There is more than meets the eye in Peter’s famous evangelism text: “but 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,” (1Peter 3:15 ESV). The verse begins with the tail end of a quotation from Isaiah 8:12,13 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy.” “The last part of the verse (underlined) has been recast by Peter as “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy.”
If we begin to circle out from this quotation, we find materials to form a chiasm, a literary structure that may have been in Peter’s mind, and not just in my own imagination. Even so, I find it helpful in relating ideas to one another. Here is my outline.
A. Evildoers are Active (13)
B. Good Cause (13)
C. Zealous (13)
D. Suffer for righteousness sake (14)
E. Blessed (14)
Don’t fear what they fear: Fear Christ! (14,15)
E’ Prepared (15)
D’ Speak concerning hope (15)
C’ Gentleness and Respect (15)
B’ Good Conscience and Conduct (16)
A’ Evildoers are Ashamed (16)
Let me give you just a few thoughts on the matching points:
Concerning “A. and A’”, sure, evildoers are active. But in the end, they will be reduced to humiliation. See many of the Psalms with regard to this theme.
Concerning “C. and C’”, I think you can find the materials for “How to be a Zealot, but not a Terrorist,” or, “How to Share the Gospel Graciously.”
Concerning “E. and E’”, the Greek words actually match up better (visually) than the English (and also, word order in Greek supports this outline better than the English word order). To be “blessed” means that we don’t have to worry about securing our place in the world, or getting the “stuff” of the world. But the other word, “prepared, ready,” shows that we are not to be at ease, apathetic. We are filled with sense of urgency and expectation, even as we are marked by a sense of blessed security.
I wouldn’t die for this outline. But I am thankful for the cross-germination of thoughts that it fosters.