Always Being Prepared

1 Peter 3:15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being prepared to make a defense[1] to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect;

When one, who is sincerely interested in our beliefs as a follower of Christ, asks for a reason as to why we believe this or that, we must defend those beliefs with sound biblical answers. When Peter says that we need always to be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks us for a reason for the hope that is in us, to whom does this apply? Who is supposed to be able to make a defense? Does this apply just to Bible scholars, pastors, elders, priests, church leaders, or all Christians? If we return to the first verse of Peter’s letter, he writes, “To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen.” (1 Pet. 1:1, NASB) The ones, who resided as aliens, were Christians living among the Jews and pagan Gentiles of Asia Minor. Thus, the first letter of Peter, especially 1:3 through 4:1 was directed to those who had just been recently been baptized. Thus, Peter expected all Christians, even newly baptized ones to be able to defend the hope that lies within all Christians, offering reasonable, logical answers to those who are genuinely interested.

This first letter of Peter was penned about 62-64 C.E., meaning that these early Christians in Asia Minor, like others throughout the Roman Empire, were living under very difficult time, being persecuted on two fronts: by the Jews and the pagan population. The early Christians were mostly converts from Judaism, who now followed Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. After that, pagans were being converted over to Christianity. The Jewish population viewed the Christians as an apostate form of Judaism, who were stumbling their fellow brothers and sisters. The pagan nations were angered because the Christians had given up their former lifestyle and had now become a new person. To the world, these Christians had undergone a life change that was viewed as apostasy from pagan religion and Judaism, and this was a crime! Because Christians refused to be a part of the world, the world hated them, just as it had hated Jesus. (1 Pet. 1.18; 2:1; 4:4) Even worse, Satan himself became enraged at this new Christian faith. Peter warned, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

THE CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST

What counsel within this first letter of Peter would keep these new ones safe so that they would not return to their former ways? Peter exhorts, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good works and glorify God on the day of visitation.”[2] (2:12) Peter goes on to inform them that in those difficult times, they needed to be “be sound in mind[3] and be sober-minded[4] in prayers.” (4:7) Again, they needed to be “sober-minded; be watchful” because Satan was ‘seeking to devour’ them as well. (5:8) Satan uses the enticement of old friends of the world, who were “living in sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.” (4:3) Defending one’s hope under normal circumstances is difficult enough, let alone such situations as these. It has even become far more difficult these days and as Paul said that “in the last days difficult times will come,” as “evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse.”–2 Timothy 3:1, 13.

There is one more obligation for these new Christians if they are to maintain their right standing before God and strengthen their faith. Yes, they must also declare and defend their hope. Peter’s use of the word “hope” is nearly the same with his use of the word “faith” (1 Pet. 1:3, 13, 21). On this, Thomas R. Schreiner writes, “Believers are to be ready constantly to respond to those who ask about their faith. What Peter emphasized is that they were to be prepared to provide a “defense” (NRSV, apologia–rendered “answer” by NIV) to those who ask about the Christian faith.” (Schreiner 2003, p. 175) These new Christians were taught the correct course of conduct by the preaching of the Gospel, through which they had accepted the Christian faith, i.e., “the hope.” Peter makes this clear when he writes, “It was revealed to them [the prophets] that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.” (1 Pet 1:12) This now placed what obligation on them. Peter went on to command that they “prepare [their] minds for action.” (1:13) What action is Peter talking about? He says, “That [they] may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (2:9) When should these ones “proclaim the excellencies”? Peter gives the answer in our main text, “always being prepared to make a defense … for a reason for the hope that is in you.”–1 Peter 3:15

We have far worse conditions today than existed in Asia Minor of 2,000 years ago. Satan is still walking around Christianity like a roaring lion, seeking to devour true Christians. However, he knows his time is far shorter, and he has become desperate in his plight to take as many followers of Jesus Christ with him as possible. The world today under the influence of Satan caters to the fleshly desires of the fallen flesh unlike no other time prior to, because technology has the means of reaching billions in the privacy of their own home. The need to evangelize in our own communities has grown as well because so many are abandoning the faith, and many young ones are not taking up the faith of their parents or grandparents. Christians need to be busy in these last days, sharing the good news, helping a new generation come out of the darkness.

