There is an old idiom, “Don’t miss the forest for the trees”
-It refers to the problem of missing the main point because of too much focus on the smaller points.
The trees together make a forest, so the trees do matter.
So, the idiom isn’t “Forget the trees, only focus on the forest”…it is rather, “Don’t miss the forest by a focus on trees”…think bigger picture.
Some of the “Trees” of Peter’s letter that we have seen thus far are: Servants/Masters, Women and men’s roles in marriage, dealing with civil authorities.
The “Forest” for Peter, and the Bible as a whole is the gospel…specifically, being faithful witnesses in the variety of the circumstances of our lives.
I think Peter would be surprised by our focus on the trees of his letter (and the endless debates over them) and our lack of attention to the forest.
We have probably all experienced something like this ourselves.
“I was driving home from work, just listening to some music and a car pulled in front of me…I swerved, hit the guardrail, my car flipped, miraculously I landed on the wheels, skidded to a stop just before falling from the bridge.”
“Wow…so what song where you listening to?”
Of course, these “tree” issues that Peter addresses are important…but he was focused on the priority of faithful witness in all of the various circumstances of our lives.
What is a witness?
We tend think of a courtroom.
“Call your witness”
“What did you see”
It turns out in real life; the memories of witnesses are notoriously untrustworthy.
Not intentionally, but there are many factors that can make memories unreliable.
In the Bible, a witness is someone who sees something important or amazing.
The Greek word translated witness is: Martus
If the person begins to share what they have seen they are “bearing witness”: Martureo
This word may sound familiar, we get our word “martyr” from it.
The ultimate witness is to give your life for what you have believe.
This word witness follows the storyline of the whole Bible.
God wants a group of witnesses: he calls out a people, Israel, who will represent him to the world…bear witness to who he is.
Turns out Israel is not good witness; they quickly turn from the truth of God to idols.
God raises up Moses, the chief witness to Israel of who God is.
Later there are prophets who bear witness to God.
Finally, Jesus himself, is the ultimate witness.
John, calls Jesus the faithful witness…in Revelation.
He is killed for bearing this faithful witness…he is martyred.
After his resurrection: Jesus sends his followers out to bear witness
Acts 1:8: You will receive power and you will be my witnesses.
I said that the memory of witnesses is often unreliable.
I once saw a car accident, as did several other people…I was surprised by the differences in how we saw what had just happened.
The 2008 movie, Vantage Point, gives multiple perspectives on a series of events that pieced together form a true picture that you can’t understand from a single vantage point.
This movie has been compared, unfavorably, to a 1950 Japanese film with the same general idea, but the directors purpose in that film is not to piece together the truth from different vantage points…but to question the idea of truth at all.
Since people see things differently…even the same event, truth is not possible.
This is, of course, self-refuting.
If it is true that there is no truth, then there is that truth.
There is no way around some ultimate truth statement…we believe the gospel is that ultimate truth.
The gospel is not about multiple vantage points, or different interpretations of what God has done…it is God’s interpretation of what he has done…his vantage point is, of course, perfect.
Jesus, told his people what he was doing and why he was doing it…he didn’t just “do stuff”…he said, “here is what my life, death, resurrection, means.”
They had a hard time understanding as it unfolded…but eventually Jesus brought all it together for them.
Then he said…”Now…be my witnesses to that…go bear witness to me.”
So, we do have personal experience with God(our vantage point), but we do not preach our experience, we preach the gospel.
Our personal experiences do help others connect with the gospel…but again, we do not proclaim our experience…we proclaim the gospel…it saves people.
Paul said it like this, in 2 Corinthians…
“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”
Peter, the author of the letter we have been working through…was a pre-resurrection coward but a post-resurrection faithful witness.
Look at Acts 4…you see this balance of faithful and fearless personal witness to the facts gospel.
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (absolute truth claim)
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.
18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go
Peter and John were “Common men”…sounds like what Rodney referred to last week.
But they had uncommon courage and clarity…why?
“They had been with Jesus.”
He had transformed them, and they could not help but speak what they had seen and heard.
Their witness was reliable…because it was the very truth of God…not their own perspectives.
So, finally, let’s go back to Peter’s first letter…keeping the gospel as the forest in mind.
So, for the remainder of chapter 3 and chapter 4 Peter addresses suffering for the faith…specifically, being a faithful witness in the face of opposition.
So, again, faithful witness in civic life, work life, and family life…now faithful witness when people attack you for your faith.
Peter, had plenty of experience there.
1 Peter 3
8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
“Finally,” isn’t the end of the letter but the end of this section on relating to others in ways that demonstrate the gospel: Civil authorities, husbands and wives, employers(masters), now he addresses those who attack you because of your faith.
These are all challenging circumstances in which we are to remain faithful as Christian witnesses.
Civil authorities (Peter had to deal with Nero, undoubtable worse than what we think we have to deal with in our time and place.)
Husbands and wives: There is no more important or difficult place to live out the faith than in marriage.
Masters/bosses: The workplace, is where many spend the bulk of their lives…and where faithful witness can be severely tested.
