SOURCE: The Spiritual Sword, 10/2007
Be Ready to Answer
by Alan E. Highers
We are all familiar with the admonition of the apostle Peter: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). There are three expressions in particular that we wish to emphasize from this verse: “ready,” “answer,” and “reason.”
First, one is to be “ready always,” i.e., prepared “invariably, at any and every time” (Vine, 43).
Second, one must be ready always “to give an answer.” Answer is from apologia, the same word from which we get our English word apologetics, meaning a defense. It is defined as “ready to make a defense to anyone” (Arndt-Gingrich, 96). The same word is used in Acts 22:1, “hear ye my defense,” and Philippians 1:17, “I am set for the defense of the gospel.
Third, the manner in which we make a defense of the hope that is within us is by providing a “reason” to those who ask. We do not merely make wild, belligerent claims, unsupported by evidence. Neither do we rely on emotion, feeling, or passion. The term, reason, in this text is from the Greek logos, indicating a word. A word is a means of communication. Jesus was “the Word” in the sense that He communicated Deity to the world (John 1:1-3). Inspired men communicated “by the word of the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:15). We are to give a “reason” for the hope within us, suggesting that we should be able to communicate to others why we believe what we believe. “This obligation implies sufficient acquaintance with the word of God to substantiate one’s hope therewith, and godliness of life consistent with its teaching” (Woods, 98).
1. That a Christian’s hope is defensible. The very admonition to be ready always to give a defense manifests that the faith can be defended. We live in what is sometimes called a post-modern society. Post-modernism disdains the idea that one can be “right” about anything and others be “wrong.” The influence of this philosophy can be seen everywhere around us. Unless the Christian is careful in this age of false toleration, we will begin to absorb the prevailing consensus of the world which says “everyone is right,” “whatever one believes is the truth for him,” “it does not make any difference what one believes.” Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). He declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
2. That there is such a thing as absolute truth. We have a “reason” for what we believe. We are able to appeal to the word of God as a ground for our hope. “Hold fast the form of sound words” (2 Timothy 1:13), “holding fast the faithful word” (Titus 1:9). God did not leave us without a standard, adrift on a sea of uncertainty. “We have also a more sure word of prophecy … but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:19021).
3. That we can understand the revelation God has given to us. In order to “give an answer to every man that asketh,” we must be able to comprehend the message God has given to us. “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). God’s will is understandable. Paul spoke of the revelation which was given unto him and said, “Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4). It is necessary for us to study that we may grow “in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). We begin with the milk of the word (1 Peter 2:2), and we advance in knowledge so that we can digest the meat of the word (Hebrews 5:14). The apostle Peter spoke of some things “hard to be understood,” but he did not say “impossible to be understood” (2 Peter 3:16). With study, diligence, and a pure heart, we can grow in understanding and knowledge of the will of the Lord, so that we may give an “answer” to those who ask a “reason” for the hope that is in us.
4. That a Christian should be able to defend what he believes. To be able to “give an answer” is to be able to defend our convictions. Paul said, “We also believe, and therefore speak” (2 Corinthians 4:13). Faith is not blind; it is based upon evidence. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Every child of God should endeavor to know the basis of what he believes and to be able to communicate that to others. This does not mean that one must be a public speaker or a professional scholar, but each one of us should feel comfortable to open the word of God and to point to the “book, chapter, and verse” that sustains our faith. Elders in the church should “be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” (Titus 1:9). Even a Christian couple such as Aquila and Priscilla could instruct Apollos, teaching him “the way of God more perfectly” (Acts 18:26). Jude exhorted us to “contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).
5. That there is a duty to teach others. People will constantly ask a reason for the hope within us. We should be ready always to give an answer. Peter says we are to do this “with meekness and fear,” i.e., not in arrogance or pride, but out of genuine respect toward God and His word. The apostle Paul stated that he taught publicly and from house to house (Acts 20:20). In writing to Christians at Rome, where there was much persecution, he nevertheless stated: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). In Acts 20:26-27, the apostle proclaimed: “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” May every member of the body of Christ be pure from the blood of all men in that we deliver the counsel of God to all who come within our sphere of influence.
Arndt, William F. and Gringrich, F. Wilbur (2nd Ed., 1979), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).
Vine, W.E., An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Iowa City: Riverside Book and Bible House).
Woods, Guy N. (1956), A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles of Peter, John, and Jude (Nashville: Gospel Advocate).
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