First Peter 3.15 


1.   Turn in your Bible to First Peter 3.8.  When you find that verse, please stand for the reading of God’s Word:

8       Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

9       Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

10     For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:

11     Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.

12     For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

13     And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?

14     But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;

15     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: 

2.   This is a wonderful and encouraging passage of Scripture, rich with wisdom and advice from the inspired pen of the apostle Peter, and worthy of study and prayerful meditation.

3.   As he rounds third base and heads for home to conclude this epistle, notice in passing his comments:  Things that enhance unity among believers are found  in verses 8-12.  And the suffering that is part and parcel of being a child of God is found in verses 13-15.

4.   My text for this evening is First Peter 3.15, a verse that I have referred to frequently in passing, but have never focused directly on before tonight.  Let’s read it again:  “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.”

5.   When Peter writes “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts” it is likely that he is reminding the Jewish Christian readers he is writing to of Isaiah 8.13, which reads, “Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.”

6.   Commenting on this phrase, Matthew Henry writes, “We sanctify the Lord God in our hearts when we with sincerity and fervency adore him, when our thoughts of him are awful and reverend, when we rely upon his power, trust to his faithfulness, submit to his wisdom, imitate his holiness, and give him the glory due to his most illustrious perfections.  We sanctify God before others when our deportment is such as invites and encourages others to glorify and honour him; both are required, Le 10:3.”

7.   So, in the face of spiritual opposition and even persecution, remember to fear God and keep His commandments instead of fearing men, even men who try to frighten you.  Thus, the stage is set for the last portion of this verse, “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.”

8.   Heretofore, I have made reference to this verse by applying Peter’s command to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” to the necessity of being both willing and able to justify to me why you think you are a Christian, upon what basis do you claim to be a child of God, and how you know that you know Jesus as your Savior.  Every pastor should seek such answers.

9.   But this command of Peter’s is even more directly applicable to the situation in which a Christian is challenged, not by a pastor who seeks his spiritual welfare and wants either to confirm that he is truly converted or to guide him to Christ, but to an enemy of the Gospel who seeks the Christian’s destruction.

10. My friends, this command to give an answer for the hope that lies within you speaks directly to the Christian sitting in a college classroom who is suddenly accosted by a professor or a fellow student.  It also speaks to the Christian in the workplace who is set upon by an antagonist in the break room or at the lunch truck.

11. I well remember an event that occurred shortly after my conversion.  I was walking through a large office in which there were 40 or 50 design engineers working away.  All of a sudden Pete Hoffman, who is now the president of Sierra Motors over by the freeway here in Monrovia, and who is a graduate of Notre Dame University, asked me, “Hey, Waldrip.  Do you really believe God cares about what happens to you?”

12. That was not the time nor the place to launch into a well-ordered defense of the Christian faith, but it was the time and the place to say something, to do something.  I remember hesitating for just a moment and saying, loudly enough for everyone in the room to hear me, as loud back to Pete as he had spoken to me, “Yeah, Pete.  I sure do believe He cares about me.”

13. That kind of thing is something any Christian can do, though we are commanded to be ready to do more than that.  We can’t always do much more than that, but you need to be ready in case the opportunity presents itself.

14. This evening I want to speak to you briefly about three things related to this command Peter has given us: 


1B.    When I say be ready to apologize, let me explain what I mean, because I do not mean that you should be ready to say “I’m sorry” every time someone gets upset at you for being a Christian.  You should never tell anyone you’re sorry that you’re a Christian, or ask forgiveness for being a Christian.

2B.    What I am referring to is a particular word Peter uses in our text, a word that’s translated “answer.”  It translates the Greek word “apologia,” and means to defend, not to excuse.[1]  In other words, always be ready to defend your position.  Always be ready to defend to another person your reason for believing your sins are forgiven and for believing that you are a child of God.  This is apologetics.

3B.    To restate:  “The word apologetics does not mean ‘to apologize:’ but to give a defense of what one believes to be true.  The word ‘defense’ (Gk. apologia) indicates ‘a defense of conduct and procedure.’  Wilbur Smith puts it this way: ‘a verbal defense, a speech in defense of what one has done or of truth which one believes?’ (Smith, TS, 45, 481)” [2]

4B.    The Greek word “apologia” is used a total of eight times in the Greek New Testament.  Let’s quickly read the other seven places the word is used so we can get a feel for what the word means in the New Testament contexts in which it is used.

5B.    In Acts 22.1, where Paul has just been rescued from a Jewish mob by Roman soldiers in Jerusalem, he says, “Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you.”  Paul is defending to his countrymen how he came to be a servant of Jesus Christ.  The word is translated here “defence.”

