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Peter provided some significant and challenging instructions in vs. 8-12. This is the type of personal behavior that we should demonstrate as a manifestation of Christ’s life changing power that resides within us. Peter now shifts to practical application.
1 Peter 3:13-15 says, “Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”
Just a quick recap from last week. Peter told us to keep our tongue from evil and lips from speaking deceit, turn away from evil and do good; we are to seek peace and pursue it. We are not to participate in any form of evil and the idea is that the Lord is our protector and we are doing good in service to Him. Obviously Peter knows what is going on in the world and he says, “But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed.” Blessed to suffer. Wow, that’s an oxymoron, but Peter is speaking from personal experience. Remember after Jesus established the church, the apostles were performing many signs and wonders. The Jewish big wigs didn’t like what they were doing. They were thrown in jail, but were released by the Holy Spirit and were found preaching in the market place. So the Sanhedrin, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the whole senate, and the Jewish elders got together and decided what to with them. It was decided to simply beat them and they were told in Acts 5:40, “Not to speak in the name of Jesus.” Acts 5:41: “So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.” Suffering and hardship did not deter them. I think it made them even more determined to do the work of the Lord. It sure isn’t like that anymore. People look for an excuse not to come to church, look for reasons why they can’t serve. Perhaps the fire of the Lord has gone out, but that’s not possible is it? Acts 5:42 goes on to say, “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” They were being the church that Jesus intended it to be.
Peter says, “Do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled.” The Apostles weren’t the first ones that had the idea that serving God was what Christians ought to do. How about the three Hebrew children? In Dan. 3:17-18 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” They had standards. They weren’t going to let a little thing like being burnt to death deter them from serving the Lord. Paul told Timothy, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Tim. 1:7) The idea is that we should be motivated by God’s power rather than focus on our weaknesses. God is able to work through us if we’ll only allow Him. The whole idea Peter is expressing is don’t let the man get you down or keep you down. You do what is right regardless of the consequences.
Peter answers his rhetorical question by telling us what not to do, now he tells us to do be ready. V. 15 says, “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” There’s that great “but” word again. “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.” Sanctify comes from the word that means to separate from profane things and dedicate to God. Set your heart on God. Peter ties this verse to the previous verse by saying but. This is the contrast. When you set your heart on God, when you focus on Him, any fears you may have, any apprehension that may come, any doubt about what you are doing will all be dissuaded or put to rest, God will put your mind at rest and keep you calm even as you face trials. Pro. 18:10 says “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe.” Set your heart on God and be ready. When your heart and your entire being is focused on God, you will be noticed. When you’re noticed, you need to be ready to explain why you are the way you are. Notice that we are not to get ready, we aren’t to call someone, we aren’t to read a book or go to a conference, we are to, “always be[ing] ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.” Defense comes from the Greek word apologia where we get our English word apology. It is the ability to make a reasoned statement or argument. Always. That means always. No special time to prepare a defense, no study time, no delays. Notice the verse says, “to everyone who asks you.” Anyone has the right to ask another on what grounds he regards his religion as true. The real meaning behind this verse is that we are to always be ready, willing, and able to give strong reasons why we decided to follow Christ. This is not just how we got saved. It is how and why we got saved. What caused us to embrace the fact that Jesus is the Christ and what caused us to make the decision to follow Him? It is not an intrusion into our personal lives.
When asked this question, some will say, “Religion is a private matter.” “It’s personal.” “I don’t discuss religion.” “That’s not what I believe.” Maybe you’ve heard those very things. We are to, “give an account for the hope that is with us with gentleness and reverence.” People will approach you about religion in many ways. Some want to ridicule you for believing. Some want to criticize you. Some want to harass you. We are to respond gently and recognize the importance of the subject. Pro. 15:1 reminds us that, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
So the question for us today is, are you ready? Are you willing?