“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,” (I Peter 3:13-14).
The Apostle Peter gives his readers what appears to be a rhetorical question in vs. 13. The obvious answer would appear to be that no one would seek to harm Christians when they are zealous for what is good. Yet, we know of believers who have been harmed for their zealousness for what is good and for God. Is Peter, therefore, wrong and by implication, God?
The word harm (κακόω; kakoo) means to be hurt or mistreated. Zealous (ζηλωτής; zelotes) means enthusiastic. Good (ἀγαθός; agathos) means beneficial and useful. In this statement of cause and effect, predicated upon an act goodness, no harm should befall the individual who is enthusiastic for that which benefits other people and which praises God.
However, vs. 13 must be read within the context of not only the chapters and verses preceding it, but also vs. 14 which follows. Peter does not ignore the obvious. He is not naïve and neither is God. Therefore, Peter makes this disclaimer or qualification.
Even if a believer suffers for righteousness sake, they will be blessed. Notice the contrast given by the conjunction of contrast “but.” To suffer (πάσχω; pascho) means to experience pain. Even if believers experience pain for doing that which is right in the eyes of God, they will be blessed. By whom? By God. Peter’s conclusion, quoting from Isaiah 8:12, is to not fear what men can do, neither to be troubled.
This promise mirrors Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:11-12 which says, “11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
One commentator writes, “Though the adversary, through physical suffering or material hardship, would distress those who were eager (zēlōtai, lit., “zealots”) to do good, no real harm can come to those who belong to Christ. For even if suffering should occur, Christians are blessed and thus should not be frightened. The word here translated “blessed” (makarioi; cf. 4:14) was used by Jesus (Matt. 5:3–11). To be “blessed” in this context does not mean to “feel delighted” but to be “highly privileged.” Christians are not to be afraid of what men can do to them (cf. Matt. 10:28). Consequently 1 Peter 3:14 concludes with a quotation from Isaiah 8:12 which, in context, is part of an exhortation to fear God rather than men.”
Do you want God to bless you? Or course you do! Well then, realize the next time you are ridiculed or persecuted for your faith in Christ, God has highly privileged you before Himself. How awesome is that?
Soli deo Gloria!