“Who then will harm you if you are devoted to what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear them or be intimidated, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”
Up until these verses, the theme of persecution has been hinted at, but here, Peter is going to deal with it head on. In chapter one, he talks about suffering grief in various trials (1:6); in chapter 2, he talks about Christians being slandered as evil doers (2:12) and suffering unjustly (2:19); and earlier in this chapter he tells Christians not to pay back evil for evil or insult for insult (3:9). Now, for the rest of this letter, Peter is going to address Christian suffering.
He starts with a question. “Who then will harm you if you are devoted to what is good?” There is an implication that harm is not the normal result of doing good. Usually, when someone does good, they are rewarded, not punished.
Peter goes on. “But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed.” There is the possibility (or for some of Peter’s readers, it could have already been happening) that they would have to suffer for their righteousness. The word that is used ‘blessed’ is the same one that Jesus used in the Sermon on the Mount. He said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs” (Matthew 5:10).
Up until recently, it has been easy to be a Christian in America. Although it is still relatively easy, it is getting harder. More and more Christians are caving into modern culture and are denying basic tenets of our faith. They deny the inerrancy of the Bible, which throws everything else into doubt. They deny that Jesus needed to die for our sins (or even that we are sinners in the first place!) or that the resurrection took place. I think the hardest thing for me is having to defend my faith to others who claim to be believers but hold unorthodox beliefs. I feel that there are more and more turning away from sound doctrine. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4: 3-4, “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths.” We live in a post-Christian nation, and we are ridiculed for holding traditional beliefs.
We have even become afraid to say that there is an objective truth. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so we say ‘your truth’, or ‘my truth’. No! There is one truth! We have become so afraid of being canceled or called out, or whatever it is that is going to happen to us. Let’s look at what happened to the early church. According to details I read about in the Lexham Bible Dictionary, Nero, sometime around this time, scapegoated the Christians for fires he set. Because they were already held in contempt by the Romans, they were easy targets. Some of the punishments included being covered with wild animal skins and torn to death by dogs, fastened to crosses, or lit to serve as lamps by night. Compared to what they went through, we have it easy! That isn’t to say that Christians around the world aren’t being martyred every day for their faith. And one day we might be called to do that also. Will we be ready?
Peter goes on to quote a verse from Isaiah. He writes “Do not fear what they fear or be intimidated.” This is from Isaiah 8:12-13. In Isaiah, God is telling him not to fear what those around him fear, but only to regard the Lord of Armies as holy. Only He should be feared, only He should be held in awe. Peter reminds his readers of this quote from Isaiah, but he changes it up. He tells his readers, “…but in your hearts regard Christ as holy.” Wayne Grudem writes this in his commentary. “To reverence Christ as Lord means really to believe that Christ, not one’s human opponents, is truly in control of events. To have such reverence in your hearts is to maintain continually a deep-seated inward confidence in Christ as reigning Lord and King, who even now has ‘angels, authorities, and powers subject to him’ (3:22).”
The last part of verse 15 says that we are to be “ready at anytime to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” There is some question as to whether Peter is suggesting that his readers are to be ready to go on trial for their faith, and therefore be ready to give a defense, or if they are just to be ready to have an answer if people ask. Paul was put on trial for his faith, and he eloquently defended it. We can read about it in Acts 22: 1-21, 24: 10-21, and 26: 1-29. Peter knows that it is a distinct possibility that Christians will be put on trial for their faith and they will need to be able to defend it. But we also see examples of both Peter and Paul defending their faith when they are not on trial. Some examples of this are Peter’s sermon at Pentecost in Acts 2, Peter’s sermon at Solomon’s Colonnade in Acts 3, and Paul’s reasoning with people from the Scriptures in Thessalonica in Acts 17.
Our next verses will cover how we are to provide that defense. Hint- we are not to be defensive! Our lives should be different. We should be prepared when people ask us about the hope we have. How can we have peace during difficult circumstances? How can we have joy, even in the midst of suffering? The answer is because Jesus paid the ultimate price for us. Our hope is not here on earth, it is held in Heaven for us! Hallelujah, we serve a risen Savior!
Grace be with you!