1 Peter 3:13-16

February 5, 2011 | Brian Bill

As evangelicals we like to talk about witnessing but we struggle to actually do it.  Evangelism is a bit like strong horseradish – we praise it with tears in our eyes!

Please turn in your Bible to 1 Peter 3:13-16.  We’ll see that there are three ways to develop the discipline of witnessing.

  • Demonstrate (3:13-15a)
  • Defend (3:15b)
  • Disarm (3:15c-16)

Follow along as I read: “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.  ‘Do not fear what they fear, do not be frightened.’  But in your hearts set apart 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, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

1 – Demonstrate (3:13-15a)

The last part of verse 14 contains a quote from Isaiah 8: “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”   The context describes how Ahaz, who was king of Judah, faced a crisis when the Assyrian army was about to attack.  The kings of Israel and Syria invited Ahaz to join them in an alliance so they could oppose Assyria, but he stubbornly refused.  When he turned them down, Israel and Syria make plans to attack Judah.  Now, there are three powerful countries poised to pounce on Ahaz!  

Unbelievably, Ahaz decides to align himself with the wicked king of Assyria because he is so afraid.   The prophet Isaiah warned him against this ungodly partnership and urged him to trust God for deliverance.  Peter quotes this passage to remind us that when we are faced with a crisis we may be tempted to give in to our fears and make wrong decisions.  

Peter chose the word “fear” because it means “to be so frightened that you want to flee.”   Peter would know all about that, wouldn’t he?  It carries with it the idea of being stirred up or agitated.  Have you ever felt that way?  I have.  It’s especially scary when it comes to witnessing, isn’t it?  I think the number one roadblock to witnessing is fear.

The context of this passage really convicts me.  These Christians were in danger of being killed or thrown in jail while I worry about someone ridiculing or rejecting me.

Verse 15 begins with a contrast to verse 14.  The word “but” shows that we don’t have to be filled with fear.  The word “hearts” is from the Greek, “kardia” and is synonymous with the control center of our lives.

We are to “set apart Christ as Lord.”  To “set apart” means to “sanctify” or “make holy.”  Peter is arguing that Jesus must be Lord of our lives.  The word “Lord” is a title of honor that demands respect and reverence.  It’s the New Testament equivalent of the title “Jehovah.”   To say that Jesus is my Lord is to say that He has sovereign power and authority over me and I submit to Him with reverent obedience, because I am His possession.  When Jesus is set apart as Lord, He will deliver us from fear.  When He is at the center, we will fear displeasing Him more than fearing what people might say about us.

To live under the lordship of Christ is a command.  It’s one thing to acknowledge Jesus as Savior; it’s another thing to give Him absolute ownership of your life.  Scripture never separates the Lordship of Jesus from his work as Savior.  In the book of Acts, He is referred to as Savior twice, but is called Lord 92 times!  When the two titles are mentioned together, Lord always precedes Savior.  When Thomas finally recognized Jesus as His Savior after the Resurrection, he exclaimed: “My Lord and my God!”  Charles Spurgeon has said, “You cannot have Christ for your Savior unless you also have Him as your Lord.”

Is Jesus Lord of your life right now?   Have you ever made a decision of your will to decide to live under His leadership in every area of your life?   Is Jesus in complete control, or are you deliberately keeping things from Him?  

It’s hard to witness when we feel guilty or far away from God

Here’s a question to consider.  Is Jesus prominent in your life or is He preeminent? There’s a difference.  Let’s face it.  One of the reasons we don’t engage in evangelism is because we know we’re not 100% committed to Christ.  It’s hard to witness when we feel guilty or far away from God.  While we don’t have to be perfect, we do need to have something to share with people.  

Sadly, according to researcher George Barna, almost half of born-again believers questioned in a nationwide poll admitted they are “searching for meaning and purpose.”  This is the same percentage as what non-Christians say.  If believers are not experiencing meaning and purpose in life, than what do we have to give to lost people?  If people don’t see us living with love, joy, and hope, then do they really want what we have?

The first thing we’re called to do is to demonstrate an authentic Christian life by setting apart Christ as Lord in our hearts.  Evangelism is primarily what we are, not what we do.  Joe Aldrich has said, “Evangelism is what spills over when we bump into someone.”  When we’re living under the leadership of Christ, we have something that appeals to others when it spills on them.  

2 – Defend (15b)

Demonstrate what you say that you have and then secondly, be prepared to defend what you have.  We’re to witness in a hostile place by using winsome words.  We see this in the middle part of verse 15: “…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…”  We’re called to visualize Christianity by living it.  We’re also urged to verbalize our faith by expressing it.

Here’s how it works.  When we are living under the lordship of Christ, our lives will be characterized by hope.  Non-Christians will see what we have and be curious about it.  Some of them will ask us about our faith.  When they do, we need to be ready.

The word “always” means that we are to be ready at all times, to be perpetually prepared, to be on a state of alert.  We should have an attitude of anticipation.  If we are walking with Christ, people will notice, and they will ask.  To be “prepared” comes from the word that we translate “fitness.”  It carries with it the idea of “being in readiness” like the city of Pontiac was for the blizzard this past week.

