1 Peter 3:13
And who is he that will harm you, if you be followers of that which is good?
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(13) And who is he that shall harm you?—There is always a ring of scornful assurance in an interrogative introduced by “and:” “And who, pray?”

If ye be followers.—Rather, if ye make yourselves zealots. The phrase looks on into the future; not merely “if at present ye be.” And the word which means “follower” (i.e., imitator) is here a false reading for zelotes, the name by which St. Peter’s lesser namesake among the Apostles was known, probably because of his enthusiastic attachment to the old or to the new Law. The same zelotes is found in Titus 2:14 and elsewhere. The translation, “of Him which is good,” is perfectly possible, but does not quite so well suit the context. Some writers (Leighton among them) take the verse to mean, or at least to include, that when men see the goodness and loving-kindness of our lives they will not be disposed to hurt us. This thought is, however, foreign to the passage. It means that men and devils may try their worst, as they did on Christ, and cannot harm us.

3:8-13 Though Christians cannot always be exactly of the same mind, yet they should have compassion one of another, and love as brethren. If any man desires to live comfortably on earth, or to possess eternal life in heaven, he must bridle his tongue from wicked, abusive, or deceitful words. He must forsake and keep far from evil actions, do all the good he can, and seek peace with all men. For God, all-wise and every where present, watches over the righteous, and takes care of them. None could or should harm those who copied the example of Christ, who is perfect goodness, and did good to others as his followers.And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? - This question is meant to imply, that as a general thing they need apprehend no evil if they lead an upright and benevolent life. The idea is, that God would in general protect them, though the next verse shows that the apostle did not mean to teach that there would be absolute security, for it is implied there that they might be called to suffer for righteousness" sake. While it is true that the Saviour was persecuted by wicked people, though his life was wholly spent in doing good; while it is true that the apostles were put to death, though following his example; and while it is true that good people have often suffered persecution, though laboring only to do good, still it is true as a general thing that a life of integrity and benevolence conduces to safety, even in a wicked world. People who are upright and pure; who live to do good to others who are characteristically benevolent and who are imitators of God - are those who usually pass life in most tranquillity and security, and are often safe when nothing else would give security but confidence in their integrity. A man of a holy and pure life may, under the protection of God, rely on that character to carry him safely through the world and to bring him at last to an honored grave. Or should he be calumniated when living, and his sun set under a cloud, still his name will be vindicated, and justice will ultimately be done to him when he is dead. The world ultimately judges right respecting character, and renders "honor to whom honor is due." Compare Psalm 37:3-6. 13. who … will harm you—This fearless confidence in God's protection from harm, Christ, the Head, in His sufferings realized; so His members.

if ye be—Greek, "if ye have become."

followers—The oldest manuscripts read "emulous," "zealous of" (Tit 2:14).

good—The contrast in Greek is, "Who will do you evil, if ye be zealous of good?"

And who is he that will harm you? i.e. none or few will harm you, as being convinced and overcome by your good deeds, whereby even they are many times mollified and melted that are of themselves most wicked and hard-hearted, 1 Samuel 24:16,17.

If ye be followers of that which is good; either followers of God, who doth good to the evil and unkind; but then it should be rendered, followers of him who is good, or rather, followers of those things that are good: q.d. If you be diligent in doing good to others, none will have the heart to do you hurt. And who is he that will harm you,.... Or "can harm you". God will not; for his eyes are upon the righteous, to protect and defend them, and, his ears are open to their cries, to avenge them; he is on their side, and he is the only lawgiver that is able to save, and to destroy. Christ will not; for when he came the first time, it was not to condemn, but to save; and when he comes a second time, though he will rule the wicked with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces as a potter's vessel; yet his people, who are his jewels, he will spare, as a man spares his only son. Good angels will not; these rejoice at the conversion, and in the salvation of sinful men, encamp about the saints, and are ministering spirits to them: nor the devil; though he would devour, he cannot; for greater is he that is in the saints, than he that is in the world: nor can sin; for though it wars against them, it shall not have the dominion over them; and though it often breaks in upon their peace and comfort, it cannot damn and destroy their souls: nor the law; for though it pronounces guilty, and curses those that are under it, and are of the works of it, yet since Christ has fulfilled it for his people, by obeying its precepts, and bearing its penalty, the curse, it lies not against them, nor can it inflict any punishment on them: nor the men of the world; who hate and persecute the saints; these can do them no real harm; they cannot hurt their grace, which shines the brighter, being tried and proved in the furnace of affliction; they cannot destroy their peace and comfort by all the trouble they give them; all the harm they can do them is to their bodies; they can do none to their souls; and even all the evil things they do to their bodies work together for their good; and they must be very wicked men that will do harm in any respect to such as behave well in states, cities, towns, or neighbourhoods:

