Are You Ready To Give An Answer?

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Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 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, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.      -1 Peter 3:13-17

The context of these verses is one in which Peter is encouraging believers who are in the midst of persecution. In verse 13, Peter asks what harm can possibly be done to one who is seeking to do what is right? Who would want to persecute you for being a model citizen?

However, Peter realizes that some will suffer and so he tells them that if one does suffer for the sake of righteousness, he or she will be blessed. And not only should they realize they will be blessed, but they also not fear those who do them harm, but instead “in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy.”

To regard in one’s heart that Christ is Lord is “not merely a private reality but will be evident to all when believers suffer for their faith. The inner and outer life are inseparable, for what happens within will inevitably be displayed to all, especially when one suffers.”[1]

Peter goes one step further however, in his instructions to those who might possibly face persecution. Not only does he encourages his readers to “regard Christ the Lord as holy,” but to also be prepared to give an answer for the hope they have in life. In other words, when persecution comes your way, others will want to know why you seek to place your hope where you do? Why believe in something that could cause ill-treatment?

The word defense or answer that Peter uses is where the term apologetics is derived. Peter probably did not have in mind here the formal discipline of apologetics. Nor is defense meant to imply a formal court case in which believers were on trial though it is possible that some did have opportunity to speak a formal defense. The use of defense here is most likely referring to “informal circumstances when believers were asked spontaneously about their faith.”[2]

By giving such a command to give a “reason for the hope,” Peter assumes that believers can give a solid intellectual defense of the gospel. This does not mean that every believer should be a highly trained apologist, but it is important that Christians be able to articulate what they believe and why.[3]

Giving a defense of the faith will possibly become even more important as today’s culture continues to become more pluralistic and as worldviews continue to collide. Defending one’s faith may also take on some changes as America becomes less familiar with the truths of the gospel. Evangelism and apologetics will need to encompass the entire Biblical story from creation to the second coming.[4]

It must be noted that Peter encourages those who give a defense to do so with gentleness and respect. Peter is not wishing for them to win an argument, but instead to communicate the truth in love. The content of the message may cause one to be offensive, but the messenger should always share in a manner which validates Christ’s love for humanity.[5]

Responding respectfully and in humility puts to shame those who choose to slander and falsely accuse. It is interesting that many times in Scripture those who are faithful to God will not be shamed, but their opponents will be. Karen Jobes writes:

 Rather than being intimidated by whatever opposition his readers encounter in their society, Peter wants them to respond with a positive and effective explanation of the gospel. Instead of allowing fear to drive them to use the same tactics of insult and malicious talk against their opponents, they are to respond in a way that is beyond approach. The humble and respectful testimony of believing Christians defeats the malicious talk of those who would malign the faith.[6]

The questions this passage leads us to ask are: Are we placing our hope in Christ? And, are we ready to give an answer, with gentleness and respect, for that hope?

 

[1] Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman &   Holman, 2003), 174.
[2] Ibid., 174.
[3] Ibid., 175.
[4] See Chapter 28 in Telling the Truth, ed. by D.A. Carson.
[5] Karen H. Jobes, 1 Peter, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), 231.
[6] Ibid., 231.

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