Now, he turns up the dial even more…be a faithful witness, when people come after you because of your faith
Before addressing the right response to attacks from outside the church he briefly addresses the vital necessity of right relationships inside the church.
Have Unity of mind:
-This is not all of us thinking exactly the same about everything…that is both unrealistic and unhelpful.
-This is about having the “mind of Christ”.
*We will think differently about minor theological issues, certain political and social issues…but we must be like-minded with Christ on core biblical beliefs, values, and behaviors.
-This means that we are able to be influenced by others…in good ways.
-Sympathetic means you can impact me by what you are going through.
-We are able to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice.
-We live with an attitude of connection with others…it is not just about us.
-Act like a family, one that loves each other.
-This is opposed to a hard, cynical, bitter one
-Again, the idea is that…what others think, feel, experience…matters to you.
All of this is Phil. 2 in various forms…look not just to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
You should have the attitude of Christ…approach each other as he approached others.
-Open, teachable, able to be reasoned with, able to be influenced…because you don’t believe you can handle things all by yourself.
Without healthy relationships inside the church, we will not have the resources to deal with attacks from those outside the church.
God’s resources are his Word, Spirit, and People.
When we do not have good relationships with his people…we have effectively cut off the resources of his Spirit and Word.
We are out of sync with word, and we are grieving, shutting down the Spirit…when we fail to love another.
*I’ve often seen that If things are good at home, you can put up with a lot outside the home.
*If things are not good at home, things are not good anywhere.
This truism applies to your church home as well as your family home.
Now…to Faithful Witness in the face of opposition.
9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
This mirrors the teaching of Jesus.
Of course, it doesn’t mean we can never utilize the civil authorities for protection or to seek justice.
His point is that we are not to respond to others in reactionary ways(evil for evil, reviling for reviling) but in proactive ways…proactive as in Christlike…blessing for cursing.
This seems wholly unrealistic to those who do not serve Christ…and as a result they fail to live a blessed life…they do what seems realistic to them.
Evil for evil, harm for harm, reviling for reviling.
Peter quotes from Ps. 34.
10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Of course, we know this doesn’t mean we will escape trouble…that is completely outside the context of Peter’s letter.
It simple means…to live a thriving life, you must live like Christ…this is how he lives; this is how we can live this “blessed life.”
People who live reactive lives (evil for evil)…fail to thrive…their lives do not turn out well.
You can easily verify this for yourself…hopefully by looking around and paying attention and not by personal experience.
13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,
Normally, we expect that we will not be harmed for doing good.
We tend to be surprised when we are attacked for doing what is right.
This is a proper response…it surprising…it is not how things should happen…it’s backwards
But Peter knows some of his readers are doing what is right and are being attacked…so he writes…
“But…even if you suffer for righteousness…you still can live the blessed life…don’t fear what others will do instead…
in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
It’s not just “Don’t fear what others will do” but rather “Do honor Christ as Lord in your heart.”
Faithless people tend fear people…we must not…we must pursue faithfulness.
This fear can be of actual harm, but more often than not it is the fear of what they think and or say about us.
Paul wrote, if we are seeking to please people, we are not living as servants of Christ.
To live looking to the approval of others or living in fear of their disapproval is a terrible trap and makes it impossible to live a thriving life…there is no freedom in it.
The solution to being a people pleaser is not to disregard people…”I don’t care what they think, because I don’t care about them at all.”
We are to love people, and seek to please God.
Do not live in fear of others…do live with a heart of reverence for Christ.
Trust in Christ is active not passive…we are not just told to not fear people…but we are to proactively stand ready to give the reason for our hope to anyone.
Again, this is not reactionary.
This is proactive…”Stand ready to answer for your hope”
This is universal in its scope… anyone, all the time…be ready.
“Make a Defense” is the translation for the Greek Word that we get “apologetics” from.
Apologetics doesn’t mean be “defensive” or “apologize”…it means give the reasons for your hope.
This doesn’t mean you need to be able to give philosophical or complex arguments for the Christian faith.
The reason for the hope that you have is this: Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.
He is the reason for your hope…not cosmological, or ontological, or teleological, or presuppositional arguments for God.
Don’t know what those are?…okay, no big deal…they are not the reason for your hope.
The gospel is, Jesus is…and it the gospel that we are always to be ready to witness to.
Don’t miss that really important qualifier at the end of verse 15…”Do this with gentleness and respect.”
This means that not only do you not have to be combative and argumentative…it means you must not be that.
You cannot effectively give witness to the reason for your hope from an attack posture.
Don’t fear people…always be ready…and relax…maybe even smile.
After all the Gospel actually is good news.
16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
A good conscience serves many purposes in Scripture:
-It is pleasing to God
-It brings his blessing and freedom and power in our lives
Here, Peter writes, a good conscience empowers a good witness.
We are all weary and heartbroken over the many stories of Christian leaders and celebrities who have falled.
Who are reviled, often with good reason.
The stories seem to be never ending…they pile up evidence against the gospel for many people.
What others do is left column for you…right column is what will you do.
Live in a way that those who might want to slander you…will find themselves put to shame…because your conscience is clear.
But hear this…even if you have past guilt (and we all do)…if you have repented and have been forgiven…your conscience is clear.