if ye be followers of that which is good; of God, who is essentially, originally, and infinitely good, and does good to all his creatures, by imitating him in holiness and righteousness, in kindness, mercy, and beneficence; and of Christ, the good Shepherd, following him in the exercise of grace, as of humility, love, patience, &c. and in the discharge of duty; and of good men, the apostles of Christ, the first churches, faithful ministers, and all such who through faith and patience have inherited the promises, and that both in doctrine and practice; and of all good things, whatever is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, particularly righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and meekness. Some copies, as the Alexandrian, and others, read, "zealots", or "zealous of good"; of good works, as in Titus 2:14 and so the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions.

{14} And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?

(14) The second argument: when the wicked are provoked, they are more wayward: therefore they must instead be won by good deeds. If they cannot be gained by that means also, yet nonetheless we shall be blessed if we suffer for righteousness sake.

1 Peter 3:13 serves further to emphasize the exhortation to well-doing, and at the same time introduces the following paragraph, in which Peter calls upon the Christians to suffer persecutions patiently.

καί] unites what follows with what precedes. A new reason, the truth of which is attested by the thought contained in 1 Peter 3:12, is added in 1 Peter 3:13 to the argument advanced for the preceding exhortation of 1 Peter 3:12. The sense is: Do good, for to the good God is gracious, with the wicked He is angry; and those who do good, for this very reason none can harm.

τίς ὁ κακώσων ὑμᾶς] an impressive and passionate question (stronger than a simple negative), in which must be noted the form ὁ κακώσων, sc. ἐστί instead of κακώσει, as also the sharp contrast between κακοῦν and the subsequent ἀγαθοῦ. “Do harm,” as a rendering of κακοῦν (Wiesinger, de Wette), is too weak. The word is used for the most part of ill-treatment (Acts 7:6; Acts 7:19; Acts 12:1; Acts 18:10), and denotes here, with reference to the preceding κακά, such evil-doing as is really harmful for him who suffers it. It is possible that the apostle had in his mind Isaiah 50:9, LXX.: ἰδοὺ κύριος κύριος βοηθήσει μοι, τίς κακώσει με. The interrogative form expresses the sure confidence of the apostle, that to those who do good no one either will or can do harm. Steiger’s interpretation is too pointless: “and indeed who then will seek to do you harm, as you imagine, if you really,” etc.;[187] for the reservation must be added that every proverb has this peculiarity, that it is not without exception (Benson), or that the statement in the oratio popularis must not be taken too strictly. The strong and consoling expression of an unshaken faith is thus reduced to a somewhat empty commonplace.[188]

ἐὰν τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ ζηλωταὶ γένησθε] τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ was taken by some of the older interpreters (Lorin., Aret., etc.) to be the gen. masc., probably on account of the article (as distinguished from the anarthrous ἀγαθόν, 1 Peter 3:11). Weiss also thinks that by it Christ perhaps may be understood. Most commentators, however, correctly regard it as the neuter; comp. 1 Peter 3:11. The article is put, inasmuch as in this term all the single virtues, formerly mentioned, are included; it stands first by way of emphasis.

ζηλωταί; comp. 1 Corinthians 14:12; Titus 2:14. If the reading μιμηταί be adopted, its connection with the neuter is somewhat singular, still the verb μιμεῖσθαι does occur with names of things; comp. Hebrews 13:7; 3 John 1:11.