1 Peter 1:13-15 English Standard Version (ESV)

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. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,

Defending the Hope That Is In You

We must begin with the fact that we must know accurately what the Bible says on different Bible doctrines and be able to offer substantial reasons for the faith. As to the biblical truths, we do not want to remain a spiritual babe. “For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity.” (Hebrews 5:13-6:1) We can consider a Bible example of one, who lack a deeper knowledge, through no fault of his own, correcting it once it was brought to his attention, namely, Apollos. The account is below; notice how he can defend the faith much better after he received the way of God more accurately, he eagerly helps others discover this hope.

Acts 18:24-28 English Standard Version (ESV)

24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

CONVERSATION EVANGELISM

Just as was true of Priscilla and Aquila, Christian evangelists should be able to share the faith accurately to unbelievers, to those who have started to doubt, and to those in Christian denominations that are not on the true path of salvation. If we are to accomplish these things, we must have an accurate, full, true knowledge of God’s Word. Paul wrote to the brothers in Colossae, “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the accurate knowledge[5] of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the accurate knowledge[6] of God.” – Colossians 1:9-10

This sharing of the Gospel is not just some basic biblical truth of Jesus’s life and ministry, death, resurrection and ascension. Moreover, this is not just being able to string many good sounding words together, but rather words that will lead others to the same hope that we hold so dearly. The principle behind Paul’s words to the Corinthians makes this point nicely. He wrote, “I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” – 1 Corinthians 14:19

Yes, Christians looking to share biblical truths with others should seek to do so with words of understanding. They should possess an accurate, full and true knowledge about the Father, the Son, The Holy Spirit, the Kingdom of God, and the Father’s will and purpose for mankind, as well as the many other laws and principles found in Scripture. Certainly, if we are going to be successful in sharing or defending our beliefs, we must first fully understand them ourselves. Have we bought out the time and applied our mind meditatively in a study of God’s Word so that we can effectively share it with others? Paul exhorted his young traveling companion, Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15) On this, the following commentaries write,

God bestows his approval on the one who exhibits truth, love, and godliness in daily living, and who correctly handles the word of truth. The false teachers were mishandling God’s words, using them for their own benefit. Timothy was commissioned to handle the words of God correctly. All preaching should present the truth clearly, cutting through erroneous ideas or inaccurate opinions.[7]

Third, this same workman (specifically, Timothy but by application today all believers) was to be accurate in delivering the message of truth. The truth is the gospel. Paul showed concern that Timothy would present the gospel without perverting or distorting it. He was not to be turned aside by disputes about words or mere empty prattle.[8]

Paul develops this concept in the striking phrase … Paul’s use of [epaischunomai, aischunomai, and aischune] means “unashamed” in the sense that he does not need to be ashamed of his work. The participle orthotomounta qualifies [ergates] and together with the words that follow specifically describes how Timothy may be unashamed: by being a worker who handles accurately the word of truth.

The material that this worker is to handle correctly is “the word of truth” … Only when he handles it correctly will he be unashamed … The rendering given in several of the modern translations, using a combination of the verb “handle” and some adverb such as “accurately” (NASB), “rightly” (RSV), or “correctly” (NIV), for the compound verb [orthotomounta] with the phrase “the word of truth” as the direct object captures this relationship quite well.[9]

If we are going to be “a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth,” we must not always rely on others as being more effective, when we are called upon to share or defend our beliefs. Yes, God expects each of us to be capable of supporting our hope with Scripture. We do not want to fall under those who Paul mentioned to Timothy, “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim. 3:7) We do not want to remain a spiritual babe for our entire Christian life. What do we think of children, who never really grow up and live with their parents off and on for their entire life? When we think of the many different professions in life, such as medicine, law, science, engineer, mechanic and so on, we know that our hands are held throughout our education, but once in the real world, we are expected to be self-reliant. Even Paul said of himself, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” – 1 Corinthians 13:11.

