Peter proceeds to deal with the difficult problem of suffering for the faith and his instructions will cover the section from 3:13 to the end of chapter 4. The section also includes references that can be difficult to understand such as Jesus preaching to the spirits in prison (v. 19) or his claim that baptism saves (v. 21). In the section he provides several pieces of advice on suffering, with the first being how to respond to the possibility of legal action by the civil authorities. The reason why the first point includes legal action is based on Peter’s use of the term ‘defence’ in verse 15, which probably includes a court trial within its range of meaning.
He begins by pointing out that normally civil governments will not harass those who live good lives (v. 13). This point is made elsewhere in the New Testament. Paul says in Romans 13 that civil authorities have been appointed by God and will usually reward those under their authority who do good. The obvious deduction from this passage is that Christians should not attempt to bring punishments on themselves by disobeying laws enacted for the common good. Another deduction is that we should be thankful for God’s common grace. Among its effects are the various actions of human governments in maintaining a civilised society.
Nevertheless, there may be situations when the civil powers will attempt to punish Christians, probably when the laws of the state cannot be obeyed by Christians. What should believers do then? This is an issue that we may face in the future as our society continues to depart from its Christian heritage. Peter mentions six elements and we will begin looking at them tomorrow.