“One of the central duties of the eldership is that of prayer for the congregation of the saints. This important truth is revealed to us through the first crisis in the church at Jerusalem. The reason they appointed deacons to serve in that church is that they did not want to be taken from their service of the church which they rendered through prayer. They said, ‘We will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word’ (Acts 6:4). The truth is a very simple one; talking to men about God must always be accompanied by talking to God about men” (Douglas Wilson, Mother Kirk, 192).
Character prepares and provides answers.
“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: having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing” (1 Peter 3: 15-7).
Our innocence and godly-character, first and foremost, will be our primary answer to every man that asketh us the reason for the hope that is in us.
Oft I have heard this verse quoted—“be ready always to give an answer”—and certainly Christians should be able to do that; Christians should be able to provide answers to their antagonists.
The thrust of these verses, however, transcend the imperative to believers—having premeditated, formulated answers is only half of the equation, and the less important half at that. Notice the thrust and tone of these verses: “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts,” “with meekness and fear: having a good conscience,” “your good conversation in Christ,” and “it is better … that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.” Overall, I would argue that the text focuses primarily upon the character, innocence, godly speech, and good works conducted by the believer, and less upon that believer’s reply to the antagonist’s questions.
The reason is obvious: Innocence and godly-character not only speak louder than words, but with greater clarity and power. After all, if we are sanctified and meek (not prideful), then upon what basis other than being a follower of Christ will an antagonist bring accusations against us? False accusations tell us more about the antagonist/accuser than the accused; namely, that the accuser is the one with fault/sin, and not the accused that is innocent.
So, will the antagonist accuse us for being charitable? I hope not. Is he going to accuse us for taking care of orphans and widows? Again, I hope not. Is he going to accuse us for being self-controlled and sober? Again, I hope not. Is he going to accuse us for being faithful in our marriage to our spouse? For loving our children? Again, for a third time, I hope not. I hope that we are not accused for holiness, but it may be the case that we will be accused—“it is better … that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.”
Which brings me to two points to conclude with: First, rejoice if you suffer for well doing, for we know that Christ also suffered for well doing, and as a result he reconciled and brought sinners to God (1 Peter 3:18). Let this, therefore, be our aim: If we must suffer for well doing, that sinners might notice our innocence, and as a result, they might be reconciled and brought to God by the grace of Christ. Second, don’t forget that if you are a believer suffering for evil doing (e.g. pride, lying, etc), the only appropriate and covenantal response is to repent for your sin, and then go forward innocent, sinning no more.
2 Tim 3:14-17: “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
From The Baptized Body: Peter Leithart says, “One of the effects of saturation in Scripture is that we gain the linguistic and mental equipment to grasp the world as it truly is and to live in it fruitfully.”
“As reformation gets underway, we will find that our churches continue to be diverse in many ways. Some will have roots in the Jesus-people movement of the seventies. Others will have a dispensational Bible church background. Still others will have come out of the charismatic movement. In this we will see reformation in the churches that have had no clear historic connection to the historic Reformed churches.
“In other situations, churches with a Reformation heritage have been busy throwing it all away. In their midst, there will be some who are distressed by the steady drift of these formerly evangelical Presbyterian and Reformed communions into various kinds of compromise, and so have consequently taken a stand.
“The principles which bring such disparate groups together are obviously not cultural, but rather scriptural and theological. Together we affirm these key scriptural principles stated here [dedication to authority of Scripture, affirmation of ultimacy of Scripture, reformational understanding of doctrine of salvation, ecclesiastical government that is presbyterial and representative, etc], and expect that they will continue to bear fruit in different cultural ways” (Douglas Wilson, Mother Kirk: Essays on Church Life, 53).
“By the grace of the Lord, we must resolve to be faithful to every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. From Genesis to Revelation, we must not be embarrassed by any passage of Scripture, and once we have submissively ascertained its meaning through careful and patient grammatical, historical and typological study, we must seek to put it into practice the day before yesterday” (Douglas Wilson, Mother Kirk: Essays on Church Life, 16).
“In a godly culture, the first social manifestation of grace is found in the family. But our culture is so rebellious that we have institutionalized our rebellion and cannot even conceive of how a genuine obedience would appear. We must nevertheless begin; Christians must insist on the abolition of the government school system, our nursing home system, our government welfare system, and countless other agencies and bureaucracies designed by the godless to replace the family. The family, and only the family, is the ministry of health, education, and welfare. Christians must hasten the destruction of this godless system of salvation by works through separating themselves from it. Christians must take their children out of government schools and day-care centers, their parents out of rest homes, and food stamps out of the budget.
“And this brings us to the point of this book, which is the reformation of the Church. The first duty of all Christian churches is to proclaim clearly the gospel of Christ as Scripture has revealed it to us. Our preachers must therefore repent of their ignorance, slothfulness, timidity, and prideful ‘wiser than God’ assumptions, and return to a bold proclamation of the truth of the Gospel. We need have no fear in preaching this message, for it abases man and exalts Christ. We need to tremble for having neglected it. . . . The point of this book is the reformation of the Church, and not the reformation of nations and culture. Nevertheless, if the Church were to be reformed, it would have a dramatic impact on the surrounding nations and culture” (17-18).
“Modern evangelicals in our culture have gotten money, power, and influence, and it has been like giving whiskey to a two-year-old. But the need of the hour is theological, not political. The arena is the pulpit and the table, not the legislative chamber. The message is Christ crucified and risen for His chosen sinners and now acknowledge Lord of all. This risen and conquering Christ is the Head of the Church. Before we are equipped to proclaim His lordship to the inhabitants of all the earth, we must live as though we believed it in the Church” (22).
“And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day” (Gen 1:5).
In his commentary on this verse Calvin notes: “It did not, however, happen from inconsideration or by accident, that the light preceded the sun and the moon. To nothing are we more prone than to tie down the power of God to those instruments the agency of which he employs. The sun and moon supply us with light: And, according to our notions we so include this power to give light in them, that if they were taken away from the world, it would seem impossible for any light to remain. Therefore the Lord, by the very order of the creation, bears witness that he holds in his hand the light, which he is able to impart to us without the sun and moon.”
What tremendous insight, especially the recognition that the very order of creation bears witness of the truth that the power of God is not tied down.
CMYK Magazine issue 24 has an advertisement for Axis and Allies WWII board game. On the left side of the advertisement, positioned between pictures of FDR and Churchill, in angled, typeset font, the caption reads: “Good friends send sympathy. Great friends send ammo.” On the right side, and even funnier, it continues: “Be wary of people who say winning isn’t everything. They’re called the French, the Germans, then the French again.”