A Certain Hope in Uncertain Days: 30 Days of Hope-filled Focus
Day 14: Defending Hope
1 Peter 3:15, “…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.”
The term translated “defense” in this verse is the Greek apologia which means literally “to talk one’s self off of.” It was used in the Greek law courts of an attorney who talked his client off from a charge made against him. The word can also refer to an informal explanation or defense of one’s position and in that sense describes an answer given to the skeptical or derisive inquiries of ill-disposed opponents. That is the sense of the term’s use in this context. The same term was used by the Apostle Paul in reference to his address before his Jewish opponents in which he shared his testimony in defending himself (Cf. Acts 22:1). Christian Apologetics, that field of theology which endeavors to present a rational basis for the Christian faith, derives its name from this term.
Peter’s readers were suffering as a direct result of their faith in Christ. Their faith was tested as they endured suspicion, derision, accusations and threats. But in place of fear (Cf. 1 Peter 3:14) they were exhorted in their hearts to “honor Christ the Lord as holy” (1 Peter 3:15). The antidote for fear is wholehearted submission to the Lord Jesus. The believer in Christ is to always be ready to make a defense.
The need for a defense regarding one’s faith arises because of the inquisitiveness of unbelievers with respect to a believer’s hope. The verse presupposes both that a believer possesses such a hope and that his or her hope is visibly evident. The unbeliever is left to wonder why such a hope exists and how and why it is maintained, especially when there is no apparent earthly reason for its existence.
With respect to our witness before the lost we possess a hope that they do not have. The unbeliever is one “having no hope and without God in the world” (Cf. Ephesians 2:12). Life in this trouble-filled world is characterized by much despair. Who hasn’t had a hope or dream shattered? The prospect of pending death casts a shadow over all of lost humanity (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13).
But the believer in Christ possesses a living hope that is firmly rooted in the undeniable truth of Christ’s resurrection from the dead (Cf. 1 Peter 1:3). What is the believer’s reason for hope? The Risen Savior, the One who has conquered sin and death, resides within his heart (Cf. 1 Peter 1:8-9). Hope translates the Greek elpis which speaks to the confident expectation regarding some future thing. Contrary to the common usage of its English counterpart it includes no element of doubt. We are exhorted to “set (our) hope fully on the grace that will be brought to (us) at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). Our hope is to be fully invested in the sure promise of Christ’s pending return (i.e. “the blessed hope;” Titus 2:13).
We are to be people of hope, and in distinctive fashion, because we serve a Risen and Returning Savior. Much in this life is not guaranteed to us. “God hath not promised skies always blue, flower-strewn pathways all our lives through; God hath not promised sun without rain, joy without sorrow, peace without pain. But God hath promised strength for the day, rest for the labor, light for the way, grace for the trials, help from above, unfailing sympathy, undying love.” Christ has promised to return for us and in that pending reality we have good reason to be of good cheer. With that promise Christ reassured his troubled disciples (Cf. John 14:1-4). The believing community is likewise repeatedly exhorted to encourage one another in this very same truth (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:18; Hebrews 10:25). In the Risen and Returning Savior we have good reason to be ever hopeful.
As lights shining amidst the darkness, God’s children are called to be people of hope in this despairing world. But to be hopeful Christians we need to be heavenly-minded Christians. If we are to maintain a credible witness before the lost, there is likely a need for less complaining about our circumstances in the “here and now” and more attention to given to the glory that awaits us in the “there and then” (Cf. Colossians 3:14; Philippians 3:19b-21). God would have us to be people full of hope (Cf. Romans 15:13). Amy Carmichael put it this way, “Make us thy mountaineers, we would not linger on the lower slope, fill us afresh with hope, O God of hope.”