Have you ever noticed that every once in a while I can make some really profound statement? I have to think really hard to come up with these to make sure they are accurate as well as erudite. For example we begin with one tonight: “Life is always changing.” Have you every considered that thought? Doesn’t it just blow your socks off? Well, probably you have consider it, and it doesn’t astound you. It is so elemental that it’s hardly worth mentioning. But I just did, because that is where be must begin. The context of Peter’s paragraph is that we can’t be sure of what is going to befall us tomorrow.
However, the Lord our God and Saviour does not change. Never. He cannot change because He is God. The words “deity” and “mutability” are mutually exclusive. They cannot be properly used together. There are several important and well-known scriptures which remind us of this fact. Hebrews 13:8 – “Jesus Christ (is) the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” And James has told us that our Heavenly father, the father of lights, possesses no variableness nor shadow of turning. Then the Lord told Malachi, “I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” One of the psalmists said, “Of old hast thou (LORD) laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end. The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee.” Because the Lord is immutable, the promises to His people, and even those people themselves in some ways are as established as if set in concrete.
And yet, as to our daily lives, our every moment is in flux. Our health dips and sometimes rises. The economy is beyond our control. Our plans and appointments are sometimes cancelled. We need that unchangeable God. We need to cling to the Lord at all times. And we need to learn to rest in Him during the best of times before the worst of times come along. We need to be ready, always ready, for anything, by clinging to the hand of the immutable God. For example, would you be ready if serious, physical persecution fell on Christians in this country tomorrow
There is the context of my lesson for this evening.
Now lets consider the context of PETER’S lesson.
Verse 13 – “Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled.” The words “BUT and IF ye suffer” tell us that persecution and problems are not absolutely certain. But it doesn’t contradict Paul’s “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” This verse tells us that we may not experience trials today, however tomorrow is another day. And when it does come “happy are ye,” remember the word “happy” can be rendered “blessed.” Can you put your mind around the idea that if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, it is a blessing from God? If the Lord resides in the right place in your heart this can make sense. “And be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled.” Don’t fear, or even be disturbed, by the threats of evil men, in fact that may be all they can do: disturb you.
Verse 16 – they may “speak evil of you, as of evildoers.” Here is a poor example, but there are many who would say that it is point on. A year ago there were Christians who resisted the government’s face mask mandate, replying that it was unconstitutional and therefore unchristian. And what did so many other Americans think about those anti-maskers and anti-vaxers? The sadly seduced lost world considered those people to be evildoers and a danger to society. History has proven the accusations to be utterly false, but at the time such people were “evildoers.” So are they now ashamed that they falsely accused you? Of course not. We are still being called “evildoers” for pointing out the sinfulness of homosexuality, telling those people along with everyone else to repent. The day may come when they will call us “evildoers” for preaching the grace of God in Christ. They may not feel so at the moment, but at the great throne of judgment those people will be ashamed for “falsely accusing your good conversation in Christ.” “Ashamed?” Peter, isn’t that a bit of an understatement? They will be mortified that they didn’t watch your good and godly conversation, following you to the Saviour.
And then in another understatement Peter says, “For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.” Can Christians do evil things? Is the Pope Catholic and aren’t Christians still living in the flesh? Of course Christians can sin, but they shouldn’t. There is a difference between going to jail for preaching the cross and going to jail for preaching against wearing masks, or receiving inoculations against some virus. Forgive me for my Canadian perspective, but it appears to me that many Christians confuse the American Constitution with the Bible. Make sure that “but and if” you suffer it is for the will of God.
The context of Peter’s thoughts in this paragraph are the possibility and likelihood of persecution.
So what is the CORE of this paragraph
Verse 15 – “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience.” How can we face a life in an ever changing world without losing our minds? I suggested earlier, quite accurately, “cling to the unchangeable God.” But there is even a better way to express it. Don’t just cling to the Lord like a rope support running along a narrow, dangerous pathway along a cliff. Rather, make sure He is as much a part of your life as your heart is to your physical body. “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.”
