Evangelism, Apologetics, and Godly Conduct

Calvin’s Commentaries (46 vols.)

In his first letter to the early church, the apostle Peter very much emphasized the themes of Christian speech and Christian conduct. In Peter’s teaching Christian speech and Christian conduct are derived from the truths of the gospel. Through Christ’s death and resurrection the Christian is given new life, forgiveness, and hope. Now our calling is to holiness as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, our Savior and example.

Peter also wrote that when we do good we will sometimes suffer for it. Sometimes people will abuse us, ridicule us, and slander us for doing what is right in God’s sight. We’re called to keep walking in Christ’s footsteps and not retaliate with evil speech, but to bless instead, as Jesus himself called us to do and as he did in his own life.

It’s very important then for Christians to know that when we talk about the Christian faith our daily conduct is also of utmost importance. When we’re defending the faith, sharing the gospel, or explaining the hope we have in us, Peter said we should do so with meekness and respect (3:16). In the same context Peter talked about our good conduct in Christ (3:16). In other words, if you are the most polished apologist or the most proficient teacher of theology but your conduct is unchristian, you are doing no one a favor except the devil. Calvin explains it well in his comments on 1 Peter 3:16:

What we say without a corresponding life has but little weight; hence he joins to confession a good conscience. For we see that many are sufficiently ready with their tongue, and prate much, very freely, and yet with no fruit, because the life does not correspond. Besides, the integrity of conscience alone is that which gives us confidence in speaking as we ought; for they who prattle much about the gospel, and whose dissolute life is a proof of their impiety, not only make themselves objects of ridicule, but also expose the truth itself to the slanders of the ungodly. For why did he before bid us to be ready to defend the faith, should any one require from us a reason for it, except that it is our duty to vindicate the truth of God against those false suspicions which the ignorant entertain respecting it? But the defense of the tongue will avail but little, except the life corresponds with it.

 John Calvin and John Owen, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 110.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015