6B.    In Acts 25.16, Paul, standing before the Roman governor, Festus, in Caesaria, demands his right, as a Roman citizen, to defend himself to Caesar:  “To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him.”  Here the word is translated “answer.”

7B.    In First Corinthians 9.3, Paul writes:  “Mine answer to them that do examine me is this.”  Paul here writes his apology, which is to say his defense, of those who question the conduct of his ministry.   Again, the word is translated “answer.”  And, by the way, I also have a right to defend the conduct of my ministry to anyone who challenges it.  Amen?

8B.    In Second Corinthians 7.11, Paul points out how the Corinthians had defended themselves.  In this verse the word is translated by the phrase “clearing of yourselves.”  The verse reads:  “For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge!  In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.”

9B.    Philippians 1.7:  “Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.”  In this verse our word is translated “defence.”

10B.  Philippians 1.17:  “But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.”  Again, the word is translated “defence.”

11B.  Second Timothy 4.16:  “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me:  I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.”  Here the word is translated “answer.”

12B.  The manner in which the word “answer” is used in First Peter 3.15 denotes the kind of defense one would make to a legal inquiry asking “Why are you a Christian?”  Every believer is responsible to give an adequate answer to this kind of question.

13B.  Now, the inquiry that needs to be made is this:  Is Christianity in general, and are you as a Christian, defensible?  Can the Christian faith be defended by an informed person?  Can your status as a Christian be defended by you?  The answer, of course, is “Yes,” the Christian faith can be defended.  And so far as you are concerned, the answer is “Yes, if you are genuinely converted.”  Otherwise the directive to make such a defense would not have been issued.

14B.  The problem with decisionism, and with decisionists who I disagree with about this issue of bringing the lost to Christ, is that they cannot do what Peter commanded must be done.  For the most part, they cannot make a defense of their own Christianity.  At least, they cannot make a defense that is true to the demands and strictures of God’s Word.

15B.  I urge you, the next time we have a preacher come and speak here, or when you are chatting with a preacher in a quiet setting, to ask him to tell you in great detail how he got saved.  Ask me, for that matter.  You’d be surprised at the number of preachers, at the number of missionaries, at the number of evangelists, at the number of pastors, who are very, very fuzzy about how they got saved and about how to get saved.  Don’t be rude and ask a man when he’s busy interacting with others, but when you get the chance go ahead and ask.

16B.  How many of you have never heard my testimony?  Okay, unless God lays something else strongly on my heart, my plan is to spend next Sunday evening’s service giving my personal testimony, the long version. 

2A.   The Next Thing That’s Related To This Command Given By Peter, RECOGNIZE THAT CHRISTIANITY IS A FAITH THAT IS BASED UPON FACTS

1B.    Let’s go back to the earliest days of the Christian faith, shortly after the Lord Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection after three days and nights in the grave, and ascension to His Father’s right hand on high.  Turn to Acts chapter 1:

12     Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey.

13     And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.

14     These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

15     And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)

16     Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.

17     For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.

18     Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.

19     And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.

20     For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.

21     Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,

22     Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.

23     And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.

24     And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,

25     That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.

26     And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. 

1C.   To give it to you short and sweet, the band of believers did a lot of praying until Simon Peter stood up and pointed out that betrayal of Judas Iscariot was actually predicted in the Psalms, specifically Psalm 109.8.

2C.   What is needful now, Peter observes, is someone to take Judas Iscariot’s place.  But the replacement must be qualified.  In verses 21-22, Peter maintains the replacement needed to be a fellow who had continuously been with Jesus from the time John the Baptist baptized Him until His resurrection, someone who had seen it all.  They found they had two candidates who were qualified and one was selected to replace Judas.

3C.   But the point that needs to be made is that, from the very beginning, an emphasis was made on the ability to verify the facts of history, the ability to give eye witness accounts of what actually took place.  And this was extremely important until the completed revelation of  God’s Word provided an authentic written record of the events.

2B.    Consider, now, the close of the apostolic age, when the last of the eye witnesses of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry wrote shortly before he died.  We turn to First John chapter 1:

1       That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

2       (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)

3       That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

4       And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. 

1C.   Keep in mind the extremely graphic nature of what the apostle John has written here, since he uses strong and precise words to make his point.

2C.   In verse 1 the apostle points out in unmistakable terms that he carefully listened to Jesus, that he saw Jesus and visually examined and scrutinized Him, and that he actually touched and handled Him.

3C.   In verse 2 he points out that “we have seen . . . and bear witness,” referring to the other disciples.  In other words, we tell what we have seen with our eyes.

