Always Being Prepared

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Please remain standing for the reading of God’s word as we continue our consideration of 1 Peter.
My sermon text this evening is 1 Peter chapter 3 verses 13 through 17 and you’ll find that on page
1205 in your Pew Bibles. I’m going to begin reading at verse 8 and read through verse 17
to fill out the context a little bit. So let us hear God’s holy word.
1 Peter 3 beginning at verse 8 and reading through verse 17.
Finally all of you have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart,
and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling but on the contrary bless
for to this you were called that you may obtain a blessing. For whoever desires to love life and see
good days let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit let him turn away
from evil and do good let him seek peace and pursue it 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.
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.
The grass withers and the flower fades but the word of our God endures forever. Let’s pray for
the Lord’s blessing upon the preaching of his word. Our Lord and Father in heaven once again
we are thankful that you have given us a clear word we thank you that you have communicated with
us and we pray that you would help us to receive what your spirit is teaching us in this portion
of your God-breathed scriptures help us to receive these truths with an open heart and open mind
and with love for you and a desire to live in conformity to your will we pray Lord that you
would grant me grace to declare your word with clarity and power this evening and we pray that
Jesus would be exalted through the preaching of the word be present Lord in the proclamation of
your word and by your spirit and edify us and build us up in our most holy faith in Jesus name
we pray and all of God’s people said amen you may be seated.
Title of my sermon this evening is always being prepared and there are I believe seven words
to choose from to listen for in my sermon today and this evening for the young people who choose
to do that well dear ones how can we who confess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord
how can we live as faithful disciples in obedience to his word even in the midst of an ungodly
environment where we might have to face hostility and perhaps even persecution for our faith in the
Lord Jesus Christ. Well friends this was the pressing issue facing the first century Christians
to whom the Apostle Peter addressed this letter this epistle. Indeed it was an issue that was
much more pressing for them in that first century context than it is for us in the USA today in the
21st century. Well as we’ve learned throughout this sermon series the epistle of first Peter was
written to a group of first century believers who were facing the fiery trials of hostility
and persecution for their faith in our Lord Jesus. Throughout this letter St. Peter has
sought to encourage to comfort and to bolster the faith of these believers so that they might
continue to stand firm in their faith even in the face of hostility and persecution.
Peter has also sought to give them practical guidance on living godly lives in the midst of
an ungodly environment and also in being positive witnesses for Christ toward those who are outside
of the faith. These are concerns that we should all take to heart and and as we’ve seen more
recently one of the major themes in this particular section of first Peter is the importance of living
honorable lives among those whom Peter describes as the Gentiles in other words the unbelievers.
This theme is highlighted for example back in chapter 2 verse 12 where Peter wrote keep your
conduct among the Gentiles honorable so that when they speak against you as evildoers they may see
your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. We’ve learned that such honorable
conduct is vital for the integrity and the effectiveness of our Christian witness. This
honorable Christian conduct includes among other things being subject to the for the Lord’s sake
to every human authority as well as living in obedience to God’s creation order.
And we’ve seen in these verses leading up to our passage for this evening that that is the case and
and this evening we find in our passage for this evening a new section of Peter’s first epistle in
fact a section that that encompasses most of the rest of this epistle. As Dr. I. Howard Marshall
sets it forth in his commentary he says a last major section of the letter begins here.
From this point onward Peter is concerned principally but not exclusively with the
Christian’s response to actual persecution. To be sure the hostile attitude of non-Christian society
was also very much in the background in earlier parts of the letter but there he focused directly
on the character of Christians individually and in the Christian community and in various social
relationships. Now the focus shifts to an actual response to specific attacks. In chapter three
verses 13 through 17 Peter urges his readers to make positive use of the opportunities posed
by hostile situations. I love that the way that Dr. Marshall frames that that this persecution
is not so much a problem as an opportunity for the Christians to bear faithful witness and
God presents those difficult providential opportunities for us in our lives from time to
time. So as we turn our attention to our text for this evening beginning at verse 13 we first of all
notice here we consider here what we learn about zeal for the good and suffering for the sake of
righteousness. If you’re following along in the sermon outline that’s the first major point.
