Bible Study - Confident Living - Relationships under Stress - 1 Peter 2 - 1 Peter 3 - March 20, 2011
Bible Study – Confident Living – Relationships under Stress – March 20, 2011
This is lesson three (3) in our series entitled “Confident Living in Difficult Times.”
Our scripture is 1 Peter 2:11-12; 1 Peter 3:1-12.
The title of our lesson is “Relationships under Stress.” Think for a minute about the relationships in your life which may be under stress. Most often it is between members of our family, career associates, church, various social associates we have, interacting with public and the list goes on. So how do we, as Christians, deal with these stressful relationships? Hopefully, you will know after we study our scriptures. But one vital factor, as a Christian, is forgiving those who have done us wrong.
This lesson is about having and maintaining the right relationships during difficult times and when under stress. Peter addressed relationships of citizens with government, slaves with their masters and Christian versus non-Christian relationships – routine and marriage.
Let’s read 1 Peter 2:11-12: A Call to Good Works
11 Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you.  12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do evil, they may, by observing your good works, glorify God in a day of visitation. 
The Apostle Peter continued in his letter to fellow Christians who he addressed as “Dear friends.” He instructed them, as Christians, to abstain from fleshly desires common to people. He reminded them that, as Christians, they were aliens on earth since they had experienced the miracle of bring born-again into the family of GOD. Their citizenship was in heaven. Compared to eternity their time on earth was temporary. Therefore, they should live such that their lives would be a living message to the non-Christians they encountered each day. In verse 12, the reference to Gentiles means non-Christians.
The non-Christians in that day thought that Christians were atheists because they didn’t worship some pagan image. The non-Christians had a warped idea about Christians. They thought that Christians were cannibals since the elements of the LORD’S Supper, bread and wine, represented the body and shed blood of CHRIST. They thought Christians held sex orgies because they spoke of their love for one another. Christians were considered being uncommitted to their families because when a spouse became a Christian and the other one didn’t, the Christian spouse, mainly the female Christian, could be ordered to leave or renounce her faith in CHRIST.
Many non-Christians today have mixed notions about Christianity because of the way different Christian denominations worship. Non-Christians must keep in mind that joining a church and being baptized does not make you a Christian. Being physically born into a Christian family does not make you a Christian. It is NOT giving away your material possessions. It is CHRIST in you that makes you a Christian. How does CHRIST get in you? You ask HIM to forgive you of your sins, believe that HE gave HIS life upon the cross for you, was buried and that GOD raised HIM from the dead. Believing that CHRIST gave HIS life for your sins and asking HIM to forgive you of your sin and to come into your life brings about the miracle of salvation and the rebirth. You become a child of GOD through your faith in CHRIST. Your destination from earth is heaven. Christians may already be in a Bible teaching and believing church. If not they need to attend a church where truth is taught and they can be fed Spiritually and where they can obediently serve GOD as led by the indwelling HOLY SPIRIT. If you attend a certain church and sense something is wrong, it is likely the HOLY SPIRIT warning you. Pray about it and ask CHRIST to lead you to the church that is right for you and where you can grow and mature Spiritually.
Christians are indwelled by the HOLY SPIRIT, therefore their bodies are the temple of GOD and they represent GOD to others. Christians are silent witnesses to a changed life because of CHRIST. Because of CHRIST in them, as they interact with others, Christians or non-Christians, they are a living message of what it means to be saved, belong to GOD and led by the indwelling HOLY SPIRIT. This does not replace verbal witnessing as the LORD leads.
Peter’s words apply as much to Christians today as to those of his day. Christians fight against the desires of the flesh. Paul gave us a list of some of desires of the flesh in Galatians 5:16-26 along with a challenge to walk in the Spirit: The Spirit versus the Flesh
16 I say then, • walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious:  sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar, about which I tell you in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. 26 We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Christians associate with non-Christians every day and it is important how they interact with the secular world because they represent CHRIST. This is often difficult when Christians have been wronged. But it is more important to reflect CHRIST because Christians are accountable for their actions and their actions can influence others either positively or negatively. Peter challenged Christians to be a positive influence because they do not want to be a stumbling block to those who are to receive salvation when the LORD offers them the opportunity. The word “visitation” which Peter used in verse 12 carries two (2) concepts – (1) judgment and condemnation and (2) salvation and grace. When GOD brings judgment and condemnation upon sinners, they will recognize and understand their rejection of CHRIST as revealed by the lives of the Christians they have encountered. The flip side is salvation and grace. Sinners that see CHRIST reflected in the lives of Christians may be drawn to a saving knowledge of CHRIST. CHRIST tells us that Christians are to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Christians have the light of CHRIST and are to let the light of CHRIST be shown through them, not to bring glory to themselves but to be a light to those who are in the darkness of sin. Salt makes a person thirsty. Christians should so live that others will thirst for what they have.
Being a Christian carries an awesome responsibility. That is why all Christians must have the right relationship with CHRIST because it is impossible to measure up in their own strength. Christians must walk in the Spirit.
Let’s read 1 Peter 3:1-7: Wives and Husbands
1 Wives, in the same way, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the [Christian]* message, they may be won over without a message by the way their wives live, 2 when they observe your pure, reverent lives. 3 Your beauty should not consist of outward things [like]* elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes; 4 instead, [it should consist of]* the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes. 5 For in the past, the holy women who hoped in God also beautified themselves in this way, submitting to their own husbands, 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. You have become her children when you do good and aren’t frightened by anything alarming. 7 Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives with understanding of their weaker nature yet showing them honor as co-heirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
Peter had just completed a discussion regarding living such that your life, as a Christian, sends a message to non-Christians. Peter continued with a statement regarding Christian wives living their lives such that their lives will be a witness to their non-Christian husbands. This did not exclude their witness to their Christian husbands but it was more likely that their husbands would be non-Christian.
