A Study Series in First Peter with Dr Steve Orr

Aspiration, Obligation and Motivation

1 Peter 3:8-10

In 1 Peter 3v8 Peter said: “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind”. He was addressing the whole Christian community and was describing how we are to relate to one other in our life together as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Last time we moved on to look at 1 Peter 3v9 where Peter said “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing”. There, having spoken about how believers in Christ are to relate one another within the Christian community, he went on to talk about how we are to respond to the hostility that will inevitably come our way from those who are outside the Christian community.

Our response is to be determined by the fact that we have been called to live Christ-like lives here and now and the fact that we are to look beyond the sufferings of this life because we have also been called to inherit a future, eternal blessing. The point was that the way you live and what you do does not earn a future blessing but, if you’ve really been called to inherit a future, eternal blessing, that will inevitably affect the way you live and what you do.

As we move on today we find that Peter went on to underpin what he’d been saying by referring to Psalm 34. In fact, throughout the letter, Peter has made several allusions to Psalm 34 and, back in chapter 2 verse 3 he quoted from Psalm 34v8 by saying: “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good”. Why did he lean on Psalm 34 so heavily? Well, Psalm 34 was a Psalm of deliverance. In that Psalm David was giving thanks to God for delivering him from his dangerous sojourn among the Philistines when he was on the run from the wrath of King Saul. Peter’s logic was that just as God had delivered David so He would eventually deliver Peter’s readers, and all believers in Christ, from the trials and dangers of their sojourn here on Earth.

Here, in 1 Peter 3v10-12, he quotes from verses 12 to 16 of Psalm 34 by saying: “For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil””. Notice that he begins with the word “For”. That shows that he is quoting those verses as a basis for what he’s just been saying.

We’ll look at 1 Peter 3v10-12 under three headings. From those verses I think we can see: an Aspiration, an Obligation and a Motivation. We’ll begin by considering the:

Aspiration

We see this aspiration mentioned at the beginning of verse 10. It’s indicated by the words “Whoever desires” in the ESV or “Whoever would” in the NIV. An aspiration is a goal, a hope, an aim, a desire. It’s what you wish for. I wonder, what is your aspiration? To what do you aspire? Long life? Good health? Home comforts? Successful children? Contentment? A good reputation? None of those are bad things are they but none of them are the aspiration that is mentioned here in verse 10. We find that, in both the ESV and the NIV, the aspiration is expressed as: “to love life and see good days”. That’s the aspiration that David expressed in Psalm 34.

What did that mean? Superficially, it could sound like a desire for “the good life” couldn’t it? It sounds like a desire for a life of ease in which everything in the garden is rosy. Yet, Peter quoted that in his letter even though, throughout the letter, he had been making it clear that believers in Christ are sojourners and strangers in the world in this present earthly life and that we can expect opposition and trials and suffering. That doesn’t sound like loving life and seeing good days. That seems to be a far cry from “the good life” doesn’t it? Is Peter just being a bit of a Puddleglum or a bit of an Eeyore when he speaks in those terms? No. Even in the context of Psalm 34 itself we see very much the same thing being expressed. Look at verses 19 to 22 of Psalm 34 where we read: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned”.

You see, David had said: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous”. That’s exactly what Peter has been saying throughout his letter. If believers in Christ aspire to “the good life” in which everything in the garden is rosy they’re going to be disappointed. We’re to expect many afflictions in this life. But, look at what David went on to say: “but the Lord delivers him out of them all”. There are afflictions for believers in Christ but the Lord delivers them. In contrast with that David said: “Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned”. You see, the point is, whether you’re righteous or wicked, whether you believe in Christ or not, there will be afflictions in this life. That’s the nature of life in this fallen world. The difference between the righteous and the wicked does not lie in whether they are afflicted or not but in the outcome of the afflictions that they can inevitably expect to come their way. You see, the righteous will be delivered but the wicked will be condemned. There’s no hope for the wicked but the righteous are confident of being delivered and so have a sure hope.

What does that deliverance from afflictions look like?

Well, David continues by saying: “The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned”. You see, “to love life and see good days” is not referring to a life of ease on Earth but to a redeemed life that results in not being condemned. That is what you most need to aspire to: knowing that you are redeemed and that you do not stand condemned. How can that aspiration be realised? Well, David said that “none of those who take refuge in him”, that is none of those who take refuge in the Lord, “will be condemned”. You achieve the aspiration “to love life and see good days” by taking refuge in the Lord. Or, as Paul puts it in Romans 8v1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. It’s by faith in Christ that you are redeemed and delivered from condemnation and receive the eternal inheritance that Peter has emphasised in his letter. So, when Peter quotes the aspiration “to love life and see good days” he’s speaking of being made right with God and so having a sure hope for eternity. Is that your aspiration? Is that what you most long for and desire? It should be because it’s much more important and much better than any worldly aspiration.

