How You Ought to Answer (I Peter 3:9-16)
Topic: I Peter Passage: 1 Peter 3:9–3:16
Reset: Back to the Basics of Our One Mission
How You Ought to Answer
I Peter 3:9-16
(One Mission: I am Not Ashamed)
February 15th, 2015
I. Review: “But a Samaritan”
What I'd like to do as we start off this morning is build a bridge back to the previous message in our series. And I'd like to do that by looking together at Luke 10:25-37. As you think about what we've learned so far this month, see if you can spot those same themes in this passage:
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”  And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”  But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”  Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.  So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.  He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.  And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’  Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”  He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Do you see how this passage ties into what we've emphasized in our last two lessons about why you and I are here? We learned in previous weeks that the purpose of your life here is to obey the Great Commands as you carry out the mission of God.
And as we talked about last week, the everyday work of carrying out God's mission for every person in the church is to live, by the grace and power of God, to live distinct and loving lives for God's glory and the good of our neighbor. That kind of obedience to the Great Commands is what we saw emphasized in Titus chapters 2 & 3 last week.
But how does passionately and purposefully serving God and serving our neighbor further the work of proclaiming the gospel? Well, as we learned from Colossians 4 and I Peter 3, this kind of life can and does raise questions, it generates conversations, and open doors to share the Good News with those who don't know Christ.
But once those door are open, what should you say? How do you answer the questions that are raised by those who can see God at work in and through you? Let's explore those questions by returning to I Peter 3.
II. The Passage: “Always Being Prepared” (3:9-16)
Last week, we looked at verses 13-16 of this chapter. But this morning I want us to start in verse 9. I think we can break the passage into four parts, four parts that give us a full picture of what is looks like for you and me to be on the mission of God, to be the body of Christ as He seeks and save the lost through us.
First of all, we see in verses 9-12 that being on God's mission means having a...
1. A Life Full of Love (vs. 9-12)
Listen to Peter's words in those verses:
Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.  For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;  let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
What a beautiful expression of the Great Commands. Do you see that? Not only should our words and action be in obedience to God, but we should also strive, because of our love for God, to be a blessing to others; to be like that Samaritan, that 'Good Samaritan' in the parable of Jesus. What selfless love. What lavish love. As Peter writes in verse 9, this is the very thing to which we have been called. We were called to bless.
But look at how Peter builds on this call to live a life full of love for God and love for others. He reminds them in verses 13-15a, that such a life requires...
2. A Heart Full of Christ (vs. 13-15a)
We read in those verses:
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?  But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,  but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy...
First of all Peter wants to remind them that in general, in most cases, being passionate about the Great Commands is the best way to build bridges to those around us. But Peter is not naïve. He knows full well there are some who want Christians to “suffer for righteousness' sake”. There are some who want label our love as “hate”, our holiness as “arrogance”, and our devotion as “fanaticism”.
Peter knows that if his readers find themselves under the weight of such persecution, they need to stand firm. We know from chapter 2 that Peter had been thinking about Isaiah chapter 8. But here again, at this point, two verses from Isaiah 8 come to his mind. Listen to those two verses. This is Isaiah 8:12, 13. We read...
“Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.  But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” (Isaiah 8:12-13)
Aren't those the very words that Peter, at the end of verse 14 and the beginning of 15, aren't those the words Peter has adapted for his audience? Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy... Isn't it interesting that Peter has no trouble replacing Yahweh with Jesus when he alludes to that passage from Isaiah?
But what does it mean to “honor Christ the Lord as holy”? Well, notice the contrast with the “them” of verse 14. We are not to think of our persecutors as “set apart” in terms of their power, and thus, be afraid of them. We are instead to affirm that Jesus is holy, that He is set apart, and thus, to revere Him. We are to stand, not in the fear of man, but the fear of God.
And so as our lives full of live intersect with those who desperately need Christ, we must meet them with hearts that are full of Christ. And if we our hearts are full of Christ (simply another way of talking about the first Great Command), then Peter tells us in the middle of verse 15, that we should also have...
3. A Defense Full of Reasons (vs. 15b)
Listen to how Peter instructs them if we continue deeper into verse 15...
...but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you...
Do you remember what we said earlier? “A Great Commands kind of life can and does raise questions, it generates conversations, and it opens doors to share the Good News with those who don't know Christ.” That's exactly what we see here. If we read between the lines a bit, Peter assumes that when Christians demonstrate “hope” under fire, that will pique the curiosity of their persectors, or at least of those who are witnessing the persecution.
But what does it mean to “be prepared to make a defense”? Well, in terms of the term “prepared”, or we could use the word “ready”, I think there are two related ideas: 1) it means be prepared in regard to the task, and 2) it means be prepared in terms of the timing.
Think about it this way. If I tell you I'll give you a ride to the airport tomorrow and to be ready by 3:00pm, then that means you will have to do two things. First, you will have to do things like pack your bags and print out your boarding pass. Those are the kinds of tasks that will make you ready. But you will also have to expect me, right? You can't do those tasks and then go to the movies around 3:00pm.
In the same way, Peter wants his readers to think carefully about how they can tell others about the source of their hope. What reasons would you give for the hope people see in your life? What reasons would you give for why you serve others? What reasons would you give for why you pray, why you give to those in need, why you live a Great Commands kind of life? If are reasons are to be biblical reasons, then we have to always be prepared to talk about Jesus. He is THE reason.
