What does 1 Peter 3:13 mean?
ESV: Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?
NIV: Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?
NASB: And who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good?
CSB: Who then will harm you if you are devoted to what is good?
NLT: Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good?
KJV: And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?
NKJV: And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?
Verse Commentary:
This verse continues Peter's teaching to Christians about living in harmony with each other (1 Peter 3:8). We should refuse to seek revenge when harmed, but instead to do good to those who hurt or insult us (1 Peter 3:9). The previous verse revealed that God is paying attention to the righteous, even in the midst of their persecution. He notices. He is listening to their prayers. And His face is against those who do evil to them.

Here, Peter asks what seems like an odd question: Who is going to harm you if you are zealous or eager to do good? The question could be read in two ways. First, those who are eager to do good, even to those who hurt them, are much less likely to be mistreated. Certainly in most times and places, that is true. Doing good to others rarely inspires their desire for revenge.

But, as Peter will say in the next verse, Christians may still suffer even when they are eager to do good. Sometimes, we can suffer because we are doing good in the name of Jesus. What this question most likely means is that Christians—God's saved, set-apart people, secured by Him for eternity—cannot truly be harmed by anyone. In other words, Christians may be hurt or even killed for the sake of Jesus in this life, but nobody can take anything from us that truly matters. All of that is secure in the hands of our Father forever.
Verse Context:
1 Peter 3:8–22 addresses all believers, commanding Christians to be unified and to refuse to seek revenge when wronged. Peter quotes from both David and Isaiah to show that God’s people have always been called to reject evil and to do good. This is true even when we are suffering. In fact, it may be God’s will for His people to suffer, in part, to demonstrate His power. Our good example can convict others into repentance. Christ, too, suffered, died, was resurrected, and ascended to power and authority in heaven.
Chapter Summary:
Peter continues teaching about Christian submission to human authorities, now addressing Christian wives. Believing wives must be subject to their own husbands, even if the husband is not a follower of Christ. By doing so, they might win them to Christ through the example of their own changed lives and hearts. Christian husbands must honor their wives. All believers must live in unity together and refuse to seek revenge. In part, God means to use our hopeful response to suffering to provoke the world to see His power in us. Christ, too, suffered and then died, was resurrected, and ascended to heaven.
Chapter Context:
Peter’s letter to persecuted Christians is about how to endure suffering for faith in Christ. Thus far, he has assured Christians that their future is secure in eternity with God. We are His holy people, set apart for His specific purposes. Because of this, it matters that we live out that truth, even when we suffer. Christians are called to live in submission to every human authority, including kings, governors, and slave masters.
Book Summary:
Some 30 years after the resurrection of Jesus, Christians are facing greater persecution for their faith. How should they respond? How should we respond to suffering today? The apostle Peter writes this letter both to comfort believers and to encourage them to stay strong. He urges them to put all their hope in their perfect future with Christ, and to obey and trust Him in the present, even in their suffering. Christ suffered greatly; now the Christ-followers have the opportunity to follow Him even in this, showing His grace and power in their hopefulness, obedience, and faith.
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