But 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. (1Peter 3:15)In the above passage of scripture the Apostle Peter says, in no uncertain terms, that it is incumbent upon every Christian to be ready to answer the inevitable questions which rise in the minds of non believers, concerning God and His world. The questions are inevitable because while man may suppress his knowledge of God, he cannot be rid of that knowledge entirely; for the knowledge of God inheres to His creation in both the natural external world of man and in the internal conscience of man. Thus, man can suppress some of the truth some of the time, but he cannot suppress all of the truth all of the time. God will not be dismissed. And so the questions persist.
It is the believer’s duty to answer the unbeliever, thereby further disabusing the unbeliever of all pretended excuses for disbelief. Notice, the believer is to be ready to answer “everyone who asks.” Because everyone who asks, asks in various ways and for various reasons, the Christian must be discerning. Some questioners are insincere skeptics, desirous only of debate--much like the Pharisees challenging Jesus. Others, like those who listened to Paul the apostle on Mars Hill, who “spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing;” are merely intellectually or philosophically curious (c.f. Acts 17:21). Questioners such as these are always interested in questions but never interested in answers. Then there are those questioners who are more akin to Nicodemus: A sincere person with genuine questions, who is accepting of genuine answers. Regardless of the questioner’s motive, the believer is to be ready to answer everyone. While the Christian is responsible to answer everyone, he is responsible to convert no one. Answering is the work of the believer, converting is the work of the Spirit.
How is the Christian to ready himself to defend the Faith to everyone who asks? The answer to this question, painting in broad strokes, is twofold. First, the Christian must know, understand, and apply the scripture to the issue, whatever the issue may be, in question. For instance, if the question asked of him is, “What’s wrong with gay marriage?” or “Why is abortion such a big deal?” he must know, understand, and then apply what the Bible says concerning such things. The Christian need not turn anywhere else but to the scriptures. Now, this isn’t to say that he will never need to consult theology books or commentaries or pastor/teachers; but all of these resources should merely serve to help the Christian better know, understand, and apply the scripture. The Bible is his ultimate authority for all matters of faith and conduct, and the Bible is completely sufficient to answer every question he will face.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2Timothy 3:16-17)If the “man of God” is to answer “with meekness and fear” then he must answer biblically. The meek Christian will submit to the final authority of scripture, as touching all subjects or issues. The believer who fears God more than he fears man will fearlessly convey the truth presented in the Bible. So it is, we find that the man of God is to answer questions biblically, both in content and in attitude. When the Christian, with meekness and fear, responds to his inquisitor biblically, he avoids the common pitfalls of pride and presumption. In meekness, he will never arrogantly answer on the basis of his own personal authority, disregarding the Bible. Similarly, in fear, he will never presumptively speak for God apart from, or without reference to, God’s objective self revelation in scripture.
As we speak of meekness and fear before God, we come to the second aspect of being ready to defend the Faith. The believer who would effectively answer everyone who asks, must spend time in prayer. Never underestimate the importance of or the power of prayer when engaging in apologetics [defending the Faith]. Only the power of the Holy Spirit, not the power of human persuasion, can open closed minds and hearts. In other words, the Christian can plainly and forcefully present the truth of the Bible, concerning any issue, to the unbeliever; but only the Holy Spirit can open the mind and heart of the unbeliever to understand and accept the truth that has been presented. It is no coincidence that the apostle Paul, immediately after encouraging the believer to take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;” adds, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17-18).
To effectively defend the faith and to advance the kingdom, the Christian has been given the mighty “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” May he skillfully wield this sword of the Spirit, this sword of Truth; with meekness and fear, and fervent prayer, to the glory of God.