We’re challenged to give an “answer.”  It must be seen in our lives and then we must speak it through our lips.  This is very similar to what we read in Colossians 4:6: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” 

This is the Greek word, “apologia,” from which we get the word “apology.”  That doesn’t mean we should apologize for our faith, but instead means a “verbal defense.”  It was used in a courtroom when someone gave evidence or testimony about a situation.  The meaning is a prepared legal defense.  

We are to be prepared to give a logical, step-by-step explanation for what we believe and why we believe it.  Not every Christian has to be a theologian, but every believer is called to be an apologist – we’re all charged with the responsibility of giving a reason for our faith.  Proverbs 15:28 says, “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers…”

Did you notice what causes people to ask about our faith?  It’s the fact that we have “hope.”  This literally reads, “The in-you hope…”  Colossians 1:27 defines the source of our hope: “…Which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  Biblically defined, hope is a desire for some future good with the expectation of obtaining it.  According to Hebrews 6:11, hope gives “full assurance.”  When you think about it, this world offers no hope.  When a pre-Christian sees someone living with hope, they want to know how to get it for themselves because Ephesians 2:12 says that unbelievers are “without hope and without God in this world.”

We’re to give an answer to everyone who “asks us to give the reason for the hope that we have.”  The word “ask” means to “crave or desire” and is in the present tense, meaning it should happen all the time because people are craving answers.  They know they don’t have hope – and they want it.  While there are no hopeless situations, there are tons of people who have grown hopeless about them.  Are you ready to give them the answer?

The fact that people ask implies that they’ve noticed something about us.  They’ve seen us go through hardship with hope.  While not every Christian is called to be an evangelist (Ephesians 4:11 says that “some” are), we’re all required to give an explanation for our hope.

3 – Disarm (15c-16)

When we demonstrate the leadership of Christ in our lives, people will be curious and will want some answers.  When they ask, we need to be ready to defend our faith.  Lastly, the end of verse 15 tells us how to witness in a way that disarms people: “…but do this with gentleness and respect….”  We must remember that we are not called to win arguments, but to make disciples.  We’re called to be witnesses, not prosecuting attorneys.  While we should be ready to defend what we believe, we should avoid being abrasive.   I wish I had done this when I first became a Christian.  I’m sure I turned a lot of people off by my self-righteous attitude and argumentative spirit.

Kevin DeYoung, in his book called, “The Good News We Almost Forgot,” says that there are way to many “Crusty Christians” in our churches today who have armor-like attitudes and inapproachable spirits: “They are bright and opinionated and quickly analytical…and incessantly critical.  Crusty Christians are hard to be around.  They are intimidating instead of engaging and growling instead of gracious.”

  • Be gentle. We’re to be “gentle.”  This is translated as “meekness” in some versions.  It’s an inner attitude that affects the way we interact with others and literally means, “strength under control.”  The word is also used of a genuine consideration for others and denotes the humble and gentle attitude which expresses itself in a “patient submissiveness to offense…and free from the desire for revenge.”  2 Corinthians 10:1 gives us a great example of how Paul treated others: “By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you…”  And in Matthew 11:29, Jesus says this about Himself, “I am gentle and humble in heart…”  
  • Be respectful.  We’re also to relate “respectfully” to others.  Interestingly, this is the same word that is translated “fear” in verse 14.  We’re to have a sense of holy awe at the opportunity to speak words of life to people who are lost in their sins.  It’s a holy moment when eternity hangs in the balance.  As such, we should fear God rather than people and approach our time with reverence toward God and respect toward others.

Most of our witnessing is likely to happen in the passing moments of conversation.  As we mix it up with people, we’ll have opportunities.  The issue is not that we should necessarily become more aggressive about sharing our faith.  It’s that we should be more sensitive to the needs of the people around us, and more aware of the subtle promptings of the Holy Spirit.  To be respectful will mean that we will be more gentle to people and their pain.  As someone has said, “We must be winsome if we would win some.”

When our attitude is gracious and gentle, verse 16 tells us that those who oppose Christianity will be disarmed: “…those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” That won’t happen if we argue or put people down.

On a practical level, that means slowing down, listening to people, introducing ourselves, not judging them, looking at them while they’re talking, being attentive to details and needs, remembering names and following up.  It also means that we don’t try to cram everything into one conversation.

As we demonstrate Christ to people by making sure He is Lord of our lives, as we defend the reason for the hope that we have, and as we disarm people by our attitude of gentleness and respect, God will use us to clear the way for people to see the central message of the Cross of Christ.  


I don’t want to assume that everyone here today is a born again believer yet.  Check out 1 Peter 3:18: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”  Jesus died in your place in order to bring you to God.

As we wrap up this morning, I want to give some practical action steps that will help us disarm, defend and demonstrate. 

1. Disarm

Ask God to turn your fear of witnessing into an inner attitude of grace and gentleness toward those you know.  Every encounter is a divine appointment.  Be more attentive and cooperative with the Holy Spirit.

