And 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 may be put to shame. For better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.
When we pray the Lord's Prayer, the first petition we make is, "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name." The first priority in the heart of Jesus is the name of his Father. And it is the first priority of the followers of Jesus. We pray, first and foremost, "Father, cause your name to be hallowed. In the church, all over the world, work with sovereign power to bring hearts to the place where they hallow your name."
That word "hallow" is the same word that Peter uses in verse 15 of this text when he says, "Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts." Hallow Christ as Lord in your hearts. He is God-with-us. He and the Father are one. Hallowing the name of God the Father and hallowing God the Son are one.
What Does It Mean to Hallow Christ as Lord?
But what does it mean to hallow or sanctify Christ as Lord? It means regard him as the holiest being in the universe. Regard him as unique, one of a kind, without peer or rival in purity and rectitude and goodness. When the NIV says (in v. 15), "Set apart Christ as Lord," I think it means, Put him in a category by himself—the highest place, the greatest value, the most supreme treasure, the greatest admiration, the most cherished prize, the one you esteem and honor and love the most out of all persons and all things in the world.
Especially admire his lordship—"Sanctify Christ as Lord." Stand in awe of his lordship over the universe. Bow before his sovereign rule. Tremble with joy and gladness at the majesty of the Lord that says, "There is none who can deliver from my hand; I work and who can hinder it?" (Isaiah 44:13). Hallowing is the kind of honoring that you give to a great and wonderful and righteous king. Sanctify Christ as Lord, as King.
Don't Fear Man, Hallow Christ
Now what does hallowing, or sanctifying Christ as Lord have to do with the other concerns of this text—being zealous for doing good; suffering if necessary for righteousness' sake; being fearless and meek and reverent; giving a defense of our hope?
We can see the answer if we just read carefully verses 14b–15. "Do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts . . . " In other words sanctifying Christ as Lord in your heart is the alternative to fearing man. Don't fear man, sanctify Christ as Lord. So there is something about fearlessness before the threats of men that honors Christ as Lord. What is that? Why does fearlessness sanctify Christ?
Why Does Fearlessness Hallow Christ?
The answer is given when we keep reading. Verse 15: "Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, [How? By] always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you." Sanctify Christ in your hearts, by giving a credible defense of your hope. How is Christ sanctified or hallowed by good defense of our hope? The answer seems to be that he is that hope. He is the ground of it and the goal of it. When our hope looks strong, Christ the ground and goal of it looks strong. So he is hallowed and honored when we show that our hope is unshakable.
Now we can see the link between fearlessness and hallowing Christ as Lord. Peter says (vv. 14b–15a), "Do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts." Fearlessness sanctifies Christ as Lord. Why? Because fearlessness shows that our hope is unshakable. Fearlessness is a clear testimony that our hope is real. And since Christ is the ground and the goal of our hope, fearlessness honors him—sanctifies him, hallows him, shows his unique worth and strength in our lives.
So my conclusion is that this whole text is about hope and the way it helps us hallow or sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts. The ultimate issue in this text—and in our lives—is sanctifying, hallowing, honoring Christ as Lord. The secondary issue is the hope that this Lordship gives us with all its effects that show the supremacy of Christ's worth.
Four Points About Hallowing Christ and Hope
I'll break it down into four points:
- Christ is sanctified or valued as Lord by a fearless hope.
- Christ is sanctified or valued as Lord by a well-defended hope.
- Christ is sanctified or valued as Lord by a meek hope.
- Christ is sanctified or valued as Lord by a zealous hope.
In other words the two cords that tie up the contents of this text and hold it together are the cord of Christ's value and the cord of our hope in him.
Don't miss the main point in all the details. The main point is that Christ is sanctified in our hearts when he is central in our hope. Or: Christ is hallowed in our hearts when our hearts are hopeful in him.
The Core of Christianity
Let this sink in a moment. When you get up in the morning and think: Today the ultimate purpose of my life is to hallow the name of God. Hallowed be thy name. The main reason I am alive today is to show the value of Jesus to others. When you say that, will the next feeling that rises in your heart be one of burden or one of relief? Does the destiny to live for the hallowing of Christ's name feel like weight or like wings?
The Religion of Self-Exaltation
We are right at the core of Christianity here. Make sure that you get it for the sake of your soul and your joy. Christianity, as we see again from this text, is very Christ-exalting rather than self-exalting. It's very different from the reading that one of you gave me recently from a strategy workshop in your place of employment. The reading is called, "My Declaration of Self-esteem," and says, among other things,
I am me. In all the world, there is no one else exactly like me. Everything that comes out of me is authentically mine because I alone chose it . . . I own me, and therefore I can engineer me—I am me, and I am OKAY. (Author: Virginia Satir)
There are many competing religions in the world today. But I think this one is the main competitor with Christianity in America. Christianity is Christ-exalting and this religion is self-exalting. But which is a burden? Which gives you a weight to bear and which gives you wings?
Christianity Offers Wings Not Weight
Peter says that the way to exalt Christ as Lord is to hope in him. The beauty of Christianity, and what sets it apart from other religions, even humanistic, secular, self-exalting ones, is that Christianity offers a Savior whose glory and weightiness are upheld by being hoped in. Christianity does not call us first to work for God, but to hope in God's work for us—that is first, and that's the main thing. Christ is hallowed in us by our hoping in him.