The next thing to see from Peter’s quotation from Psalm 34 is that this aspiration is followed by an:

Obligation

We see that as we continue in verse 10 and into verse 11 where we read: “let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it”. In fact, we see that it’s really a threefold obligation. Did you notice that in that passage in the ESV the term “let him” is used three times? That term speaks of an obligation. The NIV presents it as: “they must” which is perhaps even more emphatic. You see, if a person has been born again and come to faith in Christ so that they are redeemed and delivered from condemnation and receive the eternal inheritance it must follow that they will by characterised by certain things. Of necessity, these things will be true of them.

Now, it’s very important to not get the impression that this is saying that doing these things will cause you “to love life and see good days”. It’s not saying that doing these things will earn your deliverance from condemnation and make you deserve eternal life. No, as we saw last time, salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone. However, as we also saw last time, such saving faith always leads to holy, Christ-like lives. In the words of Martin Luther: “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone”. By that he meant that, although we are saved through faith alone, such saving faith is never alone because true faith must always lead to practical consequences in our lives.

So, the quote from Psalm 34 isn’t saying you must do these things in order to “to love life and see good days”. Rather, it’s saying that if you truly “love life and see good days” it must result in you doing these things.

What are the three obligations that Peter quotes from Psalm 34? Well, the obligations are in connection with speech, actions and relationships.

We see the first of those obligations in verse 10 where he says: “keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit”. That’s how the ESV puts it. The NIV has: “keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech”. So, this is an obligation concerning our speech.

This is what Peter must have had in mind back in verse 9 when he said: “Do not repay ……. reviling for reviling”. He was basing that on this quote from Psalm 34. This is clearly to do with speech isn’t it? It’s to do with controlling the use of the tongue so that it is used for that which is good and true. That must be a consequence of having new life in Christ. Superficially, “keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit” might not sound too much to ask. It’s easy to gloss over it as simply meaning to “mind your P’s and Q’s” but the reality is that it is an incredibly tall order. Look at what James had to say about the human tongue in James 3v6-9:

“And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God”.

We see there what strong words he applies to the human tongue. He speaks of it as “a world of unrighteousness” and “a restless evil” and as being “full of deadly poison”. What’s more, he says that “no human being can tame the tongue”. So, when Peter quotes Psalm 34 to require us to control our tongues so as to keep our “tongue from evil” and to keep our “lips from speaking deceit” is he asking the impossible? After all, James said that “no human being can tame the tongue”. Well, look at what James went on to say in verses 10 to 12: “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water”. You see, like Peter, he says “these things ought not to be so”. Why? Well, he goes on to say: ““Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water”. Those are rhetorical questions and the answer in each case is obviously “no”. The point is that, if we have new life in Christ, if we have a new nature brought about by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will speak in a way that is consistent with that new nature so we will be able to tame our tongues. We will be able to keep our “tongue from evil” and keep our “lips from speaking deceit”.

So, the first obligation that arises if you truly “love life and see good days” is to control your tongue and use it in keeping with your new life in Christ.

We see the second obligation at the beginning of verse 11 where Peter says: “turn away from evil and do good”.

This is clearly what Peter had in mind back in verse 9 when he said: “Do not repay evil for evil”. This is to do with actions isn’t it? Being born again doesn’t only affect what we say, it also affects what we do. It makes us “turn away from evil”. That word “turn” tells us that this isn’t something that happens automatically as if by magic. It requires effort and a deliberate choice. That’s a choice that we would once not have made because we were dead in trespasses and sins. Our natural inclination or bias was towards evil but now that we are alive in Christ we have been freed from that. We have new desires and can choose to “turn away from evil”. And notice that this doesn’t only speak of a negative turning away. The words that Peter quotes go on to say: “and do good”. You see, our new nature leads us to go beyond turning away from evil to positively “do good”.

We find this emphasised for believers in Christ quite consistently in the New Testament. For instance, in Romans 12v19-21 we read:

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”.

That speaks of practical, good actions doesn’t it? To fail to give your enemy food and drink is to be “overcome by evil”. To give your enemy food and drink is to “overcome evil with good”.

Or, look at 1 Thessalonians 5v15 where we read: “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone”. Again there is the emphasis on going beyond merely not repaying evil for evil. We’re to positively do “good to one another and to everyone”.

So, the second obligation that arises if you truly “love life and see good days” is to ensure that your actions are in keeping with your new life in Christ.

