“Would you be strong enough to profess Christ, even at gunpoint?” This is a popular question brought to Christians to determine the strength of their faith. And often, Christians respond from what they’ve learned: if we aren’t strong enough to profess Christ, then we are not worthy to accept His gift of salvation. The teaching comes straight from the Bible, as John writes in 1 John 2:22-23 that “who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is anti-Christ who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” (NKJV) and also 1 John 4: 15, which says “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him and he in God.” (NKJV)
The truth is, many of us can’t predict what we will do in a situation where we are held at gunpoint and asked if we are a Jesus follower; we can tell what we would like to do or what we plan to do, and we can pray that it won’t happen at all, but we can’t say what we will or will not do in the moment that it happens. Even with the uncertainty, however, we have no reason to fear that moment of judgment.
1 John 2:28 says “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” (NKJV) From the verse in chapter 4, we can know that in order to abide in Him, as this verse tells us to do, we must confess that Jesus is the Son of God. But the good news is, we don’t have to wait until we’re confronted at gunpoint to do this. We can confess every day, out loud, even just facing the mirror. The more you confess to yourself, the more you’ll believe, and the more confident you will be when it comes time to be faced with a confrontation.
Let’s all remember that we’re human, and we’re going to trip and fall in our confidence many times. Even the great apostle Peter, who told Jesus “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” (Matthew 26:35, NKJV) denied that Jesus was Lord on the night of Jesus’s trial. He had a weak moment. He denied Jesus 3 times, but he didn’t let his weakness get in the way of receiving the gift of salvation Jesus offered him.
In fact, Jesus restored Peter’s confidence in John 21:15-19. As if to counter the 3 denials Peter made, Jesus asked Peter 3 times, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” All three times, Peter responded the same; the 3rd time he professed, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Then Jesus tells Peter to follow Him. Jesus forgives Peter of his weakness, and He restores Peter’s confidence.
When Peter wrote his first epistle, he understood how fear can grasp the heart of a Christian. He knew how easy it is to fall to weakness and deny the faith that gives life. It had happened to him, personally, 3 times in one night. But Peter didn’t want the Christians who struggle like him to despair; he gives a message of encouragement to those of us who feel weak in our faith. He tells us how -weak as we are- we can receive God’s blessing of salvation through Jesus Christ.
“Finally, all of you be like-minded [united in spirit], sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted [courteous and compassionate towards each other as members of one household], and humble in spirit; and never return evil for evil or insult for insult [avoid scolding, berating, and any kind of abuse], but on the contrary, give a blessing [pray for one another’s well-being, contentment, and protection]; for you have been called for this very purpose, that you might inherit a blessing [from God that brings well-being, happiness, and protection].” 1 Peter 3: 8-10 (AMP)
1. Be united, helpful, and pray for others.
Peter tells us to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Be united. Be sympathetic and kindhearted. Think about the well-being and morale of the other believers. Be humble in spirit. We are called to care for each other, to lend a hand when we can help, and to pray for aid when we cannot.
He also reassures us, saying “If you are always trying to do good, no one can really harm you. But you may suffer for doing right. If that happens, you have God’s blessing. ‘Don’t be afraid of the people who make you suffer; don’t be worried.’” (v. 13-14, ERV)
But that’s not all. He continues to speak to us of how to overcome the weakness that we suffer.
“Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way.
“Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!” 1 Peter 3: 15-17 (NLT)
2. Respectfully defend your faith.
Sometimes, you may be called to defend your faith. When you do, be considerate of other people’s beliefs as you stand for the truth. Be gentle and respectful.
3. Live with a clean conscience, doing no evil against anyone.
According to Peter, your confessions of Christ will be found in the lifestyle that you lead. So be careful not to do anything wrong. If you live a gentle and compassionate life, then others who try to speak against you will have no ground to stand on.
In the next chapter (4:7-11), Peter explains in more detail how to live a lifestyle that confesses Christ: “The time is near when all things will end. So keep your minds clear, and control yourselves. This will help you in your prayers. Most important of all, love each other deeply, because love makes you willing to forgive many sins. Open your homes to each other and share your food without complaining. God has shown you his grace in many different ways. So be good servants and use whatever gift he has given you in a way that will best serve each other. If your gift is speaking, your words should be like words from God. If your gift is serving, you should serve with the strength that God gives. Then it is God who will be praised in everything through Jesus Christ. Power and glory belong to him forever and ever. Amen.”
“That’s what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others’ sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all-was put to death and then made alive- to bring us to God.
“He went and proclaimed God’s salvation to earlier generations who ended up in the prison of judgment because they wouldn’t listen. You know, even though God waited patiently all the days that Noah built his ship, only a few were saved then, eight to be exact- saved from the water by the water. The waters of baptism do that for you, not by washing away dirt from your skin but by presenting you through Jesus’ resurrection before God with a clear conscience.” 1 Peter 3:18-22 (MSG)
Or as the Good News Bible (GNB) reads: “Christ himself suffered on account of sins, once for all, the righteous one on behalf of the unrighteous. He did this in order to bring you into the presence of God. … The few people in the boat – eight in all – were saved by the water, which was a symbol pointing to baptism, which now saves you. It is not washing away of bodily dirt, but the promise made to God from a good conscience.”
Peter tells us that baptism is another way we are called to confess that Jesus is Christ.
As you are baptized into Christ, you confess that He is your Lord. It serves as a promise to God and a declaration to the people around you: your sin is buried under the water, and you have risen again with your Lord, praising Him for His righteousness that saves you. You now belong to God, just as Peter claimed when he wrote that “He did this in order to bring you into the presence of God.”
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test you [that is, to test the quality of your faith], as though something strong or unusual were happening to you. But insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, keep on rejoicing, so that when His glory [filled with his radiance and splendor] is revealed, you may rejoice with great joy.” 1 Peter 4: 12-13 (AMP)
As a Christian, we will suffer the prejudice and hateful words from people who do not understand our hope in Christ. Peter recognizes that, but he encourages us further…
“If you’re abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It’s the Spirit of God and His glory in you that brought you to the notice of others. If they’re on you because you broke the law or disturbed the peace, that’s a different matter. But if it’s because you’re a Christian, don’t give it a second thought. Be proud of the distinguished status reflected in the name!” 1 Peter 4: 14-16 (MSG)
It’s not a matter of ‘we are a liar if we deny Jesus is Lord’; we need to proclaim Jesus as Lord because we’re proud to be his follower, no matter what. After all, 1 Peter 4: 17-19 tells us that “It is time for judgment to begin, and it will begin with God’s family. If that judging begins with us, what will happen to those people who do not obey the Good News of God? ‘It is very hard for a good person to be saved. Then the wicked person and the sinner will surely be lost!’ So then those who suffer as God wants them to should trust their souls to Him. God is the One who made them, and they can trust him. So they should continue to do what is right.” (ICB)
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God [set aside self-righteous pride], so that He may exalt you [to a place of honor in His service] at the appropriate time, casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all you concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully]. Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour. But resist him, be firm in your faith [against his attack—rooted, established, immovable], knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being experienced by your brothers and sisters through the world. [You do not suffer alone]. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace [who imparts His blessing and favor], who called you to His own eternal glory in Christ, will Himself complete, confirm, strengthen, and establish you [making you what you ought to be]. To Him be dominion (power, authority, sovereignty) forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5: 6-11 (AMP)