Guarded Christian Living: A Strong Faith at the Right Time
1 Peter 3:13-17
Turn to 1 Peter 3. Peter has been speaking about our role as a slave of Christ should have an effect on our very character. Implementing such qualities in our lives as to be like-minded, sympathetic, brotherly, tender-hearted, and humble. And the positive part of this is that, the living with such character, with this kind of changed heart, is that Peter said you will see good days. So, this is challenging, true, but it is also attainable, because God has commanded us to live in such a way. And why would God command us to do something that we are unable to do. I received much feedback from last week which I enjoyed. One, was, “I didn’t like your message, but I needed it. Classic! A second one was, “I am struggling with what you preached, not because I disagreed with it, but because I am struggling with it. Well, I think we all need to remember that ultimately if we teach and preach God’s Word, the message is not the teacher’s message, the message is what God desires of us.
Well in our text this morning, Peter is going to add to what he said last week, which I trust will bring greater clarity as well as greater encouragement. So, let’s pray and then we will begin. Lord, the message of the Bible is powerful and can change lives, while the message of the world is weak and has no eternal benefit. So, may we be attentive to Your eternal truth this morning. May we heed every word which You have given to Peter. For we ask this in the name of Christ, amen.
“And 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 fear, 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 fear, having a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who disparage your good conduct in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing good rather than for doing wrong.”
1 Pet 3:13-17 (LSB)
Now we notice an overriding theme in these verses and I would suggest is found in vs 15, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.” Much has been taught regarding the Lordship of Christ in regards to salvation. Theologians have debated for years of what is a true believer. Is it a simple act of faith where someone receives Christ, or is it more than that? Well that is a whole other sermon, in fact, it is likely a whole other sermon series. I am currently working on a doctorate through Liberty University. And by next fall I need to decide what is going to be my main thesis for the balance of the doctrinal degree. And I have been bantering back and forth between either the topic of the holiness of God and all the ramifications of that, or understanding our salvation. Both are vital issues that the church needs to understand well. I will say this about our salvation.
There is much in the Bible about the perseverance of the true believer, and I have always taught that our assurance of salvation comes from seeing the growth which the Spirit is doing in our lives. For here will be those who thought they knew Christ, yet Christ will say to them, “depart from Me I never knew you.” And Jesus Himself gave many warnings to people about counting the cost, suggesting that truly coming to Christ is not an easy decision. In Luke 14:27, Jesus said that if you cannot carry your own cross you cannot follow Me. Luke 14:33, if you do not give up everything, you cannot be a disciple of Mine. Also, salvation is described as the narrow path in Matt 7:14. Matt 17:17, every good tree bears good fruit. In the story of the soils, it is only the seed that fell upon the good soil that was able to bear fruit. In fact, it was the one who allowed the thorns to choke out the seed, that it proved to be unfruitful. And I suppose that it is only the Lord who knows whether someone truly believes in Christ by faith or does not.
Yet if someone came to me who was sinfully rebelling against God and was not living the life of a disciple, I would never try to convince them that they are truly saved. The Scriptures seem to address this with such verses as 2 Peter 1:10, “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and choosing sure.” So, someone who is not living for the Lord, yet claims to have been saved as a child, we would have to say, there is no evidence of your salvation. Matthew 7:16, “you will know them by their fruit.” And to give someone some kind of false assurance only because they raised a hand or walked an aisle or was baptised, does them no favours when they someday stand before the Lord and He does not know them
Now this morning in our passage Peter is going to make some assumptions here of the one who claims to have decided to serve Christ. But let me begin by giving you two things regarding Christ as Lord. Notice that phrase in verse 15 stresses the fact that a Christian is not only “set apart” which the word sanctify means, but the Christian also sets Christ apart in their life. Firstly, notice it says, “but sanctify Christ.” And there is that phrase, “as Lord.” Certainly, Christ is Lord. And there is nothing that can change that fact. Simply Christ is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. And even if you or I or anyone does not acknowledge Him as Lord, does not change the fact that he is Lord, as Christ is sovereign and can do anything He chooses to do, as it is only by His grace that you and I live and breathe today. It is only by His grace that even the guy that curses Christ can take a breath this AM! The entire world is at the mercy of Jesus Christ! Colossians 1:16, Christ created all things. John 1:10, the world was made through Christ. Colossians 1:17, Christ holds everything together. Hebrews 1:3, Christ upholds all things by the power of His Word. So, is Christ the Lord of lords? No question! But here is the question. Do you, do I serve Christ as Saviour and Lord? Do our lives acknowledge that truth? Is Christ the centre of my thoughts? Is He the focus of my prayers? Is He the guiding Light to my decisions? Do I acknowledge the Lordship that is already His?
