Blessing in Suffering (verses 13-14)
In the ultimate sense, nothing can really harm the believer whose life is hidden in Christ. However, Christians will still experience suffering in this life as a result of their devotion to Christ. Only in the life to come is the answer to Peter’s rhetorical question truly “no one.” But even when Christians do what is good and yet are harmed in this life, they are blessed. God’s favor rests on them as they are zealous to live righteously and suffer persecution as a result.
We must exchange the fear of man for the fear of the Lord. This was certainly the case for Peter. He was once huddled around the fire in the courtyard too full of cowardice to honestly answer a mere maid. Yet later, he stood before the tribunal that examined Christ and boldly exclaimed, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Peter had lost the fear of man by gaining a fear of the living God! For the Christian, the fear of death has been removed because of the resurrection. And if death is no longer a major concern, then being persecuted for Christ’s sake will certainly not instigate fear. In God’s economy, under His care, no evil will overtake you.
Defending our Hope (verses 15-16)
As Peter continues instructing the church, he notes the solution for dealing with man-fearing. The remedy for the fear of man is an increased awareness of the glory of the God-man, Christ Jesus. To “sanctify Christ’ is to recognize Him in His glory, His majesty, His lordship, and His transcendence. It is to trust Him completely in His sovereignty, His control, His power, and His plans. Christ is sanctified as Lord in our hearts when our lives are directed toward Him in every aspect, including thoughts as well as deeds (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:5). It is more than mental assent; it includes devotion of the heart. A heart enthralled with God is immune to the fear of people.
When this is true of us, it will lead to a distinct life that raises questions among those around us. We will be asked what we believe and why we believe it. At all times, we should be prepared to give an account for the hope we have. Peter is speaking of a reason for the hope we have, not a mere feeling about the hope. The primary way that Christians defend their faith is by proclaiming the gospel. The expectation is not to be able to answer every obscure point of Christianity. Instead, the expectation is to be able to explain the gospel and the grace and salvation it brings.
The defense of our hope is to be carried out “with gentleness and reverence.” Humility of life is as crucial as boldness of speech. Bold words do not honor Christ if they are not substantiated with a holy life. And we are to “keep a good conscience.” Our witness lacks any impact without a consistently obedient life. The goal of our good conduct is that “those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.” The goal is not to shame for shame’s sake, but so that they may believe (cf. 1 Peter 2:12).
Righteous Living (verse 17)
We ought to be diligent and vigilant in our pursuit of righteousness so that we are sure to be suffering “for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.” It is possible, and is often the case, that our lack of gentleness and reverence results in suffering at the hands of others that we actually deserve. If you find yourself suffering because of your disobedience and unrighteousness, you only have yourself to blame. However, if your present suffering is in the context of your obedience to Christ, it is not a sign of punishment but of blessing—and the blessing is eternal life.
- In what ways are you tempted to fear man rather than God? How does the gospel enable us to overcome our fear of man? In what ways are you striving to fear God and sanctify Christ as Lord in your heart as a remedy to your fear of man?
- How would you respond if someone were to ask you to give an account for the hope that is in you?