Do Good and Give an Answer of Hope

AN EXPOSITION OF 1 PETER 3:13-22

13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?

The answer to this rhetorical question is, “Lord, no one can harm me if I follow that which is good. This is your promise and I believe it.”

“No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.” (Isa. 54:17)

“For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy” (Ps. 61:3). And the last Enemy is Death.

14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy [blest] are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;

According to Peter the believer who suffers for the sake of righteousness is blessed, or fortunate. While this sounds strange, Peter teaches what he has been taught. Jesus said, “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. 23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets” (Luke 6:22-23).

Four Blessings Associated with Suffering for the Sake of Righteousness

It is better to be persecuted, than to be the one doing the persecuting.

The believer gets to be like Jesus, as prayer has been made to that end. Phil 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.

When suffering takes place for the sake of righteousness, the reward in heaven increases. “behold, your reward is great in heaven” (Luke 6:23).

There is identification with the prophets of old “for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets” (Luke 6:23).

By hiding God’s Word in the heart, fear will be dispelled, and calmness of soul will be maintained so the heart is not troubled.

“In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.” (Psa. 56:4)

“The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (Psa. 118:6)

“So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” (Heb. 13:6)

“Jesus, lover of my soul,
let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
 while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide,
till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide;

 O receive my soul at last.
Other refuge have I none,
 hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! Leave me not alone,
still support and comfort me.

All my trust on Thee is stayed,
all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
with the shadow of Thy wing.

Wilt Thou not regard my call?
Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—Lo!
on Thee I cast my care.

Reach me out Thy gracious hand!
While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand,
 dying, and behold, I live.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want,
more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
heal the sick, and lead the blind.

Just and holy is Thy Name,
I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am;

Thou art full of truth and grace.
Plenteous grace with Thee is found,
 grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound;
make and keep me pure within.

Thou of life the fountain art,
freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart;
rise to all eternity.”

Charles Wesley, 1740

The Story behind the Song

Mrs. Mary Hoo­ver, of Belle­fonte, Penn­syl­van­ia, whose grand­mo­ther was the her­o­ine of the sto­ry, has re­lat­ed to her pas­tor this fam­i­ly tra­di­tion: Charles Wesley was preach­ing in the fields of the par­ish of Killy­leagh, Coun­ty Down, Ire­land, when he was at­tacked by men who did not ap­prove of his doc­trines. He sought re­fuge in a house lo­cat­ed on what was known as the Is­land Barn Farm. The far­mer’s wife, Jane Low­rie Moore, told him to hide in the milk house, down in the gar­den. Soon the mob came and de­mand­ed the fu­gi­tive. She tried to qui­et them by of­fer­ing them re­fresh­ments. Go­ing down to the milk house, she di­rect­ed Mr. Wesley to get through the rear win­dow and hide un­der the hedge, by which ran a lit­tle brook. In that hid­ing-place, with the cries of his pur­su­ers all about him, he wrote this im­mor­tal hymn

15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

“Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,
With all Thy quick’ning powers;
Kindle a flame of sacred love
In these cold hearts of ours.

Look how we grovel here below,
Fond of these trifling toys;
Our souls can neither fly nor go
To reach eternal joys.

In vain we tune our formal songs,
In vain we strive to rise;
Hosannas languish on our tongues,
And our devotion dies.

Dear Lord! And shall we ever live
At this poor dying rate?
Our love so faint, so cold to Thee,
And Thine to us so great!

Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,
With all Thy quick’ning powers;
Come, shed abroad the Savior’s love
And that shall kindle ours.”

Isaac Watts, 1707

It has been said that a pastor should be ready to “preach, pray, or perish, on a moment’s notice.” Peter said that all Christians should be prepared to give a word of testimony concerning their faith. The best testimony is that which does not argue but says in humility, and utter astonishment, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29).

16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation [manner of life] in Christ. 17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.