A secondly, notice it says to “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.” This takes us back to last week’s lesson. That my following of Christ as Lord is not just an outward act of service, but it must grip my entire being. The Spirit of Christ controls my thinking, my attitude, my inner character, my attention is on Christ. Now I also understand that we are “growing” in Christ. And therefore, we know we sin, we know we are not yet perfected. But that is the key, that we are growing in Christ. Are you growing in Christ? For we would have a difficult time to find in the Bible the understanding that someone came to the Lord in New testament times, and did not begin to grow and deepen their faith. So, here we have the Christian, who has come to Jesus Christ, who has left behind the things of the world, and has chosen to follow Christ as Lord and Saviour. And Peter is going to present some encouragements, as well as some assumptions of the person who has become a slave of Jesus Christ.
Encouragement #1 – No one can harm you
Notice verse 13, “And who is there to harm you.” Now we need to understand the context of this phrase which follows on the heels of verse 12, “For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous.” And then Peter says, who is there to harm you? Well it is a rhetorical question. No one will harm you! How can anyone harm you if the eyes of the Lord are on you? If the Lord is watching you, what or who could ever harm you? In other words, what could ever happen to you that does not first pass by the approval of God? Nothing! See, this is fire insurance, house insurance, auto insurance, life insurance. It does not mean that everything which happens to us is easy or is understood by us. But we do know this promise from God, that no one can harm you, that no one can harm the child of God.
When I was in grade four, we had a science test coming up later in the week. And Brian Wignall, bigger, tough guy, asked me if he could borrow my notes for the test. I said yes, but I needed them back the night before the test so I could study. Well, of course, that day came, and he did not return the notes. Well I would have been about ten, and my older brother was nineteen. And Harold was massive. In fact, today, he is likely an inch taller than I am, though he is likely a few pounds less. So, you get the picture he was massive. So I told Harold about my plight and we walked over to Brian Wignall’s. We knocked on the door and he answered. Harold said, Mark needs his notes and he gave them to us. See, when you grew up with a brother like Harold, no one could harm you! Listen, in a vastly greater way, when you are one of Christ’s, the eyes of the Lord are upon you, and therefore no one can harm you.
Yet there is an assumption in this passage. End of verse 13, if you prove zealous for what is good. I would suggest that the wording here in this passage flows better in the Greek than in the English. This is what Peter is saying that the righteous, the ones who are Christ’s, are the ones who are watched by God, and are also the ones who prove zealous. As there are only two groups here inverses 12-13. There are the righteous and the ones who do evil. So yes, no one can harm you, if or because:
Assumption #1 – You will prove zealous for what is good
Zealous means “intensity” or “enthusiasm.” Someone who has a great deal of passion for a specific cause. Zealots in New Testament times were passionate about freeing themselves from Roman rule. That was their passion and therefore that is what they fought for. Well here Peter says the one who does not need to fear is the one who is zealous, passionate about what is good. And the good here must be taken in the context of all that Peter has been writing. It is not just a cause that I might choose to go for, or a bandwagon that I want to jump on. No, the good here is the act of being a slave of Christ. Therefore, being submissive in all the situations Peter has been writing about, as well as having our inward “emotions” and “feelings” in alignment with the outward actions. This is not about the person that marches for good on the outside and is harbouring sin on the inside. For this is the one, verse 11, “that has turned away from what is evil.” The one who “seeks peace and pursues it,” and therefore this is the one that no harm will come to. And notice the extent of doing good:
“For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing good rather than for doing wrong.”
