Lesson Nine – Personal Evangelism

Personal Evangelism

Lesson Text: I Peter 3:13-22.

I.  Review and preview of I Peter chapter 1-3.  Read from left column across to right to see the action.    

 

II.  Introduction.

We will not want to forget Peter wrote both letters “as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking.”  NIV. II Pet. 3:1.  “This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance.”  KJV.  Please review the Introduction for the original meaning of the significant words.  The English word, mind is generally translated from the Greek nous.  It means “the seat of reflective consciousness, comprising the faculties of perception and understanding.”  W. E. Vine’s dictionary.  In II Pet. 3:1, “minds” has been translated from dianoia.  This word means to make use of the mind to think over, or meditate on what has been learned in the mind.  Thus, it denotes the faculty of knowing, understanding and moral reflection.  Peter wrote to stir up the recipients’ mind about what they already knew and in what they were firmly established (II Pet 1:12; 3:17).  His plea was to get ready for action because they were about to be attacked by religious business people and atheistic scoffers (II Pet. 2:1-3; 3:3).

The foregoing chart has been presented to help us know and reflect in our meditation about what Peter wrote to the original recipients to “stir up” their pure minds.  They understood and were grounded in the pure theologies and ethics listed in the chart (II Pet. 1:12-16).  He wrote both letters to prepare them for people who would not teach the pure gospel.  Because of their own selfish motives, they would preach another gospel – but there is not another (II Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6-12; II Pet. 2:1-3).

Today, the people Peter identified in II Peter, Chapter Two, control most of what is happening under the heading of Christianity in the whole universe.  It started in the first century and it has continued to grow.  The doubters Peter identified in chapter three control the governments of most nations, the media in the world realm and the class rooms in public schools.  They do not control what is spiritually happening “in Christ.”  Jesus is the head of His body, the church, and He shall remain in command until God makes His enemies “a footstool for His feet.” Heb. 1:13.

Christians have faith in the theologies and ethical principles listed in the chart.  This is a summary of information found in I Peter, Chapters 1-3.   Christians will not prevent what is happening outside of Christ’s body.  Consequently, we need to use our time and energy where we have influence to promote the kingdom of God and our citizenship as God’s chosen children (Phil. 2:14-16; 3:20, 21).  We can pray for situations where we have no influence, but we must not misuse our strengths where we have no influence to do good.  However, we cannot keep quiet about “the reason of our hope” and still claim to be a disciple of Jesus Christ (Luke 8:21; 9:23-26, 57-62).  He sent The Twelve out to evangelize Israel as a part of their training to be apostles.  Their instructions were to waste no time and energy where they were not allowed to influence the people with the gospel of the kingdom (Luke 9:5).  He issued the command, “shake the dust off your feet.”  Christians need to do the same, but we cannot shake off what we don’t get on.  We need to get the people who present themselves as preachers out from behind those pulpits.  They need to get some dust on their feet in the streets.  There are people outside the church buildings who have not heard the gospel, even once.

While growing into our identity as sons of God, we develop self-control.  We submit our wills to the will of God.  We enjoy the good life in Christ while we are growing up into our salvation.  We function in the body of Christ, so we can keep the false teacher, the business preachers and the agnostics outside (I Cor. 5:12).  The church exists in an evil world but the evil people from the world must not have fellowship with the saints “in Christ.”  See Gal. 1:4; Rom. 16:17-19; II John 9-11.  As Christians continue to grow in our salvation we will grow in our identification Peter set forth in I Pet. 2:2-6; “that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”  We will have the courage to join Jesus in His mission to “seek and save the lost.”  Luke 19:10.

After listing several spiritual life qualities Christians keep adding to our faith, Peter said: “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  II Pet. 1:5-8.  When Christians and whole churches lose their courage to join Jesus’ mission of evangelism to call God’s children from Satan kingdom, they generally develop zeal for other activities.  They may rally around a significant religious person in an effort to unify the group (John 5:44; I Cor. 1:11, 12).  Some create zeal for building magnificent buildings in which to gather or just to have fellowship meetings.  The consumption of food together may serve as the unifier of the group.  Although they will meet each first day of the week to remember Jesus’ death on the cross, they may not have the courage or zeal to join His mission to preach “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” to lost people in their own community (I Cor. 2:2).  The foregoing activities may have value for worship services and exhortation; it is not the mission of Jesus Christ.  He did not come to earth to develop a better Sunday morning worship service.  His mission is “to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  Luke 4:18, 19.  The world is overflowing with people who desperately need God’s favor.  Please review the historical and literary analysis in Part II, Lesson Two, to understand what these scriptures meant to the recipients.  We are now seeking to understand the meaning for us.

