When people hear the word “apologetics,” they often wonder why you are apologizing. However, apologetics is from the Greek word apologeia meaning a defense. Christians use the word apologetics to describe the practice of presenting evidence in support of the beliefs of Christianity.
A form of the word apologeia is used in 1 Peter 3:15-16 where we read:
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
These words offer five ways the field of Christians apologetics strengthens our faith.
- Apologetics Encourages Personal Spiritual Growth
Peter encouraged early believers to, “Always be prepared to give an answer.” His words reflect the attitude of Jesus who often responded to others who criticized his teachings.
How can we be “prepared to give an answer”? Some examples include:
- Practice sharing your personal story of coming to faith in Jesus
- Reading Scripture to know the real story of Christianity
- Studying Christian resources to better understand the Bible’s teachings
- Memorizing Scripture for personal growth and to share with others
Apologetics is not primarily academic; apologetics emphasizes personal growth that helps us stay fresh in our walk with God.
2. Apologetics Prepares Us to Share Our Faith
We are to be prepared to give an answer “to everyone who asks you to give a reason.” This includes family members, classmates, coworkers, neighbors—anyone interested in knowing more about the hope in our lives.
When we prepare to answer the questions of other people, we can more confidently share how Jesus has changed our lives and can someone else. We don’t need to be experts, but we do need to live as experienced practitioners. In other words, we speak from a life that is committed to Christ and seeks to reflect his teachings.
- Apologetics Encourages Respectful Communication
1 Peter 3:16 is sometimes neglected in presentations on apologetics, emphasizing only verse 15. However, the words in verse 16 are vital. They provide critical information regarding the style with which we are called to communicate our faith.
As followers of Jesus, we do not need to antagonize or demean our audience. Rather, we understand our conversations should include “gentleness and respect.” When we communicate in this manner, our words stand out from others who use manipulation or hateful rhetoric to accomplish their goals. Followers of Jesus are called to be bold, but also to speak the truth in love
- Apologetics Expects Personal Purity
Peter also notes the importance of a “clear conscience.” This concept involves more than kindness in our communications; it also includes our personal holiness. We must both speak and live in ways consistent with the message of Christ to make a compelling case in sharing our faith.
A second reason personal purity is important involves the interest of unbelievers. Apologetics addresses answering those who ask us about the hope within us. If we are not living a vibrant, Christ-centered life, we will not attract the questions of those seeking hope.
- Apologetics Helps Us Faithfully Endure Persecution
Peter was well-aware of people “those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ.” When we live as followers of Jesus, there will be some who oppose us. Why? Followers of Jesus:
- Stand opposed to sinful actions
- Do not join in with the sinful pursuits of others
- Believe in the exclusive message of the gospel (John 14:6)
Yet those who oppose us are people Christ died for and whom we are called to love. When we do, it helps us faithfully endure persecution or ridicule in a way that opens opportunities to share about our faith.
In the Old Testament, Daniel’s life was so committed to God that his opponents could only accuse him of breaking the law by making prayer to God illegal. When Daniel continued to pray, he was arrested and thrown into a lion’s den. God then miraculously rescued him, leading to great respect for Daniel and the God he served.
We are likewise called to faithfully serve God despite opposition. When we do, we may find new ways to both grow in the Lord and share him with others.
Though many limit apologetics to a mere academic pursuit, defending the faith involves much more. Jesus calls us to grow in him, share him with others, communicate respectfully, live with purity, and endure persecution. These traits involve a vibrant walk with God that will impact our lives and the lives of others.