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A Study Series in First Peter with Dr Steve Orr

Giving A Reason For The Hope That Is In You

1 Peter 3:15b-16

Last time we looked at 1 Peter 3:13-17 and considered what that passage has to say about “the hope that is in you”. From verses 13 to 14a we saw that the hope that is within you arises from The Privileged Position of Believers. That privileged position is that believers have eternal security in Christ.

From verses v14b-16 we saw that the hope that is within you gives The Proper Perspective for Believers. That is “in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord”. One of the results of doing that is that we can have a perspective of “no fear” when faced with opposition from men. It’s when Christ is sanctified in your heart as Lord that you can “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled”. Peter also mentioned another result of sanctifying Christ as Lord in your hearts but we left that for us to consider today.

Before we go on to consider that let’s remind ourselves that the last thing we saw last time was from verse 17 where we saw that the hope that is within you recognises The Prevailing Purpose of God. That gives us the comfort of knowing that everything that happens to us is under God’s control and is working for our good.

So, we thought about “the hope that is in you” being such that we enjoy a privileged position, have a proper perspective and are sure of the prevailing purpose of God. Now we’re going to think about giving “a reason for the hope that is in you” because, in verses 15b and 16, we see that the other result of sanctifying Christ as Lord in your hearts that Peter mentions is: “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame”.

In that text I think we can see that Peter presents a scenario, an expectation and a purpose. Firstly, let us consider:

The Scenario

The scenario that Peter presents here is one in which his readers were being asked a question. He’s getting them to think about a situation in which someone “asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. That’s how the ESV puts it. The NIV has “asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” but “the hope that is in you” is more accurate. The word that has been translated as “reason” in both versions could equally be translated as “account”, or “explanation”. The question that’s really being asked is “why do you have a hope within you or what is the basis of that hope?” The idea is of being asked to give a rational account of the reason for the hope that is within you. It’s one of being asked to explain yourself.

Now, Peter had said: “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. That could sound a bit like a courtroom setting in which a defence is being made against legal charges. Certainly, we read of a number of times when Paul made a defence when he was brought before the authorities. You might think to yourself that you’re not likely to appear in court for your faith so what Peter is saying here doesn’t apply to you. However, notice that Peter didn’t say “always being prepared to make a defense when judges or authorities ask you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. No, he said “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. No doubt the scenario that Peter was presenting would have included the legal, courtroom situation but he had something much broader in mind. He was thinking of any situation in which someone “asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. Primarily, that would be in day to day situations and in everyday conversations.

That Peter envisaged this scenario shows that he expected that, as a believer in Christ, you are likely to be asked to give “a reason for the hope that is in you”. Why would that situation arise? Surely it is because the lives of believers should show that they have a hope within them. Their hope should be evident. You see, as believers in Christ, we don’t merely have a hope for the future; we have a hope that is within us. It’s a living hope at the very centre of our beings. However, although it is within us, the very fact that Peter envisages that we will be asked about it shows that this hope is to be evident. It’s to be seen. It’s to be worked out in our daily lives. No-one would ask about it if it was a private hope that was simply hidden away in our hearts and had no effect on our daily lives. The hope within must affect all that we say and do so that it is evident to those around us. Is the hope that is in you so evident that you are sometimes asked about it?

So, that is the scenario that Peter presents. Next, when someone “asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”, let us note:

The Expectation

When someone “asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”, what does Peter expect you to do? The ESV expresses the expectation as: “always being prepared to make a defense”. The NIV has: “Always be prepared to give an answer”.

Firstly, notice that Peter presupposes that our faith is reasonable. The very fact that, when asked “for a reason for the hope that is in you”, you can “make a defense” or “give an answer” indicates that our faith is reasonable. The hope that is within us is not irrational. We might not be able to conclusively prove it but it’s not based on wishy washy, airy fairy feelings or mumbo jumbo. Neither is it the result of indoctrination. It has a solid, rational basis that can be articulated in readily understandable words. In responding to such a question, we’re not to simply express our feelings. We’re to express solid reasons. However, in doing so, it’s important to avoid Christian jargon or deeply theological terminology that will mean nothing to our unbelieving questioners. We need to answer in words that will readily be understood.