Lesson 

Peter introduced the text for this lesson with a rhetorical question: “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  While responding to his preceding rendition of Psalms 34:12-16 in 3:10-12, he answered his own rhetorical question and led us into the subject of personal evangelism.  Peter made use of a part of the Psalm to describe the “inherited blessing” he announced in his summary statement in I Pet. 3:8, 9.  Inherit has been translated from the Greek kleronomeo.  It means to obtain or “get for your own.”  He was probably referring to Christians’ present “inherited blessings” that “we get for our own” as we function in the body of Jesus.  Of course, this is an eternal fellowship; an eternal inheritance (I Pet. 1:23).  With the plea; “Finally, all of you live in harmony with one another,” Peter closed the long discourse about Christians’ submission to various scenarios.  See the chart in the introduction.

We need to be careful to get in step with Peter’s train of thought as we enter our study of this long complex thought in the text for this lesson.  We are looking for what this scripture means to us in relation to evangelism.  Please note that Peter introduced another profound subject in verse 14; “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.”  We will study this “inherited blessing” in the next lesson.  Since the beginning part of this text appears to respond to portions of the Psalm, we will consider how our text responds:

Peter has embedded the topic of Christians’ personal evangelism in a long discourse in which he “stirred up” the recipient minds about several theologies.  These theologies are grace doctrines about Jesus’ death on the cross so that faithful repentant sinners can have their consciences cleansed in the waters of baptism.

Jesus resurrection to the right hand of God is where He stands as “Prince and Savior.”  Acts 5:31.  Prince, or king, means He has “angels, authorities and powers in submission to Him.”  I Pet 3:22.  Christians strive to submit our “selves” to Him as our Lord in order to follow His commands and perform good behavior.  While on earth, Jesus “entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.  He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.”  I Pet. 2:23, 24.  “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”  I Pet. 4:19.  Sharing with our friends, neighbors and relatives “the reason for the hope we have” is how Christians serve in the mission of our king, Jesus Christ (V. 15).  At times His mission may engage people who are hostile to the gospel God has prepared for them.  We are not “afraid of their terror, neither be troubled.” Verse 14 from KJV.  This is a better translation than the NIV  which reads – “Do not fear what they fear.”  Christians have courage to face terror because Jesus is leading this mission and God is with us by His Holy Spirit.

Savior refers to the function of the Priesthood of Jesus Christ.  He is the high priest.  His own blood is His sacrifice of atonement for Christians.  This grace gave us a “new birth into a living hope.”  I Pet. 1:3.  The sacrifice of atonement in Rom. 3:25 is synonymous in function with the mercy seat in Heb. 9:5.  Both words were translated from the Greek word hilaskomai.  This is the means by which God is appeased when He sees faith in Christians in the sacrifice of Jesus’ blood on the cross.  This is the function of the doctrine of justification by faith.  It only works for Christians with “faith made perfect.”  Jas. 2:22, 23.  Jesus “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”  Rom. 4:25.  The result of Christians’ new birth, and presently our justification by faith, is “the pledge of a good conscience toward God.”  I Pet 3:21.  Our interest in this lesson is how a good conscience relates to doing good evangelism.

After presenting these same grace doctrines in detail to the saints in Rome, the Apostle Paul asked, “If God is for us, who can be against us?  Rom. 8:31.  Peter asked the same question in the opening verse of our text.  God is asking Christians this same question today.  “Who will harm us if we are eager to do good?”  To appreciate Peter’s question, first we need to see ourselves as one with the people who condemned ourselves as evil by the work of our own consciences.  Mind court sessions on our selves left us with a conscience that did not function well because of guilt (Rom. 2:15).  Please note how often Peter used the words good and evil in chapter three (Gen 3:22).  Then in the close of this complex thought he introduced Noah and the flood waters.  “In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God.”  I Pet. 3:20, 21.

Peter did not explain Jesus’ preaching to some disobedient spirits who were in prison during the time Noah was building the ark; therefore, we will leave this topic for those who like to dwell on “curiosity questions.”  The point of the story Peter did make very clear was how water saves.  Water served as a dividing line between the people who were lost in the flood and Noah’s family who were saved.  Peter used the water in the story of Noah to symbolize baptism.  See Acts 8:12, 34-39; 16:31-34; 22:14-16; Rom. 6:5-10.  The blessing Christians get from baptism, the last process in our new birth, is that we have; not only a clean conscience, we have a good conscience (V. 21).  Good has been translated from the Greek word agothos.  We have a beneficial conscience.  Please review my lesson, “The Function of a Mature Conscience” in the book entitled “The Letter to the Corinthians,” Part IV, Lesson Two.