[187] Gualther’s paraphrase is not less insipid: quis est, scilicet tarn impudens et iniquus, qui vos affligat, si beneficentiae sitis aemulatores? “Wiesinger’s interpretation also is inappropriate: “If ye follow my exhortations, it is to be hoped,” etc.—The words do not hint that “the trials which the readers had endured were not altogether undeserved on their part”(Wiesinger).

[188] Schott’s interpretation, according to which κακοῦν is “to make evil-doers in the judgment of God,” is altogether wide of the mark. Although κακοῦν,—corresponding to the Hebrew הִרְשִׁיעַ,—as applied to a judge, may mean: “to condemn,” or properly: “to declare a person a κακός,” it does not follow therefrom that it may also have the meaning of “causing God to declare a person a κακός.”13. And who is he that will harm you] The quotation ceases and the Apostle adds the question, the answer to which seems to him a necessary inference from it. The form of the question reminds us of that of Romans 8:33-35, still more perhaps, of Isaiah 50:9, where the LXX. version gives for “condemn the very word which is here rendered “harm.” It is not without interest to note that the same word is used of Herod’s vexing the Church in Acts 12:1. St Peter had learnt, in his endurance of the sufferings that then fell on him, that the persecutor has no real power to harm.

if ye be followers of that which is good] The better MSS. give the word (zelôtai) which is commonly rendered “zealous for,” as in Acts 21:20; Acts 22:3. As a word in frequent use among devout Jews, (as e.g. in the name of the Apostle Simon Zelotes,) it has a special force as addressed to the Church of the Circumcision. “Be zealous,” he seems to say to them, “not as Pharisees and Scribes are zealous, as you yourselves were wont to be, for the Law as a moral and ceremonial Code, but for that which is absolutely good.” The received reading, “followers,” or better, imitators, probably originated in the Greek word for “good” being taken as masculine, and, as so taken, referred to Christ. In that case, “followers” suggested itself as a fitter word (as in 1 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 5:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:6) than “zealots.”1 Peter 3:13. Καὶ τίς, and who?) And has the force of drawing an inference, and of maintaining an assertion.—τίς ὁ κακώσων, who is he that will harm you?) that is, often a matter is much more easy than is supposed. Opposed to that which is good. Isaiah 1:9, מִי הוּא יַרְשִׁיעֵנִי, Septuagint, τίς κακώσει με; who shall do me harm?—τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ [30]ΜΙΜΗΤΑῚ, followers of good) Follow good (in the neuter gender), says St John , 3 d Epistle, 1 Peter 3:11. And thus Peter also in this passage. Satan is called ὁ πονηρὸς, the evil one: whereas God is good. But this epithet is not accustomed to be put (by Antonomasia[31]) for a proper name.

[30] The reading ζηλωταὶ, which was left an open question by the margin of both Editions, seems to be preferred by the Germ. Vers.—E. B.

[31] See Append. on this figure.—E.

ABC Vulg. (“æmulatores”) read ζηλωταί: so Lachm. But Rec. Text and Tisch., with very inferior authorities, μιμηταί.—E.Verse 13. - And who is he that will harm you? The apostle, as he began his quotation from Psalm 34, without marks of citation, so adds at once his inference from it in the form of a question. The conjunction "and" connects the question with the quotation. If God's eye is over the righteous, and his ear open to their prayers, who shall harm them? St. Peter does not mean - Who will have the heart to harm you? He knew the temper of Jews and heathens; he knew also the Savior's prophecies of coming persecution too well to say that. The words remind us of the Septuagint rendering of Isaiah 50:9, Κύριος βοηθήσει μοι τίς κακώσει με; None can do real harm to the Lord's people; they may persecute them, but he will make all things work together for their good. If ye be followers of that which is good; rather, if ye become zealous of that which is good, with the oldest manuscripts. The Authorized Version adopts the reading μιμηταί, followers or imitators, which is not so well supported. The genitive τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ admits the masculine translation, "of him that is good," but it is probably neuter in this place (comp. ver. 11). With the masculine rendering, comp. Acts 22:3, "and was zealous toward God (ζηλωτὴς ὑπάρχων τοῦ Θεοῦ)." Followers (μιμηταὶ)

Lit., imitators. But the best texts read ζηλωταὶ, zealots. So Rev., zealous.

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