Zeal for the good and suffering for the sake of righteousness. Peter writes in verse 13,
now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? Who is there to harm you if
you’re a zealot for that which is good? Who’s there to harm you for that? This question flows
naturally from Peter’s quote in verses 10 through 12 from Psalm 34 verses 12 to 16. Let me go back
again and quote from verses 10 through 12 where again Peter is quoting from Psalm 34 and it says
the following, For whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from
evil and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good. Let him seek peace
and pursue it. 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. You see how verse 13 naturally flows out of
that quotation from Psalm 34. So we learn here in verse 13 that we believers in Christ should
exhibit a zeal for that which is good. The Greek word for zealous here is zealotai and I believe
that that is the term from which we derive our word zealot. So Peter or I should say the Holy
Spirit through Peter is basically telling us as Christians to be zealots for the good. This zeal
for what is good that Peter here describes is not just a a mental or emotional or intellectual zeal
that actually does nothing. Instead it is a zeal that translates into action. It is a zeal which
bears fruit and translates into the action of actually pursuing the good. Are you characterized
brother sister in Christ by pursuing the good? Pursuing that which God in his word describes
as good. And of course while Peter doesn’t directly state it we know by comparing scripture
with scripture that God’s moral law as it is summarized in the Ten Commandments defines that
which is truly good and distinguishes good from evil. We get that from the law of God. The law
of God is a transcript, a reflection of God’s holy and righteous character. So again God’s
holy law not the latest cultural or intellectual or social or academic or ideological fads
but no but God’s holy law is that which defines what is good. Now what’s Peter’s point here in
verse 13? Especially as he’s addressing believers who faced suffering for righteousness sake,
suffering for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. How can Peter then say now who is there to harm
you if you are zealous for what is good? Well Peter is speaking here in terms of general
principles and he’s just quoted from a psalm and this psalm 34 reflects the wisdom tradition,
the wisdom literature of the scriptures and in the wisdom literature the wisdom literature gives
us general principles that are not necessarily true in each and every instance and so the
principles laid out for example in this psalm that is quoted by Peter, whoever desires to
love life and see good days let him keep his tongue from evil, his lips from speaking to sea,
turn away from evil, do good and that therefore if you want to see have a long and happy life
this is the way you are to live. In general that is the case however there are exceptions.
This is not a hard and fast rule or an absolute guarantee that if you pursue the good that if
you’re zealous for the good therefore you’re going to have a happy a good life necessarily.
In ordinary providential circumstances however it is those who actively and unrepentantly pursue
an evil course who will sooner or later reap the consequences of their evil choices and behavior
and many examples hypothetical and real could be offered to illustrate this. For example let’s give
a hypothetical situation let’s say you have a young lady perhaps a teenager who’s raised in a
Christian home but rebels against her parents and she goes out and she is promiscuous and she
attends parties and she’s getting drunk, she gets addicted to drugs,
she gets pregnant out of wedlock, she has a very poor work ethic. What kind of a life unless
God’s grace intervenes what kind of a life can she expect to face if she continues along that pathway?
Very likely she will face perhaps a shortened life but if not a shortened life a life that is
full of tumult and pain and difficulty. Again God is gracious, we believe in a sovereign God
whose grace can intervene and turn course there in that situation and situations like it
and that’s the case under providential ordinary providence those who actively and unrepentantly
pursue evil will reap evil in their lives. Now there are exceptions there are some folks who
live evil lives and give themselves over to evil and actually prosper in their wickedness. This was
one of the conundrums that were faced by some of the psalmist. Lord why do the wicked prosper and
sometimes they do prosper and actually as an aside I would suggest to you that the prosperity
of the wicked may in fact be a sign of God’s judgment against them. Sometimes God judges the
wicked the unrepentant wicked by giving them over to their wickedness and confirming them in their
wickedness and but nevertheless as a general rule you pursue an evil course it will lead to evil
consequences but the other on the other hand as Peter points out in verse 13 on the other hand
ordinarily it is those who by God’s grace zealously pursue what is good in other words those who pursue
godliness and righteous ethical conduct who will as a general rule see good days as we’re told
in verse 10. Again these are general principles that are true under ordinary providence
but that is why Peter can ask the question who is there to harm you if you are zealous
for what is good. However we know brothers and sisters that we live in a fallen sin-cursed world
a world where unregenerate sinners are hostile toward God their creator toward Christ the Savior
and toward the gospel of Christ and at times there are exceptions to this general rule that
Peter states in verse 13 and that’s why he says in verse 14 but even if you should suffer for
righteousness sake and those whom he’s writing to the Christians he’s writing to have already tasted
that that suffering for righteousness sake and there was more to come that’s one of the reasons
why Peter writes this letter to comfort them because a fiery trial of affliction awaits them
and so Peter says but even if you should suffer for righteousness sake you will be blessed not
that the suffering in and of itself is a blessing that’s not what he’s saying he’s saying that God
