Peter has been exhorting the persecuted believers of Asia Minor to stand firm in doing what is right. In 3:8-12, he gives a list of specific things a believer should do to show he is walking in love with others. He maintains a positive mindset by telling them that if they do these things, they will have life and see good days (3:10).
He concludes the chapter by giving instructions for those who suffer for the sake of righteousness. We are to not fear or be troubled but are to sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts. The Amplified Bible says, "But in your hearts, set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord." This indicates a focus and trust in Christ in the midst of unjust punishment and persecution. He is in control of our circumstances, and we do not need to fear.
1 Peter 3:18 is a key verse to memorize. Christ is just. We are unjust (sinners). In order to bring us to God, He died for our sins and rose again so that we might be justified (declared righteous) and have newness of life! This is a very important verse! Read the post on Romans 3 to review the important concept of justification.
1 Peter 3:19-22 is a tough passage and has many interpretations. I think the best interpretation is one that stays in the context of good behavior in the midst of unjust persecution. Noah is put forth as an example of one who proclaimed God's message to mankind and bore the ridicule of the people. His reward was the salvation of himself and his family who were saved through the waters of the flood. Peter connects this with baptism. Baptism does not remove one's sin (3:21), but like Noah, it symbolizes a break with one's past to a new life. Public baptism would symbolize that clean break and help them resist the temptation to renounce their faith in the midst of persecution.
"The right response to undeserved suffering results in blessing."
I can honestly say I do not mind being challenged for my beliefs by non-believers. I enjoy the dialogue. I grew up in a non-believing family and lived with non-believers all through college. I am really accustomed to it. I have even been discriminated against because of my beliefs (did not get a job because the person before me, who was a believer, did some things that made them say they never wanted a believer in that position again). I have experienced persecution for my faith, and I have experienced the blessings of standing firm in the midst of persecution.
But I can really whine like a martyr when I am treated unjustly. I hate to be misunderstood and falsely accused! The last time I had this happen to me was in June of 2010. I was accused of saying something I did not say. When I attempted to clear up the misunderstanding, I was condemned for how I tried to clear it up and make peace! I did not know how to respond. It was so hard, but I am still growing in how to respond to undeserved condemnation rightly. We are all in process.
How do you respond to those who treat you unjustly or challenge your beliefs?
Pray for the persecuted church by praying through the iCommit Prayer Update: https://www.icommittopray.com/.
Lord, help us to "be Jesus" in situations of persecution and unjust treatment. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.