How do we deal with the whys of this generation or any generation for that matter?
As always, the conflict with the cultural current drives us back to an ancient book. God has blessed us with His Word which transcends all cultural whims and addresses every cultural concern. In the middle of the Apostle Peter’s first letter, we find a command, which presents a solution to the question at hand, why.
In this letter, Peter’s immediate audience is an early church that is under intense persecution. They had been driven from their homes by a Roman empire that had declared them enemies of the state. Some Bible scholars suggest that Paul may have already been martyred at the time this letter was written. Nevertheless, Peter writes to encourage and instruct.
An Identity Grounded in Our Hope
Through the first part of his letter, Peter reaffirms the identity of the people of God, the church, exiled though elect. He reminds his readers of the living hope in the face of death and unspeakable joy in the face of persecution. And he reaffirms the source of this hope and joy—the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls.
A Mandate Produced by Our Identity
We see a transition from the Christian identity to the Christian mandate with chapter 2, verses 9-11. Christians are a chosen generation, transcending all age brackets. We are a royal priesthood, transcending all works of the flesh. We are a holy nation, transcending all manmade boundaries. As such, we are a people possessed solely by God, despite the fact that we face a world full of temptations which try to possess us, declaring “war against the soul.”
A Strategy Directed at Our Hope
Peter goes on to instruct on living in this state of war. Our posture toward civil is one of submission. Our posture towards those over and under us is one of consideration. Finally, he tells us our connection with our faith family, the church, is one of compassion. It is in the peculiarly Christian life that we find victory.
However, what Peter guarantees is not comfort and ease. If he could then it would not be war. What he guarantees is the steadfastness of our hope in Jesus Christ.
What are we to say of that hope that is in us?
In chapter 3 verse 15, Peter commands,
“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: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.”
In responding to our culture and the spiritual warfare it presents, with God sanctified, set apart as our eternal treasure, we are to be ready, not with physical weapons, but with an answer. We are not to have arguments of opinion, but the reason for our hope; not with impertinent boldness, but with meekness and fear.
We see in these verses a clear command for addressing any why that comes our way.
First, we see that we are to “…be ready always…”. There are two words here that speak of a perpetual preparedness. We are not to live in reaction to questions that come our way. We are to be prepared before they are even asked.
This, of course, requires a great deal of effort on our part, to be studying, constantly looking to answer the challenges of the day before they become topics of conversation.
But, I would ask you, is this any different from the New Testament commands to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, studying to shew ourselves approved and rightly dividing the word of truth? It seems that this verse is nothing more than an application for the studying that we should have been doing all along.
Give an Answer
Second, we are “…to give an answer…”. It is a wonderful word that Peter uses here—apologia. It is true that this is where we get our word apologize, but it literarily means the opposite of the modern usage. Typically, when we apologize for something, we express regret that it ever happened. However, the word apologia means a verbal defense. We are commanded to logically and verbally defend why we believe what we believe.
Ever since God inspired Peter to write these words, he has blessed his church with apologists. They have given answers to two thousand years of challenges in a discipline known today as Christian apologetics. While in recent generations apologetics has been relegated to an activity to only be done in the throes of academia. However, there is clearly no such limitations in Scripture. Every believer is to be ready with an answer to everyone who asks.
To Any Who Asks
Third, we are to be prepared to give this defense “…to every man that asketh [us] a reason of the hope that is in you…”. There is only one qualification necessary to merit an answer from us: asking. It does not matter if the questioner is young or old, rich or poor, intellectual or ignorant. If they ask why we have hope, we are to answer.
It doesn’t matter if the person is a stranger or a member of our families. It doesn’t matter if the person asking is irreligious, of a different religion, or has been sitting in our church for years. If they ask why it is our duty to answer.
Despite these words being two thousand years old, they have never been more needed. In generations past, you could knock on any random person’s door in the U.S., begin speaking to them about God and the Bible, and assume they knew exactly what you were talking about. Everyone had a grandparent that took them to church. Even if they weren’t born again, they were operating from a worldview that was basically Christian and probably had a background in church.
Not so today. As Christian apologist, J. Warner Wallace states, “In this day and age, evangelism is spelled A-P-O-L-O-G-E-T-I-C-S.” This command to be ready to answer any why that comes our way takes us to the very heart of Gospel ministry. And it is for that reason that we must not be afraid of why.
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