“But Christ, honor him as Lord in your hearts, always ready with a defense to everyone asking you for a word concerning the hope in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
Peter wrote these words to Christians who were facing opposition and sometimes deadly hostility for their faith in Jesus Christ. He wrote in order to encourage his fellow believers in their struggle.
In this verse, Peter instructed his readers to do two things. First, he called on his fellow Christians to set apart Jesus as Lord in their hearts. Peter started with the heart, that is, the mind and the will. Why? Because Christians are Christians from the inside out. Until the heart changes, nothing else can. The essence of Christianity is to follow Jesus first, before anything or anyone else.
When Jesus is Lord of a person’s inner being, there will be a sense of hope in that individual which shines through. The hope of true faith cannot be hidden, even in difficult times. And nobody can deprive a true believer of the hope that he or she has in the risen Jesus Christ.
Peter knew that outsiders would notice the hope in Jesus’ followers. They noticed that Christians were blessed with a deep and abiding sense of optimism even in the darkest of times. Peter also knew that curiosity would drive some people to ask believers about their hope, opening up wonderful opportunities for sharing the faith.
So the second part of Peter’s instruction was to be ready with a defense. People may have thought that Christians were foolish for being so hopeful when they faced such opposition and persecution. But Jesus had faced the ultimate persecution, death, and he had experienced the ultimate victory, resurrection. How could his followers lose hope when their Lord had defeated death?
Peter wanted believers to be ready with a personal testimony, a testimony that was rooted in their own personal faith in Jesus Christ. He called it a defense. Believers were on trial in the Roman world and they were required to give a defense for their hope in Jesus.
Christians today are on trial in America. The faith is under fire. Only those who have Jesus set apart as Lord in their hearts will be able to give an effective defense for the hope that Jesus provides. And those who have Jesus set apart as Lord in their hearts will not be able to silence the Spirit of Christ within them. The hope and its defense are both signs of authentic saving faith.
The Bible’s instructions are as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago. The world is still in a state of rebellion against the Maker. God’s people are still chosen and empowered to speak the truth in love. A word from the heart is still compelling and powerful. Let’s make Jesus Lord in our hearts and get ready to fight the good fight of the faith.
May our hope in Christ Jesus inspire us to contend for the faith,
Brother Richard Foster