I first heard Graham Kendrick’s Shine Jesus Shine sung by a choir of children from a Christian orphanage in Africa. Shining with smiles, when they came to the chorus they started swinging flashlights in time to the music, and we rejoiced together in Jesus who had brought light into our lives.
The song contains the phrase, “Mirrored here may our lives tell Your story.” The words of that verse are based on 2 Corinthians 3:18:
Whatever defense we give of our Christian faith, our apologetics are undergirded or undermined by our lives. Sometimes when people won’t listen to our words, they will listen to our lives. Sometimes no matter how adept our words or explanation, our lives can drown out anything we might be saying.
In Anchor of Hope I mentioned that Peter wrote his first letter in the New Testament to Christians who are suffering. Their hope in Christ is one of his recurring themes as he strengthens them and instructs them on living in the midst of affliction. In 1 Peter 3:13-17 he tells them how to explain their hope.
Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.
The word good is repeated in these verses (doing what is right is the translation of a compound word containing the same word translated as good in verses 13 and 16). This goodness is no assumed mask, but comes from an earnest desire to do good. I think many who are not Christians recognize and recoil from the facade of a mask. In fact, they rarely use the word righteous unless it’s coupled with the word self. Of all people Christians should know the futility of being self-righteous. It is an oxymoron for us. We cannot be self-righteous; it dishonors God and it disgusts other people. Living in gratitude for God’s forgiveness for our sins and in the realization that Christ alone is our righteousness helps us to have a zeal for good marked by humility of heart.
Peter writes don’t be afraid or troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. In The Message of 1 Peter, Edmund Clowney states that in verses 14 -15, Peter is referring back to Isaiah 8:12-13 and comments:
“Peter shows us that our hope provides both the courage for our witness and the content of our witness. Our hope is in our risen Lord. We sanctify the Lord Christ in our hearts; there is the end of fear. We sanctify Christ in our words; there is the start of witness.”
To his alliteration I would add that our hope provides the context of our lives as we witness. Sanctify Christ as Lord in our lives; we learn to give a defense of our hope with gentleness and reverence.
Apologetics is not one-upmanship. We defend our faith and explain what and why we believe, but we don’t try to show we’re smarter or better in some way. We don’t back down from the truth of the gospel, but we should back down from a self-centeredness that will reveal itself in pride, outrage or some other repelling attitude. People may reject the gospel, but let us make sure they do not find objections to it because we, in our behavior, are objectionable!
We are to explain our hope with gentleness and reverence. In the King James Version the word meek was used instead of gentleness. Meek is a word that has lost the meaning it had at that time. In writing on 2 Corinthians 10:1, A. T. Robertson notes the word meek is “this great word that has worn thin with us.” In his work on Matthew he writes,
“The English word “meek” has largely lost the fine blend of spiritual poise and strength meant by the Master. He calls Himself meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29) and Moses is also called meek. It is the gentleness of strength, not mere effeminacy.”
William Hendricksen recommends reading Psalm 37 to understand the qualities of meekness. He says, “the meek person is the one “who finds refuge in the Lord, commits his way entirely to him, leaving everything in the hand of him who loves and cares.”
In John MacArthur’s sermon, Securities Against a Hostile World he defines the word reverence:
“I think it says here, or in some Bibles it says that, here it says reverence, properly so, is actually the word for fear. It’s the word phobou from which we get phobias. In other words, reverence, a healthy reverence for God, a healthy reverence for truth and even a healthy reverence for the person to whom you speak, a graciousness. Second Timothy 2 it says we’re not to strive, we’re not to be argumentative as we present truth.”
Always being ready to make our defense; with meekness and reverence explaining our hope. We tell His story with our words. We tell His story with our lives.
Graham Kendrick: Shine Jesus Shine
Romano-Celtic mirror (Desborough): Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Edmund Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter, 1988, p.148.
A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 1931, Vol. IV, p. 251, Vol. I, p. 41.
[Paul used the word meek to describe Jesus in 2 Corinthians 10:1. The NAS and ESV both use the
phrase “meekness and gentleness of Christ.” The Greek word translated as meekness is the same
word translated as gentle in 1 Peter. The word translated as gentleness in 1 Corinthians is a
different Greek word. I think this highlights our loss of a positive meaning connected with the
word meek. ]
William Hendriksen, Matthew, 1973, p. 504.
John MacArthur, Grace to You: Securities Against A Hostile World.