Next, notice that Peter is not simply speaking about giving an answer; he’s talking about being prepared to do so. At first sight you might take “be prepared” to just mean “be willing to” but I think there’s more to it than just willingness. I was in The Boys’ Brigade in my younger years and we felt vastly superior to the Boy Scouts because they couldn’t march, didn’t have a band and they wore silly woggles! Nonetheless, despite my non-involvement with the Boy Scouts, I was very aware that their motto was “Be prepared” and that came to my mind as I was considering this verse. Robert Baden-Powel, the founder of the Scouts, explained their motto as follows: “Be Prepared in Mind by having disciplined yourself to be obedient to every order, and also by having thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur, so that you know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it. Be Prepared in Body by making yourself strong and active and able to do the right thing at the right moment, and do it”. That’s quite a convoluted statement but it expresses the idea that being prepared is to be both willing and able. It speaks of being suitably equipped as well as being well intentioned. Both are essential if anything is to be achieved. You might be very willing to do something but you won’t accomplish much without the necessary ability. Conversely, you might be very well equipped but you won’t accomplish much without a willingness to use your ability. The expectation that Peter is expressing is for us to be both willing and able to do something. So, you are to be prepared for the situation in which someone “asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”, by being willing to give an answer and by being able to give an answer.

The next thing to notice is that the ESV speaks of “being prepared” but the NIV says “be prepared” which sounds like another one of Peter’s imperatives. However, “being prepared” is the correct translation of the Greek text. Let’s get a feel for the flow of what Peter is saying by reading from verse 14b. He says: “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared….”. You see, this always being prepared stems from honouring Christ the Lord as holy in your hearts. If Christ is Lord in your heart so that you have personal trust in Him alone as your Lord, besides giving rise to that perspective of “no fear” when faced with opposition from men, it will also result in “being prepared”. You “honor Christ the Lord as holy” by “always being prepared”. Having Christ as Lord in your heart results in going beyond not fearing men to being willing and able to do something.

What does it make us willing and able to do? Well, the ESV says: “to make a defense” and the NIV says: “to give an answer”. The Greek word that has been translated as “defence” or “answer” is apologia from which we get the English word “apology”. In everyday, modern parlance we think in terms of being apologetic as being sorry for something. When you’ve wronged someone you apologise to them. You give them an apology. It’s an expression of regret. That certainly isn’t what Peter is saying here. He isn’t saying that when you’re asked “for a reason for the hope that is in you”, you’re to reply by saying “I’m ever so sorry but that’s just what I happen to believe”. The English word “apology” also has a more technical meaning that refers to making a rigorous defence of a belief. We tend not to use the word “apology” in that way nowadays but you’ll be familiar with the word “apologetics”. That might sound very academic. It might make you think of complicated, intellectual arguments that are put forward to support the validity of the faith. However, while there is certainly a place for formal apologetics, that is not particularly what Peter has is mind here either. He’s not saying we’re all to be steeped in apologetics. Generally, when the word apologia is used in the New Testament it has the sense of “answer a question” or “reply to an accusation”. Peter is simply saying here that when anyone questions the “reason for the hope that is in you”, if you’re honouring Christ the Lord as holy in your heart, you’ll be willing and able to give a clear explanation.

Besides recognising that Peter is not saying that we’re all to be steeped in apologetics we also need to recognise that he is not saying that we’re all to be full on evangelists either. Sometimes Christians can be made to feel quite inadequate because they feel that there is pressure being placed upon them to be evangelising. The fact is that we’re not all gifted as evangelists. We don’t all have the ability to go out of our way to engage with strangers and directly challenge them with the gospel. But, we are all to be those who are willing and able “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”.

Looking at the text we can discern three aspects to this expectation that you will be prepared to “make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. Such a defence is to be characterised by: Constancy, Civility and Consistency.

We see the aspect of Constancy in verse 15 where Peter says: “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks” or, in the NIV: “everyone who asks”.

That word “always” suggests constancy. It’s not saying that we’re to always be making a defence. We only do that when someone asks us for the reason for our hope. But, it is saying that we’re to always be prepared to make such a defence when asked “for a reason for the hope that is in you”. We’re to be in a state of constant readiness for whenever someone asks the question. We’re to be a bit like firemen. For a lot of the time they’re either inactive or doing training exercises. Nonetheless, they’re always ready to respond when called upon.

