By Anthony Knight
The word responsibility is not often associated with the life and pursuit of the Christian faith. This often creates a Christian culture where the church is filled with people disengaging from their call to ministry. Faith is a word that requires actions. God is not interested in simply believers of the Gospel, but doers of the Gospel. This is where the word responsibility comes into importance. Until each Christian takes responsibility in God’s mission then one will not be fully active in one’s faith. One ministry responsibility that many Christians shy away from is found in 1 Peter 3:15:
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.
Christian Apologetics gets its origin from this verse. God’s people are fully aware of the world’s attacks and doubts they have about the Holy Bible. The world is filled with people who cringe at the idea of faith and hope in an afterlife where God’s wrath will pour out on the unjust and His blessings showered on all who are in Christ (John 3:36). This hope that is found in Holy Scriptures is attacked, ridiculed, and mocked. This hope is also confusing to others. Some simply don’t understand the beauties God’s Word gives to followers of Christ. This is why Peter commands the church to be ready to give a defense for this hope that every Christian has. But here is why many shy away from this command, in order to defend God’s truths, one must have a certain understanding of God’s truth. This requires the proper studies and confidence in one’s knowledge in order to stand up to a non-believer. This also requires each Christian to have a burden for non-believers. We recognize that every non-believer is one breath away from eternally experiencing the wrath of God. Do we as Christians shrug our shoulders at this truth or does this truth make us uncomfortable?
Taking Scripture Personally
Knowledge of our God and being burdened for the lost are two requirements in order to take 1 Peter 3 seriously. The pursuit of the knowledge of God is fueled by a love for Him and having sorrow for others’ sins is fueled by the realization that Jesus was sorrowful for our sins. This sorrow is manifested on the Cross. Many Christians will nod their heads at this truth while showing zero activity in defending the faith. This article is meant to target those Christians.
The problem isn’t that you feel inadequate to defend your faith to others. In reality, everyone is inadequate. Every good a Christian does for the Lord is still stained with sin in some way. Being inadequate is what Christians tell themselves to be excused, but God does not accept this excuse. He expects every Christian to take responsibility for the service God has equipped the Saints to perform. When His Word gives a command, He also gives the power to obey the command (Philippians 2:13). If 1 Peter tells us to be prepared to give a defense, then God’s Spirit is eagerly waiting to reveal His power in the lives of Christians who take His Word seriously. But before we take 1 Peter seriously, we have to take it personally. This is why the Church is not doing well in apologetics. It’s simply not personal for the Christian. Every Christian has a responsibility to be disciplined in preparing to give a defense because God will send people who oppose His Word.
Although this call is not meant to defend the faith to every non-believer you encounter, the call to defend is for every person who asks for the reason for the hope that is in you. A Christian’s willingness to take responsibility in this is found in how personal one takes this command from Scripture. The remainder of this article is intended to help Christians to take this command personally.
One way to truly take 1 Peter 3 personally is to look at the rewards and consequences for obeying or disobeying this verse. If we as Christians are not able to see the fruits of living as an apologist then we simply won’t take it seriously. Here are three rewards in living in obedience to 1 Peter 3 and as these are discussed, we will see the consequences of missing out on these beautiful rewards. 1) Growth in holiness 2) Living as an example to other believers 3) The joy of being used to lead souls to Christ.
Growth in Holiness
Romans 1:16 reads For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Paul boldly expresses his allegiance to the Gospel because He is fully aware of its power. The power God gives us through the Gospel is mighty. It’s mighty enough to save others when we teach, preach, and defend it. But as expressed earlier, defending it sparks fear. The fear of being asked a question you cannot answer, the fear of answering something falsely, the fear of being treated rudely, the fear of potential confrontation, and the fear of whatever else that comes to one’s mind can be paralyzing. God is fully aware that you may not know every answer. He is also fully aware that we as Christians are imperfect which means, answers that are provided may be a little short of the truth. In defending the faith one may misinterpret a verse. One may misquote a verse. God is fully aware of every Christian’s imperfections when it comes to knowledge and memory. But here is what is important to remember, a Christian is not called to defend God’s truth perfectly, but to simply point to the God who is perfect. If getting wrapped up in fears is preventing one from obeying Scripture then what else is that fear preventing? The answer is holiness. Growth in holiness comes from obedience to the word of God. If fear keeps you from obeying that, regardless of the reasons for that fear, one’s personal holiness is being stagnated.
The motivation and the inspiration to take 1 Peter 3 personally is not rooted in knowledge but on the desire to obey. The first thing that should come to the mind of a Christian when giving an opportunity to defend God’s Word should never be this, “Yes, I have this amazing answer because of the knowledge I have.” Instead, what should come in one’s mind is this, “God thank you for giving me the opportunity to obey your word, give me the power to fulfill 1 Peter 3.” This is extremely important. Yes, knowledge is necessary to answer any question. You simply cannot answer a question unless one has knowledge of it. Knowledge is necessary, but the desire to obey is far more powerful than knowledge. The desire to obey 1 Peter 3 will stir up the proper desire to go and search for knowledge to be fruitful in answering objections.
So the reward is quite simple. When you are active in your faith by obeying the commands God gives, regardless if it’s 1 Peter 3 or any other command, we are growing in holiness. Jerry Bridges says, “holiness is nothing less than conformity to the character of God.” This conformity can only happen as Christians set aside their fear, pride, or whatever else that is in the way of obedience.
Living as an example
When you take this call personally you will become contagious to other believers. Watching a Christian display boldness and confidence while they answer objections with grace and power will stir up so much passion. Christians must be an example to one another. We must be the gasoline to each other’s fire. If Christians are ignoring 1 Peter 3 then an unhealthy cycle will continue. Churches will shy away from answering objections. People will be content with their knowledge, or lack of knowledge, and there will be no motivation to learn more. There will be no motivation to understand why people believe what they believe and get into the hearts of atheists and other religions. There is nothing sweeter than to inspire fellow believers to live more obediently to God’s Word. Iron sharpens iron is a popular quote that Proverbs gives (Proverbs 27:17). Many Christians are dull when it comes to defending their faith. You can be the iron that sharpens someone else in this way, or you can continue to stand next to other dull Christians and be fruitless in the command that Peter gives.
Souls being led to Christ
The final reward is found in God’s kingdom increasing because of faithfully following 1 Peter 3. Every Christian must remember that faith must be active in two areas. First, it must be active in a personal fight against sin. If you are not fighting against the sins in your life then your faith is not the faith God is pleased with. Secondly, faith must be active in taking the responsibility of assisting God in building His kingdom. He does not need the assistance of His Saints, He simply desires to use His saints so we can experience His glory. This is done through evangelism, discipleship, missions, and in defending the faith. All four of these, if done well, will intertwine with one another. All four of these receive their power from God’s Word. And defending the faith specifically will remove barriers for others to believe. Since God’s word is under attacked, people believe it’s irrational or laughable to believe in God. Apologetics will show how that is completely inaccurate. In giving this defense eyes will be opened. In showing the accuracy and the power of the Bible people will put their ammunition away and bow down to God. Some will continue to reject and mock, but the one’s God is calling will listen.
Those who have the eyes to see will be made aware of their foolish attacks against God’s Word. Those who have the ears to hear will be made aware of their inconsistent world-view.
Peter commands this for us because he knows fruit will be produced in the lives of others. And of equal importance, Peter commands the Church to defend the faith because he knows our lives will be changed as well. They will be changed because personal holiness will grow and other believers will be encouraged.
It’s time for the Church to take 1 Peter 3:15 seriously, and the only way to do so is to take this command personally.