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Doctrinal Matters: Faith and Reason

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Give a Defense...to Everyone!

by  Kyle Butt, M.A.

The word apologetics derives from the Greek apologia, which means to defend or give a defense. Christian apologetics, then, is the defense of the Christian belief system.

The passage in 1 Peter 3:15 often is hailed as “the apologetic verse” because of its command to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense [apologian] to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”

The inspired apostle instructed believers to be ready to give a defense. Offering a defense for the hope that lies within the heart of faithful Christians often is an easy thing to do. Whenever a person is surrounded by others of “like precious faith,” it proves an easy task to boldly defend New Testament Christianity. Perhaps it is for that very reason that Peter carries the thought a step farther by saying that Christians should stand ready to offer a defense “to everyone who asks you.”

Imagine Peter penning these words as his mind drifted back to the hour of Jesus’ arrest and trial. Shortly before the events of that night unfolded, Peter boldly and bravely had declared that he would die with Christ. Yet once the murderous mob confiscated His Lord, Peter was reduced to lurking in the shadows and following at a distance. His weakness and ignominy would only multiply as he was ushered into the courtyard of the High Priest. Waiting for him outside the trial was an enemy he was unable to fight—one so fierce and heinous that his mouth seemingly could not utter a defense of either his faith or his Lord. That enemy was…a servant girl!

“You also were with Jesus of Galilee” she accused. And Peter, who had been one of the first disciples to declare that Christ was the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16), and who had been the one among the disciples to voice his affirmation that Christ alone had the words of life (John 6:68), stood dumbfounded as he cowardly muttered, “I do not know what you are saying” (Matthew 26:70).

Peter had faced a primordial challenge to his faith—and had failed that challenge miserably. He thus knew from firsthand experience exactly how it felt to have his faith collapse under the weight of pressure from the enemy. Yet only a few weeks after his shameful denial, the Lord granted him the privilege of preaching the sermon that opened wide the doors of the Kingdom on the Day of Pentecost.

Peter’s admonition to those who were to follow after him, therefore, becomes somewhat like the warning of a loving mother who has burned her hand on the stove many times and wants to save her child from making the same mistake and enduring the same pain. Peter’s life-changing experience, no doubt, was why the apostle urged every Christian to “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.” He understood all too well the alternative—denying the Lord in the face of the enemy—and knew far better than most that it was too horrible to contemplate.




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