This aspect of constancy is also suggested by the words “anyone who asks” in the ESV or “everyone who asks” in the NIV. You see, we don’t pick and choose who to answer. We’re to be constant in answering anyone and everyone who asks regardless of whether they be rich or poor, powerful or weak, intelligent or simple. We’re not to be afraid to answer those who might intimidate us because they seem to be more powerful or more clever than us. After all, our hope isn’t the product of our own intellect but the result of God’s work through Jesus on the cross having been applied to our hearts and lives by his Spirit. Neither are we to be unwilling to answer those who might seem to beneath us. No, it’s “anyone” or “everyone who asks”. So, we don’t only answer whenever someone asks, we also answer whoever asks.

Notice too that there is no mention of why someone might be asking. Peter doesn’t specify whether the question stems from genuine interest, idle curiosity, polite conversation or a hostile attitude. The fact is that, regardless of when, who or why, if the question is asked we are to be constant in our readiness to provide an answer.

We see the aspect of Civility where Peter continues in verse 15 to say: “yet do it with gentleness and respect”. The NIV has “But do this with gentleness and respect”. You see, it’s not merely giving an answer that matters. How we give the answer is also important. An excellent, clearly worded answer can be completely ruined if it’s accompanied by a poor manner or attitude.

The word that’s been translated as “gentleness” here could equally as well be translated as “meekness” or “humility”. This speaks of the manner in which we’re to make a defence or give an answer to those who ask us “for a reason for the hope that is in” us. I’m sure you’ve all noticed that if politicians, speakers, preachers and so on are unsure of their position they often become increasingly strident and loud in defending it and invariably, the more they do so, the less convincing they become. There might well have been occasions on which you’ve done the same thing yourself. But, we’re to answer with gentleness, meekness, humility.

Having said that we’re to answer with “gentleness”, both versions then go on to say: “and respect”. That might give the impression that, besides answering with “gentleness”, we’re to also be respectful towards those who ask the question. However, although we certainly should be respectful towards those who question us or demand answers, I don’t think the translators have captured the right sense here. The Greek word that they’ve translated as “respect” is actually phobos which literally means “fear” and, as we’ve seen on several previous occasions, Peter invariably uses phobos to speak of “fear of God”. He’s certainly not saying that we’re to fear those who question us. Rather, our respect for God, our reverence for Him, our sure hope in Him should provide us with a deep and settled conviction so that we don’t feel the need to be strident and aggressive. Having a proper reverence for God leads to humility. Because our confidence is in Him rather than in ourselves we can answer with humility. It’s having that right relationship with God by viewing Him as Lord that enables us to respond to our questioners with appropriate gentleness and humility. So, the defence we make is to be characterised by civility.

Moving on to verse 16 we see the aspect of Consistency as Peter goes on to say: “having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame”.

You see, regarding “being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” Peter didn’t stop at saying: “yet do it with gentleness and respect”. He went on to say: “having a good conscience”. The NIV puts it as “keeping a clear conscience” which makes it sound as though we are to make an effort to keep our consciences clear but that isn’t the emphasis here. “Having a good conscience” is the correct translation. The fact is that, as believers in Christ, we have “a good conscience”. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that our consciences have been cleansed and purified by the blood of Christ. So, as we answer those who question us we are to do so in a way that is consistent with that “good conscience” in the context of a life that is consistent with that “a good conscience”. You’ll notice that Peter goes on in verse 16 to speak of “your good behavior in Christ”. Our lives are to be an outworking of what we are in Christ.

In the immediate context, bringing that “good conscience” to bear when we answer those who question us will mean that we will answer them with honesty and integrity. We’re not to embellish what we say to try to make the gospel more appealing to our hearers. We’re not to put on an act. We’re not to exaggerate. We’re to say what we honestly know to be true.

So, you see, even giving an answer with civility is not enough. I’m sure we’ve all come across people who appear to be very civil but it’s really something of a facade. The answer that we give is to be convincing and our civility is to be seen to be genuine by being supported by a consistent life. The words of our answer and the civil manner of our answer are to be backed up by the inner reality of “having a good conscience” and the outward reality of “good behavior in Christ”. Responding by delivering words with civility and backing them up with consistent lives is much more eloquent and compelling than words alone. In modern day parlance we might say that we’re to “walk the walk as well as talk the talk”. Or, as I read somewhere: “The Christian is both defendant and attorney. We defend our faith with our mouths and back it with our lives. Life and lip must match for a powerful testimony”.

Finally, and briefly, let us think about:

The Purpose

That Peter is going to give a purpose in giving an answer or making a defence to anyone who “asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” is indicated in verse 16 by the words “so that”.

