One of the most interesting fields of theological study is apologetics. The term comes from the Greek word (apologia) that means to give a verbal defense. The use of this word in 1 Peter 3:15 has become the foundation for apologetics:
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense [give an apologetic] to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence
Syllogizing proofs, organizing arguments, answering philosophical objections, solving apparent theological and biblical discrepancies, these are the concerns of modern apologetics. Every believer ought to be grateful for the hard work that theologians have done in the area of Christian apologetics. I surely am. I love studying apologetics.
But giving a defense for our faith can be intimidating. Most of us have experienced the panicked “uh-oh” moment when we don’t know how to answer a question about our faith. These times work for our good when they force us back to the Bible to discover those answers and generate solid defenses.
But a closer look at Peter’s admonition is interesting. The defense/apologetic called for in 1 Peter 3:15 is not a philosophical, logical, or even theological defense, actually it is a personal one.
Peter says we are to be ready to make a defense for the hope that is within us. I think he is pointing to the power of a personal testimony.
The Apostle Paul was greatest theologian to ever argue the case of Christianity. If anyone could ever prove the point, paint the picture, argue the case about the veracity of the Christian faith, it was Paul. Yet it is remarkable that when he had to give his defense of Christianity before the Jewish leaders and establishment in Jerusalem (Acts 22) and before the Roman representative, King Agrippa at Caesarea Maritima (Acts 26), he defaulted to giving his testimony. When Paul’s life was on the line for his faith, his defense was to tell the work of Christ in his life. His defense was found on the road to Damascus, not in the Encyclopedia of Apologetics.
Every believer has a testimony. Some are dramatic and include radical and seismic shifts in lifestyle and thinking. Others are the sweet story of growing up in a Christian home with gospel truth ever-present from infancy. No matter the personal history, every Christian should be able to tell of the work of God in the heart to bring the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
So what’s the point?
Don’t ever underestimate the power of your testimony. Don’t ever shy away from telling the story of God’s grace in your life. Don’t ever tire of hearing of the work of the gospel in the lives of other believers. And don’t ever shy away from “being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.”