1 Peter 3:15, the end of the epistle for Trinity 5, is often cited in favor of apologetics. The word “apology” in Greek has nothing to do with feeling sorry or contrite for previous actions, the most common English usage. An “apology” is a defense, even a self-defense (which is how it came to mean feeling sorry, since one would offer a defense by way of an excuse, such as explaining why one was late).
Apologetics are an important aspect of being a Christian. As Peter emphasizes throughout the whole letter, Christians will suffer for being Christians in the world. There is no peace between the world and between Christ, so servants cannot expect to be different from their Master. Therefore, Christians must also be prepared to stand firm in the face of worldly opposition, offering “a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). The one asking may do so sincerely or derisively, but to deny Christ in such an hour means that He will also deny us before God the Father (Matthew 10:33).
Apologetics certainly involves an intellectual aspect. Being a Christian means that we must “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). We are not Christians in one part of our being or thinking and “neutral” in the rest. Either Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, or He is not. The Bible is not, therefore, a self-contained document that has reference only to itself and not to the rest of the world. The Word of God forms the foundation of all of our thinking, which invariably puts it into conflict with the world. Christians should be prepared to speak clearly, something possible only through abiding in the Word.
This aspect of the apologetical task should not frighten anyone. After all, it is the Holy Spirit who converts, enlightens, and preserves. Nor should one think that the only people who can “do apologetics” are those who are the most educated. The hand of the Lord is not limited to the best of His servants. Making a defense of the hope within you means standing firm even in the face of opposition, trusting in the Lord to guide and deliver us in all things.
More than this, making a defense is not limited to the intellectual aspect. It’s not even the primary part of it. The surest defense of the hope within you is to “honor Christ the Lord as holy” (1 Peter 3:15), and this is Peter’s primary point. Unity, love, and humility, some of the fruits of the Spirit, mark the Christian as belonging to Christ. “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Peter also makes this point prior to this passage when he exhorts Christian women to “not let your adorning be external–the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear–but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:3-4). Virtue does not consist in what is seen, but in what is not seen.
It may very well be the case that such a defense will only increase the hatred of the world. Christians may suffer for righteousness’ sake. But a Christian does not suffer for the sake of Christ by giving way to sin and unrighteousness. Punishment follows wickedness, even if the deed was done for seemingly the right reasons. Christians rather are called to follow after Christ all the more in the midst of suffering, because “when He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).