In his first epistle, Peter cites a phrase that quickly engages one’s attention. “He that would love life, and see good days, let him ...” (1 Peter 3:10).
Who could possibly resist not probing this captivating sentence for additional information? Who does not long to “love life”? Who does not cherish “good days”? The passage seems to provide the hope of a panacea for the stresses and distresses of the hard lot that many are forced to endure.
In this study we shall approach the text from two general vantage points. First, we shall explore the matter of the background of the passage — both the immediate and then the remote. Second, there is the prescribed pathway to that goal, together with a blessing and warning.
The First Epistle of Peter is a treatise that is saturated with information pertaining to the problem of Christian suffering. Some seven different terms related to suffering punctuate the sacred text.
The apostle reminds his readers that Christians are not exempt from suffering and that such is not inconsistent with God’s will (4:19). After all, the Savior was subjected to much suffering (1:11; 2:21, 23; 5:1), and his people should not expect to be exempt from such (4:12). He thus is our example in dealing with difficulties (2:21; 4:1-2).
If we would be faithful to Christ, we will not let suffering on behalf of the Lord overwhelm us (3:14); rather, we will bear up under it patiently (2:23; 3:9). Amazingly, we may even rejoice in it (4:13), knowing that others share our burdens (5:9). There is reward in suffering if such is endured for righteous reasons, and not evil ones (2:20; 4:15).
In view of this prevailing theme in the book, the apostle catalogs a collection of qualities that will enable the faithful to prevail under hardship. First, he approached the matter positively; then negatively (3:8-9).
Traits that produce steadfastness are these: being likeminded (there is strength in togetherness); being compassionate (sympathetic) for others in hard times; expressing brotherly love (we are a family); being tenderhearted (moved by the plight of others); and, humble-minded, i.e., willing to serve our fellows in distress.
Conversely, even when we are assaulted we must not render evil for evil, nor reviling for reviling. It will never be “payback” time for the Christian. Instead, we are to be a blessing to others in view of our own hope of blessedness.
The Remote Context
Verses 10-12 of 1 Peter 3 reflect a quotation from the book of Psalms in the Greek version of the Old Testament (LXX), chapter 34:12-16 (chapter 33 in the LXX). Peter has taken the liberty of altering the text slightly to suit his own agenda (under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, of course). The context begins with a rhetorical question in the Old Testament setting, but is changed to a command in Peter’s letter. That no man may criticize the Spirit of God for altering his own text should be obvious to all except those who have no sense of divine sovereignty.
The text speaks of “loving life” and “seeing good days.” In its Old Testament setting (if one may place confidence in the Psalm’s superscription), it was composed after David was delivered out of the hand of the hostile Philistines.
One may recall how the young Hebrew had risen to fame when he destroyed the evil giant, Goliath. Women sang of his bravery and King Saul seethed in jealous anger, seeking even to kill the lad. And so David fled to Gath in Philistine territory. When his identity was discovered, rather than placing confidence in Jehovah, he trembled in fear and concocted his own scheme of deliverance. He “feigned” madness, much to the disgust of Achish, king of Gath; and so was able to escape (1 Samuel 21:10-22:1).
David’s psalm of deliverance is acrostic is nature, i.e., it contains twenty-two verses, each beginning with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It falls into four natural divisions: Thanksgiving to God for deliverance (1-6); praise to the Lord as Protector (7-10); advice to youth to reverence Jehovah (11-14); and, the Lord’s promises to the righteous (15-22).
What rich lessons this sacred song contains for Christians who are faced with adversity.
The Love of Life
It is a most unfortunate circumstance that so many do not “love life.” Thousands annually commit suicide. Others, though not approaching that extremity, are terribly unhappy. Many can scarcely remember the last truly happy day they experienced. Each day is a drudgery filled with pain and woe. Unfortunately, some of these are professing children of God.
What are some of the factors that motivate perceptive children of God to “love life”?
