Now I realize that this is probably not the kind of post that we here in North America can relate to with a lot of familiarity. Persecution, let’s face it, does not affect most of us. At least not to the point where our lives are in danger, or where our social status is threatened by gross opposition to the Gospel. However for the Apostle Peter’s readers it was a different situation. They were “grieved by various trials” (1 Peter 1:6) and sometimes outsiders would “speak against you as evildoers” (1Peter 2:12).

Obviously such opposition could discourage believers. Strong threats against the faithful could be grievous resulting in loss of property, status, even life. Peter encourages the faithful this way :

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. ‘Have no fear of them, nor be troubled‘, 15but 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, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:15-16)
Peter quotes Isaiah 8:12 which exhorted the prophet and his followers not to fear what the surrounding pagans feared, namely surrounding enemies. Peter’s quote changes uses the plural sense of “autou” in Greek from the LXX and refers to “THEIR” fear, meaning do not be afraid of the persecutors THEMSELVES. Drawing further on Isaiah, Peter takes from LXX Isa. 8:13Consecrate the Lord Himself and He will be your fear”. For Peter, it is just as equally acceptable to apply the holy fear of YHWH God to Christ as Lord; to have the SAME fear in our hearts.

When Peter’s brethren do this, honour or revere Christ as LORD, they are literally putting the fear of GOD HIMSELF in their own hearts. That is a greater dread, a holy, righteous, acceptable fear, that also is the beginning of wisdom, than the temporal, man-ish, mortal fear that is so hollow.

This is the fear that can give the persecuted the spiritual rectitude to face their enemies, and yet give an answer, with gentleness and respect, because we know the LORD Jesus Christ, and his supremacy in our lives trumps anything that tries to draw our hearts away.

 

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