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, (1 Peter 3:15, ESV)
This verse is an evangelism verse, and it is an apologetics verse. Peter is writing in the context of suffering for the gospel. This letter was written during the persecution of the Christians under Nero. Peter is writing to Christians dispersed through Asia Minor. Christians are suffering persecution and having to live and worship in a society that is hostile and antagonistic towards them. Even the wording of this verse shows us that the Christian is apparently on the defense, not the offense. In this passage the Christian is being ready to be examined for their faith, not fearlessly going forward to share it. The believer in this passage is anticipating an interrogation and Peter says that they should be ready to give and defense to any and all who ask.
This is not to insinuate that Christians should give up evangelism in favor of passivity towards the lost; that we should wait until they get curious. Rather, it is asserting that in a culture that is hostile towards Christianity we should anticipate being singled-out and examined. We are seeing this today; people are examining the Christian faith and desperately seeking some flaw in its truths. They are seeking to find the Christian faith illegitimate, illogical, and unintellectual.
If the world is hostile toward Christianity and is examining it in order to find it guilty of any error or inconsistency, we must be always ready to defend what and why we believe and not leave our faith to the mercy of the critics. We should know what it is that we believe and secondly be able to communicate it in a winsome and convincing manner. The word translated “defense” is the Greek word apologia which is where we get our English word apologetics. It means to defend against false accusations. Christian apologetics, therefore, is the discipline of making intellectual cases for Christianity and countering arguments against Christianity.
We are to give a defense for WHY we believe. Notice Peter doesn’t say “give a defense for the hope that is in you.” He says give a defense for the REASON for the hope that is within you. Every religion has a “hope,” a faith in some future heavenly home or something else. Anyone can have “hope” for that matter. Anybody can believe something with no reason to believe it. We are to be able to account for the reason that we have hope. In other words, be able to tell people WHY you believe what you do.
In a culture that is largely antagonistic toward the claims of Christianity, it is not only the scholars and theologians who need to concern themselves with defending the faith. Every Christian must be an apologist in his or her own right. Evangelism and apologetics are inseparable. If we wish to win souls, we must first be ready to win minds. What are the questions and objections to Christianity that you might expect to hear from your friends, family, or co-workers? Are you ready to give an answer?