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. 1 Peter 3:15
Are the words “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone” meant to instruct the believer to become an expert in apologetics? Are we to have well-reasoned arguments at the ready? Is this a Scripture on spreading the Gospel, or could this verse mean something more?
Today, we will dive into these words written by Peter, and learn the true meaning of 1 Peter 3:15.
The Context of 1 Peter 3:15
To better understand the 1 Peter 3:15 meaning we first need to look at the context. One theme runs throughout 1 Peter: do good despite the circumstances. Given the political climate of the time, these words were incredibly applicable.
In 64 A.D., Emporer Nero began to persecute Christians. He justified the violence by blaming the burning of Rome on the church. In light of this, Peter’s words to believers make perfect sense. Depending on when these words were written (as early as 62 A.D. and as late as 85 A.D.), the church was either about to be persecuted or had been for decades. For this reason, his words focus on faithfulness, humility, and kindness, even in the midst of persecution or suffering.
The Meaning of 1 Peter 3:15
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.” Context is especially important to this excerpt from 1 Peter 3. In the verses prior, Peter admits that they may be persecuted for doing what is right, but to do good anyway. Even in the face of suffering and threats, they were to do right. Why? Verse 17 answers this question.
“For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
Essentially, persecution does not give the Christian license to rage and rant. Our name alone is not what is on the line. The reputation of God, his movement, and his Gospel is at stake. In hardship, our words and our deeds either honor or dishonor him.
This, then, is why we must revere Christ as Lord so that we will prioritize his will above our own. What we value we give our time, strength, thought, and loyalty to. If Christ is our Lord, it is him put first. Therefore, when we are persecuted, cast out, or called to give a reason for the hope that is within us, we will put our pride aside and respond in gentleness and respect.
This brings us to the rest of the verse and 1 Peter 3:15-16, which reads:
“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, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
We interpret “be prepared to give an answer” to mean study Scripture, memorize verses, and take classes. While these are good things, that is not the preparation (or at least in full) Peter is referencing. How do we know this? In Luke 12:11-12, Jesus said, “Don’t worry how you’ll respond and don’t worry what you should say. The Holy Spirit will give you the words to say at the moment when you need them.”
Jesus teaches the disciples that the Holy Spirit will give them the words to speak when they are called to account for their faith. Peter, who was present that day, likely remembered this instruction. It is not then knowledge he wants his audience to pursue, but character.
In the context of the rest of the chapter, this makes perfect sense. Christians are to be known for their gentleness and respect, not their wit or knowledge. We are to prepare more than our minds; in fact, that is secondary. We are to prepare our hearts so that when mocked, when attacked, or when persecuted love, not hatred, flows from us.
How 1 Peter 3:15 Applies to Your Life
Be prepared—this is our application today. If the events of the past few years have taught us anything, they have impressed on us how quickly the world can change. Preparation, then, is not an abstract idea or an item on our to-do list but a necessity.
Peter teaches us that it is our hearts and minds which must be ready. We must clothe ourselves in gentleness and respect. These attributes must become central to our character so that when trials come, our spirits are prepared to weather them. This preparation comes through our connectedness to God and our fellow Christians. Our relationships with others teach us and sharpen us, and our relationship with God transforms us.
I encourage you to make time this week to examine your heart honestly. Ask God to reveal the chinks in your armor. Are there relationships or circumstances that dredge up anger, hatred, and revenge within you? Submit these to God. Seek support from trustworthy believers. Ask God to bring healing. He is faithful to prepare you for what lies ahead.
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