Remember, this is not a suggestion. It's a command: “always be prepared”. The task for us is thinking about how we can express our faith in Jesus and our love for God. But we also need to remember readiness in terms of the timing. As we serve and bless those that God has put in our circle, we need to expect that God will open doors. That shouldn't catch us off guard. In fact, we should be praying fervently for those kind of opportunities, and then be ready to take them when they come.
Paul was also concerned about this when he wrote to the Colossians. In 4:6 of that letter, he talked to them about “how [they] ought to answer” outsiders. In that verse, Paul emphasized the need for “gracious speech”. And that's exactly where Peter goes in I Peter 3. If we have lives full of love and hearts full of Christ, and if that generates opportunities to give a defense full of reasons, then Peter reminds us that we need to speak in...
4. A Manner Full of Grace (vs. 15c, 16)
Peter points this out at the end of verse 15. “Always be prepared to give defense...”
...yet do it with gentleness and respect,  having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
Peter is not encouraging Christians to “get up in the faces” of those who are slandering them. He knows full well that followers of Jesus can be tempted to argue with and talk down to unbelievers. He understands that pressure-filled situations can tempt us to fight back in a worldly way, not in a way that models the character of Christ.
So Peter brings them back to the same principles he started with in verse 9. Look back at what it said there: Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless... At the end of verse 15, that translates into giving a defense, providing an explanation of your faith, in a manner that is both gentle and respectful. That is a grace-filled response, isn't it. Peter wants them to give their persecutors the opposite of what they deserve.
And if they do that, do you know what happens? That gentleness and that respect end up adorning or beautifying the gospel of Christ.
III. Peter's Example
Okay, we need to think even more practically and specifically in regard to what this looks like, about “how you ought to answer”. What should you do right now to prepare yourself for that moment when the neighbor or coworker or family member you've been serving and blessing, the moment when they begin to ask you questions about what you believe?
Well, why don't we look at Peter's own example in the same situation he describes here in chapter 3. Let's see how he himself made a defense. Turn with me to Acts 4. The previous chapter tells us that Peter had been used by God to heal a paralyzed man, and then had the opportunity to share the gospel with those who witnessed that miracle. But as chapter 4 begins, he and John have been seized and taken before the Jewish leadership to explain their actions. So let's pick up the story in verse 7 of chapter 4...
And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?”  Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders,  if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed,  let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well.  This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.  And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:7-13)
I want you to notice three things about what is happening here. First of all, it's clear Peter...
1. Knows his audience. Peter knew the past of and he knew the position of the men to whom he was speaking. He understood what they needed to hear in this setting. In verse 11, he even chose to allude to Psalm 118:22 to help them understand the significance of their choices as leaders. We also need to know OUR audience. What is this person ready to hear? How can you build a bridge from their question or questions? What ideas or terms need to be explained. We know Jesus spoke differently to the tax collectors than He did to the Pharisees. We need to practice that same discernment. We also see here that...
2. Jesus is the hero. Peter is eager to elevate Jesus. He wants them to know that what has happened has nothing to do with him. It's all about Jesus. Look at how he points them to Christ's power, to the cross, to His resurrection, to their need to be saved, and to Jesus as their only hope. Brothers and sisters, it does our listeners no good when we simply share about our personal experiences. It does our listeners no good when we simply talk about God. We need to direct people to Jesus and the gospel. He's the hero of the story! Verse 12: ...there is salvation in no one else...
How can you share the gospel in a simple way? What do people need to know? Well, you may have noticed that the back of your bulletin looks a little different. What I've done there is given you a simple framework for sharing the gospel that works on three levels. First, you begin with the three words that represent the ABCs of new life: admit, believe, and commit. Second, you share a summary statement of what each of those entails. Third, you can expand on each of those as God gives you opportunity. I would encourage you to take time and memorize and meditate on those statements printed in bold letters.
Finally, I want you to see in Acts 4 that I believe Peter went before those men in...
3. Prayerful dependence. It doesn't tell us that explicitly in the verses we read, but if we look down at verses 29 and 30 of that same chapter, we see that what Peter and John went through drove all of the believers to pray. Look at those verses:
“And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness,  while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:29-30)
Look at the two things for which they were praying.
They were praying for themselves, that they would proclaim the message “with all boldness”, and for God to work in miraculous ways, to go ahead of them and prepare the way for their answers, for the defense they would make.
Shouldn't we be doing the same? Shouldn't we persist in prayer in this same way? As we are getting to know, and opening our lives up to, and serving, and blessing, and loving those in our circle, we should be also praying for ourselves and for God to do what only He can do. Do you believe that God can speak through you? Acts 4:8 reminds us that Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit when he made his defense. Do you believe God can do the same in you? Of course he can. But He wants us to pray. He wants us to demonstrate that we know it all depends on Him.
What is the purpose of your life? The purpose of your life here is to obey the Great Commands as you carry out the mission of God. And when you live for and like Jesus, when you love Him and love like Him, it gets people's attention; it opens doors. And when it does, we need to be prepared with answers, with God's truth.
How amazing it is that by the grace of God, He uses people like us; those who once desperately needed to hear the message are now used to bring the message to others who desperately need to hear. May God remind us that we stand by grace; that we go in grace. May He remind us this morning, once again, of what it means to follow Jesus as He goes to seek and save the lost.