There is a Word of God that the church today needs to hear. This Word is found in I Peter 3:15, “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.”
Peter speaks here of the “hope that is in you.” Hope is a term used throughout the Scriptures to describe the power of the born again heart which causes the Christian to look with eager expectation for the coming of the Lord Jesus. To this hope belongs especially three elements. First, hope is expectation. The Scriptures very clearly teach that Christ is coming again and coming soon. When He comes He will destroy the world and bring His church to the glory of a new creation. There are even certain signs in history and nature which indicate that these things are so. Hope is that power of regeneration which enables the child of God to discern these signs of Christ’s coming so that he lives in constant expectation of that coming. One who lives in hope, therefore, does not place the coming of Christ into the far and distant future. He lives rather in the constant expectation that the end of all things is at hand.
In the second place, hope is an earnest longing for the day of Christ. There are some things which we expect to happen but dread. Other things we anticipate, but we take an attitude of indifference. Still other things we know will come, and we desire them. This latter is the idea of hope. That which one expects in hope he also desires. He who lives in hope longs for the day of Christ and the salvation that shall be revealed. Finally, hope is certainty. Today the word “hope” has taken on the idea of doubt. To say, “I hope it, rains today” means “I would like it to rain but I really don’t know if it will.” The element of doubt, however, has no place in the Christian’s hope. Hope as the Bible speaks of it is an assured confidence. It is the confidence that Christ is coming again and that His coming will be soon. It is, furthermore, a personal assurance that when He comes, He will bring me to the final glory of the new creation.
Such is the nature of hope. Do you possess this hope? Is this hope strong in you so that you look to the day of Jesus Christ with eager expectation and longing? It may be worthwhile to stop and reflect on that a bit. In our day the tendency is for the children of God to be rather weak in hope so that their longings and expectations are more earthbound than heavenward.
When God’s people are strong in hope as they ought to be, this hope necessarily determines the course and direction of their life. It only stands to reason that the person who longs to dwell with God in perfection will not walk in the wickedness of this world. Neither will he make common cause with the world, joining them to help build their anti-Christian-kingdoms. He will rather live in spiritual separation. He will be a pilgrim and a stranger here below. He will have different goals, different attitudes, different customs, different speech, different dress. Everything about him will be basically different. The world which lives in darkness will consider him to be very strange and odd. That is because one who lives in hope walks not in dark ness but in light. And, therefore, even though he appears odd in the world, he is the delight of the living God. This, too, is something we ought to examine about ourselves. Does the world see anything strange about your behavior? If not, you are not living in the power of the Christian hope as a spiritual citizen of the kingdom of heaven.
The child of God who in hope lives as a pilgrim and stranger will sooner or later be questioned by the world. There is not much that the church does but that the world is watching. And when the ungodly notice that the saints live differently and will not make common cause with them they ask for a reason. They demand an explanation. Often these questions will come in a spirit of hostility. The world does not appreciate those who do not conform to their ways. They are especially intolerant of those who walk in the light and not in the darkness, who will not join in with them in the pursuit of their antichristian goals. For this kind the world has no use. It’s either join in with the world and do as the world does; or there is no room for you on the earth. And so it is with a spirit of hostility that the world will approach the spiritual pilgrim with the question: why don’t you send your children to our schools? Why don’t you join our labor unions and lodges? Why don’t you go to our movies and dances? Why doesn’t your church get involved in social issues and community affairs? Why won’t you work with us to make this world a better place in which to live?
These and other questions may come from a number of different sources. They may come from various individuals with whom we rub elbows every day. They may come from different organizations of the world which level their attacks against the church. We may one day be asked some of these questions in court. It may be very soon that we will be asked in court why our children do not attend the public schools. Should we live to see Antichrist enthroned as ruler of the world we will be asked why we will not receive the mark of the beast. Live as a pilgrim and stranger in the power of hope and the world will question you, often in a spirit of hostility. Have you ever been questioned by the world?
When we are questioned we are to be ready with an answer. The meaning is that we are to be prepared to give an answer; we are to be properly equipped so that we can give an explanation. This must be true first of all from an intellectual point of view, from the viewpoint of knowledge. All too often when the saints are questioned by the world as to the reason for this practice or that stand, the only answer they can manage is that this is the rule and stand of the church. The church tells me I must live this way. The church says I may not do this. This is not being ready to give an answer to every man who asks for a reason of the hope that is in you. To be ready with an answer is to be ready with an answer from the Scriptures. Are you able to demonstrate from the Bible why we have Christian schools, why we do not allow union and lodge membership, why we do not condone movie attendance, why we do not make common cause with the world? Many in the church today are woefully unprepared to give answers to these and other important questions. And remember, many well-meaning saints have done harm to the cause of the church when they give the world and even those of other churches the wrong answers.
But in the second place, we must be ready with an answer from a spiritual point of view. As we have already indicated, when the ungodly ask us for a reason of the hope that is in us they usually ask in a spirit of hostility. When in turn we give them an answer they are often offended so that their hostility increases. For that reason the saints of God are sometimes intimidated. They become afraid to give an answer. They become ashamed of the gospel. That in turn leads them to compromise their pilgrim’s life and walk to hide their light under a bushel. It takes courage to live as a pilgrim here below. It takes courage to face the hostilities of the world and explain to the world why we live in spiritual separation. That courage we must have if we will be truly ready to give an answer to every one that asks us a reason of the hope that is in us.
Are you ready to give an answer? That state of readiness is not easy to attain, nor easy to maintain. It requires daily use of God’s Word and constant prayer. These two are on the wane in the church today. In many homes Bibles are left to collect dust. Prayer bones are seldom used. That explains why there is such a lack of readiness in the church to give an answer to the world.
Yet it is important that we be ready. God requires it. He will use the answer we give to accomplish His purpose. He will use our answer first to harden the heart of the reprobate unbeliever. There is a hardening process that God works in the heart of the reprobate. Through this hardening process the reprobate grow and increase in sin until they fill the cup of iniquity and make themselves ripe for final judgment. God works this hardening process through the Word. This Word is first the Word as faithfully preached by the Church. But this Word is also the Word spoken by the saints daily as they give an answer to the ungodly who ask them a reason of the hope that is in them. Positively, however, God also uses the answer of the saints to bring the elect to repentance and salvation. For the Word of God is also the power of God unto salvation. Again, that Word must first be preached by the Church. But in the power of the preaching the saints must also walk as pilgrims and strangers, bringing the Word to all who ask them for a reason of the hope that is in them. These two together, and not the one without the other, God uses to gather His church.
Do you stand in the service of God’s cause and purpose? Then live in the power of the Christian’s hope. And be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.