Bible Class Notes on 1 Peter 3:13-16 | Notes on the Petrine Epistles
Peter sets forth a general principle here that individuals are generally not harmed for doing what is right. Of course, on occasion even those who do right will be harmed. However, this is the exception rather than the rule.
This idea can be found in several Scriptures. “Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor, but evil comes to the one who searches for it” (Prov 11:27). “With the LORD on my side I do not fear. What can men do to me?” (Ps 118:6). “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom 8:31).
Those who are eager will seldom be harmed. Christians must be individuals who are devoted to doing good. Other Scriptures teach that Christians should be eager to do good. “He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds” (Tit 2:4). “For wea are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Eph 2:10).
Yet, even if Christians do suffer they are blessed. Peter uses the optative mood in Greek which shows that he considers persecution of those who do right to be a remote possibility. The Christians to whom he was writing were very concerned about persecution. Some of the Christians to whom he wrote actually faced persecution. Peter told Christian slaves to be submissive even to the harsh masters (2:18), and h even pointed to Jesus as an example of how Christians should behave when they are mistreated (2:23-24). Peter encouraged the women to whom he wrote not to be “afraid [of] any terror” (3:6). Apparently, some of these Christian women had abusive husbands. Indeed, some of these Christians would face persecution.
Those Christians who faced persecution would be “blessed.” These words remind one of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are you when people 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 in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt 5:11-12). “Blessed” does not really mean “happy.” The term carries more the idea of receiving divine favor. Those who are persecuted for doing what is right shall receive divine favor.
Christians are called in order that they might receive a blessing (3:9). That blessing, of course, is eternal life.
These Christians did not need to fear the enemy. The New Revised Standard Version translates this text: “Do not fear what they fear.” The Greek text actually reads: “Do not fear the fear of them.” The New King James probably translates the text correctly when it says, “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” This is a quotation from Isaiah 8:12.
These Christians did not need to fear the enemy. Although the individuals might harm Christians’ bodies, they could not harm their souls. These individuals could not take away the Christians’ inheritance in heaven.
There are other texts which exhort us not to be afraid of our enemies. “In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I am not afraid; what can flesh do to me?” (Ps 56:4). “Because you have made the LORD your refuge, the Most high your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent” (Ps 91:9-10). “With the LORD on myside I do not fear. What can men do to me?” (Ps 118:6).
Instead of being afraid of the enemy, the Christian needs to sanctify the Lord Jesus in his heart. These text also looks back to Isaiah—Isaiah 8:13.
“Sanctify” means to acknowledge as holy. Because the One who called Christians is holy, they themselves must be holy in all their conduct (1:15-16). Christians are also to proclaim to the world that God is holy (2:0). However, the meaning here means that Christians are to sanctify Jesus as Lord in their hearts. This means that they place Jesus first in their hearts. Jesus taught that loving God with our hearts was the first and greatest commandment (Matt 22:37-38). Christians must love God more than anything in this life. By loving God more than anything in this life, Christians are sanctifying the Lord Jesus in their hearts.
Just as fear of the enemies would take place in the heart, honor for Christ must take place in the heart. Honor for Christ displaces the fear of the enemy that some would fill.
Christians must “always be ready to make a defense” of their hope. A Christian would not be able to make this defense unless he first had sanctified Christ in his life. Because of this sanctification, some individuals will ask the Christian about his hope. There is a direct parallel here between what takes place in our hearts and the example we set before others.
“Defense” is a technical legal term. The term is apologia. We derive our word “apology” from this term. We also derive our word “apologetics” from this term. Apologetics is the defense of Christianity.
The term was used of Paul’s defense against charges. “Brethren and fathers, hear the defense which I now make before you” (Acts 22:1). “I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up any one before the accused met the accusers face to face, and had the opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him” (Acts 25:16). “At my first defense no one took my part; they all deserted me” (2 Tim 4:16).
The Christian must always be ready to defend his faith to others. How would a Christian make a defense? He must be ready to explain why he believes what he believes. He must be ready to explain why he lives as he does.
Christians are always to be ready to make this defense. There is never a time that Christian can just relax and not worry about making their defense. In the world in which we live, we need Christians to take a stand for what is right and wrong. We need Christians to explain why he believes Jesus is Lord. We need Christians to explain why abortion, homosexuality, etc. are sinful.
Christians are to defend the hope that is in them. Christians have been born anew to a living hope through Jesus’ resurrection (1:3). Christians are to set their hope fully on the grace that shall be theirs at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1:13). Peter has emphasized that Christians have hope. Those in the world have no hope (Eph 2:12). Christians are now to defend the hope they have in Jesus.
Christians are to make their defense “with gentleness and reverence.” The Christian could be appalled that someone would ask him to account for his hope. Yet that attitude has no place in the Christian’s life. The attitude Christians are to have:
- Gentle—Christians must explain their hope gently rather than roughly.
- Reverent—Christians must respect the one to whom they speak.
Christians could easily become irritated that one did not understand his hope; yet the Christian must show a Christ-like character, one that is gentle and respectful, to those who ask him concerning his hope.
Christians need to keep their consciences clean. The conscience is a powerful tool. Rejecting our conscience can cause our faith to shipwreck (1 Tim 1:19). We need to heed our consciences.
The Christian needs to keep a good conscience so that his enemies may be put to shame. When the enemies of Christianity are put to shame, God is glorified. These Christians would be abused—they would need to endure this suffering with a good conscience. These Christians would be reviled for their good behavior in Christ. Some would make fun of these Christians and discourage them. Yet, these Christians could not retaliate; they needed to keep a clear conscience. This would put their enemies to shame.
This Bible class was originally taught by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Owingsville church of Christ in Owingsville, Kentucky.