April 11 – A Passion for Goodness

Who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?

1 Peter 3:13


Most people find it difficult to mistreat those who are fervent in doing good. Those who love to do good are often gracious, unselfish, kind, loving, and caring. But frauds who steal from widows and orphans are not tolerated. Even the ungodly condemn those who make themselves rich at the expense of others.

A person who is generous and thoughtful toward others usually isn’t the object of hostility. That’s Peter’s point in today’s verse. Peter wanted all his readers to zealously pursue doing good. A passion for doing good produces a pure life, which should be the goal and delight of every believer. When you are consumed with godly living, you will lose any appetite for the world’s ungodly attractions.[1]

A Passion for Goodness

Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? (3:13)

Peter’s rhetorical question shows that it is unusual for most people, even those hostile to Christianity, to harm believers who prove zealous for what is good. On the other hand, the world has little hesitation attacking with great hostility those charlatans and frauds that enrich themselves at the expense of others. Good refers generally to a life characterized by generosity, unselfishness, kindness, and thoughtfulness toward others (cf. Pss. 37:3; 125:4; Prov. 3:27; 11:23; 2 Cor. 9:8; Gal. 6:9–10; Eph. 2:10; Col. 1:10; 1 Thess. 5:15; 1 Tim. 6:18; Titus 1:8; 2:7, 14; 3:14; Heb. 13:16; James 3:13, 17; 3 John 11). Such a lifestyle has a way of restraining the hand of even the most ardent foe of the gospel (cf. 2:12; Matt. 5:16; Rom. 12:20–21).

Prove (genēsthe) means “to become” and points to believers’ basic character quality, which should be good and above reproach (cf. Rom. 13:3; Phil. 2:14–16; 2 Tim. 2:20–22). Zealous (zēlōtēs) means “intensity” or “enthusiasm” and describes a person with great ardor for a specific cause. In New Testament times, there was a radical political party of Jewish patriots, called the Zealots (from zēlōtēs), which pledged to free the Jews from all foreign rule by whatever extreme measures (lying, stealing, assassination) were necessary, even if those efforts resulted in their own deaths. Peter was surely familiar with that group—Simon the Zealot, one of his fellow apostles, had likely been a member (Matt. 10:4; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13)—and he wanted his readers to be zealots for what was noble (cf. 1 Cor. 14:12; 2 Cor. 7:11; Titus 2:14; Rev. 3:19).

Of course, being zealous for what is good produces a godly life—the delight and goal of all believers—which leads to pure living and the loss of one’s appetite for the world’s ungodly attractions.[2]

13 Peter opens with a rhetorical question intended to cause reflection: Who among those accosting (ho kakōsōn, in most translations rendered “harming” or “doing evil,” GK 2808) the saints succeeds “if you are eager to do good”? The immediate answer, “No one,” based on Peter’s previous argument of eternal perspective (i.e., the past, present, and future), is that nothing can detract from their inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading (1:3–9). Peter’s focus, however, remains the same as before: doing good. While it is possible to be passionate or misguided about the wrong things, being zealots of the good cannot be faulted. Peter’s admonition has the ring of Paul, who describes Christians as a people “zealous for good deeds” (zēlōtēn kalōn ergōn, Tit 2:14 NASB). Moral integrity, in the end, cannot be impugned.[3]

3:13 Peter resumes his argument with a question: “And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?” The answer implied is “No one.” And yet the history of the martyrs seems to prove that enemies of the gospel do harm faithful disciples.

There are at least two possible explanations of this paradox:

  1. Generally speaking, those who follow a path of righteousness are not harmed. A policy of nonresistance disarms the opposition. There may be exceptions, but as a rule, the one who is eager for the right is protected from harm by his very goodness.
  2. The worst that the foe can do to a Christian does not give eternal harm. The enemy can injure his body but he cannot damage his soul.

During World War II a Christian boy of twelve refused to join a certain movement in Europe. “Don’t you know that we have power to kill you?” they said. “Don’t you know,” he replied quietly, “that I have power to die for Christ!” He had the conviction that no one was able to harm him.[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 116). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 196–197). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] Charles, D. J. (2006). 1 Peter. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 334). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2270–2271). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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