What he goes on to say will probably come as a surprise to you. You might well expect him to say something like: “so that they will come to faith in Christ” or “so that they will be encouraged to think about their need of Christ”. What he actually says is: “so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (ESV) or “so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (NIV).

You see, the purpose that he draws to our attention relates to a particular situation. That is: “when you are slandered”. In what way does Peter expect you to be slandered? We see that he expects that people will “revile your good behavior in Christ”. That is to say that people will criticise, mock, belittle, vilify the good behaviour that results from our being “in Christ”. It seems quite incongruous that anyone would revile good behaviour doesn’t it? But, in this twisted, fallen world in which we live, some people do exactly that. People mock the godly behaviour of Christians. They resent our wholesome family lives and our sexual purity and our responsible stewardship of our money and possessions and our conscientious attitude to work and our honesty and so on.

The purpose in making a gentle defence in keeping with a clear conscience when anyone “asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” that Peter draws to our attention here is that those who slander you by reviling your good behaviour in Christ “may be put to shame”. The NIV has “may be ashamed of their slander”. That gives the impression that purpose is that they will be embarrassed or made to feel bad but that isn’t the idea here. It’s to do with standing rather than emotion. We get a feel for the meaning of being “put to shame” if we look at Luke 13. There we have an account of a confrontation between Jesus and the rulers of the synagogue. Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath and He healed a woman who had been disabled for 18 years. The rulers, instead of being thankful and glorifying God, accused Him of working on the Sabbath! Jesus defended His actions and we read in Luke 13v17: “As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him”. That’s not saying that the rulers were thoroughly ashamed of themselves. It’s saying that they were clearly seen to be wrong in making their accusations and so Jesus was vindicated. Likewise, you’re to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” so that those who slander you and revile your good behaviour might be seen to be wrong. It’s not just the content of your answer but the manner of it that could have that effect. The gentleness and consistency of your answer will be in marked contrast to the slander that comes from those who “revile your good behavior in Christ”.

Of course, the aim of their being “put to shame” is not to make you look good. It’s for the glory of God. It’s so that that the power of His work in the gospel might be seen and acknowledged. That would especially be the case if those who “revile your good behavior in Christ” came to put their faith in Christ themselves.

The last thing to notice here is that there is no pressure on you to be successful in this. We live in a world that is very “results” centred don’t we? How often do you hear football managers say “it’s a results game”? The same is true in so many areas of life but it’s not the case in God’s Kingdom. He calls us to be obedient. He calls us to be faithful. He doesn’t require us to be successful in terms of outcomes. So, we’re expected to be “prepared to make a defense”; we’re not responsible for the outcome of doing so. You see, Peter doesn’t say that the purpose is that they “will be put to shame” but that they “may be put to shame”. Our giving an answer opens up that possibility but there’s no guarantee what the outcome will be. That is in the hands of God. He is the One who puts to shame. He is the One who brings about conviction. If someone comes to faith in Christ, it’s through His work and not ours.

So, may each one of you who knows Jesus as your Saviour and Lord “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. May you do so “with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience”. And may you do so in the liberating knowledge that the outcome depends on the outworking of God’s will and purpose.

Dr. Steve Orr

Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!

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A Study Series in First Peter with Dr Steve Orr

The Hope That Is In You

1 Peter 3:13-17

Last time we looked at 1 Peter 3v10-12 where Peter was quoting from Psalm 34. From that quotation we noted an Aspiration, an Obligation and a Motivation.

The aspiration was “to love life and see good days”. That might sound like a desire for “the good life” but we saw that it actually refers to a desire to be redeemed and delivered from condemnation and to receive the eternal inheritance that Peter has emphasised in his letter. It’s a desire to be made right with God and so have a sure hope for eternity.

The obligation was really three-fold: to control your tongue and use it in keeping with your new life in Christ, to ensure that your actions are in keeping with your new life in Christ and to pursue peace so that your relationships are in keeping with your new life in Christ.

The motivation for fulfilling those obligations stems, not from a sense of legal duty or a desire to earn favour but from our relationship with the Lord. We saw that for those who believe in Christ and have new life in Him the face of the Lord is no longer against them. Rather, His eyes are upon them and His ears are open to their prayer. If you like, He’s on their side.

It’s against that background that Peter writes the verses we’re going to start to look at today. In the ESV 1 Peter 3v13-17 reads as follows: “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil”.

