Sermon

God's Word Faithfully Preached from the Pulpit

Ready to Make a Defense for the Faith (Psalm 34:11-19 and 1 Peter 3:8-17)

INTRODUCTION

Listening to the conference, mostly the same truths but with different emphasis and perspectives.

  • We see the same thing here in 1 Peter 3:8-17
  • Coming from 2:9, after reminding them of their identity of God’s people, Peter reminds them of how they should live honorably.

POINT 1: The Believers’ Need for Reminders

Observe 5 major repetitions of themes

  1. Love and unity with one another
    1. 3:8 — “unity of mind” (harmony)
    2. Compare with 1:22
    3. Peter elaborates on what should be our attitude towards one another
  1. Responding to evil and persecution, specifically not retaliating
    1. 3:9 — “Do not repay evil for evil…”
    2. Compare with 2:13-23 (still submit to the government or unjust masters), especially the example of Christ in 2:23: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return”
  1. CLARIFY: Not to say we don’t do anything when being treated unjustly.
    • Peter’s point throughout his letter has been, “Do not take justice in your hands.”
    • “Blessing others” would be still doing good and praying for them (cf. Matthew 5:44)
  1. Peter cites Psalm 34:12-16
    • In the end, God reserves final judgment for evil
    • Without God’s judgment for the wicked and reward for the righteous, it’s easy to retaliate.
  1. Doing what is good even under trial / persecution
    1. 3:9 — “Who is there to harm you”
  1. CLARIFY: Does not mean persecution or abuse will not be “harmful” or “painful,” but it will not be “full/total harm”
    • Christ — “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul…” (Matthew 10:28)
  1. 3:9 — “… zealous for what is good”
  2. Peter’s point: “Still do what is good.” Compare with 2:12.
  1. The blessedness of suffering for the sake of righteousness
    1. 3:14 — “suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed”
    2. 3:17 — “better to suffer for doing good…”
      • CLARIFY: Not that we “seek” for suffering & persecution since it’s “good.” (“… if that should be God’s will”)
  1. Peter’s point is simply, even if you suffer for what is right, it is good in the sight of God. Compare this with 2:19 and 20b.
  2. Perhaps, Peter alludes to Christ’s words on Matthew 5:10-11.
  1. The effect of our perseverance and blamelessness
    1. 3:16 — “… so that, when you are slandered (siniraan), those who revile you… may be put to shame” (i.e., to show that their accusations are wrong)
    2. Compare this 2:12, 15
    3. Our attitudes and conduct are a testimony/witness for Christ before other people.

OBSERVE: Similar truths but different aspects and fuller teachings. For example, not just “avoid retaliating,” but also “blessing others.”

[TRANSITION POINT]: We already discussed these things in the previous sermons, but notice how the apostle teaches the believers: By reminders.

READ 2 Peter 3:1 — Reminder on godly and holy living as pilgrims awaiting Christ’s return and the consummation of God’s kingdom.

  • IMPLY: The Word of God reminds us not only what to believe but also how we ought to live as believers.
  • Why important? We are creatures, so sinful, so fallen, so stubborn, who hardly understands and are easy to forget
  • Scriptures demonstrate progressive development of the redemptive history, but basically the same themes and truths are emphasized (e.g., God’s holiness, man’s sinfulness). Just different aspects.
    • Example: Joel Beeke’s church, 37 years of Heidelberg Catechism during vesper
  • Infiniteness of God + our sinfulness and weakness = It follows that we need to be always reminded & exhorted by the Word of God.
  • Even if we read the Scriptures countless times and even memorize the doctrines of grace (or heard all the sermon of so and so), we can never exhaust the riches of the glory and truth of God and how it applies to various areas and circumstances of our lives.

APPLY:

  • Don’t take for granted the regular means of grace every Lord’s Day, though it involves practically the same things (e.g., Confession of sin, sermon, prayer)
  • We’re here not for something new or spectacular. We’re here for the ordinary means of grace, the ordinary preaching of the gospel. We’re here to be convicted of our sins, to be renewed, and reawakened to the glory of God.
  • God declares the same truths over and over again, not simply because they are important, but exactly because we need it for our salvation.

[TRANSITION]: Now, going back to our text, although Peter repeats the same themes, he gives additional principles and instructions on how we should conduct ourselves and witness to other people.

And we’ll focus on 1 Peter 3:14b – 16a 

Point 2: The Believers’ Way of Witnessing to Others

READ 14b-16a

Considering the whole context of verses 13-16, the essential emphasis is on being a witness for Christ to others. But what is Peter elaborating here? (3 subpoints)

  1. The Call to Stand for the Truth / Faith

We’re not just called to live honorably before others. We must also speak a word about our faith and hope in Christ.

