Today’s selected reading continues in the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle Peter unto the strangers which were scattered abroad. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses thirteen through twenty-two of the third chapter. When you come to this portion of scripture you find the apostle peter transitioning from that which he previously wrote in the preceding verses concerning humility and submission. The more I read the words which the apostle peter wrote in the latter half of the second chapter, as well as that which he wrote in the opening portion of the third chapter, the more I am firmly convinced that his main goal and desire with writing this epistle was to write unto strangers in strange lands on how to live their lives in a godly manner and fashion. I read the words which the apostle peter wrote unto the strangers which were scattered abroad and I am completely and totally gripped with and by the awesome reality of how serious this reality and concept of witness was. One thing we have to understand concerning this time is that not only had the Christians been scattered abroad as a direct result of the great persecution which broke out in Jerusalem, but the world at that time was living under the tyrannical rule of the Roman Empire. Eventually and ultimately a great persecution would break out with the empire itself against Christians, and they would be burned alive, cast into prison, or thrown into the coliseum where they would be slaughtered by gladiators or by wild beasts. What’s more, is that at the time of the writing of this epistle the Roman Empire was only ten years from invading the city of Jerusalem and destroying the second Jewish temple. What’s more, is that as a direct result of the invasion of Rome into the holy land, the Jewish people themselves would be scattered abroad for more than two thousand years. By the time the dust and some had settled from Rome’s invasion—not only were the Christians scattered abroad, but so also were the Jewish people scattered abroad.
When we read the words which the apostle peter wrote unto these strangers which were scattered abroad, we must recognize and understand that they were undoubtedly living like their ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did—as strangers and pilgrims in a foreign land which wasn’t their own. Almost from the beginning the early Christians were persecuted, and as a result of their persecution they were driven away from and outside the land of Judaea and from within the city of Jerusalem. Very early on in the history of the early church the Christians has to learn how to survive in lands and regions that were undoubtedly new to them. What’s more, is that they needed to learn how to maintain their Christian witness and testimony in a foreign land that was undoubtedly far different from the one they left behind in Judaea and Samaria. Consider the fact that at one point in the book of Acts Luke records how the early church boasted upwards of five thousand souls. In the second chapter of the book of Acts we find three thousand souls being added to the one hundred and twenty who were originally in the upper room. Within the next two chapters we find the early church had exploded and had grown to upwards of five thousand souls. Pause and consider the awesome reality that when the great persecution broke out within the city of Jerusalem, there was undoubtedly a mass exodus of Christians who left the city and journeyed to the surrounding regions. Consider just how many Christians could very well have left the city of Jerusalem, and the region of Judaea and Samaria and were scattered among the nations, the lands and regions of the earth. I can’t help but be absolutely gripes and captivated by the awesome reality that the Christians during the days of the early church were forced through perfection to abandon and forsake their homes in order that they might preserve and protect their lives. Undoubtedly there were a number of Christians who for fear of persecution abandoned all they had known in order that they might somehow preserve their lives during those days.
I can’t help but consider the tremendous reality and thought that the early church and Christians during those days were fulfilling the same type of journey their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had made and lived. If you study the history of the Jewish people you will find that for more than four hundred years the children of Israel would themselves be strangers and pilgrims in a foreign land not their own. When once they were permitted to live in comfort and ease in the land of Goshen, there arose a new Pharaoh who knew not Joseph, and who sought to oppress and persecuted them within the land. As a direct result of his fear and insecurity, he appointed cruel taskmasters over the children of Israel in order to oppress them, and somehow prevent them from continuing to grow and multiply within the land. For more than four hundred years the children of Israel would live as strangers in the land of Egypt—much like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lived as strangers in the land of Canaan. If you continue reading and studying the history of the Jewish people you will find and discover that there were two subsequent captivity RA which would take place in the earth. During the days of the power and reign of the Assyrian empire the northern kingdom of Israel would be carried away captive out of their land, and would be forced to live as captives and exiles in a strange and foreign land. It would be shortly after this that the southern kingdom of Judah would be carried away captive and removed from their land and forced to live as captives and exiled in a land not their own. LIVING AS STRANGERS IN SLAVERY! LIVINF AS STRANGERS IN CAPTIVITY! We dare not miss or lose sight of the fact that for seventy years the children of Israel lives as captives and exiles in a strange and foreign land which was not their own. For seventy years they would be removed from the land of their inheritance and would be forced to live beside the rivers of Babylon where they would face a tremendous challenge of witness and testimony. In fact, one of the most profound realities and truths surrounding the Old Testament book of Daniel—in addition to its prophetic nature and narrative—is the fact that it is in all reality a book about witness and testimony.