Let’s look at the scripture recorded in Ephesians 5:22-33: This is Paul writing to the Christians in Ephesus. Marriage - Christ and the Church:
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Men be aware that the Bible instructs men to love their wives but it does not tell the women to love their husbands. Verse 33 states that the “wife is to respect her husband.” The key is this, if men loved and honored their wives as the Bible instructs then wives would submit to their husbands. Marriage is a partnership. When GOD made Eve, HE made her to be Adam’s helpmate. She was created to complete Adam and to come along his side to help him. The same is true that our relationship to CHRIST is a partnership and the HOLY SPIRIT indwells us to help us. The idea is for the husband to be the head of the family as CHRIST is the head of the true church. I know some women will say the husband can be the head as long as they are the neck because the neck turns the head. The order of authority is that the husband is a Christian and responsible to GOD as the Spiritual leader in the home. The sad part is that most women are the Spiritual leaders in the home and that is much of our problem in the world today. But blessings to the women who, in the absence of a husband leading their family Spiritually, they do it.
The Ephesians’ scripture focused on Christian husbands, whereas Peter was primarily addressing the non-Christian spouse/husband. The Christian spouse was not excluded. The idea was for the Christian spouse to live such that his/her non-Christian spouse would want to become a Christian. In this scripture Peter was focused on the role of the Christian wife having a non-Christian husband.
Peter makes it clear that wives are to submit to their own husbands and not to any man. Submitting does not mean becoming a door mat. It does not mean to do something contrary to what pleases GOD.
Peter admonished wives to live their lives in word and deed such that it sends the powerful redeeming message of CHRIST to their non-Christian husbands. When a person becomes a Christian after he/she has married and his/her spouse is not a Christian, this can produce a serious problem. The Bible is clear that if the non-Christian spouse cannot live with the Christian spouse, they have to make a decision. Young folks, this is why it is vital for those contemplating marriage to make sure that their future spouse is a Christian. They should be in agreement about what church or denomination they will attend after marriage for their Spiritual growth. Marriage has enough stress of its own and your relationship with CHRIST, as a couple, is vital in helping you through some of the difficult times.
Peter told the Christian women to let the inner beauty of CHRIST flow outwardly as they live with their non-Christian husbands, as obedient wives. That is, don’t be a nagging wife. Love your husband into a personal relationship with CHRIST. Now let me quickly say this does not mean the wife is to remain in an abusive relationship. It also does not mean that wives are to let themselves go regarding their outward appearance. What we put own is enhanced by allowing CHRIST to flow through us – Christian men or women.
Verse 4 states that the Christian wife’s beauty is to be “the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes.” Notice the word “imperishable.” Outward adorning and physical beauty will fade over time but the inner beauty resulting from the wife having a dynamic personal relationship with CHRIST will not fade and will only grow more valuable and beautiful over time. This goes for Christian husbands as well.
Peter asked his readers to reflect back over the Godly women recorded in the scriptures. He cites Sarah and her obedience to Abraham. She called him lord. I thought that was a nice touch – just kidding ladies.
Peter admonished husbands to acknowledge that their wives were physically weaker. This may be a stretch but I think Peter stated this to get husbands not to think that it was a macho thing to abuse their wives. Their Christian wives were Godly because CHRIST died for them and saved them and extended grace to them. They were worthy. In Bible times, women were treated more like cattle. So husbands show your Christian wives honor and respect so your prayers will not be hindered. Peter wanted the macho man to know that loving, honoring and respecting his wife was important to GOD and when he doesn’t, GOD considers it a very serious matter. GOD’S face is against evil and it is evil to abuse a woman and it is evil for a woman to abuse a man.
Let’s read 1 Peter 3:8-12: Do No Evil
8 Now finally, all of you should be like-minded and sympathetic, should love believers, and be compassionate and humble, 9 not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you can inherit a blessing. 10 For the one who wants to love life and to see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit, 11 and he must turn away from evil and do good. He must seek peace and pursue it, 12 because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their request. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
The use of the words “Now finally” does not mean that Peter was ending his letter. Peter was concluding this series of discussion and reminding Christians to put themselves in another’s shoes. Be empathetic with others. Christians are not to practice “an eye for an eye” philosophy but to return such hostility with a kind word and a blessing. Christians were “called” for this purpose. As they give a blessing to those who do them wrong, they will receive a blessing from GOD. This does not mean that you cannot defend yourself.
Such a response shows Christian maturity because a mature Christian knows that this life is temporary and how he/she reacts and responds to nasty people in this life can have a positive or negative influence. Peter wanted Christians to be Spiritually mature so they will respond in such a way that the non-Christian will see CHRIST in them.
The actions of Christians are important to GOD. HE watches over HIS children and HE hears their request. The Christian knows he/she is secure in CHRIST. GOD is on their side and HE takes the action needed against those who mistreat HIS children. HE is against those who do evil. Paul tells us in Romans 12:19-21: 19 Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord. 20 But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.21 Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.
Peter was telling his readers the same thing. Trust that GOD will fight your battles. Now this does not mean that you cannot defend yourself. If a person or persons threaten your life, then you have the right to defend your life.
This lesson is about relationships. Relationships come in all varieties – friends, family, marriage, business, work, school, neighbors and the list goes on. We read about young people bullying another person and it leading to serious emotional problems and even death. Young folks you are valuable to CHRIST. HE gave HIS life for you and you are very precious to HIM. So tell someone in authority if you are being bullied.