Johnny Ramsey was one of the instructors when I attended Brown Trail School of Preaching. One of his classes was General Epistles (James – Jude). He taught us to remember each chapter by one key point. He provided the following key points for the book of 1 Peter: (1) The Great Salvation; (2) The Great Example; (3) The Great Responsibility; (4) The Great Name; (5) The Great Adversary.
In this lesson, we will consider 1 Peter 3, The Great Responsibility. Let us notice 1 Peter 3:13-17.
“And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of good?” (1 Peter 3:13).
This certainly does not mean that Christians will never suffer, in this life, for following Christ in doing good. Jesus warned His disciples that they could expect persecution (Matthew 5:10-12; 10:16-39; Luke 6:26). Paul taught the same (Acts 14:21-22; 2 Timothy 3:12). So did John (Revelation 2:10). Even Peter taught this (1 Peter 4:12-15).
What is meant? There seems to be two reasonable understandings. (1) Some understood this to be a general, proverbial statement (cf. Proverbs 16:7; 21:17; 23:21). The NIV Study Bible comments, “As a general rule, people are not harmed for acts of kindness.” (2) Others believe that Peter is saying that no one can permanently harm a Christian (cf. Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4-5; Romans 8:31-39). The ESV Study Bible comments, “His point is that no one will ultimately or finally harm Christians, ‘even if’ they suffer now, for God will reward them.” I hold this position.
“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed” (1 Peter 3:14a).
In the end, the faithful will be blessed (Matthew 5:10-12; Romans 8:18, 31-39). Remember that there will be a reward.
“’And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.’ But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts” (1 Peter 3:14b-15a).
The words and thoughts are taken from Isaiah 8:11-13. (1) Isaiah, do not give in and walk in the way of the wicked multitude (Isaiah 8:11 cf. Exodus 23:2). (2) Do not be afraid of Syria and Ephraim (Isaiah 8:12 cf. 7:2). Their alliance will not stand (cf. Isaiah 7:3-9, 16). (3) Trust and fear the LORD (Isaiah 8:12-13 cf. 7:7-9).
The point is similar in 1 Peter. (1) Do not fear evil men. (2) Instead, sanctify God. Set Him apart in your heart.
Interestingly, several versions read “Christ” instead of “God.” The ASV reads, “But sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord.” The NASB reads, “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.” The ESV reads, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy.” The NIV reads, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.” Even the NWT (the Jehovah’s Witness’ Bible) reads, “But sanctify the Christ as Lord in your hearts.” There is a textual variant. If “Christ” is the proper reading, then Christ is being called LORD or Jehovah (cf. Isaiah 8:11-13). Guy N. Woods comments, “Instead of being tormented with the fear which your enemies would instill in you, be concerned only with the enthronement of Christ in your hearts as Lord” (Gospel Advocate Commentary Series, Guy N. Woods, A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles of Peter, John, and Jude, p. 97).
“And always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15b).
This is The Great Responsibility. Every Christian is to become an apologist of Christianity. Instead of being silenced by fear, we are to courageously defend what we believe.
Let’s notice the word “defense” (NKJV) or “answer” (KJV). The original word (apologia) refers to “a verbal defense, a speech in defense” (Vine’s). In the New Testament, it is used of making a legal defense (Acts 25:13-16; 2 Timothy 4:16) and of defending the gospel (Philippians 1:17). The idea is that we should be able to provide a rational and reasonable defense for why we believe what we do. Our faith should not be “better felt than told.”
Let’s also notice the words “always be ready” (NKJV) or “always be prepared” (ESV). The original word (hetoimos) means “prepared, ready” (Vine’s). It is used at times for preparations made in advance (e.g., weddings and meals cf. Matthew 22:4; Mark 14:15; Luke 14:16-17). We need to be preparing ourselves in advance to give reasonable answers.
We should prepare in advance for the opportunity to defend our hope. These are great opportunities and should be viewed as such.
Let’s notice the words “with meekness and fear.” Many believe that this refers to meekness (self-control) and fear (respect) we have toward others (cf. Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 4:6). However, I believe, that in context, this refers to meekness and fear of God (cf. Isaiah 8:12-13). Instead of fearing men, we should fear God (Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4-5).
“having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed” (1 Peter 3:16).
This concerns conduct before others. This book has much to say about personal conduct (1 Peter 1:14-15; 2:12; 2:15; 3:1-2; 3:16; 4:15-16). Live your life in such a way that you do not help the opposition’s case against Christianity. Live your life in such a way “that one who is an opponent may be ashamed having nothing evil to say of you” (Titus 2:7-8). May we be as Daniel whose opponents could find no fault in him except “concerning the law of his God” (Daniel 6:5).
Let us be mindful that we are representatives of Christianity. This should be remembered in all areas of life. (1) This should be remembered before the Gentiles (non-Christians) we encounter (1 Peter 2:11-12). (2) This should be remembered in civic affairs (1 Peter 2:13-17). (3) This should be remembered in work matters (1 Peter 2:18-25). (4) This should be remembered in family relationships (1 Peter 3:1-7). (5) This should be remembered in relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ (1 Peter 3:8-12). (6) This should be remembered when dealing with opponents of Christianity (1 Peter 3:13-17).
Christianity has opposition. However, Peter’s words provide perspective. Moreover, they remind us that we have “The Great Responsibility” of defending and representing Christianity on earth.