The Great Defender: Bearing His Image
by David Russell
1st Peter 3:15- 17 says to, “Honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
There is an urgent need for intellectual engagement in and throughout the churches. Scriptural illiteracy is at an all-time high, wherein false teachers can easily have their way, and in the mean time, many Christians still scratch their heads not knowing why or what they believe. In turn, society is infected with moral decay, deviant acts become accepted and adopted as the social norm. It has gotten to the point that when challenged, the moralist is accused of being intolerant and is immediately dismissed as a fanatic.
Now let’s go back to the passage from 1 Peter, “Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. What does it mean to have a defense?
The word used in the Greek is “Apologia” which means, a formal defense of your case, much like an attorney. Some translations read, “have a ready answer,” but, all in all, as Christians, we are commanded to know why we believe and be able to give an explanation to anyone who asks. We need to be able to defend our faith, especially if we want to lead a flock. Blind guides walk off cliffs, so does their whole congregation.
In Acts 17:10-12 we see the Bereans being praised as having noble character, not only because they received the word that Paul preached, but also because they examined scriptures to confirm whether or not what he said was true. There is a lot that could be gleaned here but I just want to briefly highlight their recognition of the truth that the word brought, and how they used the scriptures to test it and make sure that it was truth.
You see, as Christians being transformed, we need to develop a passion for the Word of God. We should thirst for anything that pertains to it. Christianity has been around for so long that we need to test the validity of what we believe, and we need to make sure we aren’t humming to the tune of a false gospel.
Now, I am not saying the Holy Spirit is not enough, but in obtaining knowledge, this, is what God intended: to learn; using evidential cognitive faculties to confirm and strengthen our beliefs; to love the Lord with all of our hearts, our strength, and with all of our minds. If this is not done then our learning and reasoning abilities becomes dull. Think of it this way– you wouldn’t want to be treated by a doctor who has never studied medicine or biology, so In the same way, you don’t want a pastor who doesn’t read and study the Word in depth!
For many years now, the church has also come to despise dialogue with outsiders, calling it quarrelsome argumentation. Instead of engaging in the proper course of intelligent dialogue, we have allowed generations of silence, which has cost us dearly. Thankfully, in the last few decades, there has been a ray of hope as a resurgence of theistic argumentation has hit the university floor. All across the globe theism has been on an upswing, battling the pugnents of our time.
Only in following the entire commandment of 1 Peter 3:15, not just by giving a defense, but doing so with gentleness and respect, does the believer have the opportunity to bring about an awakening in some. Using gentleness and respect allows us to be able to stand firm in giving our argument without being quarrelsome and to engage the seeker or skeptic with a clear conscience. This is what Peter is telling us to do. Controversy in and of itself never wrong when it comes to defending the truth.
In today’s day and age where a lie can travel halfway around the world before truth has a chance to put its shoes on, teaching believers how to think critically is of the utmost importance. Sensationalism, such as what we witnessed with Harold Camping and the May 21st fiasco, should be used as a tool, to spark a fervent desire to know truth. A desire to learn it and to teach it so that others will not fall victims as prey, and also for the sake of not letting people defame the Lord’s name.
This is where apologetics is needed in the church: To train, teach, and equip others to spread the whole truth of the Gospel, and not just the ‘skin of truth’ stuffed with a big fat lie. Preaching is not enough; teaching is also essential. It’s part of how we build disciples. Hard questions will always come, but just remember that the great defender is you– the one who bears his image!