It is astonishing to hear Peter say, “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?” (1 Peter 3:13). What could he possibly mean?
No other book in the Bible addresses the issue of Christian, non-retaliating, unjust suffering more than 1 Peter. For example,
– This is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. (2:19)
– When you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. (2:20)
– 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. (3:9)
– If you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. (3:14)
– It is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (3:17)
– Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:13)
– If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed. (4:14)
– If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. (4:16)
– Let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (4:19)
– The same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. (5:9)
Peter is intent on preparing Christians to suffer well. He does not want them to be surprised when it comes: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (4:12). It is not strange. It is part of the expected end-time judgment.
The end of all things is at hand. . . . It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (4:7, 17)
In other words, the fiery trial purifies Christians and punishes those who do not obey the gospel.
A Surprising Statement About Christian Suffering
Therefore, in the context of this book, it is astonishing to hear Peter say, “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?” (1 Peter 3:13). This is a rhetorical question. No answer is given. He expects us to supply the answer. And the answer he expects is, “No one.” The question implies, “There is no one to harm you, if you are zealous for what is good.” That’s the way rhetorical questions work.
What does he mean? Bore in with me on the context.
Just before this surprising statement Peter quoted Psalm 34:12–16 (in 1 Peter 3:10–12). He gives this quotation as an argument for why we will inherit a blessing if we bless those who revile us. “To this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For . . .” (3:9–10).