Apologetics in Context

Posted by Joe Johnson on 2018-12-15

Apologetics is about suffering well.

The most popular proof text for apologetics, or defense of the faith, is 1 Peter 3:15.

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... (ESV)

The emphasis is usually on

always being prepared to make a defense

The Greek word here for defense is 'apologian', from which we get the word 'apologetics'. Christians should be intellectually encouraged, even by this verse alone, to engage the world with gospel hope, with an answer, reply, or defense. But there is more. Why should we defend the faith? The scripture gives good reason, and it starts with Christ's holiness.

Jesus Associated with Idols

Christ as Holy

South Park is a great example for how Christ is made unholy by common culture - depicted in the most blasphemous ways - His name is relentlessly drug through the mud when no real cannon fodder for comedy is available. Muhammad at least gets censored!

A Christian's response to this abuse, and our counter-cultural reality, starts with this verse in 1 Peter, a way of living which radically honors and reverences Christ!

in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy

The reason for a Christian's defense, for a ready reply, is to set apart Christ as Holy. It is not to win an argument, it is not to be the most reasoned or reasonable person, it is not to see a video on Youtube called "Christian DESTROYS enemy with verbal machine gun." The reason for defense is to hallow, or make holy, Jesus in every aspect of our person.

When Jesus is held high in our hearts, his Spirit and his power lives with us and in our ready-defense, so let's consider his apologetic, then ours.

Christ the Sufferer

Reading Peter's statement about ready defense in context deeply informs the verse's meaning.

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 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... having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit... (1 Pet. 3:13-18 ESV)

The passage starts and ends with righteous suffering. 1 Peter's occasion for apologetics is not the Mormon at the door, it is suffering unjustly, an emphasis of letter as a whole - Christians submitting to and suffering under unrighteous governments (2:13-17), Christian servants submitting to and suffering under their masters (2:18-25), Christian wives submitting to and suffering under their husband's authority (3:1-7). This unjust suffering is epitomized in the person of Jesus.

Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. While Christians grow in righteousness and closer to the Lord, they are not perfectly righteous, but the lamb of God, the one without spot or blemish, was unrighteously targeted with accusations. His righteousness itself was an answer. He did not cry out when he was reviled, he did not shout "straw man argument." The power of Christ's apologetic abides in Christ's innocence, in his holiness and his righteousness. If our emphasis on apologetics started like this, could Christendom not grow in confidence and sacrificial, Christ-like love?

The better we see and know the sufferings of Christ, the more the Christian will be prepared to give an apologetic themselves.

Remember the testimony of the first witness, the first martyr?

St. Stephen's Martyrdom

Should we be so blessed as to suffer and present such an apologetic to the world!

Your Sufferer Apologetic

1 Peter 3:10, just a few verses before our focus, captures the essence of effective apologetics:

Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. (ESV)

Christians must have answers, we must "take every thought captive to Christ", but we must also be careful to make sure Spirit-wrought knowledge does not puff up, but allows Christ-like suffering. Inevitably the scorn and scoffing will begin, perhaps give way to more severe persecution, but our light and defense of the truth only shines brighter in the dark.

We do not live in a time where persecution is welcomed or rejoiced-in. Even though our Lord and master said that when we are reviled, persecuted, and slandered we are to "rejoice and be glad" (Matthew 5:12), our Christian culture is more likely to hide from those evils and forsake the power of our apologetic. But what good is it, being the light of the world, if the light does not meet the darkness? Wherever the culture pushes against true Christian piety and true Christian theology, in these places Christendom retreats under pretenses of compassion, care, strategy, and love, when all too often the real reason is cowardess.

May God give us a powerful suffering, so that we might be like our older brother, the Christ! Until the church learns to suffer like him, and to embrace the legacy of our martyrs, we will languish in unbelief and irrelevance. Christ invites us to take the cross so that we can do effective apologetics and demonstrate his love to the world.

For all who keep this apologetic, grace & peace be to you.

#apologetics #exegesis #suffering

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Be Holy as I am Holy