- Pet 3:17 (LSB)
Doing good must continue even, even if you suffer for it. The context of this passage is that you may face suffering for your goodness, and I would also add that you may have to face suffering while in your goodness. In other words, some suffering may come from the opposition of others, or it may come from a number of struggles in life. Financial suffering, health suffering, family suffering. The key in this passage is that the believer will persevere and continue to do that which is good and right, even from inside. In fact, he or she will be zealous for such character. And this must come from the inside. Because you can often look good from the outside and yet have a sinful heart. Yet if your heart is right, the outside will also be right.
That promise found in verse is amazing and aligns with verse 14:
“But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their fear, and do not be troubled.”
- Pet 3:14 (LSB)
For this actually teaches us that our ultimate blessing, our ultimate freedom from harm will actually be better for us, if we experience suffering. I know that is something that we do not want to hear. But verse 14 and 17, give the indication of the great advantages of suffering. And that phrase (vs 14), “do not fear their fear, and do not be troubled,” simply means that the unbeliever has so much to fear, as their dependence is upon things that can be stolen, or that can rust, or that can age. And though we too live with the same concerns of health, finance, and maybe something such as world peace, the growing believer does not live with the same dependency on such things. Therefore, we do not need to fear such things. So, no one can harm us, if we prove zealous for what is good.
“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 fear.”
1 Pet 3:15 (LSB)
Encouragement #2 – People will ask you about the hope you possess
All of us have things in which we may be a little more knowledgeable than others. I mean, I enjoy it when someone may ask me about kitchens or roses or that the Blackhawks are far superior to the Leafs, it’s obvious! I often encourage young Mom’s and Dad’s to ask other older Mom’s and Dad’s about raising kids. We had a couple of families in Chatham who had kids older than ours, and their kids loved their Mom’s and Dad’s, and their thoughts were invaluable to us. I mean who does not like when someone comes up to you and says, can you give me some advice in this area? Well, what Peter is talking about here is the privilege of people noticing our Christian walk, and that we are able to face life with such a hope compared to others.
For people watch Christians. They watch our reactions to others, to blessings, to hardships, to disappointments. Therefore, our lives need to showcase that which is most important to us, that which we are most zealous about. And this is not all that difficult. If you are a husband in the workplace who loves your wife and does not get involved in the derogatory talk about marriage or woman, people will notice! Young people, if you are on a sports team and you never say anything that would oppose a pure Christian life. Believe me, people are going to notice. This person is different, this person is weird, but they will still notice! Christian women, if your speech and conduct is godly and gentle and kind, non-Christians will take notice. And others will soon see that there is a hope within us that is unusual from others, that even in difficulties, there is a hope in our lives. And hope is so basic to Christianity, because Christianity offers so much more than what is even realized in this life. I mean “hope” is the reason that slaves were able to sing and rejoice in what the Lord had for them someday. And the encouragement here is that people will ask us about this hope we have. Yet there is an assumption also, isn’t there?
Assumption #2 – You are ready to make a defense of your faith
I mean who gets excited about someone asking, yet does not want to give an answer. I mean who goes around with this great hope, and thinks to themselves, don’t ask me! don’t ask me! Well sometimes we do, don’t we? And let us not miss the spiritual growth of Peter. Remember last week we saw how Peter had learned to be sympathetic and humble, though he earlier had cut off someone’s ear. And now Peter has learned to give an answer, when he earlier in his Christian life had denied his Lord three times. Have you ever had that happen to you? Someone has asked you something about your Christian faith and you respond so feebly. We take the great power of God’s Word inside of us and we wilt under pressure. Maybe because there were too many around in the gym class. Maybe it was a boss where we didn’t want to look too odd. Maybe it was a neighbour whom we did not want to offend in some way or the fear of losing their friendship.
I have been going through a book on Leadership by John MacArthur with a friend. And it is about Paul’s leadership during the shipwreck later in his life while he was being delivered as a prisoner to Rome. And he was with a group of unbelievers, but ended up being so relied upon in leadership. And MacArthur talks about the difference between speaking with authority and speaking with an authoritative attitude, as giving an answer is not about being arrogant. But there is authority in even a humble voice that states, “for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” Folks, that is a confidence that the world is dying to hear. And it is not in their face, no, it is an answer to those who would ask us. In fact, Peter goes out of his way to make sure that we don’t say these things arrogantly. End of verse 15, we respond with “gentleness and fear.” Here again we see that God uses the right words and actions, but only when it is in the right framework and attitude, gentleness and fear.