  • When you see someone you don’t know, walk across the room and introduce yourself.
  • Think of one person you already know and determine to communicate gentleness and respect by something you say to him or her this week.  Some of us just need to be nicer to non-Christians and not get so upset with those who sin differently than we do.

2. Defend. 

Here are some ways to get ready.

  • Practice telling your story.  For an outline, think about what your life was like “before” you became a Christian.  Then describe “how” you became a Christian.  Finally, write down how your life has changed “after” your conversion.  
  • Connect your family members to Christ and then equip them to be growing and faithful followers.  
  • Invite people to witness baptisms, maybe even your own.  
  • Use technology to share Christ.  Post verses on Facebook.  I posted a Super Bowl commercial that was rejected because it was trying to get people to read John 3:16.  Use your gaming for God’s glory.  Utilize texting.  Pass along Christ-centered websites.  Here’s an email I received from a pastor in Kenya this past Thursday: “We are writing to thank you for such good work for Christ. We have never been ministered to the way your website did to us.  Our lives have been transformed and new fires of evangelism lit in our hearts.”
  • See yourself as a link in the chain of someone becoming a Christian.  

Let’s talk about evangelism for a moment. Sometimes Christians are afraid to share their faith because they feel totally inadequate to lead another person to Jesus Christ. They worry that they can’t answer questions, they fear they won’t say the right words, and when you get right down to it, they aren’t certain enough of their own faith to consider “sharing” it with anyone else. For most of us evangelism is something that we would like to do but end up leaving to the “experts,” whoever they may be. 

So what about those fears and worries? My answer may surprise you. The reason you feel inadequate is because you are inadequate. Telling someone how to have their sins forgiven is an enormous responsibility. What if you foul it up and they end up feeling worse? Or what if you somehow get the message backward? I suppose that would be like having a person ask you how to get to Atlanta but you somehow get them so confused they end up in Amarillo instead. That’s a major mistake.

Here’s the bottom-line truth. You can’t lead another person to Christ no matter what you do. And you will never know all the answers to all the questions people ask. And you probably won’t say all the right words. And your faith is probably not strong enough as it is.

So what I am suggesting? That Christians shouldn’t do evangelism? That we should be like everyone else in America and keep our religion private? Hardly. We are commanded by the Lord to go and make disciples, to go and preach the gospel, to go and be witnesses in his name. It’s how we do it, or more accurately, how we think about it, that makes all the difference. 

I spent a few minutes with a brand-new Christian. She wants to help others find the Lord but she feels both inadequate and overwhelmed. She doesn’t even know where to begin. That’s when I took out a piece of paper and wrote “God” on one side and “Your Friend” on the other. Then I drew circles representing links in a chain stretching from “Your Friend” to “God.”

Whenever a person comes to Christ, there are usually many people involved. You may be the one who answers a key question. Or you may share a Scripture. Your prayers are certain to be a link in the chain. Your godly example may have a profound influence. Or you may be the one who helps them pray to receive Christ.  

All you need to do, in fact all you can do, is to be a link in the chain that God uses to bring people to himself

The good news about evangelism is that you don’t have to lead a person to Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can do that anyway. All you need to do, in fact all you can do, is to be a link in the chain that God uses to bring people to himself. 

When I explained this to my friend, she replied with a smile, “I can do that.” We all can. Just remember this. Evangelism is the work of many people over time forming links in the chain that leads to heaven. 

Be a link for someone this week.

  • Use tools to share Christ.  We’re giving everyone a copy of the book, “Anchor for the Soul.”  Think of a person right now and give it away this week.
  • Use your time wisely.  I know of a church member who took a part-time job precisely because it would give her an opportunity to share Jesus with people.  When I talked to her recently she said, “This is so exciting that I get to have a relationship with all these people who don’t know Jesus…yet.”
  • Leverage current events.  It’s pretty easy to make a spiritual bridge to the blizzard we just had.  Isaiah 1:18: “‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord.  ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’”  Even the Super Bowl should remind us that life is more important than a game.  Maybe you could talk about the Christian players in the game.  You can comfort the disappointed Steeler fans after the game.  We can even talk about Egypt and its role in the Bible.

3. Demonstrate. 

The key to getting prepared is not so much reading books to get answers to common questions, though that is helpful.  The key is to settle the questions of hopelessness in your own heart.  To say it another way, the best preparation is to make sure your own heart is holy, happy and filled with hope.

There is a close connection between reverencing Christ as Lord in my heart and always being ready to make a case for my hope.  We must “be” good news before we can share good news.

If you have never submitted yourself to the Lordship of Christ, I want to give you an opportunity to do so right now.  Turn everything over to Him.  Live only to please Him.  Be satisfied with nothing less than God’s purposes and the pleasure of serving Him.  The word “sanctify” is the same word as “hallowed” as in “Hallowed be your name.”

It’s in the aorist imperative, which can be translated, “Do it now!”  It’s the only command in verse 15.

We’ve lost our urgency.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?