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The Importance of Apologetics
by Dave Jenkins
1 Peter 3:15 declares “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…”
As I’ve been meditating and reflecting on this verse over the past few weeks, a few things have stood out to me that I think are often missed. Before I get to that it is important to note that 1 Peter was written to Christians who were scattered because of persecution (1 Peter 1:2-3). He writes to address their hope in Christ as well as how they are to be holy and reflect the holiness of God to people as they witness for the Gospel (1 Peter 1:3-25). He instructs them in how they are a particular people and priests unto God (1 Peter 2:1-12). He then explains how they are a people under authority and how to live under that authority and honor God (1 Peter 2:13-25). He exhorts wives and husbands on how to live with one another (1 Peter 3:1-7). In the context surrounding 1Peter 3:15, Peter is instructing believers how to suffer and speak for the gospel (1 Peter 3:8-22), with I Peter 3:14 stating “but even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled…” Moreover, in the following chapter, Peter looks at how Christians are to be stewards of God’s grace (1 Peter 4:1-11), suffer as a Christian (1 Peter 4:12-19), how pastors are to shepherd the flock of God (1 Peter 5:1-11), concluding the book with greetings to several people (1 Peter 5:12-14).
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This quick overview of 1 Peter gives us a sense of what the overall thrust of the book is about. Understanding the context of 1 Peter 3:15 will help Christians understand that 1 Peter 3:15 is not the only verse in the book. I often get the feeling that we are so focused on the task of Apologetics from this specific verse, that we miss out on the rest of what the great epistle of 1 Peter has to say to us. Peter is talking in 1 Peter 3:15 not only about how Christians must make a defense and give a reason for the hope they have, he is noting how their entire life must testify to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Remember that Peter is writing to “elect exiles” (1 Peter 1:2), a people who were in exile because of persecution. He was writing to encourage them in the hope they have in Christ (1 Peter 1:3-25). These were men and women were suffering for the sake of the Gospel in the fires of affliction. It was to these people that Peter spoke the words of 1Peter 3:15.
As I read books on Apologetics I get the sense that we are so focused on methodology that we have missed out on how Apologetics relates to the Christian life. The task of Apologetics can in no way be divorced from our Christian lives, but rather must testify of the fact we are Christians. By that I mean Peter emphasizes this by stating “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy” (1 Peter 3:15), a statement that goes back to what he said in 1 Peter 1:13, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Let me try to explain why this is important so you can see some of the weight of what Peter is saying here so we can begin to see that Apologetics is more than just a task Christians perform. Conversely, it is essential to the daily Christian life and ministry of the people of God…