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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1302

May 14, 2017 1 Peter 3:13-22

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)



“Complete Devotion to Christ”


  • Devotion to Christ


I spent some time the week after Easter preparing sermon ideas and outlines and I had written a note to remind myself that the word devotion in this 1 Peter passage was in the version of the Bible, The Message. The problem was that I was wrong in my note and it took me a while this week to find what version I had read to bring that word to my sermon title. Well, I found it again in the J. B. Phillips paraphrase, which I consider as The Message version from England first printed in 1960. It is a version that I hold dear because one of my mentors in my early Christian walk used this version in his preaching and teaching. It is particularly in verse 1 Peter 3:15, in the ESV it says, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” In the Phillips version, it reads, “simply concentrate on being completely devoted to Christ in your hearts. Be ready at any time to give a quiet and reverent answer to any man who wants a reason for the hope that you have within you.” In one we are told to honor Christ, in the other we are completely devoted to Christ. The word literally means to sanctify, sanctify the Lord in your hearts. The thought is to revere, honor, venerate, or to become so deeply devoted to Christ that it drives out any fear of suffering which is the subject of the previous verses. Paul tells us we are sanctified in Christ as believers (1 Cor. 1:2) and in Peter’s letter we are to sanctify Christ in our hearts. To sanctify is to make holy, to consecrate, and in that understanding I take this phrase in 1 Peter 3:15 to mean that we devote our lives to Christ as he has devoted himself to us through his death and resurrection. This is one way we might view being holy as God is holy. We are to cultivate in our hearts the awe and reverence and honor of Christ to the point that no other entity on the earth will cause us fear. In essence we sanctify our hearts by honoring Christ as holy. This means to set Christ apart from all other heart matters. That is, we devote ourselves completely to Jesus Christ as Lord of our hearts.

The way to eliminate fear of others, or of anything, is to hold the Lord close to our hearts, that is, to be completely devoted to Him. Remember that Peter is writing to exiles, a people displaced from their homes. We have been discussing during this series in 1 Peter that we too could consider ourselves exiled within our own nation. Exile is not always just a physical exile but can be spiritual or emotional or as we have experienced, a displacement from our influence and identity as Christians in a Christian nation. Our exile is known through losing our place in the culture and society that we once held. It is known through the disrespect of Christian values and the attempt to dismiss Christian symbols from the public square. These are the times to devote ourselves to Christ. These are the times when we must see all things through the lens of scripture and faith and grace. If we are completely devoted to news or politics or anything other than Christ, our perspective becomes deeply skewed. Instead, we devote our hearts to Christ and see all things in media and all things political through the lens of Christ.

Peter sought to teach exiles how to live in exile. And Peter teaches us how to be the church in America. In this passage we learn to devote ourselves to Christ, to honor Christ in our hearts. When we think about the heart we normally think about love and the heart as the center of our devotion and even our transformation. The transformation of exiles begins in the heart. We find our identity in Christ. That is where we begin to transform a nation, with ourselves. With the heart we seek to honor Christ and when we honor Christ we need no longer fear anything in our nation.


  • Prepared to Witness


One of the ways we honor Christ is being ready to give a defense (3:15). It is the second half of verse 15, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” We demonstrate our devotion to Jesus by telling others why we are so devoted to Jesus. He is our hope. He is our Savior. He is Lord. He is the Son of God. He died for us and rose from the dead that we might be reconciled to God and know him by grace and faith.

We don’t have to know everything the Bible says. We don’t need to know every doctrine of theology. We don’t have to be able to answer every question that is asked of us. We only need to know the reason for the hope we have. We need to know our own story with Jesus and be able to articulate that well enough and do so gently and respectfully. Consider your testimony of hope in Christ. What do you believe? Why do you believe? Peter tells us to defend the hope that is in you, not the hope of the whole world or the hope of John Calvin or the hope anyone else, just yours.

Every believers has a unique story to tell. Every believer has a defense to give. We don’t have to have the ultra dramatic story that moves from rock bottom addiction and loss to the high of Jesus lifting us out of the pit. We might have the story of never knowing a day in our life without Jesus. That is a great story! We all do have an ultra dramatic story because of the Savior who brought all of us out of the darkness and into his marvelous light. If you do not feel prepared to give a defense, then consider taking the time to sit down and write out what you might say to someone about the hope in you. Practice with someone you trust. Share as often as you have the opportunity until in becomes second nature to do so. We all have the opportunity to honor Christ in our hearts by sharing the story of our heart in Christ. That story is the gospel story of Christ’s death and resurrection that has brought each of us to God. Every one of our stories is how we came to know the gospel of Christ and what he has done for us.


  • Reconciled to God


Peter shares the gospel in one line – verse 18. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” This is Peter’s defense of the hope that is in him.


For Christ also suffered once for sins: We might say it another way, that Jesus became the one sacrifice necessary to forgive our sins. We might choose to say that Christ died so that we might live. We might be more familiar with other scriptures that give similar testimony like


Ephesians 2:4-5,

4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved


The righteous for the unrighteous: Jesus was the only one who never sinned and he became the spotless lamb offered for all the sins we have committed.


Romans 5:6-11,

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.


That he might bring us to God: We have been reconciled to God. The great passage that we would do well to know is


2 Cor. 5:17-21,

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.



Being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit: They crucified Jesus on the cross where he took the sins of the world on himself. But on the third day God raised him up.


1 Cor. 15:3-5,

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.


We tell our story and in that story is the gospel. We find a way to share the gospel in our own way and in our own words. This is one way we grow in devotion to Christ, by sharing our story and God’s story with us. Let us focus more energy on preparing ourselves to make our defense of the hope that is within us as we devote ourselves completely to Christ. Amen.