Tag Archives: suffering

The Manner in Which We Defend the Gospel

In this post, I’ll look at the way we can honour the Lord in the manner of our speaking.

I recently heard it said: “too many apologetics training programs neglect how we ought to make our defence.” Observation granted. So let’s think about the significance of speaking with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15); but first, a quick refresher on the context.

Context of 1 Peter 3:15

Peter tells the saints that they’ll be blessed if they “suffer for righteousness sake” (3:14). He continues to tell them not to fear (3:15a), but to honour the Lord by making a defence to their opponents (3:15b), and to do so with “gentleness and respect” (3:15c) so that those who slander them for their good behaviour may be put to shame (3:16). Finally, Peter tells them that it’s better for them to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (3:17). So, the saints are being to called to defend the Gospel of a suffering and gentle Saviour in a manner worthy of that Gospel (cf. Phil 1:27; Col 1:10).

Peter knows the temptation for Christians. They might respond with an offended spirit that is harsh and disrespectful. As objects of hostility, we’re prone to think of our opponents:”they’re ruthless; what’s wrong the them?” In frustration, we’re inclined to look down on them: “How inconsistent can they be?” A deep seated resentment can begin to guide our entire approach of interacting with those who mock us. We find ourselves strangely determined to prove we’re right and they’re wrong. Many times I’ve won an argument, but lost the person.

What’s the right way of answering opponents?

Gentleness and respect that reflects Christ

Peter says that when we suffer for our good behaviour and are centred out, we have a great opportunity to make the most of that situation. We’re to speak and tell people the reason for our hope. In addition, it’s of utmost importance that we speak in a manner that reflects the very Gospel we profess to hope in.

Peter has already written that we’re called to suffer for doing good (2:20-21) “because Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example, so that [we] might follow in his steps” (2:21). Peter continues, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (2:22-23). Behold our King! Our job is to fear him, obey him, reflect him and represent him. This includes responding to persecutors with humility, gentleness and respect. Accordingly, we read, “Do not repay evil for evil … but on the contrary bless” (3:9) … “turn away from evil and do good” (3:11; Ps 34:14) … this is what is means to fear the Lord, indeed, to “honour Christ the Lord as holy.” This means not only defending the Gospel, but doing it in a manner that magnifies the nature of the Gospel. Think about it. We say our hope is fixed on the King who was crucified, yes, the Saviour who is gentle and suffered for doing good. Oh how loudly the truth of Gospel rings when the King’s ambassadors suffer like their King! Oh what punch the Gospel gives when spread by Christians who, by persistence in doing good, answer their opponents in gentleness and with respect!

One final word

Note the “for” at the beginning of verse 18. After vv. 15-17, Peter writes, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring them to God” (3:18a). What is the “for” there for? It seems as though  Peter is saying, “honour the Lord by suffering for doing good (3:15-17), for Christ also suffered to bring sinners to God.” In other words, there is an evangelistic appeal and purpose to the Christians’ defence in the midst of suffering. The gentleness and respect with which we defend of the Gospel, in the midst of our suffering, helps bring sinners to God.  If that’s not what the “for” is there for, what’s it there for?

May God help us.

Defending the Gospel Honours the Lord

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.