Lesson 23—A Look at Christian Maturity
Scripture: 1 Peter 3:8-9
Lesson Goal: To learn from Peter’s writing some Christian virtues that should be demonstrated in the believer’s life.
“Without a doubt, the process of spiritual growth is a long and often painful one. En route to maturity, we all spill the milk, say things we shouldn’t, and fail to act our age. Sometimes we throw temper tantrums like toddlers, or pout like preschoolers, or argue and complain like teens. All the while we should conduct ourselves as mature believers, setting an example to those younger in the faith. We may have the knowledge, but we don’t have the will to do what’s right. Even the spiritually mature have days when they take a return trip to the “terrible twos” (Swindoll).
Just as parents rejoice as they watch their children grow from infancy to adulthood, in the same way the Heavenly Father delights in the maturing faith of His children. In the verses of today’s lesson, Peter helps us understand Christian maturity. He writes to the various areas of the believer’s life which should reflect the elements and marks of Christian maturity. Today as we continue to learn from Peter’s written words, we should always keep in mind the time and situation of his readers.
➢ Write a few statements concerning the time of Peter’s writing and the situation the believers were facing.
In 1 Peter 2:11, Peter began a section concerning the believer’s conduct in an ungodly world. In verse eight of chapter three, he concludes this section.
(Verse 8) “Finally”—Greek words to de telos, which means “to sum up.” In this verse, it is used in an adverbial sense which means that it puts in summary what was written before, but it also introduces a fresh point that is to follow. Here the shift is made from conduct, responsibilities and duties to that of Christian character. By using the word translated “finally,” Peter is not concluding his writing, but rather summarizing points already made while introducing a new point of emphasis.
“all of you”—It seems that many commentators and writers often move quickly past these words to begin looking at the words that follow. We would do well to read, reflect, and understand the true emphasis Peter is putting in these words “all of you.” He reminds his readers these words are not just for some select few but for all believers. The instruction and exhortation is truly for all true believers.
Peter now turns his attention in verse eight to some Christian virtues that should be evident in all believers’ lives. These virtues speak great volumes concerning the maturity in the life of the believer.
“be of one mind” Greek word homophrōn, literally means “having the same mind” and implies a oneness of heart. Further, this word means “that inward unity of attitude in spiritual things which makes division and schism (division into opposing parties) unthinkable.” It is the believer’s common commitment to the truth that produces such a unity. Read Romans 12:4-5, Philippians 1:27 and Philippians 2:1-5.
➢ As the following two expressions pertain to Peter’s statement “be of one mind,” explain what is meant by:
Disagreeing without having a disagreeable spirit, or we can disagree without being disagreeable.
“This is not a hill worth dying on.”
“having compassion for one another”—Greek word sympatheo, which is where we get our word sympathy. The Greek word goes beyond the meaning of sympathy and means to hurt with someone. It means to come along side of, to suffer along with someone. Read Romans 12:15 and Hebrews 4:15.
“love as brothers”—Greek word philadelphoi, translated here as brotherly love, relates to affection among people who are closely related in some way. This love should exist among believers and extend to the world. This kind of love is demonstrated by unselfish service to others.
“be tenderhearted”—kindhearted, compassionate tenderness. In Ephesians 4:32, Paul uses the same term. This is a heartfelt compassion. It has a special meaning in that it emphasizes the actions taken to help the suffering and hurting.
“be courteous”—humble in spirit, humble minded. Read Philippians 2:3, 8 and Ephesians 4:1-2.
Peter now shifts from our conduct through the virtues he lists to the believer’s reactions when mistreated. He gives the believer instruction on how to react to the hostilities of others: “not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling.”
A believer is not to return evil for evil. We are instructed not to retaliate. Read Matthew 5:38-45a. Believers are not to let the evil attitudes and actions of others become a cause for showing the same kind of evil attitudes and actions. Do not return insult for insult. Do not engage in abusive, vengeful reactions of word, attitude or actions.
“but on the contrary blessing”—In my opinion, this is one of the most difficult instructions in all of Scripture. Believers are instructed to respond with blessing, rather than to react with retaliation to those who mistreat them. Again, give careful attention to this portion of the verse. It not only says that we should not react with revenge toward those that injure us, but we should in turn reply with a blessing. This blessing may be in word, deed, or perhaps both.
“knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing”—Because of what Jesus Christ has done for us, and because of the Holy Spirit’s power in us, we can endure insults and evil without lashing out or back. Many believers struggle with granting grace and forgiveness to those who offend us, but let us remember what God has done for us. Let us measure on the scale of God’s forgiveness toward us.
Questions for Life Focus
Can you describe a time in your life when someone came alongside of you with true compassion?
As you look at the virtues or qualities found in verse 8, how would you grade yourself on each?
1) Terrible, 2) Need work, 3) Improving, 4) Master of all.
If you selected number 4, please go back and read the section “humble in spirit” again.
What makes it so difficult to return blessing for evil?
For each of the following virtues, write the name of someone you have witnessed showing forth that virtue. Please answer prayerfully.
Be an encourager to the ones you listed above; let them know you have witnessed their example.