Tested by Fire: Living as a Christian in a Post-Christian Era

Hope Lutheran Church, Fargo, ND - Pastor Mark Vitalis Hoffman

Fourth Week of Lent - March 13-19, 1996

A Clear Conscience

A Study of 1 Peter 3.13-4.6

For Openers:

For Your Information:

Read 1 Peter 3.13-15a.

Eager (13): Literally, the text says to be a zealot. See Titus 2.14.

Blessed (14): See Matthew 5.10.

Verses 14b-15a are a Christian adaptation of Isaiah 8.12-13.

Read 1 Peter 3.15b-17.

Defense (15): The Greek word is apologia, but it is an apology in the sense of defending and describing one's convictions. The word is a technical, legal term, but the sense from 1 Peter is not that Christians are being brought to court but are simply being slandered and taunted.

Clear conscience (16): Literally, a good conscience. The phrase is used again shortly in 3.21.

Verse 17 refers back to 2.20 and prepares for 4.12-16 later.

Read 1 Peter 3.18-20.

Verses 18 and 22 may be parts of an ancient Christian creed or hymn.

Once for all (18): The single Greek word this translates is significant for emphasizing the definitive and comprehensive nature of Christ's work. See Hebrews 9.26-28 and Jude 3-5.

Flesh / spirit (18): A traditional contrast designating human / divine and death-determined / life-determined existence. (Cf. John H. Elliot, 1 Peter) Also see Romans 1.3-4; 8.1-17.

Regarding verse 19, Martin Luther (LW 30, p. 113) said: "This is a strange text and cetainly a more obscure passage than any other passage in the New Testament. I still do not know for sure what the apostle means." One possible context for understanding verses 19-20 is the story in Genesis 6.1-4 about the disobedient angelic spirits. This story leads into the story of Noah just as here in 1 Peter 3.20 where Noah is cited as an example. Another possible reading takes into account 1 Peter 4.6 where it is claimed that Jesus preached to the "dead." If 3.19 and 4.6 are references to the same thing, then the sense is more likely an affirmation that salvation in Jesus Christ has been preached to everyone, even those who died before Jesus' time. In any case, the main assertion pertains to Jesus' vindication and triumph.

Read 1 Peter 3.21-22.

An appeal to God for a clear conscience (21): A better translation would probably be: a promise made to God from a good conscience.

For more on Christ's exaltation at the right hand of God, see Psalm 110.1; Ephesians 1.20-22; Philippians 2.9-11.

Read 1 Peter 4.1-2.

Compare 4.1 with 3.18 to which it refers.

Arm yourselves (1): The term is a military one referring to the putting on of armor. For the armor of faith, see Ephesian 6.11-17.

Finished with sin (1): This does not indicate that Christians no longer sin. It does refer to Christ's "once and for all" (3.18) victory over sin and to the sense that Christians are finished with being under the power of sin. See Romans 6.7.

Read 1 Peter 4.3-6.

Compare 4.3 with 1.18.

Verse 3: Lists of vices were a common topic. See Romans 1.29-31; 1 Corinthians 6.9-10; Galatians 5.19-21. Drunken orgies, sometimes associated with the worship of a god, were probably typical of some ancient social clubs to which the newly converted Christians had belonged.

Verse 4: The Contemporary English Version provides a nice rendition of the verse's meaning: "Now your former friends wonder why you have stopped running around with them, and they curse you for it."

Verse 5: Compare 3.15.

Verse 6: See the notes on verse 19 above. Taken by itself, this verse might be suggesting that righteous Hebrews were regarded as Christians or that Christians from the communities of 1 Peter who had died were still alive in the spirit.

For Your Consideration:

  1. 3.13-15: What kind of situations have you been in where you have had to choose between doing what you thought was right and suffering or doing something else and not suffering? What arguments would you use to encourage someone to do the right thing even though it might result in suffering?
  2. 3.15: When was the last time you talked to someone who was not a Christian about your faith? Were you prepared? What do you need to do to feel "always ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you"?
  3. 3.15-16: The text says to make your defense of your faith with "gentleness and reverence." What does this mean? What would it mean to defend your faith without gentleness and reverence?
  4. 3.17-20: How do these verse encourage and strengthen you in times of suffering?
  5. 3.21: What is the difference between saying that Baptism removes our sins and that Baptism removes us from sin?
  6. 4.1: In what ways do you feel that you are "finished with sin"? In what ways do you still struggle with sin?
  7. 4.2: What are some of the differences between "human desires" and the "will of God"?
  8. 4.1-4: These verses indicate that being a Christian not only involves separating yourself from internal sinful desires but also from the external company of sinners. Is it possible to live in this world and not associate with non-Christians? Read 1 Corinthians 5.9-13 to see one way of dealing with this difficult issue. Also read John 17.14-19 for Jesus' description of how Christians are "in" but not "of" the world.
  9. 4.3-4: How did you feel when someone has made fun of you? How did you respond?
  10. 4.3-6: What are the reasons why Christians should not behave in certain ways? (Just say No?) What are the reasons why Christians should behave in certain ways?

For Later:

Go to Daily Bible ReadingsDaily Bible Readings for March 13-19

These daily Bible readings are given with the hope that they will help you on your spiritual journey through Lent. Before beginning a Bible reading, start your meditation time with prayer, perhaps the Lord's Prayer. Then read the passage from 1 Peter which is given for that day. (Readings for Sunday are not given. Go to church!) Through the course of Lent, you will read the entire letter of 1 Peter. A second passage is also suggested and part of your meditation should be to determine what connections there are between this passage and the 1 Peter reading for that day. The Lord be with you

Wednesday: 1 Peter 3.13-15a; Romans 8.28-30

Thursday: 1 Peter 3.15b-17; Hebrews 10.19-25

Friday: 1 Peter 3.18-20; Romans 5.6-11

Saturday: 1 Peter 3.21-22; Romans 6.1-11

Monday: 1 Peter 4.1-2; Colossians 3.1-5

Tuesday: 1 Peter 4.3-6; Titus 3.1-7

The text of 1 Peter 3.13-4.6 studied in this Bible Study (NRSV)

1 Peter 3:13-15a Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? 14 But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, 15 but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Return to Bible Study

1 Peter 3:15b-17 Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God's will, than to suffer for doing evil. Return to Bible Study

1 Peter 3:18-20 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Return to Bible Study

1 Peter 3:21-22 And baptism, which this prefigured, 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 made subject to him. Return to Bible Study

1 Peter 4:1-2 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), 2 so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. Return to Bible Study

1 Peter 4:3-6 You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. 4 They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme. 5 But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does. Return to Bible Study

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