In this post, I simply want to show that allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ is the reason why all of us should defend the gospel.
Honouring the Lord by Defending the Gospel
We know that we are called to honour God and his appointed King, Jesus Christ. But, does honouring the Lord include defending the gospel? I mean, are we all really called to defend the gospel? Does God honestly expect this from all Christians? Or is it just for apostles, pastors, evangelists and those who are outgoing? It certainly was a part of Paul’s job description. In Philippians, we read of his work in “the defense of the gospel” (1:7, 16). However, in 1 Peter 3, we see this was not only reserved for the apostles, but for all believers. After specific commands to servants (2:18), wives (3:1) and husbands (3:7), he calls “all of [them]” (3:8) to honour the Lord by suffering for the sake of righteousness throughout 3:8 – 4:19.
The classical text for apologetics, 1 Peter 3:15, is sandwiched in between God’s call for his people to suffer for “righteousness’ sake” (3:14) and for their “good behaviour in Christ” (3:16-17). In the midst of this call to faithfulness, Peter writes, “in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being ready to make a defense” (3:15a). Indeed, Christians who are criticized, mocked and opposed for their righteous behaviour (cf. 1 Pet 4:4-5) are called to speak up when they are centred out. They’re called to honour the Lord by defending the gospel that has transformed their lives and made them very different. The reason why we should defend the gospel is because it honours the Lord.
Fear and Allegiance
Ed Welch writes that “what we fear shows our allegiances” (When People Are Big and God is Small, 47). If we have a strong allegiance to comfort, we will fear pain. If we have a strong allegiance to the approval of people, we will fear their criticism. Our fears show us what is dear to us, yes, what we truly honour in our hearts.
In verse 14, Peter tells the believers to “[h]ave no fear of [the persecutors], nor be troubled.” They aren’t to fear the opposition. This is reminiscent of Jesus’ words not to fear “those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Mt 10:28). And just like Jesus, who says, “[r]ather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell,” Peter writes, “but in your hearts honour [revere / fear] Christ the Lord as holy.” Do not fear man, fear God (or Christ the Lord). Since our fears show us what is dear to us, what does it mean when we’re tempted to fear those who may mock us? Often times, it means we care what they think. We fear their disapproval or criticism or the prospect of relational hostility. The degree to which we value relational peace and comfort is quite impressive (in magnitude, not spirituality). So what do these fears often reveal? At least two misplaced allegiances: (1) allegiance to man (more than God); and (2) allegiance to self.
This may be one reason why Jesus teaches (in the context of fear), “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 10:37-39). Jesus demands absolute allegiance. He is God’s appointed King, Judge of all and Lord of the world. To waver in your faithfulness to Jesus because of family loyalties shows misplaced fear and thus misplaced allegiance. But it doesn’t only prove utter allegiance to family (one of the most prevalent idols among 1st century Jews!), it also proves allegiance to self: what will they think of me? Too often this sinful allegiance constrains us into unnatural and forced silence. This doesn’t honour the Lord. So, the next time your criticized, mocked at or questioned, look around the room and remember who the Lord is, that he is the powerful One who owns everything, is holding all things together and by whom everyone will be judged; then take a deep breath and speak accordingly. Defending the gospel honours the Lord.
Next time: honouring the Lord in the way we defend the gospel.