A good conscience works with mature peoples’ list of what we believe is good and evil.  We have these two list stored in our memory.  Disciples of Jesus Christ continually learn and update what we believe is good and evil from our own study of God’s word.  A good conscience gives us a “go ahead signal” if our behavior is good.  A weak conscience give wrong signals (I Cor. 8:7, 8).  Corrupted consciences send out confused signals about what is good and evil about a person’s behavior.  “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him.  (Tit. 1:15, 16).   A good conscience will give us a “stop sign” if our behavior is evil.  If we don’t stop we will have a guilty conscience.

Guilt robs people of their glorious countenance.  Guilty people want to hide from God as Adam and Eve did after they became aware of good and evil (Gen. 3:8, 22).  The condition of our conscience generally determines the proximity of our relationship to God.  A Christians’ proximity to God determines the level of his or her courage.  Our courage determines the extent to which we will do personal evangelism.  It was not by chance that Peter embedded personal evangelism in a discussion of what all people have received as a part of our inner-man when Adam broke covenant.  His sin sent Jesus to the cross because all mature people have a problem with guilt on our consciences (Rom. 5:12; Heb. 9:14).

People who do not have a guilty conscience about our behavior are bold people.  Death is not a problem because we have the presence of God with us by our fellowship with His Holy Spirit (II Cor. 13:14).   The Holy Spirit did not fellowship God’s people as He does with Christians before Jesus was sacrificed.  The blood of animals did not remove sin from the conscience (John 7:37-39; Heb. 10:1-3).  Christians do not have a phobia about death.  We have settled the issue about our own death in our minds by our faith in our resurrection and new body (Rom. 8:10, 11).  Our Lord and savior took the power of death away from Satan (Heb. 2:14, 15).

Therefore, faithful Christians’ do have the answer to Peter’s question; “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?”  We do not let the fear of death rob us of courage to do good.  We do have a need for security, but our faith in the resurrection and the promise of a new body has let us accept our physical death.  We do fear; that is, we do have respect for dangerous situations.  We do not allow our fear to rob us of the joy of doing good.  In most cases sinners do not harm Christians when we evangelize.  Neighbors and relatives don’t harm us when we share our hope; therefore, the cause of the fear that keeps us from doing good is not out there in the world.  It is in our minds and hearts.  Christians inherit a blessing by telling others of our hope.  Those who hear us, may also inherit an eternal blessing.  If the sinners should harm us for doing good, we still have a blessing.  “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.”  V. 14.  We will investigate the blessing of spiritual growth that comes from suffering when we do right in the next lesson.  For a divine summary of the text of this lesson please read Titus 3:3-8.

Questions for Discussion

1.  The text of this lesson contains a rhetorical question; “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  This means Peter believes they know the answer.  What is the answer?

2.  How may the Psalm preceding the text relate to the text?  How is a day in our lives influenced by people doing good for us?  How much better does it make our spiritual lives when we do good?  What does this word “good” mean?

3.  How do evangelists respond to slander, if it should be forthcoming?  Does the sharing of our hope serve as a definition of evangelism?

4.  Why do the people who wrote the content of God’s word in the Bible so often speak of good and evil in the same sentence?

5.  Suffering is a part of life.  Describe the type that is beneficial for spiritual growth?

6.  Does Jesus’ role as Prince suggests He is still leading in “seeking to save the lost.”  Luke 19:10.  Does He have people on earth on His team?  Who are they?

7.  How does Jesus’ role as Savior serve Christians to free us to be “eager to do good?”

8.  How did Peter’s story about Noah benefit his aim for evangelism?  What part of the story did he not explain?  How does the removal of guilt from our consciences relate to being a better evangelist, if it does?

9.  Please read the last paragraph in the lesson.  What is the source of most fears?  Why are Christians able to maintain courage to do good in spite of our fear of being harmed?  How often do we hear of a Christian being harmed in our neighborhood for sharing their hope?  How do people rob ourselves of the greatest blessing in life?

10. Did Jesus leave room for churches to decide to or not to maintain a continuous evangelism program?  Does an individual Christian have a choice in regard to sharing our hope with people who have no hope?

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