- We love life because we have it. God has endowed us with a spirit made in his own image (Genesis 1:27), and in him we live, and move, and sustain our very existence daily (Acts 17:28). Life is a precious treasure to be valued, not wasted in daily distress. Some of the greatest victims of suffering in the history of the world have been happy, even though not understanding why their own personal circumstances have been far from what most consider ideal.
- Surely we can love life as a part of the beautiful creation with which we have been endowed (Psalm 8:3ff; 19:1-6). As wonderful as our present world is, consider how magnificent the “world that then was” (2 Peter 3:6) must have been. Moreover, when one reasons from the lesser to the greater, we cannot begin to fathom how breathtaking the “new heavens and a new earth” (v. 13), i.e., heaven itself, will be!
- Can we not love life, even through our tears, when we realize that we have a God who cares for us (1 Peter 5:7); he hears our prayers and sees our tears (2 Kings 20:5). What a difference our friend Jesus makes — in what we sometimes call “a bad day.”
- Surely we can love life and have good days when we appreciate that our past sins have been blotted out (Acts 2:38; 3:19) as a result of the redemptive work of the Son of God. He who committed no sin became a sin-offering on our behalf by means of his sacrificial death, that we might be accounted as righteous before God (2 Corinthians 5:21). How refreshing this makes each day — no matter what its trials.
- We can love life, even in the face of death. When we plant the body of a precious loved one beneath the soil of earth’s bosom, we sorrow not as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We can joyfully anticipate the day when we too will be “gathered to [our] people” (Genesis 25:8) in the land where tears will be “no more” (Revelation 21:4). O how this hope makes life bearable!
Good Days and Bad Days
What are “good” days, versus “bad” days? For some, a “good” day is any day that you are “above ground.” The “quality” range of this sort of person is not one that is measured by external factors. It is a state of mind.
How could Paul and Silas sing in a stinking prison cell, after a severe beating in Philippi (Acts 16:22-25)? How could Paul, from a state of incarceration in Rome, write: “Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4)? The apostle provides us with his “secret.”
But I rejoice in the Lord greatly, that now at length you have revived your thought for me; wherein you did indeed take thought, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know also how to abound: in everything and in all things have I learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in want. I can do all things in him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:10-13).
After reviewing this matter with some self-analysis, I have resolved, even after a day of discomfort, to cease saying, “I’ve had a bad day today.” I will at least attempt to express it like this: “I’ve had a good day today — though maybe not quite as good as yesterday!”
But the Bible itself speaks of some days in negative terms.
In contrast to the vigorous days of youth, old age is described as the “evil days,” as various parts of the body begin to break down (Ecclesiastes 12:1ff).
When the Lord pronounces a coming judgment upon a people because of their sins, as with the case of Judah and Jerusalem in the proclamation of their impending captivity in Babylon, it surely will be “a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of ruin and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness ...” (Zephaniah 1:15).
No one will know what a really “bad day” is until he spends his first day in hell!
In Peter’s quotation the remedy for changing “bad” days into “good” ones (in the most exalted sense of the adjective) is simply this: “Let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile; and let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace, and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:10b-11). The solution is set forth both negatively and positively. It involves both speech and actions.
First, a man must learn to control his speech — a most difficult task, if not impossible completely (James 3:5ff). The tongue is an index on what lies resident in the “heart” (see the principle as set forth in Matthew 7:21-23).
The tongue manifests itself as evil in so many different ways. Of the seven things God is said to find abominable in Proverbs 6:16-19, three involve human speech — a lying tongue, a false witness, and one who sows discord among brothers. In addition to these are other tongue transgressions, such as: boasting, flattery, false information, gossip, exaggeration, slander, enticements, disarmament, profanity, blasphemy, railings, wounding, insulting, complaining, expressions of disrespect, etc. On and on the list could go.
Peter sums it all up with the terms, “evil,” i.e., everything contrary to the law of God — moral and religious, and “guile,” the entire range of verbal deception. Much of our days are spent in “talking,” and a good portion of that (with many people) is not befitting.
