1 Peter 3:16-17

“Yet do this with gentleness and reverence, keeping a clear conscience, so that when you are accused, those who disparage your good conduct in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

We are now going to continue with Peter’s message. He has told us that we are to be prepared at all times to give a defense to anyone who asks us for the reason that we have hope. How are we to do this? With gentleness and respect.

I want to take a few minutes to reflect on these two words. Usually, when we think of the word defense, we do not think of gentleness and respect. When I think of the times I have been defensive about something, these aren’t the words that describe me. I get argumentative, maybe loud, perhaps sarcastic. I put my defenses up! Now think about the Internet. Have you seen people defending their faith online? Have they been argumentative, sarcastic, maybe even rude? This verse tells us that this is not to be. We are to give a reason for the hope we have, that we are to do it with gentleness and respect. As I have been writing this, this Proverb comes to mind. “A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath” (15:1).

Peter goes on to write why we are to do this. He says keeping a clear conscience, “…so that when you are accused, those who disparage your good conduct in Christ will be put to shame.” Sound familiar? It should! He wrote very similar things earlier in this letter. “Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day he visits” (2:12). “For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good” (2:15). And “For what credit is there if when you do wrong and are beaten, you endure it? But when you do what is good and suffer, if you endure it, this brings favor with God” (2:20). There seems to be a theme here!

Paul also writes about the importance of having a clear conscience. “I always strive to have a clear conscience toward God and men” (Acts 24:16). Edmund Clowney writes in The Message of 1 Peter; The Way of the Cross, “In this passage Peter is speaking of our clear conscience as obedient saints rather than simply as forgiven sinners. The clear conscience of a justified sinner indeed frees him for witness, but the impact of his witness will require the outward evidence of a consistent life. By maintaining a clear conscience before God we will be able to show a godly life to others.” There have been times when I have observed the actions of others and then cringed when they loudly proclaim they are Christians. I am sure that you have had similar experiences. Our actions truly do speak louder than our words.

Peter uses the word ‘accused’. The translation of this word from the Greek is ‘speak evil of’. It is also used in 1 Peter 2:12. He uses the phrase “disparage your good conduct’. Again, this implies insulting or threatening speech. Both words have to do with speaking. We know that the early Christians were physically persecuted. But here, we see that they were verbally assaulted also. We have much in common with them in that way. Although it has been happening for a while, I have seen a sharp escalation in anti-Christian sentiment over the last couple of years. Hollywood has made movies with anti-Christian themes for many years. I’m putting in a link for an article which gives examples of movies that have Catholic or Christian identity associated with villainy. Let’s face it: Hollywood’s got a “religion problem” – Decent Films But now the rest of society is catching up. The Family Research Council put out a report documenting church vandalism in the U.S. during recent years. Here are some of the findings: 69 acts of hostility against churches in 29 states; this includes 53 acts of vandalism, 10 arson attacks or attempts, three gun related incidents, and three bomb threats. This is in the first quarter of 2023 and is three times higher than the same time last year.

We live in the United States. As of today we still have the right to practice our faith freely. But what about our neighbors to the North? I was looking online, and I found this. Bill C-4 went into effect in 2022 in Canada. With its passing, it is a criminal offense, punishable with up to five years in prison, to counsel, evangelize, or shepherd people in the homosexual or transgender lifestyle. According to Canadian law, it is a “myth” to believe that “heterosexuality, cisgender identity, and gender expression that conforms to the sex assigned to a person at birth are to be preferred over other sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.” This is from the bill’s preamble. This law bans counseling that advocates for the standard that sex is reserved for one man and one woman within marriage (as Jesus taught in Matthew 19). This law is vague enough that this could even be interpreted to mean that a pastor preaching this message from the pulpit would be committing a crime. A pastor or counselor also cannot say that homosexuality is wrong or that human beings are created as male or female from birth.

These types of laws are already being introduced here in the United States. Christian teachers have it especially hard right now. I am thankful I retired when I did, but my heart goes out to those Christians who are still in the field. I think that they will be among the first to be persecuted for standing up for their faith. In Riverside, California, a Christian PE teacher was let go because she refused to comply with her district’s gender policies. Those policies include hiding students’ chosen sexual identities from their parents and allowing trans-identified students into the locker room of their choice. In Kansas, a teacher was suspended for using a student’s given name rather than their chosen name (after that student self-identified as the opposite sex). That case was resolved, and the teacher received a settlement, but I don’t think that will continue to happen. As public sentiment turns, will we as Christians still be willing to stand up for the truth?

Let’s look at the word conduct. Peter says that they will disparage our good conduct. This is a pattern of life. The Greek word that is used in this verse is used elsewhere in the New Testament. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:12, “Don’t let anyone despise your youth, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” James writes, “Who among you is wise and understanding? By his good conduct he should show that his works are done in the gentleness that comes from wisdom” (3:13). And Peter writes earlier in his letter, “But as the one who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy” (1:15-16). It does not matter what the world is doing or how morals are changing. We are called to a higher conduct. The world will not like it. Jesus told his disciples, “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.”

Verse 17 says, “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” Sometimes, we will have to suffer for doing good. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).  Nothing happens to us that is outside of God’s will. He is in control. We know the end of the story. I will end with this quote from Wayne Grudem from his commentary. “But why is it better to suffer for doing right than for doing wrong? In this context, it is because such wrongful suffering patiently endured is so remarkable that it becomes a powerful form of witness, leading unbelievers to salvation.”

Grace be with you!

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3 responses to “1 Peter 3:16-17”

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