You’ll notice that at the very heart of that passage we find the expression “the hope that is in you”. The fact that believers in Christ have a sure hope within is really central to what Peter is saying here.

  • From verses 13 to 14a we see that the hope that is within you points to The Privileged Position of Believers.
  • From verses v14b-16 we see that the hope that is within you provides The Proper Perspective for Believers.
  • From verse 17 we see that the hope that is within you recognises The Prevailing Purpose of God.

So, firstly, let us look at verses 13 to 14a to consider:

The Privileged Position of Believers

We read in those verses: “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed”.

If you’re using the NIV you’ll see that verse 13 begins with the following question: “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?”. That sounds like a rhetorical question and the answer you would probably instinctively give is “no-one”. Superficially, that might seem to be saying that we can expect all the people around us to treat us well so long as we do good and live righteous lives. They’ll scratch our backs so long as we scratch theirs. However, that is much too simplistic. To think such a thing is naïve to say the least! Remember that throughout the letter Peter has repeatedly stressed that believers in Christ who are eager to do good can, nonetheless, expect to suffer in this life. They will face opposition. People will be out to harm them! In verse 17 of this chapter Peter is going to say: “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil”. So, being eager to do good is certainly no guarantee that no-one will harm you.

How then are we to understand this rhetorical question? To work that out there are a couple of things that we need to recognise. Firstly, we need to be aware that the NIV has missed a word out from the original Greek text. The ESV has: “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?”. You see, it includes the word “Now” at the beginning. Something like “then” or “and so” would actually convey the true sense even better. So, this question stems from and is linked to what Peter had just quoted from Psalm 34. The flow of the text is therefore something like: “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil and so who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?”.

You see, the point is that “the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” but, if you’re one of the righteous who are eager to good, the Lord is for you so He won’t harm you. Peter isn’t saying that people won’t be out to harm you. The point is that the One who really matters is on your side so He won’t harm you.

The other thing that we need to note is that this is a question about the future rather than the here and now. The ESV says: “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?”. That sounds as though the question is “who will harm you in this life if you are eager to good?” The NIV is a bit better in saying: “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?”. That has a bit more of a future feel to it than the ESV but the text is really best translated as: “Who will harm you if you are eager to do good?”.

So, bearing those points in mind, Peter certainly isn’t suggesting that we’ll avoid being rejected or harmed by other people in this life so long as we’re eager or zealous to do good. Rather, he is saying that no-one can ultimately harm us or do us eternal harm because, if we’re in Christ, we will be vindicated by God on the last day.

The thought here is very similar to that of Romans 8v31 where Paul said: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”. Of course, Paul knew full well that many are against us. In verse 35 he asks the question: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”. He’d suffered all of those things for the sake of the gospel and, in verse 37, his answer to the question was: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us”. Yes, many were against Paul but none could ultimately prevail against him because he was safe in the love of Christ. So he went on in verse 38 to say: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

So, can people harm us in this life? Yes, they can. Can they do us lasting harm? No they can’t because we enjoy a privileged position in the Lord Jesus Christ so that we are eternally secure.

That understanding is confirmed as Peter continues by saying: “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed”. The word translated as “but” there is not providing a contrast with what has gone before. Rather, it is giving a clarification of verse 13 and would better be translated as “indeed”. So, the overall sense is: “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? Indeed even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed”. It’s saying that as a believer in Christ you might well have to “suffer for righteousness’ sake” but, even if you do, you won’t suffer any lasting harm because, ultimately, “you will be blessed”. You have that assurance. No doubt Peter had in mind the words of Jesus from Matthew 5v10-12 where we read: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you”. Jesus said that we can expect persecution, reviling and false accusations to be levelled against us. Even so, we are blessed because we look forward to a great reward in heaven. We enjoy that privileged position as believers in Christ. So “the hope that is in you” points to your privileged position in Christ.

Stemming from that hope, next let us consider:

The Proper Perspective for Believers

That is, in view of “the hope that is in you”, what outlook do you have and so how should you behave when others seek to harm you and you find yourself suffering for righteousness sake? Well, we see that Peter continues in verses14b to 16 by saying: “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame”.

Peter has already quoted from Isaiah 8 back in 1 Peter chapter 2 when he was speaking of Jesus as being the chosen and precious cornerstone. Here he’s loosely quoting from Isaiah 8v11-13 where we read: “For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread”.