It is the will of God that some Christians suffer for well doing in order to test the soul, in order for others to follow a godly example of endurance, and in order to exercise divine sovereignty. Any attempt to find an ultimate cause for a given situation must eventually come to rest in the sovereignty of God who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11).

18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

The death of Christ was with purpose, and definition. Christ died to secure the salvation of souls, not to merely make souls savable. He accomplished a definite redemption, which is now being applied to the lives of those who will be made alive by the same Holy Spirit that brought Christ back from the sphere of the dead. Ephesians 2:1 says, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”

“Deep in the everlasting mind
The great mysterious purpose lay;
Of choosing some from lost mankind,
Whose sins the Lamb should bear away.
Them, loved with an eternal love,

To grace and glory He ordained;
Gave them a throne which cannot move,
And chose them both to means and end.
In these He was resolved to make,

The riches of His goodness known;
These He accepts for Jesus’ sake.
And views them righteous in His Son.

No goodness God foresaw in His,
But what His grace decreed to give;
No comeliness in them there is
Which they did not from Him receive.

Faith and repentance He bestows
On such as He designs to save;
From Him their soul’s obedience flows,
And He shall all their glory have.”

Isaac Tucker (1761-1825)

19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

There is an interesting, but speculative teaching, that advocates Jesus went and made a victorious proclamation to souls in hell following His death at Calvary. A better understanding is that Christ, by the Holy Spirit, once offered the gospel of redeeming grace to another generation, though few souls were saved. A parallel is found between the ministry of the church in the first century, and the labors of Noah. Great faith does not always produce great results.

21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

Peter is not teaching a doctrine of baptism for regeneration, because he is careful to define the term baptism in a metaphorical sense. Baptism is the answer of a good conscience toward God. The only way a person can have a good conscience toward God is to be identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. The Holy Spirit comes to effect regeneration, and identifies, or baptizes the soul into the body of Christ. With that being said, it can be noted, as Matthew Henry does, “the sacrament of [water] baptism, rightly received, is a means and a pledge of salvation. “Baptism now saveth us”. God is pleased to convey his blessings to us in, and by, his ordinances” (Acts 2:38; 22:16).

22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities [magistrates] and powers [force, miracles] being made subject unto him.

The ascension of Christ to heaven is one of the great doctrines of the Christian faith, though it is surrounded by mystery. The location of heaven cannot be located with the human eye, or instruments, for the universe is too vast, and too complex. Nevertheless, there is a Man in heaven today, the God-Man, who sits on the throne of majesty, where angels, and authorities, and forces, are made subject to Him.

Baptism Doth Also Now Save Us

If . . .

If water baptism is needed for salvation, than the teaching of the Catholic Church is correct and there was, and is no need for the Protestant Reformation. Sola fide (by faith alone), is at the heart of the Reformed Doctrine of Justification.

For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17).

If water baptism is needed for salvation, then Catholic Dogma of works, plus faith, resulting in salvation, is correct, and passages such as Ephesians 2:8-9 is overthrown. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

If water baptism is needed for salvation, then the Law need never have been abolished, for a new set of laws have replaced them, and Christ can no longer say, “It is finished”. Something more must yet be done.

If water baptism is needed for salvation, then the great parallel, emphasizing faith, is made void.

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14).

If baptism is necessary for salvation, then the misguided practice of the early church whereby individuals delayed being baptized until near death, is justified. But what does the Bible say about baptism? It exhorts an immediate obedient response to the gospel. Baptism is to be done sooner, rather than later.

“And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:36, 37).

“And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. 32 And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway” (Acts 16:31, 32).

If water baptism is needed for salvation, than another foundation is laid on which faith rests.

“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11).

If water baptism is needed for salvation, then a good work has been added to the atoning work of Christ, and the heart is left to wonder and worry about other good works to be enacted in order to be saved. The end result will be nothing but fear, and despair, for who can merit the merits of Christ?

“But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. 26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:23-26).

If water baptism is essential for salvation, then the importance of the Spirit baptism is reduced.

“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27).

“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13).

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