It would be very easy to read the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel and get caught up in the prophetic nature of the book alone. I am convinced that to do so would be a serious and grave mistake, for the prophetic book of Daniel also has a certain historical narrative that serves as the very heart and foundation of the book. In fact, the first six chapters of the book contain an overwhelming historical account of Daniel and his three Hebrew companions within the Babylonian empire. There are three specific examples and instances within this Old Testament prophetic book that bring us face to face with the tremendous truth of witness and testimony within the land. Within the first six chapters of this prophetic book we find the children of Israel facing a tremendous challenge on whether or not they would maintain their witness and testimony for God in a lane which wasn’t their own. What we find within chapters one, three and six are three distinct examples of the witness and testimony of Gods people being directly challenged by the king of Babylon, as well as the king of Assyria. There would be two kings who would be at the center of this assault against the witness and resuming of God’s people within this land—Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and Darius king of the Medes. I am convinced that in order to truly understand this concept of maintaining ones testimony and witness in the midst of a strange and foreign land, we must study and examine this Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel. There is within this Old Testament book three powerful examples of a direct challenge of the witness and testimony of the people of God within the land, and the refusal of four Hebrew men to compromise they witness and testimony. Consider if you will the three accounts of these Hebrew men within this particular Old Testament book:
“And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king. Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abed-nego. But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defil himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defil himself. Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? Then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king> Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants. So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat. Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should think; and gave them pulse. As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understand, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm. And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus” (Daniel 1:5-21).
“Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellers, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the decimation of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellers, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the decimation of the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: and whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning firefly furnace. Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sakcbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image: and whose falleth not down and worship the golden image: and whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. Then they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of cornet, flute, harp, sakcbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one serve times more than it was wont to be heated. And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore because the king’s commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Neto. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Neto, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then Nebuchadnezzar was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellers, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, came forth of the midst of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains and the king’s counsellers being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them” (Daniel 2:1-27).
“It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom; and over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage. Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom: but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God. Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever. All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellers, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decreee, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altered not. Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree. Now when daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king’s decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of thee, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altered not. Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regarded not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day. Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him. Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree nor stature which the king established may be changed. Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, He will deliver thee. And a stone was brought,a nd laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his l rods; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel. Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of musick brought before him: and his sleep went from him. Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions. And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocence was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God” (Daniel 6:1-23).
Now, you might be wondering why I have chosen to include these three examples from this Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel when I am writing concerning that which the apostle Peter wrote. The answer to this question is actually quite simple, for within these three examples we find a powerful witness and testimony within a strange and foreign land. One thing we must know and understand concerning the captivity of the southern kingdom of Judah within the land of Babylon is that when they entered into the land as captives, the king sought to immediately indoctrinate them in all manner of Babylonian culture. Within the first chapter alone we find it written and spoken about concerning teaching them the Babylonian language and tongue, and even their names being changed from their original Hebrew names. In the second chapter we encounter a further form of indoctrination, as the king not only demanded worship of his gods, but he also demanded worship of the golden image which he had set up in the plain of Dura. Thus, within the first two chapters of the prophetic book of daniel we find a powerful example of a direct challenge to the witness and testimony of the people of God within the land of Babylon. Within the first chapter of the prophetic book we find Daniel, and his three Hebrews companions refusing to defile themselves by eating the meat from the king’s table, and by drinking the wine from the king’s table. Within the third chapter we find Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael refusing to bow down and worship the gods which Nebuchadnezzar served, as well as refusing to bow down and worship the image of gold which he had set up. In the sixth chapter we find Daniel ignoring the decree of the king, and continuing to pray three times a day unto the Lord his God. IN the case of the three Hebrew men, they would ultimately be cast bound and alive into the fiery furnace, but would be delivered from that which bound them, as well from the flames of the fire itself. How absolutely incredible it is that not only were they delivered from that which bound them, but they were also delivered from the fire itself. It is written and found in Scripture concerning the fiery trial which we face, and when I read the account of the three Hebrew men being cast bound into the fiery furnace, I can’t help but think to myself how when we face and when we endure the fiery trial which is set to destroy us—not only do we find deliverance from that which binds us in the midst of such trials, but we are also delivered from the fiery trial itself. I absolutely love reading the account of these three Hebrew men, for not only were they delivered from that which bound them, but they were delivered from the flames of fire themselves. Similarly, I am convinced that when we enter into, and when we face the fiery trials which are before us—not only are we delivered from that which has bound and held up captive, but we are also delivered from the flames of the trial as well. DELIVERED FROM THE FLAMES OF THE TRIAL! It would be very easy to grow discouraged and weary in the face of the fiery trials we face, however, I am convinced that to do so would be to miss the significance of what the Lord is seeking to do within our lives—namely, deliver us from that which has bound and held us captive, as well as deliver us from the flames of the fiery trial we have faced.
