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Apologetics According to Peter

apologetics2It's the verse from which the word "apologetics" comes. We are to give an "answer" (an apologia) to those who ask us about our hope.

Here it is:

1 Peter 3:15 "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always being prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that is in you."

Let's break it down:

But... The context from v14 is a suffering church - both the suffering and the church elements are crucial. 1 Peter is written to a bedraggled mob of asylum seekers who are nonetheless choice in the Father's eyes, purchased and possessed by Christ and sanctified by the Spirit (1:1-2; 2:11). They are suffering under the authorities (2:13ff); suffering at work (2:17ff); suffering in difficult marriages (3:1ff); etc.

In your hearts... "Apologetics" - as Peter defines it - is heart driven.

Set apart Christ as Lord... Here is the imperative of the verse ("being prepared" is an adjective subordinate to this command). The thing we must do is "sanctify"Christ as Lord. We must set Him apart as special in our hearts. We see Peter doing this throughout the letter - consistently calling Christ "precious" (1:19; 2:4,6,7). When our hearts prize Christ as precious, we are ready for apologetics.

Always being prepared... We are not always to be answering but we are always to be prepared. And it's a plural adjective. This suffering community as a whole is to be prepared. Together we are a priesthood (2:9) and this community consists of differently gifted people - some gifted to speak, others to serve (4:10-11). I believe every Christian should be able to put words to their faith, but don't forget the communal aspects - we rely on one another in our answering.

To give an answer... This word - apologia - speaks of responding. Someone else has started this, and the word 'apologia' intimates quite a formal, adversarial situation. (Acts 22:1; 25:16; 1 Cor 9:3; 2 Cor 7:11; Phil 1:7,16; 2 Tim 4:16)

To everyone who asks you... Again, "you" is in the plural. Many people feel guilty that they have never personally been asked about their hope. But in the church body your hopeful suffering belongs to me, just as my answering belongs to you. As a church our suffering with hope will be the apologetic to the world. You can reasonably expect that once or twice in your lifetime a non-Christian will ask you "How did you get through that suffering?" but more generally this verse is fulfilled in the ongoing life of a church where members, (speakers in particular) can say "a couple in our church recently suffered a miscarriage, but the hope of Jesus got them through."

To give the reason for the hope... What's prompting the question is an evident hope - not an evident reason. The thing that's obvious about the Christian is their hope. The thing that's not obvious is the reason - that's why they need to articulate the reason.

That is in you... Notice that the hope to be articulated is in the Christians. It's not in a text book, it's in them. This is the hope that has actually sustained the Christians through their suffering. Therefore equipping Christians apologetically is not about giving people "reasons" they had never considered before the apologist had trained them. Giving an apologia is about putting words to a hope that is already heart-felt and already life-shaping. 

Since this is so, a church living out 1 Peter 3:15 is a suffering congregation that prizes Christ as precious and clings to Him in future-looking hope. In this context they rely on one another to articulate such hope to all who ask.

This is what Peter means by apologetics. Is it what we mean?


3 thoughts on “Apologetics According to Peter

  1. Wayne McDaniel

    Glen, Thank you for this word today. I cannot recall a better exposition of this
    Scripture. A feature of its value is its brevity.

    Paul desired all of the Cor. to speak for God,14:31, knowing they were a four party ch. Remembering 1 Cor. 11:5, we may conclude he intended the sisters also.
    In Acts 20:7 we read he DIALOGUED with those at Troas. Eph. 4:15-16, read carefully shows that speaking our faith helps each one grow up into Christ Jesus. The priesthood of all
    believers has largely been ecclipsed by the format of most churches today. 1 Cor. 14:25
    shows even unbelievers spoke aloud in their
    gatherings. The body speaking is a powerful
    apology to all. Centuries ago someone wrote
    "When the church sings, creation listens."

    May the joy of the Lord be your strength. Psalm 65:4, Phil. 1:6

  2. Tim V-B

    The reason for the hope has already been given in 1:3 - we've been given new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

    As we persevere through suffering, we speak of Jesus and his resurrection as the reason why we are able to respond to suffering with blessing, joy, doing good, seeking peace, keeping our speech pure etc (3:8-14).

    This is a quite different 'apologetics' from being able to give philosophical arguments for the existence of God!

  3. Glen

    Thanks Wayne, welcome to comments.

    Yes Tim 1:3 is vital - as is the context from 3:8ff. When you see 3:15 in context is gives a very different view of apologetics!

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