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" I Peter 3:15.
The question which is asked is this: "How much do you believe we as God's people need to take the initiative in witnessing considering that men are dead in sins (in my experience very few actually do what I Peter 3:15 says)?"
* * * *
Christian witnessing is such an important subject that I am thankful for the reader who has given me an opportunity to discuss it.
Before I answer the specific question, however, there are a couple of things which need to be said.
In the first place, when we witness to others we do not know who are God's people and who are not. It is the same with the preaching. The gospel must be proclaimed promiscuously. So must Christian witnessing be made without any distinction as to elect and reprobate.
In the second place, when people ask us a reason of the hope that is in us (as Peter expresses it), this does not necessarily imply regeneration on their part.
I remember many years ago when my mother was in the hospital that other women in the same ward (these were in the days when wards sometimes had as many as 15 patients) were discussing the fact that they missed their movies, parties, beer halls and other places of worldly amusement. When they asked my mother if she missed these things, she informed them that she had never been to any of these things. In amazement they asked: "What in the world do you do for fun?" That gave my mother an opportunity to witness. They were asking a reason for the hope that was in her. But they were not regenerated.
I myself have been asked by people why I pray at the beginning of a meal when we are in a public place.
* * * *
In the third place, it is possible that few ask a reason of the hope that is in us because our lives are not characterized by hope -- at least, not as much as they ought to be.
This is the point Peter is making. The main theme of his epistle is "the hope of the Christian pilgrim." Peter is saying that God's people are pilgrims and strangers in the earth (1:1) because their home is in heaven. It is to heaven that they want to go. They live in the hope of the day when they shall be home.
This hope is not a peripheral attribute of their lives; it is a walk of life, a way of living here in the world which is fundamentally different from the world in every conceivable respect.
That great difference catches the attention of the wicked (4:4). They are puzzled. They can't understand it. And so they inquire why one lives the way he/she does.
That is the occasion for witnessing concerning the hope that is in us.
I say again: maybe we live too much like the world to attract their attention. Maybe they can't see that we are different from them. Maybe our lives indicate that we are as much of the world as they are.
Maybe that is the reason why few ask us any questions.
It is worth asking ourselves that question. The Scriptures have a way of calling us to self-examination. And sometimes the self-examination is painful.
We have not yet answered the question.
We will do that next time, the Lord willing.
- Volume: 5
- Issue: 24
Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
Address725 Baldwin Dr. B-25
State or ProvinceMI