will cause all things even your suffering to work out for your ultimate good and his ultimate glory
sometimes believers who zealously pursue that which is good and righteous end up suffering
for righteousness sake that’s one of the consequences of living in a fallen sin-cursed
world but even if that should happen there is a blessing promised to those who suffer
not because of their misdeeds or their poor choices or their sin but who suffer for doing
what is right who suffer for righteousness sake Peter’s statement here in verse 14 is basically
a restating of what our Lord Jesus taught in his sermon on the mount especially in Matthew 5 verses
10 to 12 let me just read that to you I know I read this morning from another section of the
sermon on the mount but let’s turn briefly to Matthew 5 and look at verses 10 through 12 of
Matthew chapter 5 the final beatitude the final beatitudes say this blessed are those who are
persecuted for righteousness sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven if you are persecuted
for righteousness sake because you are righteous in Christ and and out of gratitude for God’s
gift of salvation in Christ you are seeking to live out that righteousness in your life
if you’re persecuted for that well that’s just an indication that yours is the kingdom of heaven
you will belong you are a citizen of God’s kingdom blessed are those who are persecuted
for righteousness sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven there’s no greater blessing than the
kingdom of heaven God’s reign of grace and salvation in Christ and then it goes on to say
in verse 11 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 see beloved even in such circumstances God’s people
are blessed since God causes all things to work together for their good as we read in Romans 8 28
for God causes all things to work together for the good to those who love him who are the called
according to his purpose and in the context of that passage that’s talking about God’s elective
purpose his sovereign purpose of grace in the hearts and lives of his people and in such
circumstances we are not to fear with a debilitating sinful fear it’s natural to fear to have a sense
of fear and anxiety over the prospect of suffering of hostility but we should not fear in an ultimate
sense in a debilitating or sinful sense instead with courage courage that flows from our saving
union with the Lord Jesus Christ we are to consecrate our hearts to Christ’s lordship as
it says in verse 15 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 with gentleness
and respect this reminds me of what our Lord says in Matthew 10 verses 26 to 33 and let me again
read that briefly to you Matthew chapter 10 verses 26 to 33 again Peter is simply reflecting
in his writings that we’re considering tonight what our Lord Jesus taught during his earthly
ministry and in Matthew 10 verses 26 through 33 the Lord Jesus says this about the persecutions
that his followers may have to face he says so have no fear of them for nothing is covered that
will not be revealed or hidden that will not be known what I tell you in the dark say in the light
and what you hear whispered proclaim on the housetops and do not fear those who kill the body but
cannot kill the soul rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell are not two
sparrows sold for a penny and not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your father
but even the hairs on your head are all numbered fear not therefore you are of more value than
many sparrows so everyone who acknowledges me before men I also will acknowledge before my
father who is in heaven but whoever denies me before men I also will deny before my father
in heaven what are some of the takeaways what some of the applications or lessons we can learn from
this well first of all brothers and sisters in Christ let us be zealots for the good God has
been good to us he has been supremely good to us he has saved us by his grace he has redeemed us
through the blood of Christ renewed us by the spirit he has justified us by grace alone through
faith alone in Christ alone and he is sanctifying us conforming us more and more into the image of
Christ he has given unto us the spirit of adoption by which we cry Abba father he has sealed us
unto the day of redemption and one day he will take us to be with him forever and so since God
has been so good to us let us be zealots for the good let us pursue pursue the good by seeking to
love our neighbor as ourselves let us actively pursue that which God’s word declares to be good
and let us do so in our thoughts by our words and by our actions let us also beloved not fear the
world’s hostility instead in Christ let us be strong and courageous let us trust God’s promise
that we will be blessed even if we should suffer for righteousness sake I know it’s easier said
than done but God can give us the grace to meet the challenges that in his providence he brings
into our lives but of course we cannot avoid such fear and no such supernatural faith unless we know
the Savior and so dear listener I ask you this evening do you know Jesus Christ as your very own
Savior and Lord have you trusted him and him alone for salvation from sin in the gospel God
commands all people everywhere to repent he calls you and me to turn to him to turn to Christ from
sin and to rest to receive and rest upon Christ alone for salvation from sin and he promises to
all who turn to him in true faith and repentance that they will not perish but have everlasting
life by the grace of God may you turn to Christ this evening and trust in him as your Savior from
sin and then you will know the grace and the strength to face the challenges ahead with courage
we also learn in this passage however of consecration to Christ and a readiness to reason
consecration to Christ and a readiness to reason in verse 15 it says but in your hearts
after Peter has exhorted them not to fear those who would persecute them he says but in your
hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy always being prepared to make a defense an apology not in the
sense of apologizing for your faith but but a defense of your faith this is a legal term