THE EVANGELISM HANDBOOK

If we ever expect to defend our hope effectively, i.e., the faith, we are going to have to study daily. This should not trouble us because it does not take hours every day, but at least 30 minutes or more. The amount that can be accomplished in 30 minutes a day, after 365 days, will be far more than we might have ever expected. A Christian should study the Bible (not just read) a minimum of thirty minutes a day, he should also prepare the lessons assigned for the Bible study at the church and any other service that allows him to prepare ahead of time. A Christian should participate in any comment sessions that are allowed at their particular church, as this gives them practice in effectively sharing biblical truths. Also, A Christian should attend every Christian meeting, as it offers them an opportunity to build others up. A Christian should share every new thing they learn in their personal studies with at least one new friend, which gives them practice at effectively communicating biblical truths. We must have a deep understanding of the biblical truths that we share and defend, which is going to be presented to all kinds of different persons. Our studying daily needs to be a time of the day when we will not be disturbed. We want to turn the phone off, any music, television, and meditatively go through God’s Word. The daily study will be our greatest tool for helping us to share and defend the Word of God and out faith effectively. Paul counsels Titus and by extension us as well, “let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.” (Titus 3:14) If we are studying daily, preparing for meetings, answering at meetings, attending all meetings, sharing a new biblical truth with friends, we will be able to apply Paul’s thoughts to the Colossians as well. He wrote, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” – Colossians 4:6

Using the Bible to Defend Our Hope

It should be noted that many today hold back from sharing or defending their Christian faith. Those who do, tend to do so without using the Bible. If we want to defend our hope successfully, we need to have our Bible as the primary evidence of that hope. Our hope lies within God’s Word, so we need to use God’s Word to defend it. We must persuade with reason from God’s Word, not from how we feel, think, or believe. We need to go from ‘this is how I feel, too, ‘this is what I know, and here are the Scriptural reasons as to why.’ It should be, ‘the Word of God says,’ Paul wrote,’ ‘Jesus said,’ ‘God said,’ not ‘I feel,’ ‘I think,’ or ‘I believe.’ It is our effective use of the Bible when we communicated biblical truths to others that are going to convince the right-hearted ones of the truth and the way. One way that we will become more skilled is by our using our Bible at every opportunity: in our personal study of course, in sharing new truths with friends, and especially in looking up every Scripture that is cited in our religious services. Another way is to start paying attention to how commentaries and other study tools, as well as our pastors, elders, tie Scriptures together contextually to establish their biblical point. If you were going to share the hope of salvation, could you walk a listener through 5-10 Scriptures that would paint a picture of that hope? Will our listener tell a friend of what they learned, and say, “He straight to his Bible and showed it to me directly!”

If we are sharing or defending biblical truths, we must do so correctly, persuasively, and in such a way that it is easy to grasp. This means that we know it well ourselves, and we have prepared well by communicating in more relaxed moments, which made us better communicators. For example, can we explain the resurrection hope at this very moment to another if they asked? Will our explanation be from the Bible? Will it be what the author meant by the words he used? Will it be persuasive? Will it be easy to follow and understand? If not, then, how can we honestly say we have a resurrection hope? Is there not irony that many young girls can tell you everything about Taylor Swift, but little if anything about their heavenly Father? The same is true of adult males, who can tear a car apart blindfolded, but cannot string along a handful of verses that defend their resurrection hope. And yes, adult females have an immense amount of knowledge about subject matters that interest them, yet likely cannot support their resurrection hope any better. The above are a bit of a stereotype, which is noted, but it makes the point that we prepare for worldly things with far more vigor than we prepare to share and defend the faith.