Firstly, we see that, negatively, when others seek to harm us, we are exhorted to “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled”. That’s reminiscent of the words of Jesus in John 14v1 where He said: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me”. In the context of Isaiah 8 the northern kingdoms of Israel and Aram were threatening to overthrow Ahaz as king of Judah and replace him with a guy called Tabeel. That prospect filled Ahaz and Judah as a whole with terror. However, Isaiah, inspired by the Holy Spirit, promised that the Lord would preserve Judah. The plan against them would come to nothing because Israel and Aram were going to be defeated by Syria. Isaiah’s message was that they were to trust God’s promise rather than fearing their enemies. He was saying: in view of God’s promise, do not “be in dread” of what men might do. Peter’s point in quoting these verses was that just as Judah had enemies in the days of Ahaz and were prone to fear so his readers had enemies and could also be prone to fear what their persecutors might do to them. Their perspective could easily be one of fear. But, just as Isaiah exhorted Judah, so believers in Christ are to trust in the Lord rather than fear what unbelievers might do them. You see, in view of “the hope that is in you”, the proper perspective for believers is to “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled”.

Positively, we see that Peter goes on to say that, in view of “the hope that is in you”, we are to honour or revere Christ. We’re not only to not fear what men might do. Our perspective is to be one of positively setting Christ above all human authority.

Peter is saying that on the basis of continuing to follow the passage in Isaiah 8. Isaiah 8v13 says: “But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread”. However, Peter didn’t quote it word for word. He made a couple of significant changes. According to the ESV he said: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy”. The NIV puts it as: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord”. We’ll look into the differences between those two translations in a moment but let us first notice how Peter’s words differ from what Isaiah wrote.

The first difference lies in the object of the sentence. In Isaiah 8v13 the object is: “the Lord of hosts”. That is Jaweh, Jehovah, the almighty, living God. When you look at 1 Peter 3v15 you find that the object has become “Christ the Lord” or simply “Christ” depending on whether you opt for the ESV or NIV. Peter has taken a passage that clearly speaks of God and directly referred it to Jesus Christ. To Peter, Jesus Christ is none other than the living God. To Muslims, Jesus is a great prophet. To Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jesus is “a god” with a small “g”. The reality is that the man Christ Jesus is fully and truly God Almighty.

The second difference lies in the fact that Peter has added the words: “in your hearts”. Now, often, when people speak of things being in the heart, they’re speaking of things that are very personal and private within them. You sometimes hear it said of someone that they “wear their heart on their sleeve”. That’s referring to a person who allows their innermost thoughts and feelings be seen. We have that expression because that’s not the norm. Most people don’t wear their hearts on their sleeve. In our culture, what’s “in our hearts” refers to that which is personal and private within ourselves. However, when the Bible speaks of the heart, although it certainly speaks of a person’s innermost being, we mustn’t think in terms of a private, almost secret life within. The Bible uses the heart to represent the very core of a person which gives rise to what they do. It’s the seat of their understanding and volition that manifests itself in outward actions. So, when Peter mentions something “in your hearts” he’s not just talking about mere intellectual assent to something or simply to something that is deeply personal and private or something to which you have a strong emotional attachment. It’s all of that but more besides. It’s what makes you tick. It’s what motivates you and gives rise to how you live and conduct yourself.

What is it that Peter says is to be “in your hearts”? Well, to work that out we now need to untangle the two translations and try to work out the proper sense of the original text. In the ESV we have: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy” and in the NIV we have: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord”.

The Greek verb in the sentence really means “sanctify” or “consecrate”. The NIV has translated it as “revere”. That’s a bit weak and falls far short of conveying the full sense. The ESV has translated it as “honor …. as holy”. That’s better but it still fails to convey the sense. The Greek word is actually the word that used in the Lord’s prayer when Jesus said: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name”. To “hallow” is to set apart and honour and glorify by submitting to and obeying.

The other main difference between the two translations is that the ESV speaks of honouring “Christ the Lord” whereas the NIV speaks of revering “Christ as Lord”. There’s a difference in emphasis between those two translations. The ESV is really emphasising the objective fact that Christ is Lord. That’s a truth we’ve already recognised in noting how Peter applied Isaiah 8v13 to Jesus. The NIV, on the other hand, is not so much emphasising the fact that Christ is Lord. That’s taken as a given. The emphasis is rather on treating Him as Lord, relating to Him as Lord and submitting to Him as Lord.