When you come to the sixth chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel we find opposition centering upon the practice and discipline of prayer, for not only was a decree issued to prevent anyone from praying unto whatever god they served, but there was also a decree to completely alter and change how people worshipped, served and prayed unto the god which they served. It just so happened that the decree the king signed into motion was a manipulative ploy by jealous and envious men to bring about the destruction and demise of Daniel. Upon hearing the decree of the king, however, Daniel continued to pray and make supplication unto the Lord his God three times a day with his windows opened toward Jerusalem. As a direct result of Daniel refusing to cease praying unto the Lord his God, he was cast alive into the den of the lions. Not only was Daniel cast alive into the den of lions, but there was also a stone rolled over the entrance of the den, and sealed with the king’s seal. Daniel spent an entire night within that den of lions, and in the morning the king arose from his bed to obtain report of Daniel’s status. Much to the dismay and shock of the king, as well as those who sought to destroy Daniel, he had survived a night in the lion’s den. Daniel emphatically declared and proclaimed that the Lord had sent his angel to shut the mouths of the lions, and had kept them from doing any hurt or harm to him. What a powerful witness and testimony Daniel had—not only refusing to cease praying unto the Lord his God three times a day, but also that he was cast alive into the den of lions, and was delivered out of the mouth of the lions. The account of Daniel—as well as that of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-NEgo—province us with a powerful example of what our witness and testimony should look like in a strange and foreign land which isn’t our own. Those Christians who lived during the days of the Roman empire faced similar choices and decisions, for they were forced to choose between life and death on a continual basis. Countless Christians were forced to acknowledge Caesar as god, or risk being thrown into prison, burned alive, or cast into the arena where they would be mauled by wild beasts or slaughtered by gladiators. During the days of the Roman Empire countless Christians chose death over life, and chose imprisonment over freedom in order that they might preserve their witness and testimony within the earth. During the days of the Roman empire there were countless Christians who counted not their lives as their own, and refused to bow down to the decree of the king. What tremendous courage and boldness was needed on behalf of those who lived during the days of the Roman Empire, for not only did they choose to maintain their witness and testimony, but they also faced tremendous persecution and suffering as a result.
As you come to the thirteenth verse of the third chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Peter you will find the apostle Peter asking as very specific and pointed question—“And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” (1 Peter 3:13). These words completely and utterly struck me with great force when I read them, for I couldn’t help but be reminded of specific passages within Scripture that speak to the very same reality. Upon reading the words contained within this verse I was immediately brought to mind concerning the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the church which was at Rome, as well as the words which are written and recorded in the Old Testament book of the Psalms. In the twenty-seventh chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms we find the following words:
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in His tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praised unto the Lord” (Psalm 27:1-6).
Consider also if you will the words which the psalmist wrote in the ninety-first chapter of the Old Testament book of Psalms beginning with the first verse. Within this particular passage we again find a powerful statement of confidence, trust and boldness before the living God. Not only do we find this boldness and confidence before the living God, but we also find it in spite of, and in the midst of tremendous affliction, adversity, calamity, suffering, opposition, and the like. Beginning with the first verse we find the following words:
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou s halt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that lieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways” (Psalm 91:1-11).
There are words which are found in the epistle which the apostle wrote unto the saints and church which was at Rome concerning the tremendous triumph and victory we as the people of God have. If you turn and direct your attention to the eighth chapter of this particular epistle you will find the apostle Paul writing some absolutely incredible words which provide us with a tremendous sense of encouragement and hope. Consider if you will that which is found beginning with the twenty-eighth verse of this eighth chapter:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinated, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:28-39).
When I read the words which the apostle Peter wrote in this first epistle, I am gripped and captivated by the tremendous truth that is contained within it concerning the suffering and affliction of the saints. In the thirteenth verse of this third chapter the apostle Peter asks who that one is who would harm us if we be followers of that which is good. Immediately after this, the apostle Peter once more writes and speaks concerning suffering—a reality which has already been mentioned in the first and second chapter. What’s more, is that this reality would also be found in the fourth chapter of this epistle as well. Beginning with the fourteenth verse of this third chapter we find the following words: “But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation iN Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing” (1 Peter 3:14-18). The apostle Peter undoubtedly thought back to the words of Jesus when He emphatically declared “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12). Not only did the apostle Peter declare that if we suffer for righteousness’ sake we are and should be happy, but he also instructed his audience and readers to not be afraid of their terror, neither be troubled. That which the apostle Peter was seeking to do was inspire courage and boldness in the hearts of those whom he was writing, for the apostle Peter was writing during a time when Christians were already scattered abroad among the nations and regions of the earth because of a great persecution which broke out against the church. What’s more, is that the Roman empire would itself begin rising up against and persecuting the early church, and would force Christians to determine between life and death, imprisonment and freedom. The early church was surrounded by perils and dangers round about them during the time this epistle was written, and the apostle Peter—one who witnessed the suffering of Jesus Christ firsthand—sought to inspire courage and strength within their hearts. In fact, we must consider the words which the apostle Peter wrote in this passage of Scripture in light of that which is found in the first and second chapters, as well as that which is written in the fourth chapter. Consider if you will the words which are found in each of these chapters:
“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).
“For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye are buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:19-21).
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Peter 4:12-16).