1 Peter 3:13-18
13 And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, 15 but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 16 However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
In this passage Peter tells us the believer cannot escape opposition. Whether it comes from doing what is right or from doing what is wrong, we will face opposition. If we suffer for doing what is right, we’ll be blessed by God. Therefore, we should expect some opposition in life.
Next, Peter tells us not to fear those who bring opposition when we are doing what is right. Then he goes on to give practical steps to take in the face of opposition.
How you and I respond when we are accused or questioned by others will either open or close the door for us to give a word of witness for Christ. It doesn’t matter if we are guilty or not of what we have been accused of. If we are guilty of the accusation, we should admit our wrong without excuses, ask for forgiveness from God and those offended, and ask how we can avoid repeating the offense.
If we are not guilty of the opposition or accusation, we should not become defensive and retaliate with aggression. After all, Christ was not only accused of wrongs He did not do, He was actually executed for crimes He never committed. This is what Peter meant by “honor the Messiah as Lord.” We honor Christ when we respond as He did. We are to respond to those who oppose us for doing good or wrong with gentleness and respect.
When I read 1 Peter 3:15 in high school, I realized I was to be ready to give an answer to anyone who would ask me for my hope. So I made a list of the things I was hoping for (or believed in)—the Bible, eternal life, my salvation, my need to attend church and to give tithes and offerings, a call to missions, etc. Interestingly, there were some things on the list I had no reason for any hope, so I deleted those items from the list.
While in high school I would often debate Christ with others, sometimes rather forcefully. I crossed the line of not sharing the gospel “with gentleness and respect.” I learned a long time ago it is better to treat other with gentleness and respect than the contrary.
I also discovered that Peter is not telling us to be prepared to defend our beliefs with theological or scientific reasons, although that might be the case, but rather for a personal reason. Then those who oppose me may not agree with my reason, but at least they know I have one. Many non-believers think we have no personal reasons for believing what we do. I have had people say to me, “I don’t agree with you, but I do respect that you know why you believe what you do.
- Don’t be surprised when you are challenged for what you believe. Those who challenge you merely want to know if you have a reason for your beliefs.
- Honor Christ the Messiah every day by living a life that will create curiosity in others about your actions – actions that are opposite the norm.
- Learn the gospel or “plan of salvation.” Buy a few gospel tracts and study them. They all use the same outline only with different words. After studying three or four tracts, learn to say the outline in your own words. It will only take an hour or so to learn the “plan of salvation.”
- Make a list of what you are hoping for and the reasons you have that hope.
- When someone ask you a question you can’t answer – and they will – take that as an opportunity to say, “That is a great question. Let me think about that – and can we get together later and talk about it?” This gives you an opportunity to continue the dialogue and for you to be prepared the next time you are asked the question.