Which is the right emphasis here? Well, there is no definite article in the Greek text. It doesn’t say “Christ the Lord”. So the emphasis conveyed by the NIV is to be preferred. Piecing it all together, the best translation is something like “in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord”. That’s to be our perspective. Our outlook and actions are to be shaped, not merely by knowing theoretically that Christ is the Lord God almighty, but by His being our Lord in our very beings so that He affects our daily lives. Given the fact that He is the Lord of the universe we are to view Him and submit to Him as our Lord. As believers in Christ He is to be the Lord of our lives.

That’s easily said but we each need to ask the question “is that true of me?” Are you really looking to Jesus to reign as Lord of your life or is there someone or something else in your heart that commands your trust? Who is reigning in your heart as Lord? Who do you look to for meaning and purpose, for hope, happiness and blessing? Is it your wife or husband? Is it your children or your friends? Perhaps it’s yourself or your job or the money you earn or have saved? The fact is that they will all ultimately fail you. Christ must be Lord in your heart. It’s when we have that perspective of personal trust in Christ alone as our Lord that we can have that perspective of “no fear” when faced with opposition from men. It’s when Christ is sanctified in your heart as Lord that you can “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled”.

What else does it mean in practice if you have the perspective of having Christ sanctified in your heart as Lord? Well, Peter goes on to give an example as he continues by saying: “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame”.

There’s a lot in that to consider so I’ve decided to look at it in more detail next time. For now, just note that, as believers in Christ, we have a hope within us and if we’re to sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts that will mean that we are always ready to speak of Him and give a reason for the hope that is in us. If He’s Lord in our hearts, we’ll take every opportunity to speak of His goodness and greatness and why our trust is in Him.

In closing today let’s just note that Peter continues in verse17 by saying: “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil”. From that I just want to highlight:

The Prevailing Purpose of God

Peter has already spoken of the possibility of suffering. Here he is comparing suffering for doing good with suffering for doing evil. Obviously, no suffering is pleasant but he says that one is better than the other. At first sight you might get the impression that he’s saying that suffering for doing good is better in that it is more commendable than suffering for doing evil. He spoke in those terms when addressing Christian slaves in chapter 2 verses 19 to 20 where he said: “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God”.

However, back in verse 14 of our passage he’s just said: “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed”. That suggests that “suffering for righteousness’ sake” or “suffering for doing good” now is “better” in that it leads to future blessing. Better than what? Better than suffering for evil in terms of future punishment.

Whichever way we take it, suffering for doing good in this life is also part of sanctifying Christ as Lord in your hearts because it’s suffering for Him. I particularly want to point out that Peter slips in that little phrase: “if that should be God’s will”. It sounds like an aside. It’s almost seems like a throwaway comment but it’s very telling and, for the believer in Christ, very comforting. You see, if we have this hope within us, we recognise that God has a plan. He has a purpose. He’s in control. Of course, He has His plan of salvation which began before the foundation of the Earth and is being worked out throughout time and into eternity. That is mind blowing big stuff. But, Peter’s comment here in this verse makes it clear that God’s will is also being done in little, everyday stuff. If, believers suffer, it is because it is God’s will. That isn’t intended to make us fatalistic. It doesn’t mean that whatever comes our way we’re to just shrug our shoulders and say “God wills it” but we are to be comforted by the thought that God is in control and working for our good.

Paul says in Romans 8v28-30: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified”.

That speaks of God’s purpose and there’s plenty of the big stuff in there. It begins in the past with Him foreknowing and predestining His people. To what? Ultimately to being “conformed to the image of his Son”. How does that happen? How is that wonderful purpose worked out? By calling and justifying them in time so that they are glorified in eternity. But, notice that in the midst of all these weighty and wonderful truths Paul says that “all things work together for good” for those who are included in them. It’s not just the big things or the main things or the crucial things. It’s “all things”. Everything that happens to us is under God’s control and is working for our ultimate good. So, if we suffer for doing good, although it’s not pleasant, we don’t fear it because we have the assurance that it’s part of God’s purpose that is ultimately taking us to glory.

So, the hope that is in us is such that we are sure of future blessing, we face this present life from the perspective of not fearing men because Christ is Lord in our hearts and confident that God is in control and working His purpose out in our lives for our good.

We’ve thought about “the hope that is in you”. Next time we’ll think about giving “a reason for the hope that is in you”.

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