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 now some of you if you have a King James Bible or a new King
James Bible you may be saying wait a minute pastor my Bible does my Bible doesn’t exactly
read that way my Bible translates verse 15 as follows but sanctify the Lord God in your heart
whereas the English standard version and versions like it say but in your hearts honor Christ the
Lord as holy so which is it are we to consecrate or set apart the Lord God in our hearts or Christ
as Lord in our hearts well this is a textual issue an issue of you know which ancient manuscripts
better reflect how it was original how it originally read what Peter originally wrote
we don’t have the the original original we have multiple copies ancient copies that bear testimony
to the original and so this is a textual issue but friends I would point out that it’s a textual
issue which does not fundamentally change the meaning of this passage after all is not the
Lord Jesus Christ himself the Lord God of course he is Jesus Christ is divine but I would also
suggest that the ancient manuscripts which are behind translations like the English standard
version probably more accurately represent the original that’s debated among some but most
contemporary translations would translate it similarly to the way that the English standard
version translates it and also the ESV translation here makes more sense in the context of the rest
of the passage after all Peter is here dealing with what verse 16 calls our good behavior in
Christ the focus is on Christ so it makes sense that he would say in your hearts honor Christ
the Lord as holy and how do we honor him as holy well one of the ways we do so is by always being
prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you always
being prepared dear listener are you prepared if someone asks you you’re a Christian aren’t you
why do you believe in Christ why do you have the Christian hope would you be capable and ready
to give a reasoned response to them I’m not saying you have to give them a sophisticated
philosophical or theological response but would you be able to articulate clearly the reason for
the hope that is in you beloved we need to be as Christians we need to be well enough instructed
in the basics of our Christian faith so that we can intelligently articulate what we believe and
why we believe it to any outsider who inquires about our beliefs and notice by the way the focus
is on others will ask what to do when others ask you this is not a command to go out and beat people
over the head with a 10-foot bible and a stuffed gospel tracks down people’s throats this is this
is like what you are to do what I am to do when others get their curiosity peaked and say why do
you believe this stuff what why why are you so hopeful again I’m not saying it’s wrong to to
seek opportunities to share Christ with others but the focus here is on how we respond when others ask
us friends this is why in the Reformed faith we put so much emphasis on the importance of
basic bible knowledge and catechesis and doctrinal instruction as well as apologetics
which again apologetics is not apologizing for our faith it’s it’s in it’s defending the faith
and to study apologetics means studying instructions in how to defend our Christian faith
and to answer the objections of unbelievers and it’s a faith strengthening study especially when
you study good apologetic methods band hill presuppositionalism so forth brothers and sisters
we need to know what we believe and why we believe it and we need to learn how to articulate the
Christian gospel to others to whom Peter says to anyone who asks you now to be fair in the
context of this passage Peter may have in mind in this context a legal context where Christians
are being hauled before the civil authorities before the pagan Roman government officials to
answer questions about their Christian faith but even if this is the case the principle here can
apply to any situation where an unbeliever may ask you to explain what you believe and why you
believe it and it is your responsibility is it is every Christian’s responsibility to be prepared
enough to to articulate their faith in the face of such questioning and what is the focus of their
questioning the focus will be on our Christian hope always being prepared to make a defense to
anyone who asks you for a reason for what for the hope that is in you this is referring to the
Christian hope and the Christian hope is not merely a wish it’s not merely oh I hope so
I hope this is true in the Bible the term hope means certainty something that is sure and certain
but yet still in the future as we’re told in Hebrews faith is the assurance of things hoped for
the confidence of things in things not seen this Christian hope is the gift of eternal salvation
in Christ does the world have this hope no it doesn’t the world apart from Jesus Christ has
no stable or lasting or secure hope but it is the sure and certain hope of the Christian gospel
which attracts the interest and the attention of a world that is without hope the world apart from
Christ has no real lasting hope but we have the privilege and the joy of pointing fellow sinners
to the only and all sufficient source and bestower of sure certain and lasting hope namely the Lord
Jesus Christ and so as we share the Christian hope with others let us share the gospel with them
for it is good news for sinners like me and like you indeed for all who would come to to Christ
how are we to share this Christian hope however Peter says yet do it with gentleness and respect
gentleness and respect do you see Christians for example I know I bring this up often but
you see Christians in social media and in dialogues with unbelievers online do you see
Christians often exhibiting characteristics of gentleness and respect in their interactions
I suggest oftentimes not we are to communicate the hope of the gospel with gentleness and respect
gentleness toward the non-believer but respect or fear the Greek word I believe is phobos from which
we get our word phobia we are not to fear man but to fear God we are to be gentle toward the
non-believer who asks us and whom we’re interacting with and we are to show fear or respect or
reverence toward God notice not with harshness not with bombast not with arrogance or bitter snark