Once again, Peter, the Bible student, may be reaching back into the Old Testament for his authority. Isaiah 8:13-15 says, “Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.” What is it to “sanctify” Jehovah in our hearts? To “sanctify” is to make something holy. But we can’t make the Lord more holy than He already is. There must be another meaning in this case, and there is. What is it to “make something holy?” It is to set it apart; to make it special in a religious or spiritual sense.
In other words, Peter is telling us to make sure that the Lord is truly special; that He is our Lord. No godly Christian puts Christ in a corner. Rather, he sanctifies Him, and sets Him the cardiac seat of honor. Make sure that the Saviour is king of your life as well as the One in whom you trust, not just for some future salvation, but for what you need today. Because remember, some day you are going to suffer, and the world is going to speak of you as evildoers.
“Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary.” There are occasions when we need a place to hide. We need a sanctuary. We will never be without sanctuary if we have sanctified the Lord in our hearts. The world’s “rock of offence” will be our rock and high tower, if we have sanctified the Lord in our hearts. His everlasting arms and eagles’ wings will be around us and over us, if we have sanctified the Lord in our hearts. When He is our fear we have no reason to fear His enemies. Our first step in preparation for potential persecution is to set the Lord in His proper place in our hearts.
Then “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” One of my commentaries suggested, just in passing, that the word “troubled” in verse 14 is the same word which is found in John 5:4 where we read the account of the man at the pool of Bethesda. “An angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water.” That angel stirred or upset the water. My commentary didn’t go any farther, but I will. “Whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.” I can picture all those sick and injured people, with every muscle tensed and waiting for the stirring of the water, so they could be the first to dive in, jump in, or fall in. And those who were too crippled, like the impotent man, really didn’t have any real chance of being first. Is Peter tells us to be as ready as that to give our answer to those who accuse us of evildoing? Is he telling us to be spring loaded and instantly ready – “instant in season and out of season?”
The word “answer” is “apologia” in the Greek language, and from that we have our English word “apology.” Commonly today the word is used to express a hidden excuse for something. “I apologize for not remembering your name. Please forgive me.” But even in English it didn’t originally refer to an excuse or apology in that sense. As Peter shows us, it speaks of an answer, and it is just as often translated “a defense.” Paul said the Philippians, “I am set for the defence of the gospel.” And before his judges he said, “Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you.”
Are you prepared to tell people why and how you are Christian – a Christian of the Biblical variety? What kind of apology will you give to your friend when he ears Bro. Austin tell him to repent? Will you offer him an explanation or will it be an excuse? In order to offer an appropriate “apologia,” we must sanctify the Lord in our hearts and put the Word of God into our minds.
“Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.” Here is where the road takes an unexpected turn for some people. This twist in the road is logical for some Christians, but not for others. Peter doesn’t tell us to prepare to defend our actions, but rather to defend our hope. Yes, it is important to be able to explain why we preach repentance and faith. But many times it is more important to explain where we are going and not where we already are. “Hope” of course is not talking about our religious wishes. It speaks of what we fully expect, but haven’t yet received. This is speaking of our eternal salvation, not our daily conversation. “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the SALVATION that is in you.”
And how should we present this answer? With meekness, fear and with a good conscience. “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience.” Meekness refers to mildness and inoffensiveness. It is related to humility. Let’s say that some ignorant person accuses you of some act of lewdness. It might be very easy to loose your temper and to reply with something equally vile. But Solomon’s instruction is really wise: “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” – Proverbs 15:1. A soft answer would be a meek answer. The Lord Jesus was well-known for His meek responses. To the accusation of blasphemy for example. Sometimes instead of anger or even of meekness, we answer in fear. But as the psalmist told us, “Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let HIM be your fear… And he shall be for a sanctuary.”
Remember that the Lord is vitally interested in what is going on in your life. He knows when you are attempting to serve Him and to glorify His name. And He is aware of all the assaults you receive and the temptations you have to endure. No matter what the situation might be, make sure that you behave in a manner in which your conscience remains clear. That will be an easy thing to do, if we have sanctified the Lord in our hearts. Just as the den of iniquity will always be filthy, the sanctuary of the Lord will always be spotless. “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts” and live in the light of His presence within you, and your conscience will have nothing of which to be ashamed.