We ended last time with an important truth.
Only those who have a true knowledge of God and who live out that knowledge in a life of thankfulness can be faithful witnesses of God. This truth is explained for us in Luke 24:44-49. In these verses we read of Jesus’ instruction to His disciples just before His ascension. While these verses apply directly to the apostles as they were called to preach the gospel, they apply to us as well, as faithful witnesses. In verse 45 we read, “Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.” Later in verse 47 we read, “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name… and ye are witnesses of these things” (vs. 48). Important to understand from these verses are two truths. First, our ability to understand Scriptures is dependent upon the fact that the Lord opens our understanding. Without His Spirit working in us, we do not and cannot know the truth of the Word of God. Second, when we have this understanding and enlightened heart, we are witnesses. It follows that those who know and love the truth will live out that truth. And by doing so, they witness of that truth. It is necessary to have this spiritual understanding of the Scriptures to be a witness of the truth.
There are many who claim to be witnesses of God and His truth who do not have this understanding. In reality they are false witnesses in darkness. They do not witness of the God of light and truth, but of the lie. They have no spiritual understanding; the Lord God is not sanctified in their hearts. Matthew 7:21 -23 speaks of this fact. Just after Jesus has finished saying the words, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.” He gives the following warning:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Faithful witnesses then, are those who do the will of the Father in heaven. What is involved in doing the will of the Father? First, it involves knowing what the will of the Father is. The will of the Father is made known to us by the Holy Spirit who makes known the Word to us in our hearts. Second, doing the will of the Father involves obedience to the will of the Father. And obedience is “a sincere joy of heart in God, through Christ, and with love and delight to live according to the will of God in all good works” (Catechism, Q & A 90). We, who live out of the principle of the new man, do the will of the Father.
Really, our whole walk involves performing the will of the Father. God has given to each of us a specific station and calling in life. For some of us, our particular calling in life at this time may be that of a student in school. Doing the will of the Father in this calling involves a number of things. It requires of us respect for the authority of the parents and teachers God has placed over us. It requires of us diligence in our studies. If we are college students, doing the will of the Father may mean defending the truth of the Word of God against the lie in the classroom. Doing the will of the Father may involve suffering reproach and persecution for righteousness sake.
It may also be the case that our calling in life is that of a young mother. Doing the will of the Father requires of us submission to our husbands. It requires of us keeping the home and raising our children in the fear of the Lord. It requires of us that we deny any desires that we have to forsake our calling of being a keeper at home and living the life of a career woman.
Doing the will of the Father is a high calling. In our workplace, doing our Father’s will may be especially difficult. This is true because we are surrounded in this world by those who hate our Father and hate those who do His will. We may be asked why we don’t bad-mouth the boss behind his back. We may be asked why we refuse to participate in trashy lunchroom discussion and why we never have a foul joke to offer. Reproach may be heaped upon us when we explain why we do not work on the Lord’s Day. Jokes and sneers will be directed at us when we bow our heads in prayer at mealtimes. Such is the life of the faithful witness who does the will of his Father in his particular station and calling in life.
When we live as shining lights in this world of darkness, we will no doubt be asked for a reason of the hope that is in us. Usually, the question will be asked of us by those who speak evil of us. This is the context of I Peter 3:15. In verse 12-14 we read that those who follow after that which is good suffer for righteousness sake. This is always the case. Those who live godly lives always suffer persecution (II Tim. 3:12). In verse 15 itself we read, “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.” In the verse following we are reminded that those who ask us for this reason are those who also speak evil of us and falsely accuse our “good conversation in Christ.”
It is important that we do make a good profession of our faith when we are asked of the reason of the hope that is in us. Before we can make this good confession, however, let us not overlook the instruction found in the first phrase of verse 15, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.” We have the same idea in Isaiah 8:13, where we read, “Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” What does this mean? Matthew Henry gives a good explanation of these verses. He writes:
We sanctify the Lord God in our hearts when we with sincerity and with fervency adore Him, when our thoughts of Him are awful and reverend, when we rely upon His power, trust to His faithfulness, submit to His wisdom, imitate His holiness, and give Him the glory due to His most illustrious perfections. We sanctify God before others when our deportment is such as invites and encourages others to glorify and honour Him; both are required, Lev. 3:10. When this principle is laid deeply into your hearts, the next thing, as to men, is to be always ready, that is, able and willing, to give an answer, or make an apology or defense, of the faith that you profess, and that to every man that asketh a reason or your hope, what sort of hope you have, or (sic) which you suffer such hardships in the world.
Only those who sanctify the Lord God in their hearts are able to give an answer. Only those who know God and reverently fear God will not be afraid nor fear wicked men. Only those who go forth in the confidence of the promises of God’s Word can speak a true confession and give a sound answer. “Let thy mercies come also unto me, O Lord, even thy salvation, according to thy word. So shall I have therewith to answer him that reproacheth me: for I trust in thy word. And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have hoped in thy judgments” (Psalm 119:41-43).
This admonition to sanctify the Lord God in our hearts is so very important to notice. So often we are tempted to focus our attention on the latter part of the verse. But the latter portion of the verse will mean nothing to us until we understand what it means to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.” We sanctify the Lord God in our hearts by “ascribing all praise and glory to Him, and by relying entirely upon Him” (John Calvin commenting on Isaiah 8:13, 14). It carries with it the idea of “exalting His power highly.”
It is obvious that we cannot “exalt His power highly” nor “rely entirely upon Him” unless we KNOW Him. The Lord God is only sanctified in our hearts when we have a faith-wrought knowledge of His sovereignty, holiness, justice, and power. Apart from this knowledge, we cannot sanctify the Lord God in our hearts. Thanks be to God that we have been given hearts of flesh engraved with His Word and that we have been given of His Spirit to bring that Word to remembrance. ♦♦♦