4C.   In verse 3 he says again that he is declaring what he and others have seen and heard, and that these facts are the basis for the Christian life.

5C.   And in verse 4 he declares that these facts he and others have witnessed are what he is communicating to his readers in writing.

6C.   Do you see how important the facts are to John?  I could cite other examples, but I think I have established what is more than a trend in the Christian faith.  Christianity is absolutely based upon historical facts, and if these historical facts are not true then we have no Christian faith.

3B.    Turn now to First Corinthians chapter 15:

1       Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

2       By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

3       For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

4       And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

5       And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

6       After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

7       After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

8       And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

9       For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

10     But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

11     Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.

12     Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?

13     But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:

14     And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

15     Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.

16     For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:

17     And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.

18     Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.

19     If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 

1C.   I realize that we are reading a great many verses tonight, but I want to point out something to you that perhaps you’ve not noticed before.  It’s something that is critical to remember when dealing with those who openly oppose or conscientiously question the validity of the Christian faith.

2C.   Eyewitness, eyewitnesses, eyewitnesses.  And such a commitment to historical facts that the preeminent apostle, Paul himself, who wrote 2/3 of the New Testament, asserts that if these facts are not true then we have no faith.  There is no Christianity if the historical facts upon which it is built are not true.

3C.   What religion is willing to make such an admission?  Buddhism?  Hinduism?  Neither religion even claims to be based upon the facts of history.  What about Islam?  Islam does claim to be based upon the facts of history.  But what if you find a fact essential to Islam in error?  Will they fold their tents and go back to Mecca?  Not on your life, because it’s a false religion.

4B.    There are other facts that are critical to the Christian faith, facts such as the six literal days of creation in Genesis chapter 1, such as the worldwide flood of Genesis chapters 7 & 8, the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt across the Red Sea and into the promised land.  Such facts of history are crucial to the Christian faith, though I don’t have time to deal with them this evening. 

5B.    Is it possible to verify every fact of history upon which the Christian faith rests?  No.  After all, you were not there when God created everything, and neither was I.  You were not on the Ark during the Flood, and neither was I.  So, though those and other facts were at one time verified by God’s chosen witnesses, just as the disciples were chosen to witness the important details of Christ’s earthly mission, you and I can no longer verify them.

6B.    Just remember that those who deny the Christian faith have a belief system that they insist is built upon facts, but which they cannot verify.  And not only do their beliefs rest on that which is unverifiable, their beliefs are also based upon notions that are not only unscientific in the final analysis, but also contrary to human nature.

7B.    They believe in the big bang, but they can’t verify that it occurred.  They believe in evolution, but they can’t verify that it occurred.  On the other hand, we have sound science that refutes what they believe while they have only skepticism as the basis for their not believing as we do.  So, don’t let anyone insist that you verify something you believe which they believe to be untrue without pointing out to them that neither can they verify that which their beliefs are based upon. 

3A.   Finally, With Regard To Peter’s Command To Defend The Faith And To Defend Yourself As A Christian, THE BEST DEFENSE IS A GOOD OFFENSE

1B.    Nowhere in God’s Word are we urged to sit back and wait for some unsaved fellow to challenge the Christian faith, so we can pounce on him.  We are, rather, commanded to go forth with the Gospel, taking the message to every creature.  The need that arises from our mission comes about as a result of obeying God, dealing with those who react to our message violently or dealing with those who react to our message with honest questions.

2B.    How good it is when it’s you who have picked out the person to have an exchange with, rather than letting the person pick you out.  Of course, if someone approaches you with questions you should try to answer them.  If they challenge you it may be necessary to mount a vigorous defense of the faith.  If they are swine, it may be appropriate not to cast your pearls but to just walk away, Matthew 7.6.

3B.    Just remember, when you are witnessing, when you are inviting to Church, when you are responding to a challenge, that apologetics, defending the faith, never got anyone saved.  With apologetics, with a defense of the faith, you are merely trying to remove major obstacles that interfere.  Once that is done you resume your witness, you refocus on getting that person visitor to Church. 


1.   My purpose in this message tonight has been to lay a ground work for messages that I plan on bringing in the future, messages which will be of practical benefit to you, as a Christian, being ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within you.

2.   Just keep three things in mind:  First, Christians are commanded to defend the faith and to defend your own claim of being a Christian.  Second, the Christian faith is based on facts, not fancy.  And third, the best position to be in when called upon to defend the faith is to already be advancing the faith.

[1]A. T. Roberston, Word Pictures In The New Testament

[2]Josh D. McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999), pp. xxix-xxx.

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