June 13, 2016
I Peter 3:15, 16 (English Standard Version)
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
There was a time in my earlier Christian life that I tried to take too literally Jesus’ command of the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19 and 20 (see also Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8):
Go…and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name
of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to
observe all things that I have commanded you….
I have always held to a literal interpretation of Scripture. I found this definition – called the golden rule of interpretation – on the website for The Bible Research Studies Group (www.biblicalresearch.info/page55.html):
When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense;
therefore, take every word, at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless
the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and
axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.
So what do I mean when I said that I tried to take too literally Jesus’ command of the Great Commission? I thought that I had to share the gospel with everyone I met, in whatever situation that might be! And if I did not, I was guilty of disobeying the Lord! I tried to do that for awhile, but it got so that I didn’t even want to go out of the house, lest I meet someone somewhere in my travels and I had to tell them about Jesus! That just is not my personality! Don’t get me wrong, I share the gospel with others as the Lord leads me, but I no longer feel compelled to thump them over the head with the truths of the Bible at all times!
One of the passages that helped me to mature as a Christian witness is I Peter 3:15 and 16 (English Standard Version):
…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to
make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is
in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience….
While this Scripture is set in the context of believers undergoing persecution, its application provides insight for all followers of Jesus Christ! Let’s dissect this and see how it relates to our discussion:
• I Peter 3:15 – “…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy….” Here are four other versions of this phrase:
✞ The Bible in Basic English – “…give honor to Christ in your hearts as your Lord….”
✞ Contemporary English Version – “Honor Christ and let Him be the Lord of your life.”
✞ God’s Word to the Nations – “…dedicate your lives to Christ as Lord.”
✞ Lexham English Bible – “…set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts….”
The idea here is, live your life with Jesus Christ at the center, fully obeying Him! This is where Christian witness starts! For then your life will be attuned to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and – although the literal interpretation applies to the Millennial Kingdom – Isaiah 30:21 will come into effect: “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.” God will guide you in your witnessing – what to say, when to say it, and to whom!
• I Peter 3:15 – “…always being prepared to make a defense….” How does one get so prepared? When a lawyer stands before the court to give the defense of his client, many hours go into the preparation of the relatively few words he speaks to the jury! So it is to be with the followers of Christ! And where do we go to do such preparation? The Word of God, the Bible! For it is written in II Timothy 2:16 and 17:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine,
for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man
of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
In light of this revealed truth about the Scriptures, we have the following injunctions (and many more throughout the Bible):
✞ Psalm 119:9-11 – “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You. Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments. Your word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”
✞ John 17:17, 19 – “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth…that they also may be sanctified by the truth.”
✞ Colossians 3:16 – “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom….”
✞ II Timothy 2:15 – “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
More on I Peter 3:15 and 16 in Wednesday’s blog.