all of which are manifestations of the flesh how can you bear testimony to the gospel in the flesh
when we share the gospel the goal is not to win an argument the goal is to win souls for Christ
the goal is to exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit not your own sinful pride with gentleness
and respect well we certainly need to know what we believe and why why we believe it
well we certainly need to make it our name our aim to intellectually equip ourselves
to give a reason for the hope that is within us
we would all we must always at the same time be ready to share the gospel with gentleness
and respect it’s not just what we say in our defense of the faith that matters
in some ways it is even more important how we say it outsiders to the faith are not generally
impressed by Christians who in their witness for Christ come across as bombastic pugnacious
know-it-all jerks who exude a spirit of arrogance no matter how brilliant and intellectually sound
their arguments for the faith might be but an intelligent cogent yet simple articulation of
the gospel message that manifests a spirit of humility and respect and gentleness and the fear
of God can be used by the Holy Spirit to make a powerful impact upon the heart of the unbeliever
now God is sovereign you know the saying God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick sometimes
God in his sovereignty uses an arrogant witness to bring one of his elect to faith in Christ
but more often than not he uses a gentle kind gracious witness to win souls for Christ
and so friends let us always be ready to share with gentleness and respect and then he goes on
to say in verse 16 having a good conscience a good conscience so that when you are slandered
the assumption is that Christians the unbelieving hostile world that is hostile towards Christianity
will often slander us spread misinformation about us and so forth not if you are slandered when you
are slandered those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame but it’s important
to maintain a good conscience and we shouldn’t be surprised when unbelievers slander us but notice
what they slander us for your good behavior in Christ your good behavior in Christ
it is only in union with Christ that we can exhibit such good behavior which is the fruit
of the spirit and the goal is that they may be put to shame this either means shamed on the day of
judgment if they remain unrepentant but I think more likely in the context here the goal is shamed
to the point of repentance when those who are hostile to the gospel and hostile to the church
when they see a gentle and kind witness and they hear a witness that comes from a good
conscience and a gentle spirit they’re ashamed of their hostility and maybe the spirit will
use that to shame them to a point of self-reflection and repentance for their sin that is the goal
dear ones let us consecrate our hearts to Christ’s lordship and always be ready
to explain the gospel to those who ask with gentleness and reverence for God but finally
and very briefly this passage closes in verse 17 by pointing to the suffering for doing good
and God’s mysterious will consider what we learn here about suffering for doing good
and God’s mysterious will Peter says for it is better to suffer for doing good
if that should be God’s will than for doing evil it is better to suffer for doing good better in
what way well in the context here Peter is probably speaking of moral morally better
ethically better it is better to suffer for doing good than for to suffer for your own misdeeds and
bad choices because when you suffer for doing good that shows that you’re prioritizing God
above everything else including your own personal comfort it is better because we honor God by being
willing to suffer for righteousness sake and it is also better because such suffering exposes the
wickedness of our persecutors which might lead them to reconsider their ways and turn in repentance
and faith to the Lord Jesus Christ such as what happened to the apostle Paul the ones once the
hostile persecutor of the church but the Lord turned him around by sovereign grace and notice
he says it is better to suffer if it be God’s will in the mystery of God’s providence it is sometimes
his will to allow his children to suffer in this life for doing good but praise God that’s not the
end of the story one day he will right all wrongs and he will wipe away all tears and I close my
sermon this evening with the reading of Revelation 21 verses one through four hear this wonderful
passage and take its comfort to heart Revelation 21 verses one through four then I saw a new heaven
and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and the sea was no more and
I saw the holy city new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God prepared as a bride adorned
for her husband and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying behold the dwelling place of God is
with man he will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will be with them as
their God and then notice the promise in verse four he will wipe away every tear from their eyes
have you experienced sorrow in your life that has caused your eyes to flood with tears
and you feel like the crying and the tears will never end he will wipe away every tear from their
eyes and death shall be no more neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore
for the former things have passed away this is our Christian hope this is the hope that we need
to bear faithful and gentle witness to in the in to the unbelievers in our lives amen let us pray
heavenly father we thank you for your grace and mercy to us and we thank you lord that it is your
kindness that leads us to repentance we thank you lord that you have spoke kind words to us in the
gospel your law condemns us and crushes us but then you come with your gospel to lift us up in
christ we would pray heavenly father that this eternal hope would be ours and that you would give
us opportunities and grace and wisdom and tact to declare it to others who ask for a reason for the
hope that is within us we pray these things in Jesus name and all of God’s people said amen as
we close our time together let’s rise and sing him 517 I know whom I have believed 517