15 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, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:15-16)
Through the Bible: 1 Peter 1-5
Apologetics is the study of how to defend or explain what you believe. As a high school kid getting ready to go to a state university, I was committed to learning apologetics. I just knew that I would be called on to speak up for what I believed in every lecture hall. So I devoured books like Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict, just like later generations of earnest young Christians would devour Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ and Tim Keller’s The Reason for God.
My rallying cry was 1 Peter 3:15. I sincerely desired to “always be ready to give an answer for the hope that was within me.”
I still do. Apologetics is still a vitally important field of study for every Christian. However, a careful reading of the rest of 1 Peter shows that the letter is full of advice about being a witness in a godless culture. Here are four things we must do before we open our mouth to defend our faith:
- In your heart, honor Christ as holy (3:14). Your primary mission is to live a life that pleases God. Defending your faith, though important, is secondary.
- Live your faith at home (3:1-2). Submission to an unbelieving spouse is also a gospel-centric issue for Peter. Remember that you aren’t called to win an argument. You are called to win a person. Peter says that even if a pagan husband doesn’t obey the word himself, he may be won over by the respectful and pure conduct of his wife.
- Submit to authorities in your life (2:13-18). Whether you have a pagan boss, an obnoxious superior officer, or a godless president, you must recognize their authority. This is a gospel issue of primary importance. 1 Peter 2:15 is one of the very few places in Scripture that explicitly calls something the will of God, and here it is: “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”
- Keep your conduct honorable (2:12). Verse 12 says that even if the pagans around you speak against you, they will see your good deeds and glorify God. Think about it this way: are the non Christians in your office glad you are a Christian? Not because you stream K-LOVE on your computer, or have signs with Bible verses at your work station, but because you are a great employee with a positive attitude.
Beloved, if we aren’t careful, we can jump to the second half of 1 Peter 3:15 without paying attention to the first half. We can read books on apologetics and look up answers to questions on websites so we can be ready to demolish every skeptic who dares to start an argument with us about the truth of Christianity. However, we mustn’t skip the first part of the verse: “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.”
God will always prefer a holy heart to a skillful tongue. When we sanctify God in our hearts, it means we submit our very lives to the Lordship of Jesus. Only when we do that will we be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is within us.
Father, sanctify my heart, that I may speak Your name with my lips.