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First Epistle of Peter 3: 13-22 (NIV)
13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits – 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience towards God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks …” (verse15); how intriguing that these words were written by the same Apostle who, on the night of Jesus’ arrest, denied three times (Matthew 26: 69-75) that he had been with Jesus! Of course, Peter’s denials were before Jesus was crucified, died, buried and wondrously raised on the third day as Jesus had promised.
With the ageing Apostle nearing the end of his life on earth, Peter knew how much he had grown and matured as a disciple of Jesus since that bitter night. He was in a strong position to give wise advice to the Church. He knew the cost of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. He had seen other disciples killed for their faith. Probably he knew his own execution was not far off. He therefore urged the Church, “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”
But was Peter urging that every believer should have prepared a script, learned it and rehearsed it so that each could recite it unhesitatingly in a time of crisis? That would be contrary to the Lord’s instructions. “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him (a question) privately” (Mark 13: 3). Jesus’ answer included, in part, “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13: 11).
So, in this first Epistle, Peter was less likely to be commending the preparation of a specific answer which gives the reason for the hope each Christian has. Rather, I believe, Peter urged that Christians be emboldened to give a gentle and respectful answer rather than maintain silence or, worse still, deny being a follower of Jesus.
“In your hearts revere Christ as Lord,” (verse 15). Let us be willing to confess that to a disbelieving world.