I enjoyed a slow read through 1 Peter this afternoon, sitting quietly in my backyard and giving myself time to meditate as I read. 1 Peter was a letter written to “elect exiles” (1:1), and it definitely offers a counter-cultural way of seeing life. I think its message is timely for today.
Three times in this letter Peter specifically describes how things look “in the sight of God” or “in God’s sight.” Do you see things as God sees them? Let’s find out. Here’s a quiz for you:
- Who is “chosen and precious” in God’s sight?
- What is “a gracious thing” in God’s sight?
- What is “very precious” in God’s sight?
These questions, obviously, have multiple correct answers. But the answers that Peter provides suggest a pattern–a pattern that can be summarized by the proverb Peter quotes near the end of his letter: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:6).
The Rejected Jesus
Who is “chosen and precious” in God’s sight?
The Lord Jesus Christ, Peter says, is “a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious” (2:4). He is “the stone that the builders rejected” which “has become the cornerstone” (2:7).
In this letter Peter emphasizes how Jesus shed his blood (1:2); how the prophets predicted his sufferings (1:11); and how he suffered unjustly and patiently on the cross both as our substitute and our example (2:21-24; 3:18; 4:1, 13; 5:1).
God saw “the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1:19), and God chose Christ. Of course, Christ was already “foreknown before the foundation of the world” (1:20). But there is a sense in which Christ was chosen all over again by God after the cross. The cross had displayed his true identity as a humble, suffering Lamb who had shed his blood to “sprinkle” (1:2) and “ransom” (1:18) a people for God.
In the sight of God, this rejected Christ is “chosen and precious.” Therefore, the God who opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble raised Jesus from the dead (1:3) and exalted him to share in his own glory (1:11; 3:21-22; 5:1).
A Servant Who Endures Unjust Suffering
What is “a gracious thing” in God’s sight?
Peter knew that it was a gracious gift to be “counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” of Jesus; persecution was reason for “rejoicing” (Acts 5:41). In this letter, Peter extends that reality to other suffering besides persecution. Any unjust suffering endured patiently in imitation of Christ has meaning or “credit,” Peter insists; “this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly” (2:19, 20).
Peter applied this truth especially to servants whose masters were unjust (2:18): “If when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God” (2:20). Why is this true? Peter continues:
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Pet. 2:21-23)
This is incredibly counter-cultural. Peter says that when a servant is “beaten” (2:20) by his or her master, this is a chance for them to fulfill their calling. I don’t think Peter is saying that suffering itself is the calling of Christians, but he is saying something very close to this: he is saying that patient endurance of suffering in the imitation of Christ is at the heart of the Christian’s calling.
On the one hand this is a hard saying. No reviling of unjust masters, Peter insists. No threatening. How unlike the methods of many today who seek social justice!
But it is also an incredibly empowering teaching. Any unjust suffering, Peter says, can have eternal meaning and purpose. Patient, Christ-like endurance of any injustice earns the credit of God’s favor, pleasure, or commendation. (See how the CSB, NLT, and NIV translate the ESV phrase “a gracious thing in the sight of God.”)
Following in the steps of Jesus through unjust suffering leads to sharing in Christ’s glory, for the God who is watching opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
A Wife With a Gentle and Quiet Spirit
What is “very precious” in God’s sight?
After addressing servants whose masters were not “good” or “gentle” (2:18), Peter addresses wives whose husbands “do not obey the word” of the gospel (3:1). Such men were likely distant not only from the gospel, but also from their wives who had converted to Christ. By doing so, they had abandoned their husband’s religion, potentially damaging his social standing.
Peter advises such women not to try to entice their husbands by adding appealing hairstyles, jewelry, or attractive clothing (3:3). Instead, they should win their husbands (to the gospel and also to themselves) by the adornment of “respectful and pure conduct” (3:2) that was the overflow of “the hidden person of the heart” (3:4). In particular, Peter praised “the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (3:4).
Peter tells wives to follow the example of “the holy women” of old “who hoped in God” and submitted to their husbands–even to husbands whose choices were sometimes frightening, as Abraham’s choices were at times for Sarah (3:6). This teaching does not forbid women from escaping from domestic violence, but it does mean Christian wives will choose to “subject themselves even to unjust treatment because of their faith in Christ.”1
Again, this is counter-cultural teaching. Who today praises the imperishable beauty of a wife’s gentle (humble) and quiet (peaceable) spirit? How much less when a wife is saddled with a husband who has withdrawn his heart from her, or who leaves her with cause for fear?
Who praises such a spirit? God does–the God who opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Hope in me, he says; “do not fear” (3:5-6). Your beauty is very precious to me. I will give you grace.
Where Is Your Focus?
“Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” Peter urges his readers (1:13). This Jesus, the stone rejected by men but chosen by God, is the example for all of us–servants, wives, and everyone else. And his pattern of suffering followed by glory is the bedrock of our hope.
Don’t be a typical resident of a Western democracy, focused on demanding your own rights. Don’t focus on securing full justice here and now. Don’t focus on threatening others with justice until you get yours.
Don’t belittle the value of quietly living a peaceable life. Don’t miss the eternal credit of enduring suffering without reviling or threatening. Don’t miss the promise of God’s favor.
Do live as an “elect exile” (1:1), focused on the promises of your heavenly citizenship. Do focus on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus appears. Do patiently endure suffering. And do entrust yourself to God.
What ultimately matters, remember, is how things truly stand “in the sight of God.” He opposes the proud, and he will indeed give grace to the humble.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:6-7)
How do you think we need to improve our perspective to better see things as God sees them? Please share your insights in the comments below.
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- Karen Jobes, 1 Peter, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005), 206. More from Jobes: “Christian women married to unbelieving men are not to despise and reject their husbands, making the household climate one of hostility, but to subject themselves even to unjust treatment because of their faith in Christ, and in so doing accomplish God’s better way… The exhortation… immediately raises the question of whether women should stay in marriages where there is physical abuse. There is nothing in this passage of Scripture that would either sanction the abuse of wives or suggest that women should continue to submit themselves to that kind of treatment. The nature of the suffering that Peter is addressing here is primarily verbal abuse and loss of social standing.” ↩