A clear conscience is not about a perfect past…it is about a current forgiven status with God and others.
I have made things right with God and as best I can with others.
Okay, now to what appears to be a weird tree in Peter’s forest…will make sense because we have the larger context.
I’ll read it and then, I’ll skip the many interpretations that I don’t think are correct and give the one that I do believe is true…and how it fits with the overall context of Peter’s letter.
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,
Okay, so far, so good.
He is using Christ as our example for how to suffer well.
Clearly, Christ’s suffering was unique…it brought us salvation.
We are, however, to look at Christ’s response to attack in order to understand what our response should look like.
Now…to the tricky part.
19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him
Peter is using an important OT event, Noah and the flood to make application to the Christians of his time (and to us)
Here’s what I believe Peter is saying.
Christ through Noah proclaimed the truth to those are now condemned
Peter has already used the language of Christ speaking through OT prophets.
1 Peter 1:10,11 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow
So, when Noah was preaching, Christ was preaching through him.
Those “formerly did not obey” refers to the people in Noah’s time, who are now in judgment because at the time they refused to respond to God’s word…and then it became too late for them.
Baptism, corresponds to to this.
This, meaning God’s means of salvation for Noah’s family.
But not baptism as in going under water…Peter is clear about this, “Not the removal of dirt from the body”…it’s not the going into the water
It is what baptismal water symbolizes…salvation through Christ.
Now, here’s why I think Peter uses Noah as his illustration…he wants to encourage them (and us) that they are part of God’s long plan.
*He will say as much in the next chapter, 4:12
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.
He is normalizing what always feels abnormal…”I am doing right and I am suffering.”
So, let’s make some application from his illustration:
(1) Noah and his family were a minority surrounded by hostile unbelievers; so are Peter’s readers and we may be as well.
-Family, workplace, school, locker room.
-Don’t pout, or live in fear, or be faithless…be faithful.
(2) Noah was righteous in the midst of a wicked world. Peter encourages us to be righteous in the midst of great cultural opposition and evil.
-We don’t resort to wrong tactics…we have to do things the right ways.
-We don’t act or speak like those who don’t have faith…we don’t live fear.
(3) Noah witnessed boldly to those around him. Though it brought him a lot of abuse.
Likewise, Peter encourages us to be faithful witnesses to unbelievers around us and to be willing to suffer if need be.
Suffering will probably not mean jail, or physical harm for us…it might mean shaming or mocking…but it could mean more, time will tell.
(4) Noah realized that judgment was soon to come upon the world.
Peter reminds us that God’s judgment is certainly coming.
-For some individuals it comes everyday as they go to their deaths with faith.
-For the cosmos as a whole it is coming on the final day.
-We need to look around and remember…this is temporary…don’t be fooled into thinking otherwise.
(5) In the unseen ‘spiritual’ realm Christ preached through Noah, before the flood, to unbelievers around him.
Peter is reminding us of the reality of Christ’s unseen and powerful work through our witness.
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be witnesses…I will be with you to the end of the age.”
(6) Noah and his family were saved, so too, those who trust Christ will be saved.
-At times, things look bad, but God’s purposes prevail.
Historically the church has gone through great persecution at the hands of many murderous tyrants.
If you lived then or now, in those places…it could seem like all hope is lost…but God’s people have trusted Christ and endured…so too can we.
Peter wasn’t trying to be confusing; he was trying to be encouraging.
Things have been bad before, things didn’t “look” good then…but God was faithful to his word.
As the “flood” of trouble and persecution comes…God is the same today as he was then.
Don’t be fooled by the calendar…look to Christ.
When Nero was murdering Christians at the time of Peter it might have looked like the church would be wiped out…of course it wasn’t.
When Stalin, Mao were murdering Christians by the millions it would seem at that time all hope was gone…but Stalin and Mao are gone and the gospel hope endured.
When Timothy Dwight became president of Yale at the turn of the 19th century, he couldn’t find a Christian student, a few years later he couldn’t find a non-Christian student.
It has always been tempting to believe that no time is worse than our time…our time is different in every way than other times.
We look to the calendar and believe we have some reason, to not hope in Christ…to be fearful and to live like those who have no faith.
It is different “now”, worse “now”, harder “now”
Now is a temporal term…we live in the “now”…but God transcends it.
This has always been the temptation look around, look at the calendar, not Christ….it was to this temptation that Peter was writing to address and correct.
Of course, the challenges take different forms at different time…but they are the same challenges.
Will I fear people or will I set Christ apart as Lord in my heart?
Will I live a holy life or will I live like those around me who don’t know Christ?
Will I be faithful witness to the gospel or will I shrink back in faithless fear?
Look to the calendar to plan your schedule…what the day will bring.
But look to Christ to know how to live faithfully in the day.
Watch how you think about what is happening in the world…watch how you speak about what is happening in the world.
Ironically, or tragically we sometimes see the world through a Christian lens (we see evil and brokenness and we know why it is there) and then we respond in a faithless not faithful way.
We become fearful…we complain…we shrink back from faithful witness.
R/A…gospel read on the world, gospel actions in the world.