for the inevitable questions that will be raised because of how they live in the world.
Assignment (2 minutes)
- Each member should read 1 Peter 3:18-22.
- Challenge each member to look for opportunities to give an answer for the hope each has in Jesus Christ. This is what is called a Tobspruch (the German word for “better-than saying”), a common form of speech in biblical literature. An easily recognized Tobspruch, for example, is “It is better to enter into the kingdom of heaven with only onehand than to be consigned to hell with two.”
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