1 Peter 3:15-16
15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.
You may have heard the word ‘apologetics’. This is the passage where the idea of becoming an apologist comes from. The word ‘defense’ is the Greek word ‘apologia’ and it means to give a well-reasoned answer. Though there is a place for Christian apologists such as Ravi Zacharias, Josh McDowell, and others, we have to understand what is being taught to the average believer.
A well-reasoned answer doesn’t mean we have to be ready to argue philosophy, theology, and scientific theory. It’s not a call for all believers to become great debaters. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The call is to do two things – have a good conscience, and be ready to explain the reason for your hope.
Rarely can you argue someone into the kingdom. In fact, it isn’t your responsibility to change hearts through the argued word. The ‘apologia’ spoken of is for you to live out your faith in a way that makes it evident you are living by a standard different than the world around you. Though you may be defamed for living differently, there may be a time when the Lord visits those who mock and stirs their hearts. When they ask, you should be ready with an answer. This is explained earlier in 1 Peter 2:12
12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.
The day of visitation is the time when the Lord draws them and calls them toward the same faith you are living in. In one moment, you are evil in their sight because a Christ centered lifestyle is a convicting force in the culture around you. The next, you are viewed as having something they recognize as missing from their own life. We are called to live by a different standard, while making ourselves subject to the authority of the culture – such as laws and rulers. If we continue reading in 1 Peter 2, this is explained. The only time a Christian has the right to reject authority is when that authority requires them to disobey God.
The truth is that a Christian who lives out their faith will be more submissive to the laws of the land than the unbelieving culture. As people witness our good conduct and moral standard of Christ, it will intrigue them. They may mock, look for fault, and even try to make the believer fail. But at some point God may stir their hearts and draw them. At that time, they will have questions, and you must be ready to give a well-reasoned answer. Why do you live the way you do? Why do you believe heaven is real? Why do you believe God is loving, even though we are in a world filled with suffering? Why do some claim to be Christians and yet do ungodly things?
It’s not a call to answer why the geological record testifies for or against evolution. While there may be a place for discussing the issues under debate, the true calling is to live in a way that shows our lives are different and to be ready to explain why. Knowing how to out argue an atheist does not testify to the truth of God. A great debater who lives contrary to the word undermines the faith he claims to believe. But everyone, intellectual or otherwise, has the ability to live what they believe and then explain what they know and have experienced to be true.
There are many counter arguments to philosophical debates, but who can argue with, “This was my life before, and here is how God changed me and made me a new person?” The first testimony of the disciples was, “We have found the savior. Come and see.”
My life was filled with failure and an inability to control my weaknesses of character. God changed me and became my strength. That is a testimony that can’t be argued against – unless I’m not living out my faith. Have a clear conscience by being faithful to the Lord, and be ready to share the reason for hope. That is the heart of apologetics.