Second, there is the matter of one’s actions. The apostle declares that the one seeking a lovely life and good days must “turn away from evil.” It is an amazing phenomenon that so many people — even those professing Christianity — appear not to understand some of the most fundamental concepts of godly living. One such item is that of biblical “repentance,” which is a one-word call to turn from evil.
Repentance is a “change of mind” that results in a change of conduct.That repentance is not simply “sorrow” alone, is evidenced by the fact that the Jews on the day of Pentecost, who were “pricked in their heart,” were nonetheless instructed to “repent” (Acts 2:37-38).Elsewhere Paul stated that: “godly sorrow works [leads to] repentance” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
In both of these cases, the “repentance” is obviously something beyond mere emotional contrition. John the Baptist warned the rebellious Hebrews of his day that if they did not bring forth “fruit worthy of [corresponding to] repentance,” they would be destroyed (Matthew 3:8-10). There can be no conversion to Christ where repentance is missing.
One may be motivated to repentance by reflecting upon the goodness of God (Romans 2:4), and acknowledging the fact that the Creator has allowed us the opportunity to repent; such is a gracious extension of his benevolence (Acts 11:18). Or he may be compelled to repent in view of the coming Judgment (Acts 17:30-31).
In the context of Peter’s letter, turning from evil, i.e., the entire change of life — from ignoring the will of God, to serving him faithfully — is under consideration.
The expression “do good” sums up all of man’s responsibility, to both God and man (cf. Matthew 22:37-40). How could one possibly be considered as a person who is doing “good” if his actions are exclusively “moral,” i.e., directed entirely to his fellowman, while he despises God, blasphemes his name, and refuses to honor him with service? Or, conversely, how can one claim he honors God when he exhibits no concern for those made in the Lord’s image?
The apostle’s final exhortation is that the Christian “seek peace, and pursue it.” The Greek word eirene (“peace”) may derive from an original term meaning, “to weave together.”This is a very significant Bible word.
There is a peace to be sought with God. Sin has separated man from his Creator (Isaiah 59:1-2), so that rebellious man has become an enemy to God (Romans 5:10; James 4:4).But the “God of peace” (1 Thessalonians 5:23) has provided an avenue of reconciliation so that union with him may be enjoyed once more. The shedding of Christ’s blood was the price of peace (Ephesians 2:13-14, 17; Colossians 1:20).That message is revealed in the “gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15).Peace is enjoyed by the exercise of “faith,” and is focused in that realm that is designated as being “in Christ.” This state is entered when one’s obedience is consummated at the point of baptism (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-27).
Obedience to the truth of the gospel brings the Christian an inner peace that is inexplicable from the human vantage point.It passes all understanding and guards our hearts and thoughts in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).
There is also the peace that should exist between all men, who are the “offspring” of God (Acts 17:28). Christians must lead the way in this quest for peace.They are to be the “peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). The children of God are to be at peace among themselves (1 Thessalonians 5:13; 2 Timothy 2:22), and they are to attempt to be at peace with all others (Romans 12:18; Hebrews 12:14). The Lord’s people, therefore, should remain aloof from the carnal conflicts that rage in society (cf. Proverbs 20:3 ESV), and throughout the world (John 18:36; Ephesians 6:12; 2 Corinthians 10:4ff; 2 Timothy 2:24).
Peter concludes by affirming that the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous (i.e., those accounted as righteous by virtue of their relationship with Christ). His eyes are “upon” (epi) then favorably — with blessings abundant. We scarcely can comprehend the blessings we know about, let alone those that are secretly wrought through providence.
The second clause of verse 12 is ominous indeed. It begins with the contrasting conjunction “but,” revealing a sharp distinction. "But the face of the Lord is upon (epi – but in a negative sense – “against” KJV; ESV) them that do evil." Such may be deprived of blessings they might otherwise have received. Certainly a hard judgment is hinted ultimately.
Do you desire to “love life” and “see good days” — enjoying life to the maximum, and avoiding the day of wrath? This formula, as given by the psalmist, and echoed by an apostle of Christ, when rightly applied, will accomplish just that.
May we exercise divine wisdom enough to pursue it to the greatest capacity of which we are capable.