An Exegetical Look at 1 Peter 3:15

This post contains part of an assignment I was given in a class I am taking on cults (yes, I’m still in school – working on getting more letters after my name). I was asked to do a quick exegesis of 1 Peter 3:15.

1 Peter 3:15 KJV – 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:

If you would like to read it, the following is what I wrote:

Authorship

1 Peter 3:15 was written by the Apostle Peter and most likely addressed to Christians living in Rome (Babylon). There are, however, various arguments against the Petrine authorship of the letter, but none have been taken seriously by the Church. As a matter of fact, by “the end of the second century and beginning of the third century, the letter is explicitly identified as Peter’s.”[1]

General Context

The overall context of 1 Peter is one of persecution. In other words, Peter wrote this letter to Christians who were heavily burdened with “manifold temptations” and “trials” (1:6-7). Scholars differ on the exact date of the writing and to which time of persecution the letter was actually addressing, but persecution was evidently a common occurrence.

Immediate Context

The immediate context of verse 15 has it on the heels of an exhortation by Peter to live in such a way that shows love to the brethren (v. 8). Immediately following in verse 16, Peter writes that by living this way their “good conversation” will put to shame any false accusers or those who may speak evil of them. Therefore, the exhortation of verse 15 is part of an overall call to be witnesses to a hostile world who is watching and looking for any reason to find fault.

Words to Examine

There are several words within 1 Peter 3:15 that are worth examining in closer detail. By doing so, we will be able to obtain a richer and fuller understanding of the passage.

  • Sanctify. The word translated “sanctify” is the word hagiazō (ἁγιάζω), which means “to make holy …purify or consecrate; …venerate…sanctify.”[2]
  • Heart. The word translated “heart” is a word that could be understood to be the actual organ within the body that pumps blood, but kardia (Strong’s G2588) can also mean – and in this case does – the center of spiritual life.
  • Ready. Peter suggests that the Christian should “be ready always…” The idea here is that of being prepared for something. We read in Matthew 25:10 of those that were “ready” for the coming of the bridegroom. Their readiness involved preparation for a future event. When we attach the adverb “always” to “ready,” what we have then is a readiness that is always anticipating something that could happen at any time.
  • Give an answer. The Greek word translated “give an answer” is apologia (ἀπολογία), which is a verbal defense of something, or reasoned argument (G627). Paul used the same word in 1 Corinthians 9:2 when he said, “Mine answer (apologia) to them that do examine me is this…” The idea of the word has nothing to do with making an excuse for something, but to give a reason for it in defense of it.
  • Reason. The Greek word here is logos (G3056), which has to do with words, things said, ideas expressed, thoughts communicated. Jesus was called the Word (Logos) in John 1:1. He was described as the Wisdom of God expressed. The Bible is the Word of God, the inspired, written revelation by God of Himself to mankind.
  • Meekness. This word in Greek is praÿtēs (πραΰτης), which is defined as a mildness of disposition, or a sense of humility (G4240).
  • Fear. The Greek word translated “fear” is the word phobos (G5401), which carries with it the idea of dread, terror, or exceeding fear.

Expanded Translation

Taking into account the background and context of 1 Peter 3:15, including an examination of the words used in the text, the following expanded version of the verse would thereby seem appropriate:

1 Peter 3:15 KJV – But sanctify [set aside as holy and revered, set up higher than anything or anyone else] the Lord God in your hearts [your life, your essence, the seat of your emotions, your way of thinking]: and be ready always [make preparations beforehand; do the work in advance of the need; anticipate the issue and prepare accordingly] to give an answer [a well-though-out response, a reasoned reply, a logical defense] to every man that asketh you a reason [because some men want more than “I don’t knows”; they want to be convinced with language they can understand] of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear [because there are grave consequences for not being ready…1) the lost may remain in their lostness and reject Christ, and 2) the One who is Holy is judging your works].”

Conclusion and Application

As mentioned above, 1 Peter 3:15 was written to those who were enduring trials and tribulations, i.e., persecution. Today, even though we are not enduring the same kind of trials and tribulations, there are other more minor forms of persecution and tribulation we may encounter in the immediate future. Nevertheless, all trials and tribulations, regardless of the severity, should provide for us an opportunity to exhibit a “hope” that is in us and beg the reason why.

Therefore, as Paul wrote to Timothy (2 Timothy 2:15), we should study as those who are to be examined, so when the time comes when we are asked to “give an account,” we will not be ashamed (1 Peter 3:16), but offer our actions AND our testimony as reasons for our faith.


[1] The New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Thomas R. Schreiner. 2003, Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville. Page 22

[2] The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. (G37)

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