What are we to do today? Should we be “zealous for what is good” (1 Pet. 3:13) or should we “be anxious for nothing”? (Phil. 4:6) These two things are not polar opposites, but are the same thing in Christ. When we are young, we might be more zealous for God, to try to do more for him. When we are old, we might realize what we did, might not be as important to him as there is little change in the world around us. But these two items, being zealous for what is good, and being anxious for nothing, should not only happen in us at the same time, but intensify as we mature in Christ.
As we mature in Christ, we should “have a good conscience” (1 Pet. 3:16), “being zealous for what is good.” (1 Pet. 3:10) In fact, our conscience should be heightened so that “when [we] are slandered, those who revile [our] good behaviour in Christ may be put to shame.” (1 Pet. 3:9) We will even learn “to suffer for doing good. If that should be God’s will,” (1 Pet. 3:17) rather than take the expedient way out. Why is that? Because “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy” (1 Pet. 3:15), because in our hearts, we have honored Christ the Lord as holy. We have come to respect, honor and hold precious the person of Christ that is in us. That is why our good behaviour is ‘in Christ.’ We would be able to speak and be ready “to make a defence to anyone who asks [us] for the reason for the hope that is in [us],” (1 Pet. 3:15) because Christ, who is the hope of glory in us, (Col. 1:27) is so living and active within our beings.
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” (1 Pet. 3:18) The reason Christ died for our sins was that he might bring us to God so God can come into us. The barrier that separated what is human from what is divine was abolished by his death on the cross so we could come into God’s presence and not die because we are sinful. The layman does not have to be put to death now (Num. 3:10) and the priests no longer need to offer up sacrifices anymore so God tore the veil in two when Christ died. Under the first covenant mediated by the Law, it “can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.” (Heb. 10:1) However, in the second covenant, Jesus died for us, accomplishing the Father’s will so “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Heb. 10:10) Today, we are like Christ, having been “put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” (1 Pet. 3:18) “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Gal. 2:20) To “put to death in the flesh” not only includes all our evil things, but all our good things that are not in Christ. That is why Paul “put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil. 3:3-11) When we are conformed to his death, we have no confidence in our own abilities. We put no confidence in our flesh. In fact, we count all the right things that define us or that we have done as rubbish so that we might gain Christ, and be found in Him. Our righteousness is not our own, but of God, who lives inside of us, making us do what is right. Like Christ, we have been “put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” (1 Pet. 3:18) “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) In maturity, we live by the spirit and bear much fruit, as the Spirit is alive within us. We bear the fruit of the Spirit: we love those that seem unlovable, we have joy in sadness, we are at peace with all men, we have the patience of Job, bearing, hoping, and enduring all things, we have kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that is of the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22-23) “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires,” (Gal. 3:24) putting to death the flesh, (1 Pet. 3:18) “but made alive in the Spirit”, (1 Pet. 3:18) as “we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:25) As our faith grows, we rely more and more on the Spirit and draw nearer and nearer to him. We live more and more by the Spirit. So at the end, it is not I that live, but Christ that lives in me. (Gal. 2:20) That is what we are hungering for. So we can do nothing for God apart from him. (John 15:5) We are to “be anxious of nothing,” (Phil. 4:6) as the Spirit is doing it all. In maturity, we realize we need to surrender more and more to Him. Our duty becomes one simply of returning our love to Him thereby honoring Christ the Lord as holy. (1 Pet. 3:15) His life in us will make us “zealous for what is good.” (1 Pet. 3:13)