“But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.”
1 Peter 3:14-16 (NASB)
In 1 Peter 3:15 we read about a defense that Christians are called to be ready to give. That defense is a response to questions others may ask us about the hope that is in us, our Christian faith. It is the message of God’s grace and a right relationship with him and eternal life. Depending on how long you have been a Christian, you may have already experienced situations when there was a need to answer questions about your faith. They are bound to come up. There is a lot you can do to be ready like praying for boldness and wisdom, reading and studying the Bible, and listening to good preaching. There are also many books that could help. We can study and be ready to offer a biblical defense to many questions like the deity of Christ if need be; but we also have something that is always at our disposal, our testimony. We can speak about who Christ is and what he has done for us. He is the reason for our hope.
Below are verses from the book of Acts that tell of a man who made a defense for his hope. When he did, he spoke about his personal experience of coming to Christ and about the gospel. I am speaking of the apostle Paul. I came across these verses about his defense when I was searching the New Testament for the Greek word that is behind the “defense” that we are called to be ready to give in 1 Peter 3:15. The Greek word is apologia. It is the word that our word apologetics comes from.[¹] [²]
I found apologia in Acts 25:16. That verse leads to the events in the verses below. In the record of those events, a similar Greek word apologeomai which means “to give an account (legal plea) of oneself ” appears three times as “defense”. During Paul’s defense he speaks of being on trial. Apologetics does not have the meaning of a legal defense, but I believe we can still learn from studying Paul’s.
I am sure that Paul had many opportunities to give an account for the hope that was in him. He writes about his defense of the gospel in Philippians 1:7 and 16. In the account below in verses 6 and 7, he makes mention of his hope and the hope of Israel.
“‘And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews.'” Acts 26:6-7 (NASB)
Paul’s defense that I have shared below was given before King Agrippa and other important people including the governor Festus. This happened as a result of Festus telling Agrippa about Paul’s case. When Agrippa heard about Paul, he expressed desire to hear him for himself. (Acts 25:13-22) The following day Paul was brought in to address the king and all who were present. Festus needed to send a letter to Caesar to explain what the charges where against Paul. Paul had been held for quite some time following accusations by the Jews in Jerusalem. Festus knew the Jews had something against him and that it related to his religion, but Festus didn’t know what to write in regards to the charges. He hoped that Agrippa would help him come up with something. (Acts 25:26-27)
As you read Paul’s defense notice the things that he says. Read his account a few times. Notice that he was respectful and even complimentary. He behaved as Peter wrote that we should behave in 1 Peter 3:15, with gentleness and reverence. He was also bold and shared his own story along with the gospel. I think these are good guides when we find ourselves needing to answer questions about our faith. We should always be respectful, and it is nice to pay a sincere compliment or point out something positive about the one we are talking with. We can also share how we came to faith and about the promise of salvation through faith in Jesus. We can draw on this as we answer questions. Until the need to give an answer comes up again, we can pray for help to be ready. We can also pray that our answers be well received and that hearts would be open to the gospel of Jesus Christ. To him be the glory!
“Agrippa said to Paul, “You are permitted to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and proceeded to make his defense: “In regard to all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today; especially because you are an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews; therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently. “So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem; since they have known about me for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion. “And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews. “Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead? “So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. “And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. “And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.” Acts 26:1-11 (NASB)
“Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.”
Acts 26:12-23 (KJV)
“While Paul was saying this in his defense, Festus *said in a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad.” But Paul *said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth. “For the king knows about these matters, and I speak to him also with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner. “King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know that you do.” Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.” And Paul said, “I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.” The king stood up and the governor and Bernice, and those who were sitting with them, and when they had gone aside, they began talking to one another, saying, “This man is not doing anything worthy of death or imprisonment.” And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”” Acts 26:24-32 (NASB)