The past decade or so has seen perhaps the greatest increase in information the world has ever known. The internet is loaded with good information and also information that isn’t helpful. Christians are thrust into this environment as we have been called by Jesus to be in the world, but not of the world. The Bible teaches Christians to speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) and to “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15)
Ephesians 4:15, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”
The idea of full Christian maturity is characterized in verse 14 from its negative aspect; in verse 15 positively. In striving to reach the goal and in advancing in that direction believers are goaded by the desire that they may no longer be like children in a tempest-tossed boat which they cannot manage.
Error is never overcome by mere negation. Over and against the deceitfulness of the errorists, the Ephesians should adhere to the truth that is practice integrity. And what ministry (Ephesians 4:12) can be more noble than that which, while resolutely opposing deceit, sets forth the truthfulness of life and lip over against it and does all this in the spirit of love?
There are two great enemies of a successful ministry, whether carried on among believers or among unbelievers. One is a departure from truth, compromise with the lie, whether in word or deeds. The other is a chilling indifference with respect to the hearts and lives, the troubles and trials of the people whom one is ostensibly trying to persuade. Paul has the real solution, the truth must be practiced in love (3:18; 4:2; 5:1-2), which was exactly what he was constantly doing (2 Cor. 2:4; Gal. 4:16, 19; 1 Thess. 2:7-12); and telling others to do (1 Tim. 4:111-13).
In fact, love must mark all of life. By means of such behavior we will impart a blessing not only to others but to ourselves also, for we will “grow up in all things into him who is the head, even Christ.”(Ephesians 4:15). We must grow up into union with Him. The same intimacy of conscious oneness with Christ is stressed in Romans 6:5, where the idea is expressed that believers are “grown together” with him. Such statements do not in any way obliterate the infinite distinction between Christ and Christians. They do not indicate identity but intimacy. The distinction between believers and their Lord is clearly enunciated here, for the latter is called the head, while the former are designated “the entire body.” What is meant by growing up in to Christ is interpreted by the apostle Paul in Phil. 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” In other words in the words of Horatius Bonar, “So shall no part of day or night from sacredness be free, but all my life, in every step, be fellowship with thee.”
In addition to speaking the Truth in love, Christians are to speak and always be ready to give a defense of the faith (1st Peter 3:15) The Apostle Peter in 1st Peter 3:15 gives the basis for Apologetics, “but 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” (1 Peter 3:15).
Christians must consecrate Christ Jesus in their hearts. The heart is the central part of man’s existence, “for it is the wellspring of life” (Prov. 4:23). When the heart is controlled by Jesus Christ, the believer dedicates his entire life to Him. Then the Christian is safe from fear and is able to defend himself against his opponents.
Peter adapted this quotation from Isaiah 8:13, which says, “But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” In his day, Isaiah told the people not to fear the invading Assyrian armies but to revere God. In his epistle, Peter has the same encouraging message. However, he changes the wording by honoring Christ as the Lord Almighty, so that he is the Lord Christ. The position of the term Lord in the sentence creates two different translations: “sanctify the Lord Christ” or “sanctify Christ as Lord.” Although both versions make good sense the second translation is better because it imparts greater emphasis to the word Lord.
“Be prepared.” When Peter exhorts the readers to be ready to witness for the Lord at all times, does he mean that Christians should speak indiscriminately about their faith? No, not at all. Jesus says in Matthew 7:6, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”
Christians, then must be discreet, “shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16). They must know when and how far and to whom it is expedient to speak. Christians should respond to opportunities to speak boldly for the Lord Jesus Christ. When Peter tells the readers to be ready, he means that they not only should be willing but also should have the ability to speak for Christ. Therefore, they must know the teaching of the Bible and Christian doctrine so they are always ready to give an answer.
“Give an answer.” The admonition to “give an answer to everyone who asks you” is not limited to times when a Christian must take the stand in a courtroom. In some instances the Christian must defend himself against verbal attacks from hostile unbelievers. At other times he is asked to teach the gospel to a neighbor who shows genuine interest in understanding the Christian religion. The term everyone is inclusive and relates to all circumstances. When we revere Christ as Lord, we experience that “out of the overflow of the heart our mouth speaks’ (Matt. 12:34). Accordingly, our verbal expressions should be exemplary, and wholesome. We should demonstrate an ability to give an answer to everyone who asks us about our faith in Christ (Col. 4:6).
“Reason.” What does a Christian have? He has hope, says Peter. Although hope is one of the three Christian virtues (1 Cor. 13:13), faith and love seem to overshadow it. In sermons and discussions we often neglect to talk about hope. Nevertheless, in his epistle peter mentions hope frequently. In the Greek, the verb occurs in 1:13 and 3:5, and the noun in 1:3, 21, and 3:15. What is the hope that a Christian possesses in his heart? Hope is patient, disciplined, confident waiting for and expectation of the Lord as our Savior. The write of Hebrews exhorts in Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”
1st Peter 3:15b-16, “yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”
“Yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Peter instructs the readers to exercise gentleness, and this he echoes with the words for Jesus (“I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matt.. 11:29), whose example the believer should adopt.
When we sanctify Christ in our hearts, we should exercise gentleness and respect toward all men. In our behavior we exert ourselves to demonstrate gentleness toward persons who are spiritually weak (rom. 15:1-2). In our conduct we make every effort to show honor and respect toward God and toward those whom god has placed over us (2:13-17; Rom. 13:1-7). We strive to be living models of the example Christ has set.
“Having a good conscience.” Christians who have a clear conscience are readily motivated to show their respect and obedience to God. When as a prisoner in Jerusalem Paul defended himself before the Jewish Sanhedrin, he exclaimed in Acts 23:1, “And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” that is, before god he had done his missionary work in all sincerity and truth; his conscience was clear.
“Those who revile your good behavior.” To opponents of the Christina faith, a Christian who professes his faith in Christ has already provided sufficient evidence of wrongdoing. Moreover, numerous accusations can be leveled at an innocent Christian.
Notice the similarity with a preceding verse in this epistle. There Peter writes, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (2:12).
“May be put to shame.” When unbelievers maliciously direct falsehoods against Christians who seek to live by the example Christ has set, truth eventually triumphs. When the evidence shows that the conduct of Christians is blameless, the unbelievers themselves are put to shame by their own slander.
The writer of Hebrews tells the readers to leave behind the elementary doctrines about Christ and to move on to maturity (6:1). A Christian must be able to formulate his faith in elementary propositions so that when he/she is asked about his/her faith, he/she is able to speak about Christianity. He/she must be able to lead others to Christ and refute the charges of unbelievers. In evangelizing neighbors, a Christian should have the elementary qualifications to teach others the way of salvation. When she/she confronts the attacks of the humanist and the atheist, a Christian should have a basic working knowledge of the Scripture to be able to substantiate the phrase the Bible says. And when members of sects in the doorbell, the well-informed Christian should become the teacher to lead these visitors to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Dave Jenkins is happily married to Sarah Jenkins. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon. Dave is a lover of Christ, His people, the Church, and sound theology. He serves as the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, the Host and Producer of Equipping You in Grace Podcast, and is a contributor to and producer of Contending for the Word. He is the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (House to House, 2021) and The Word Matters: Defending Biblical Authority Against the Spirit of the Age (G3 Press, 2022). You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, or read his newsletter. Dave loves to spend time with his wife, going to movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or going out for a round of golf with a good friend. He is also a voracious reader, in particular of Reformed theology, and the Puritans. You will often find him when he’s not busy with ministry reading a pile of the latest books from a wide variety of Christian publishers. Dave received his M.A.R. and M.Div through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.