  • Context: The believers should be ready to explain their beliefs and way of living to surrounding unbelievers and accusers
  • “Defense” (apologia)
  • “Anyone who asks for a reason” (or a word) “for the hope” — Explaining your faith
    • Some of us here find “evangelism” difficult especially if we come from a church that practiced unbiblical methods
      • Example: Dasma BS. “So how do we share the gospel message?”
      • Basics (God, man, Christ, salvation, call to repentance and faith)
      • But still, it depends on the person or situation, according to God’s providence (Example: sharing to a taxi driver or an old person)
    • POINT: Hence, you have to know it yourself.
  • “Always being ready/prepared” to do it (CLARIFY: Not “always making a defense,” as if there’s a quota)
    • And we cannot be “ready” unless we ourselves know what we believe and why we believe it. How can we be “ready” if we ourselves are not immersed in the truth?
    • That implies great responsibility for me as your pastor, yet this call is also a general call to all believers. We’re not all called to be pastors, yet the reality is—no pastor cannot give you everything. You have to know it for yourself.
      • Not being like INC. “Ministro lang pwede mag-explain.”
      • In fact, no pastor will stand for you before God.

APPLY

  • Read books in the library
  • If you have questions or need recommendations, ask your pastor or elders.
  • There is no other way to be “ready” than by studying and obtaining knowledge of God’s truth.

[TRANSITION]: But it is hard to defend the truth or even share the gospel. Even Paul prays for “boldness” in speaking the truth (Eph. 6:19, 20). How can we stand? 

  1. The Only Way that we can Stand for the Faith

Let’s see the surrounding words of Peter (v. 14b)

“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…”

Cited from Isaiah 8:12b-13 (READ)

  • We shouldn’t fear what men fear
  • We must fear/reverence/honor God himself

IMPLY: Why is this important? Boldness for the truth is not by sheer determination. (The tendency to “romanticize” church history, as if the heroes of faith are all very bold by themselves). Boldness in sharing and defending the gospel requires faith and dedication to Christ.

  • In Greek, Peter’s words can be read as, “In your hearts, sanctify Christ as Lord,” or “Set apart Christ as Lord in your hearts.”
  • The remedy for lack of boldness in witnessing is seeing Christ for who he is as our Savior and Lord. Revere him.
  • Often times, we fail to witness to others under the name of “prudence” when in fact, it stems from cowardice and unbelief:
    • Fear of men (intimidation)
    • Fear of losing our reputation or earthly estate (e.g., relationships)
      • Example: Failure to contradict Psychology teacher’s idea that infidelity is okay… Then going home, he tells me, “I was actually waiting for you to say something.”
  • But if Christ is our Lord…
    • We are no longer servants of men (Galatians 1:10)
    • Even if it means losing the world and anybody else, it wouldn’t matter (for we have everything in him)
      • HYMN: “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still; his kingdom is forever”
  • Polycarp (middle of 2 A.D.)
    • Once hid from arrest as per church’s advice, but soon realized God’s providence that he will be arrested
    • When asked to swear by the emperor and curse Christ in order to be free, said, “For eighty six years I have served him, and he has done me no evil. How could I curse my king, who saved me?”
  • It’s hard, but courage comes from God, and we must fix our eyes on Christ. And pray for courage!
  • “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe” — Proverbs 29:25

[TRANSITION]: If it is God who enables us to speak for Christ and defend our faith, how should we do it? In what manner?

  1. The Manner by which we should Stand for the Truth

Verse 15

“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…” (Others translate ‘gentleness’ as ‘humility, courtesy, meekness’)

The Greek word refers to the quality of not being overly impressed by a sense of one’s self-importance.

  • Months ago, someone told me that they hesitated to attend our Reformed Bible Study because they had a Reformed friend who’s arrogant.
  • Standing up and defending the truth does not mean “rudeness.”
    • In Paul’s confrontation of Peter in Galatians 2:11-14, he indeed confronted him face to face, publicly, but it doesn’t mean he did not do it respectfully.
  • R.C. Sproul — “Truth is too important to kill it in the streets for the sake of peace.”
  • Pastor Lance — We should not “weaponize” doctrine.

If being Reformed makes you arrogant, and feel theologically superior to others, then perhaps you don’t fully understand the implications of the Reformed faith upon yourself—that whatever you and I have right now is all by the sheer grace and mercy of God.

  • Example: If you share things on Facebook (esp. some Memes) with the intent of laughing at or mocking non-Reformed or atheists—it is not the Christian way.
  • 2 Timothy 2:24-25 (READ), though context is for pastors & elders
  • So how do you share the truth? Just share it plain and simple. Not to mock and show superiority, but to inform and educate (guide them in the Word). If the Spirit works, the person will understand.

Why with gentleness and respect? (Just 2 reasons)

  1. We do not change people. The Spirit does. Sovereignty of God.
  2. We were likewise like them before the Spirit worked in us.

And when we see ourselves no better than they, we will likewise have compassion on them, share patiently, and appeal to them, “Be reconciled to God.”

CONCLUSION

Beloved, as God’s people and exiles in this world, we are living witnesses for Christ. Not just by living in holiness before unbelievers, but also pointing out their sins and sharing the gospel of Christ. And we do it with humility and gentleness, hoping that God too will have mercy on them as he did to us.

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Reuel Dawal is the Minister of the Word and Sacraments at ZCRC. He was an intern prior to being ordained and installed as the church's new pastor. He is currently finishing his Biblical and Theological Studies at the Miami International Seminary (MINTS) online. He and his wife Yeng are married since 2017 and lives in Imus, Cavite.

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