There is a difference to say something that is certain, something that comes with great confidence from a humble heart, as opposed to saying something that is condescending and arrogant. So, may we not lose the zealousness, just make sure it comes with the proper attitude. And we are not going to leave this as we will pick up on this phrase next week to be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you, as in our passage next week (vs 18-22), Peter really gives a great outline of the answer we are to give. But for now, the encouragement is that people will ask us of the hope that is within us. Yet the assumption is, that we will be ready to give an answer. An answer that displays our complete confidence in God.
“… having a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who disparage your good conduct in Christ will be put to shame.”
1 Pet 3:16 (LSB)
Encouragement #3 – Those who disparage your good conduct will be put to shame
That word “disparage” is translated maliciously against (NIV) or revile (ESV). Those terms are likely a little harsher than the Greek word. The word here translated in the Legacy Standard Bible simply means “giving little worth.” In other words, whether to your face or not, they will scoff or make fun of what you hold to be true. And if they give little worth to the truth which you hold to, they will give little worth to the kind of life you choose to lead. And this will not be everyone, for some will see your life in serving Christ, and therefore, will ask you regarding the hope you have. But others will not, they will place no great value on such a life. And therefore, you may be slandered, a term that means they will speak falsely and evil about you. And that is easy isn’t it? It is easy for someone to make fun of you in the short term. It is easy to take a Christian principle and scoff at such a lifestyle.
It is strange that in some circles, honesty and purity and obedience are applauded; while in other circles, honesty and purity and obedience are made fun of. Yet the encouragement in this passage is that ultimately those who do such things, will be put to shame. But when an unbeliever sees the commitment to Christ and when the Christian realizes the wonderful blessing of being a slave of Christ, there is no comparison in the current lives nor the end result of both lives. As ultimately a life of service to Christ as Lord brings eternal blessing and glory. While a life of resisting the Lordship of Christ brings eternal damnation and shame. So, the encouragement is that those who disparage you or make little of your good conduct will be put to shame. Yet there is an assumption here (vs 16).
Assumption #3 – You will have a good conscience
And this is so vital to our Christian growth. This is the importance of a sincere Christian walk, which forces us to really take a look at our lives and determine this, is each part of my life in obedience to Christ. Because I claim to serve Christ as both Saviour and Lord. See, we have sort of come full circle. Because if I have committed my life to Christ as Lord, and I continue to struggle with consistent sin, notice I did not say sin, as we are going to sin. But you know what I am speaking about. Specific sins that have a grip on our lives that we are unwilling to let go. Result, we live with a vast amount of guilt, because I claim one thing, yet I know I am living something else.
I think of Joseph’s brothers who lived for years with the guilt of what they had done to Joseph. I think of the time when David’s conscience told him not to take the census, yet he did. And the Bible tells us his heart was stricken. The book of Acts tells us in chapter two that when they realized they had sinned, they were pierced to the heart. So, what did Peter say to them, repent. And repenting does not only mean that I have remorse for my sin. But true repentance means that I will turn away from my sin. What about you? So, those who give little worth to your commitment to Christ will someday be put to shame, yet the assumption is that you will live with a good conscience. (pray) Lord, thank You for the power of Your Word. May it pierce us to the heart, that we would be a people who serve Christ as Saviour and Lord. Amen.
When I consider the three encouragements this morning, there is so much for us to be thankful for. One, that those who may have no room for Christ. In fact, they may think everything we believe and hold to is foolish, as the army against Christianity is growing. Yet know this, that someday the tables will be turned. And those who today may sneer at the cause of Christ, will someday be put to shame. Secondly, however, know that there will be others as well, who will see your life and give glory to God. Your commitment to Christ will draw some to the Saviour. Paul preached that he did all things for the sake of the gospel so that he might save some. Therefore, some may ask you about the hope that is in you. And finally, no one can harm you. For everything that is meaningful in life is protected by Christ. For He watches you. Therefore, live with a clear conscience. Always be ready to give an answer. And be zealous as you live every part of your life for Christ. So, sanctify, set apart Christ as Lord. He is Lord, so serve Him as Lord in not just your outward actions but in your hearts. And all God’s people said, amen.