Play Video

From Timid to Bold

Ryan Joy


December 3, 2023

— Watch the Full Sermon —

“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 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, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil*” (1 Pet. 3:13–17).

“Iffy” Christianity

When we study 1 Peter 3:13-17, we typically focus on the word “defense” (apologia meaning “defense, explanation, answer”). But the word that jumps out at me is “if.” There are three stated “ifs” in this passage, and one implied “if”:
• “if you prove zealous for what is good” (1 Pet. 3:13).
• “if you should suffer for righteousness sake” (1 Pet. 3:14).
• “if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right” (1 Pet. 3:17).
•And then there’s that fourth, implied “if” in verse 15, “be ready to make a defense” IF anyone “asks you for a reason.

“If” is a scary word because it speaks to our uncertainty. Maybe we’ll suffer, and perhaps we won’t. Peter writes to a threatened group of Christians. You don’t write words like these unless you know your reader is wrestling with fear. He aims for courage, not just comfort. Fear drives us to hide, comfort tells us we’re safe, but encouragement draws us face-to-face with our fears. Uncertainty can keep us from sharing Christ. We have no control over evangelism, and that can unsettle us. It all seems a bit “iffy.”

Have you ever felt panicked when someone asks you a spiritual question? Or right before you ask someone for a Bible study? Or maybe while on Facebook, trying to decide how to engage with all the hate you sense towards (and from) Christians. We need to consider whether we can help the world if we timidly keep Christ to ourselves.

Can Fearful Christians Save a Hostile World?

Ask a group of people why they don’t talk to more people about the Lord; the main answer will typically boil down to one word: fear. We can get paralyzed by all the “ifs” and “what ifs.”

• What if I’m zealous for good and still suffer (v.13-14)? What if I lose my job? What if people mock me? Or worse yet, what if I’m not zealous for good? What if I talk to them about Christ, and they see me stumble? I don’t want to embarrass Christ!
• What if I speak openly about my faith and live a life of holiness and love, but no one ever asks me about the reason for my hope? What if I never see the opportunity? Most terrifying for some of us, what if they ask me? What if I don’t know the answer? What if I freeze or say it all wrong?
• What if they think that I think I’m better than them? We may fear they won’t see us as people—real people with mortgages, family, and dirty dishes.

The “Heart” of the Matter

Stuck between the command not to fear and the command to have a ready answer, Peter tells us to honor Christ in our hearts. It seems strange initially, but it’s the bridge between these two ideas. Whatever “honoring Christ” means, it is the solution to our fear and the power of our answer to others. So what does it mean to “honor Christ the Lord as holy” (1 Pet. 3:15)?

The best way to understand what it means to “honor Christ the Lord as holy” is to look back to the passage Peter is quoting, Isaiah 8:13-14. Ahaz, king of Judah, faced the imminent threat of Assyrian invasion. Rather than trusting God for protection, he allied with the Assyrian King (2 Kings 16:7-8). Ahaz fell under the influence of that King, even giving him treasure from the Lord’s house, building a new altar, and changing the temple worship to please his Assyrian lord rather than the Lord God (2 Kings 16:12-18).

In this context, the Lord says, “do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense” (Isa. 8:11-13). It’s easy to see how this parallels the crisis the early Christians faced. Just like Ahaz, they had to choose whether they would live in fear of the threatening forces around them or in fear of God. We face the same decision as we engage a world that doesn’t understand us and may even be hostile toward our beliefs.
To say “stop fearing people and start fearing God” is not to suggest the two are similar. The intimidation we may feel towards people is frankly not big enough to compare with a Biblical fear of God, “who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). As he quotes Isaiah, Peter replaces the name of God—Yahweh—with the name “Christ” (1 Pet. 3:15). That’s because Christ is Yahweh, the Great I Am! He is worthy of reverent awe from his servants and utter terror from those who rebel against his Lordship. So Peter’s point parallels Isaiah’s:
Don’t let any power or person disturb you.
Let Christ’s protection be your only confidence.
Let Christ’s displeasure be your only fear.
If you’re living in fear of anything but God, that’s not just “iffy” evangelism; it’s “iffy” Christianity!

If we set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts, it will direct our thoughts, words, and actions. It will also calm our raging storms of worry, doubt, and fear. Recognizing that Christ is Lord over everything (Matt. 28:18), every “what if” becomes “if the Lord wills” (James 4:15), and the Lord of our lives becomes the Prince of our peace (Isa. 9:6; Col. 3:15).

Hope Conquers Fear

In this world, a person can suffer such a crushing blow that fear destroys them, leaving them hopeless and helpless. As a Christian, that’s not the case. Our life centers on Christ. Whatever problems come, we won’t lose what matters most: Christ our Lord, who works for our good.

Just three of God’s promises in the face of fear:
• God will provide all that we need (Matt. 6:33).
• God will work everything out for good (Rom. 8:28).
• God will reward us for standing firm when facing fear (Matt. 5:11-12).

The “Lost” Ark

Peter closes this chapter by comparing our lost world to Noah’s world, reminding us that in the same way, Noah’s family was “brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you…through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:20-21). When those drowning in the flood look to us, do they see secure people, confident we’re in the ark of safety? Or do they see people just as scared as they are? Honor the Lord, fill your life with His hope and holiness, get ready to talk to everyone about Him, and watch your fear fade into faith.

More Ways to Connect With Us:

How to Install Directory App

Before attempting to sign in, please ensure that Phil has added you to the directory and your email address is listed correctly.
  1. Download the iPhone App or Android App
  2. Open the app after it downloads.
  3. Select “Sign in” and provide the email address you have listed in the directory and the password you previously setup.

(If this is your first time signing into the directory – Select “Create Login” and follow the instructions on screen.)