A philosophy of apologetics for the church based upon the argument of 1 Peter.
Peter wrote the letter, 1 Peter, to inspire persecuted believers living in Asia Minor. 1 Peter is a remarkably concise and powerful summary of Christian belief and practice in which Peter provides a beautiful apologetics philosophy, not only for his original audience but for the Church today.1 Understanding Peter’s philosophy of apologetics first requires some background and context.
Peter encouraged persecuted believers to stand firm in Christ Jesus despite their suffering. These believers seemingly had no rights or privileges within the communities they lived. So, Peter encouraged them to continue to stand firm in the faith despite their circumstances and to follow Jesus's example of faithfulness.2 Their steadfastness would be made possible by remaining focused on their spiritual privileges and rights in Christ Jesus and all that awaited them in heaven.
Peter urged these Christians to, despite their suffering, reflect Jesus by meeting any persecution or slander with kind words and good works, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:12). Peter’s goal and hope in his instruction were that these Christians, through their words and conduct, would win nonbelievers to Christ. Peter furthers his instruction by proclaiming that Christians must always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15b). In other words, Peter instructs all Christians to be always ready, no matter their circumstances, to defend the hope that’s within them. This verse is the key to the apologetic philosophy in 1 Peter. However, to fully understand Peter’s charge, we must look closer at the verse that precedes and follows it.
How does one defend the “hope” that is in them? The answer to this question is found in 1 Peter 3:15 and strengthened by the context of v 14 and v. 16. “14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled 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, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” (1 Peter 3:14-16). Notice the potential scenario. Peter points out that even if you are enduring suffering for the sake of setting apart Christ as the Lord of your heart, you should not fear or be intimated but consider it a privilege to suffer for a lifestyle that pleases God.
The bedrock or foundation of the apologetics found in 1 Peter is the command to regard, in your heart, Christ the Lord as holy. This statement means that Christ controls every aspect of the believer's life, for Christ alone is their ultimate hope. The believer has dedicated and consecrated themselves to Christ. Jesus is the Lord of your entire life. From the center of the believer's being is a reverence for Christ that lives itself out in such a way that it leads them to be ready at any moment to give a defense for the hope of Christ that they have dedicated themselves to. The hope found in Jesus Christ being the foundation of your life is apologetic, from which one can confidently defend their faith. Finally, when defending the faith, one “must do so with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that when you are accused, those who disparage your good conduct in Christ will be put to shame.” (1 Pet 3:16) In other words, when you are defending your faith do so in a way that lives and lives like Jesus. Present yourself and your defense clearly and confidently but with gentleness and esteem.
Peter’s philosophy of apologetics, as seen in his letter of 1 Peter, can be summarized in three simple steps. First, you must know Jesus as your Lord and Savior. How can you defend that which you do not hope in? Second, you must always be ready to defend the hope you have in Christ. This requires gospel fluency and knowledge of the Word of God. Finally, when engaging with an unbeliever or when called on to defend your faith, do so with gentleness and respect.
1 R.J. Bauckham, "1 Peter" in Dictionary of the Later New Testament, eds. Ralph P. Martin, Ralph P. Martin, and Peter H. Davids (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1997) 914.
2 Ibid, 915.