If we are going to have any success in defending our Christian faith, we must be able to overcome the objections of others. We will find that the same objections are repeatedly used. Therefore, we will eventually, be able to overcome the standard objections easily. However, a couple words of caution. First, we do not want to become complacent in our response to common objections; because the listener needs to feel as though they are getting an emotionally involved response, not some automatize, robotic response as if we feel like, ‘here we go again.’ Second, do not be complacent in thinking that every objection is going to be the common ones. If someone has an objection that we have never addressed, just simply say, “you raise a very good point, and the next time we speak, I will give you a logical and reasonable answer.” When we research his objection, do so to the point that we know it inside and out. Moreover, be aware that 99 percent of all Bible difficulties have logical, reasonable answers. On this, R. A. Torrey writes, “Humbly. Recognize the limitations of your own mind and knowledge, and do not for a moment imagine that there is no solution just because you have found none. There is, in all probability, a very simple solution, even when you can find no solution at all.”[10] In the end, there are answers, so meditate on the objection that has been raised, search through the literature, looking for Scripture and arguments to refute the objection in defense of the faith. Out of many thousands of Bible difficulties that have answers as to why they are, in fact, Bible difficulties and not errors, mistakes or contradictions, there are but a handful that has yet to be answered. This does not mean there is no answer, just that the information needed may be lacking, or it is something we will have to wait on until a greater mind comes along, or until the second coming of Christ. However, really, if science had answers to many thousands of issues, but only a few remained unanswered, we would never hear the end of it. It is amazing that we have what we have considering we are dealing with a book where parts of it were penned 2,000 years ago while other parts were written 3,500 years ago.

YOUR GUIDE FOR DEFENDING THE BIBLE_Third Edition

As a proclaimer and defender of the faith, always be on the alert for points that can be used to overcome objections that we have heard, or what logically sounds like an objection one might raise. Whether we are studying a book, working on the our Bible reading with a commentary or sitting in a pew listening to a talk from our elder or pastor, have our mind attuned to such things. Say, we ae sitting at church, the pastor or elder makes an excellent point that overcomes a particular Bible objection (The Bible is not practical for our day, or there are so many different interpretations, who can know the truth), so we write it down in out notebook, because, yes, we have a notebook and pen. This will further implant the point in our mind. Now, we take it a step further. Find three different people after the meeting and say, “I really enjoyed what the pastor or elder had to say about the objection that the Bible is not practical for our day.” Then, we should proceed to reiterate what was said in our own words. This will further embed it in our mind. Our notebook can be used for all kinds of notes at the meetings or during our personal study, but if we take notes on some objection or a Bible difficulty of some sort, highlight it a particular color. Why? We do this because we will also have another notebook that is specifically for Bible difficulties and Bible objections, so we have prepared and refutations. In this special notebook, leave the first few pages blank, as it will serve as out table of content. We can number our pages, so in the front we can write down a phrase that will tell us what the issue is and the page on which it can be found.

Therefore Christian defenders of God’s Word and principles,

2 Timothy 2:15 English Standard Version (ESV)

15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

Let us have the spirit of Paul,

1 Corinthians 9:16-17 English Standard Version (ESV)

16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.

Exercise

So that it is easy understand, sequentially explain:

  • how the fall of man came about and
  • the nature of sin
  • and what hopewas offered from Genesis 3:15 forward

Review Questions

  • When Peter says that we need always to be ready to make a defense of the hopethat is in us, to whom does this rule apply?
  • What is needed if we are to effectively defend the hopethat is in us?
  • Why should we use the Bible in proclaiming and defending our hope?
  • Why should Christians be able to simplify Bible teachings to make them easy to understand?

[1] Or argument; or explanation

[2] I.e. Christ’s second coming to judge

[3] to have understanding about practical matters and thus be able to act sensibly–‘to have sound judgment, to be sensible, to use good sense, sound judgment.’– GELNTBSD

[4] to be in control of one’s thought processes and thus not be in danger of irrational thinking–‘to be sober-minded, to be well composed in mind.’–GELNTBSD

[5] Epignosis is a strengthened or intensified form of gnosis (epi, meaning “additional”), meaning, “true,” “real,” “full,” “complete” or “accurate,” depending upon the context. Paul and Peter alone use epignosis.

[6] Epignosis is a strengthened or intensified form of gnosis (epi, meaning “additional”), meaning, “true,” “real,” “full,” “complete” or “accurate,” depending upon the context. Paul and Peter alone use epignosis.

[7] Knute Larson, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, vol. 9, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 286.

[8] Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, vol. 34, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 215.

[9] George W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles: a Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1992), 411–412.

[10] http://www.christianpublishers.org/handling-bible-difficulties