In verse 14, Peter cites a passage from Isaiah 8:12. In this week’s passage, he uses the very next verse in Isaiah, but adapts it to his context, calling his readers to set apart Christ as Lord. You can see this passage in 1 Peter 3:15-17.
We need to remember that this entire section of 1 Peter is on the topic of suffering and persecution, especially suffering that occurs for doing right. Peter’s encouragement to his original readers is something we need to hear today as well. In verse 14, he stated that it is actually a blessing to suffer for the sake of Christ, and that we have nothing to fear.
In verse 15, he gives us the alternative to fear: We are to set apart Christ as Lord. Those who cause the suffering are not to be feared, because ultimately, they are not in control. Christ is, and he alone is worthy to be revered as Lord.
The next statement Peter makes is interesting, and one that is quite often pulled from its context and used as a proof text for apologetics. To be certain, apologetics, the defense of the gospel message, is a worth study. But that is not Peter’s point here. Remember, he is speaking in the overarching context of suffering for doing good. And if you keep Christ as Lord in the midst of such suffering, people will take notice of that. And some of them will want to know why we behave in such a way in such dire circumstances.
Peter warns us that this will happen, and encourages us to be ready with an answer when the question comes. We need to be able to articulate clearly the reason we have for our hope. It’s also interesting to note that he uses the word hope here instead of faith. For Peter, hope carries an eschatological meaning, looking forward to the inheritance that awaits all believers. We definitely need to know what we believe, and why we believe it – faith – but Peter also encourages us to know the reason for our hope – the eternity with Christ that is ours to come.
Peter’s next statement is somewhat surprising, although it shouldn’t be. Peter cautions us against responding harshly, and instead encourages us to do so with gentleness and respect. Responding in such a way is more likely to reinforce the answer we give than a harsher answer would. In other words, refuse to repay insult with insult. Rather, treat others as you would want to be treated.
This keeps your conscience clear, and gives the opponents of Christ no good reason to slander. In fact, it may go so far as to plant the seeds of the gospel in their lives, allowing Christ to work in them. After all, Peter says, it is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. This is both true now, in the present, and in the end, when Christ returns. It would be far better to suffer for doing good in this life, than to stand in judgment before him for taking the “easy way,” doing evil.
Again, while this verse is one that is often quoted in support of apologetics, there is much more here for us to understand. And seeing it in the full context of suffering and persecution is incredibly enlightening. Be ready. Suffering and persecution will come. And if you decide now how to handle yourselves in such situations, you won’t be faced with indecision or wrong decisions when the time comes. Be ready, and who knows? You may have the opportunity to display your hope to those who treat you wrongly. Be ready, because our hope is in something so much more than just this world.
Question: Are you ready? Do you know why you hold onto the hope that we have in Christ? Are you ready to share that when needed? You can leave a comment by clicking here.