We see the third obligation as he continues in verse 11 by saying: “seek peace and pursue it”. Speaking of peace in this context is really to do with relationships isn’t it? Besides speaking and acting in a Christ-like way, we’re to relate to others in a Christ-like way. Doing that really depends on fulfilling the first two obligations that we’ve seen. Speaking evil and deceit and repaying evil for evil is not a recipe for peaceful relationships is it? Controlling your tongue and doing good is the foundation on which we “seek peace”. That’s to be our aim and it’s stressed repeatedly in the New Testament. For instance, we read in Romans 12v18 that Paul said: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all”. That’s an exhortation to “seek peace” with everyone isn’t it? Of course, peace is dependent on both parties. It can’t be declared unilaterally and Paul is realistic about that. That’s why he said: “If possible, so far as it depends on you”.

We might not succeed in achieving peace with everyone but we’re to seek it. In fact, Peter’s quote from Psalm 34 goes beyond that in saying: “seek peace and pursue it”. Pursuing is going beyond merely seeking. It’s more determined than seeking. It doesn’t give up. It keeps on even when there are failures and setbacks. The writer to the Hebrews says in chapter 12 verse 14: “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord”. The word strive speaks of working hard and not giving up. So, we’re not to simply like the idea of peace and quietly seek. We’re to pursue it and strive for it. We’re to seek peace in a tenacious way.

Why are we to be so determined in seeking peace? Well, remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 5v9 where He said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God”. You see, the promised blessing isn’t in simply wanting peace but in making peace. As we’ve already seen, we won’t always succeed in making peace but that is to be our aim so we’re to pursue it and strive for it.

So, we’ve seen three obligations in connection with speech, actions and relationships. It’s very evident that there’s nothing legalistic or half-hearted about these obligations. The emphasis is on wholeheartedly going beyond the bare minimum. Back in verse 9 Peter said: “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless”. You can think of not repaying evil for evil or reviling for reviling as being the bare minimum but Peter added “but on the contrary, bless”. Wholeheartedly going beyond the bare minimum.

We see something similar with the three obligations we’ve noted. In each case we have the word “and”. So in speaking of the obligation regarding our speech the quotation was “let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit”. You see, it’s going beyond just keeping your lips from evil.

In speaking of the obligation regarding our actions the quotation was “let him turn away from evil and do good”. You see, it’s going beyond just not doing evil to positively doing good.

In speaking of the obligation regarding our relationships the quotation was “let him seek peace and pursue it”. You see, it’s going beyond just seeking peace to wholeheartedly pursuing peace.

This wholeheartedness stems from the fact that keeping these obligations flows out of a changed nature as a result of the new life we have in Christ.

Having considered the Aspiration and three-fold Obligation let us finally look at the:

Motivation

Verse 11 said: “let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it”.

Moving on to verse 12 we read: “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil”. It begins with the word “For” so it’s giving a reason or motive for controlling our tongues, turning away from evil, and doing good and seeking and pursuing peace.

Did you notice that “the Lord” is mentioned three times in that short verse? It speaks of “the eyes of the Lord” and “the ears of the Lord” and “the face of the Lord”. Of course, that isn’t to suggest that God has eyes, ears and a face. He doesn’t have a body. He’s a spiritual being. At the very least these body parts are being cited to show that God sees and hears and interacts with everything in His creation. He’s not distant and oblivious. He’s actively and personally involved. How does that provide us with a motivation to fulfil the obligations we saw?

Well, what does the verse say about “the eyes of the Lord”? The point here isn’t that God sees or knows everything. Of course, that is true but the text specifically says that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous”. It’s saying that, although He sees everyone and everything, He watches over the righteous in a special way. His favour is upon the righteous. Who are “the righteous”? In this context, it’s those who live in the righteous way that was outlined in the Christ-like obligations we considered before and that is the outworking of having taken refuge in the Lord by coming to faith in Christ and receiving new life through Him. Why are “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous”? Well, as Peter said back in chapter 2 verse 9: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession”. We are in that special relationship with Him.

What does the verse say about “the ears of the Lord”? It says that His ears “are open to their prayer”. That is: to the prayer of the righteous. Again, God hears everything but this is specifically saying that the ears of the Lord are open to the prayer of the righteous. He wants to hear our prayers. He loves to hear our prayers. Why? Again, it’s because we are in that special relationship with Him.

What does the verse say about “the face of the Lord”? From what’s been said about His eyes and ears you might anticipate that it would say that the face of the Lord shines upon the righteous. But notice that the text says but the face of the Lord”. The introduction of that little word “but” shows that a contrast is being made. The text says that His face “is against those who do evil”. So, a contrast is being made between the Lord’s attitude towards the righteous and His attitude towards the wicked. By doing that, the wonder of the relationship that we have and enjoy with Him is highlighted.

So, what is our motivation for fulfilling those obligations? Not a sense of legal duty. Not a desire to earn His favour. Our motivation stems from our relationship with the Lord and you can only enter into that relationship through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.