When you wake up in the morning and remember that your destiny is to hallow the name of God, remember also that he is hallowed by hope not harried labor. He is hallowed by your trusting him to help you with your day. He is hallowed by childlike confidence that he will keep his promises. The value of Christ is exhibited first not by backbreaking toil but by banking your hope on him. Christianity is first wings not weight.
On the other hand if I believed in this other religion—that I alone choose everything that comes out of me, that I can invent new things within me, that I own me and can engineer me—if I believed in that religion, I would despair with the excruciating weight it puts on me—to clear my own conscience, forgive my own sin, find my own meaning, uphold my own cause, carry my own burdens, protect my own life, overcome my own fears, heal my own wounds, secure my own future, comfort myself in my own death. What a crushing weight this religion puts on the backs of our countrymen today. And the only redemption offered in this religion: the pitiful ceremony of repeating in front of the damning mirror: You're OKAY. You're OKAY. You're OKAY. It's a hard way to die.
So don't miss the main point: Biblical Christianity is a Christ-exalting religion. And he is exalted by being trusted. He is hallowed in us by our hoping in him. That is very good news.
Now just a brief word about our four sub-points.
1. Fearless Hope
Christ is sanctified or valued as Lord by a fearless hope.
We have seen this in verses 14–15. "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, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts." The promise of Christ in Matthew 5:10 is, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." You can rejoice in that day because your reward is great in heaven. That's your hope. It is guaranteed by the honesty, and power of Christ.
So put your hope in his promise (v. 14a), be fearless before men (v. 14b), and the result will be that you will sanctify Christ as Lord in your heart—you will show that Christ is valuable above all this world. Hallow him by hoping in him—fearlessly.
2. Well-Defended Hope
Christ is sanctified or valued as Lord by a well-defended hope.
Verse 15: "Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, [by] always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you." Christ is not honored by groundless hope. If someone says to me, "Why do you hope in Christ for forgiveness and for help and for eternal joy," and I answer, "No good reason, I just grew up this way," Or: "It seems like a good gamble," Or: "Everybody's got a religion, I decided to choose Christianity"—if I answer these ways, then Christ is not sanctified in my heart. He is not hallowed and honored. He is made to look the fool. We say he's our hope, but we don't know why he's our hope. Christ is not honored by groundless hope.
It was this text that caused me to write the second Appendix at the end of Desiring God, "Is the Bible a Reliable Guide to Lasting Joy?" In other words, Is there a defense for our hope? I commend it to you. You do not have to be a scholar to give a defense of your hope. This text in 1 Peter is written to people in the first century most of whom probably could not even read.
I urge you not to run to a book but to run to your closet and ask God with as much honesty as you can, Why do I believe in you? Why do I count you as my hope and treasure? What is the basis of my hope? Search your heart. Your answer may have to do with the trustworthiness of the witnesses who wrote the New Testament, or with the self-authenticating character and teaching of Jesus—"No man ever taught like this man." Or it may have to do with the meaning and sense that Christ gives to history and human life, or it may relate to the evidence of the resurrection, the empty tomb, and the power of changed lives, or it may have to do with fulfilled prophecy, or with the compelling light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, and your personal encounter with the living Christ. Whatever the answer, it must be your answer and not somebody else's. Christ will be honored by a well-grounded hope.
3. Meek Hope
Christ is sanctified or valued as Lord by a meek hope.
Verse 15 at the end: "Give an account of the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness [or meekness] and reverence." We have all noticed in politicians, preachers, teachers, and maybe even in ourselves that sometimes the less sure you are of your point, the more strident and loud you become in defending it. That's not always the case, since the Bible says frequently that the prophets and Jesus himself lifted up their voices and cried out the truth.
But we know that there is a serenity that comes with deep, well-grounded, settled conviction. That is the kind of hope that sanctifies Christ as Lord in our hearts. There is a calmness and equanimity and tranquility that hallows the name of Christ by showing his great rock-like stability in our lives.
4. Zealous Hope
Christ is sanctified or valued as Lord by a zealous hope.
At the beginning and the ending of this text Peter calls us to be zealous for good deeds, even if it means suffering. Verse 13: "Prove zealous for what is good." Verse 16: "They revile your good behavior in Christ." Verse 17: "Better to suffer for doing what is right."
It is clear that putting our hope in Christ does not make us passive or inactive. If it would be good for us and for his glory, Christ would make us inactive. But maximum joy is not obtained through sloth and empty days. We all know that. When we bank our hope on Christ and turn our future over to him, he doesn't go to work instead of us, he goes to work inside of us. He doesn't give us freedom from good deeds, he gives us freedom in good deeds.
Just as he takes the sting out of death, so he takes the futility out of work. He calls us to "be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58). It is not futile. He is behind it. He is in it. He is over it. He inspires it. He sustains it. He will reward it. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. Therefore being zealous for good deeds is the way we experience most of Christ's suffering and find most satisfaction in him. So a zealous hope shows the value of Christ.
The Central Heartbeat of Christianity
The great central heartbeat of Christianity is that Jesus Christ, the Savior and Lord, is exalted and hallowed and sanctified by the happy hope that his people put in him. And he shines all the brighter when our hope is fearless and well-defended and meek and zealous for good deeds.