By Delmer Hightower
Peter issues a perceptive command when he says — “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason for the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15). The verse encompasses several aspects of the Christian’s life.
What is it to sanctify God. To sanctify the Lord God in our hearts requires us to set God above every desire, urge or whim. Let him be supreme ruler and regard him as holy and the ruler and judge of all that we do. Peter goes on to talk about the condition of our conscience in regard to God and his word. Before we can have a clear conscience as to our condition before God, we must do a number of things.
First, we must know what God demands of us. That is why Paul exhorted Timothy, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Time after time we are encouraged to “know” all things commanded of us. More and more I hear people attempt to use ignorance as an attempt to skirt God’s laws.
Second, we must have conviction in regard to the stand and attitude we have toward God and his word. I am convinced that many people today know what the word teaches but do not have the conviction to practice and uphold it. Paul should give us confidence when we read, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:16). When we read the Scriptures and apply them to our lives we not only gain confidence, but hope, joy and peace.
Third, we must have the courage and dedication to teach and practice what we believe. I know that we can be sincerely wrong as Paul was. To believe something with all of our heart is essential to maintaining a good conscience but we must also be aware that it is not in itself a guarantee of always being right. The Spirit has guided the apostles into all truth, they have written it down so that when we read their epistles and apply them to our daily lives we will exude confidence, sincerity, joy, love and compassion to all that we meet. That folks, is what being conformed to Christ means!
Be prepared to answer! When we get our heart and con-science right with God we have no problem with the next part of the verse. We are not only ready (prepared) to de-fend our beliefs, but are eager too. Our hope is based on the confidence that we have that we have searched the Scriptures, rightly divided them and reached a conclusion that it is harmony with every Scripture and with God. There can be no reason to fear God’s wrath for teaching error, no reason to fear criticism from the querulous, insensitive or legitimate questions of friend or foe.
Have the right attitude when we answer! When we hear men teach things that are contrary to what they have taught in the past or are contrary to what we believe the Scriptures teach, what should we do? Many are offended if we call in question their teaching and become angry and accuse us of being trouble makers or worse, but this is exactly what Peter has in mind when he tells us to be ready to give an answer to any man that questions our doctrine — with meekness and fear! If our doctrine is in harmony with the Scriptures we welcome the opportunity to defend any or all points. What is the problem when we encounter anger and/or resentment if we call in question a teaching?
First of all, someone has the wrong attitude. It is always in order to ask for book, chapter and verse so it is never out of line to question any doctrine and it is always our obligation to be ready to give a defense. Truth never has anything to fear. The lack of authority is always a dilemma. I was spoon fed for years on the doctrine “that if a man has a scripture he will use it.” What is wrong when one can’t or won’t give an answer? He has no Scripture, he has no confidence in the conclusion he has reached or he does not like the consequences of the answer he must give. The results are fear, loss of confidence and a defiled con-science. When this happens men lose confidence and respect for any one caught in this trap and because of pride (or whatever) refuse to correct the problem.
This is what has caused division in the religious world time and time again. It is what caused the division in the Lord’s church at the turn of the century, in the fifties and it is on its way again today. What do we do? Do we look the other way, not rock the boat or do we follow Paul’s instructions. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Rom. 16:17).
I have a tape of a sermon preached in an area church this past month that is a good example of what I am talking about. The sermon was an effort to explain to the congregation why some had left and started another congregation. I have first hand knowledge that the ones who left made numerous efforts to reason with the elders, ask repeatedly for Scriptures to authorize the things being taught and practiced and all to no avail. I hear the same thing from about similar conditions every where I go. Examine some of the statements and see if they fit the parameters of 1 Peter 3:15?
After several minutes of “activities” that really had nothing to do with the problem at hand the speaker began to give his reasons for the division. He promised to give ample Scriptures to substantiate his conclusions but then explained that the copy machine broke down and he had to settle for about “15 minutes” of Scriptures. Think about his next statement! “I reached a conclusion in 1972 and am just now brave enough to share it with you. The law of Moses was given us to show what God does not want. God does not want to judge us by the ability we have to keep rules, because when you start playing `ruly righty’ — I guess that is the name you could call it, doing all of the right things at the right time — you just have to make one little mistake and you are out, just one little mistake and you lose, just one mistake if you play ruly righty. ” Does that sound like it harmonizes with — “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (Jas. 2:10).
The speaker then uses several Scriptures that show that the law of Moses has been done away with and then draws this conclusion. “Any attempt on our part to serve God by rules and traditions will always lead to division and factions, and that is where we are right now. You see, somebody did it wrong. If we have done wrong then we have to make it right, and if the elders won’t make it right then we’ve got to leave, and that’s sad folks. But that’s what happens when you start playing the rules game. But you say — wait a minute, Robert, are you saying that there are no rules? Oh no, I am saying to you that there is one rule, it is the principle of faith and that rule is so great that when you under-stand the principle of faith you will have incorporated every other thing somebody might try to bind on you.”
Robert did a good job of putting away the law of Moses and then assumed that it meant the demise of all law I sup-pose. He never mentioned the law of Christ, never mentioned how we prove our faith as James instructs in 2:18. Heused a book by “Chuck Swindoll” to try to make some point about liberty and then talked about the liberty that is in Christ, as though it freed us from all rules and regulations, but he failed to consider what James said about it in the Scriptures. “So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty” (Jas. 2:12). After working on this theory for 20 years he completely overlooked the fact that the liberty that is in Christ frees us from the law of sin and death and not the rules and regulations of the “law of liberty.”
Note his explanation of Galatians 5:1. (Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ bath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.)
… getting back into a system where you have to keep all of the rules and regulations.” By this statement he admits that there are some rules and regulations, so I wonder if brother Moore could tell us which ones we must keep and which ones we could safely ignore?
Robert used much the same arguments our Calvinistic friends have always used. When he could not use a Scripture he tried to prejudice the audience with theatrics and his “ruly righty” phrase. What a waste of talent and time of worship to God. The sad thing is that many sat in the audience and accepted that reasoning and let the false teaching and condemnation of souls go without question or contest.
Folks, excusing sin and over looking the law of Christ will cause some to be very disappointed in the day of judgment. Respect for Christ and his law is our only hope! There is no substitute for authority! The song we sing is not just a pretty melody, but based on a specific Scripture and command! “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”
We are obligated by the Lord to call in question every deviation from the law of Christ. Did not Christ say, “If you love me keep my commandments”?
Excusing sin and over looking the law of Christ will cause some to be very disappointed in the day of judgment. Respect for Christ and his law is our only hope! There is no substitute for authority! The song we sing is not just a pretty melody, but based on a specific Scripture and command! `And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.,,
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 7, p. 12-13
April 1, 1993