- Peter is concluding his application of the principle that Christians are called to live different, yet exemplary lives. Their goal is to live at peace with everyone.
- Last week, we considered characteristics and conduct that build fellowship within the covenant community (inward).
- This week shifts to an outward focus.
Read 1 Peter 3:13-17
- We will be prepared to make a defense and maintain a good conscience when Christ is set above everyone and everything else.
- When Christ is preeminent in our lives, we know how compelling the gospel is for those who do not know him. The risk of evangelism is removed because any suffering that results will lead to a blessing and my conscience is good because I didn’t remain silent, or sidestep the opportunity.
- When Christ is preeminent in our hearts, everything we say and do testifies of him.
- Witness Through Word (13-15)
- Witness Through Life (16-17)
Witness Through Word (13-15)
- v.13 Peter is not suggesting a morally zealous Christian will never be persecuted (see 4:12).
- Harm is not to be expected (unlikely).
- Probably written during Claudius’ reign. Could you imagine a victim of Nero’s viciousness reading this?
- v.14 Some will persecute Christians precisely because they are acting like Christians (radicals, terrorists, employers and politicians). Christians are fired/chastised for holding a Christian worldview.
- Those who suffer in these ways shouldn’t fear because they will receive a blessing.
- v.15 Rather than cowering in fear or being troubled into silence, we prepare to respond to any argument or inquiry with a gentle and respectful defense of our hope.
- Peter, voice of experience. He was utterly unprepared to suffer. He was filled with fear, cowering in shame. What did he learn?
- Honor = Make holy/sanctify. Set Christ above all else so that nothing and no one would hinder you from defending your faith.
- Their question isn’t an attack. Your honest response will not likely lead to any harm.
- Their question implies that your life has brought them to see that you act/think differently.
- Your defense should be gentle and respectful. The only offense should be the gospel, not your arrogance. Your defense shouldn’t be a canned presentation (listen and inquire).
- How many Christians could do what Peter is asking today?
- We exaggerate our situation:
- We think we have more enemies than we actually do. Everyone is not out to harm me.
- We take their difference of opinion (religious, philosophy) as a personal assault. This cuts both ways.
- We often live out of unwarranted fear. We lack confidence that our suffering will bring blessing. We lack an ability to make a defense of our faith because Christ is not being honored as preeminent. Even when we do have the confidence to speak, we often do so with harshness and contempt.
- Peter is not expecting perfect articulation of doctrine, but ability to explain our hope.
In addition to being a witness with our words…
Witness Through Life (16-17)
- Life/word balance. Some people can articulate the finer points of the gospel perfectly, but their ungodly lives contradict their words. They can say the right things, but their lack of fruit betrays their hypocrisy.
- v.16 Their slander will not feel shameful because your conscience is clear.
- When Christ is sanctified as first in your heart, instead of embarrassing or intimidating you, their insults lead to their own shame.
- v.17 God’s will may be that you endure suffering. Let that suffering come because of your good conduct, not because you created an enemy. Be sure the gospel is louder than your arrogance!
Karen Jobes If suffering is within God’s will, it is also within God’s sovereign control. And thus Christian suffering is determined not by the will of one’s adversaries but by the will of one’s heavenly Father.”
- Your suffering is according to God’s will. He is sovereign over your circumstances. He could have prevented you from suffering, but he has a purpose to use that suffering for his glory and your edification.
- Do you trust him in that?
- William Cowper, “God Moves In A Mysterious Way”:
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
- When Christ is not first in our hearts, we feel ashamed by the insults of those who attack our faith. We are ashamed of the gospel’s offensive language (contra Rom. 1:16).
- Also, we don’t see how our suffering can be used by God for good, so we do everything we can to avoid it. We despise it and everyone who brought it upon us.
- Our conduct must be above reproach. Our witness will be hindered if we preach one thing with our lips, but live in a contradictory way. Your audience is not only listeningto your words but they are watching your lives.
Our words and lives witness of Christ’s preeminence.
- This prepares us to make a defense of our hope as well as maintain a good conscience. When Christ is preeminent we won’t remain silent or conduct ourselves in shameful ways.
- Peter challenges his readers with this because Jesus Christ is preeminent. It isn’t a matter of making him into something he isn’t, but it is learning to recognize his preeminence in all things (Col. 1:18).
- Possibly in light of his own failures, Peter recognizes that some consciences will need to be reminded of Christ’s reconciling work of their behalf.
- We will consider that in a few weeks.