When it comes to defending our faith, Christians make it too complicated. We try to figure out all sorts of arguments to convince someone God exists. We try to figure out ways to prove to someone Jesus was a real person. We try to figure out ways to get people to begin to believe in Jesus. We try all sorts of things. And honestly, I believe most of them fail.
I believe most of them fail because we are trying to argue a way in which scripture doesn’t tell us to.
Here is what the scripture says:
1 Peter 3:13-17
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 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, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (ESV)
I provided more of the context because we want to get our bearing on the text. If you read over it you will see that this passage is mostly about doing good and not worrying about suffering for doing good. Right in the middle is a portion that says that we must honor Christ the Lord as holy. This is key to doing good and to defending our faith. Why?
When we grow in our love for Christ and see Him as Lord over all, and as we separate Him in our hearts, making sure He has proper place and we desire to please Him and love Him above all, then defending our faith is easy. Then doing good is easy. Why? Because then we aren’t worried about pleasing man but God.
Now, there’s also a sentence that says “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” I want to point out a few things: 1) we must always be prepared to make a defense. 2) We must always be prepared to make a defense when someone asks. 3) What we are prepared to make a defense of is the hope that is in us.
The third part is so central to this. Remember, the context is about doing good for the sake of Christ even if you suffer for it, because you are blessed if you suffer for doing good. This means, people are asking what is your hope for when you’re suffering for the good you are doing? You see, in making a defense of the faith, we are not defending God, we are defending our hope. We are defending what we know to be true. We are answering the question, “why do you have hope when you’re suffering?”
The answer is: Because Jesus Christ is Lord. He suffered and died for doing good, and so I am blessed to suffer for doing good. Jesus Christ has all authority, and he knows my situation, and He will reward me for continuing to obey him in the midst of the evil I am suffering.
Now, I want you to see something. I want to apply this generally. When we speak to someone who doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ, when we speak to an atheist, or an agnostic, or someone who believes in some other God, we don’t need to defend God. We don’t need to argue with people and prove to them God exists. We don’t need to prove to them the Bible is true. We don’t need to prove to them that what they’re doing is wrong. We simply have to speak the truth.
Remember, it is God who changes hearts, not us. Remember, it is the Holy Spirit that convinces people, not our arguments. So all we need to do is defend our hope. All we need to do is proclaim what is true.
I hope I have been clear because there is one more thing I want to point out that we forget as Christian or might not know well.
In Romans 1:18-29 it reads:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (ESV)
What I want to point out in this text is something key: unbelievers know God exists. Why is this key? Because often, when you go out and start talking to people, they will raise objections about God’s existence. And this passage says they do this because they suppress the truth that they know. They know God exists, they know He is real. It is clearly seen and perceived. This why when they die they have no excuse. They won’t be able to say, “But God, you didn’t give me enough evidence that you were real.” Why? Because Romans 1 says the opposite.
However, just because they know this doesn’t mean they know this. Huh? Now I’m confusing you. Well, yea, because the unbeliever is confused. You see, the passage says that they suppress the truth in their unrighteousness. This means that they may so hold the truth down that they no longer see what is plain to them. It’s like when someone repeats a lie enough they start to believe it. That’s the same thing here. They push away the truth so much and so often that they have put themselves in a state of confusion. They know the truth, and they hate it, and don’t believe it.
What does that mean for you when you talk to friends, co-workers, or people on the street? It means that God has clearly demonstrated himself to them. They know He is real. So don’t let them play you by saying “they don’t believe that.” The truth is, not that they believe God is real but that they hate God and don’t want to know Him. They don’t want to follow Him. Because of their sin they want nothing to do with God, and so they will either make their own God, or disbelieve in God. But deep down, because God has revealed Himself to everyone, they know He exists.
This means you don’t need to know any arguments for God’s existence. You just need to know God.
Now let me use an example to bring all this together. I borrow this from Sye Ten Bruggencate.
Say someone who doesn’t know you or your spouse well comes up to you and tells you that they saw your spouse out walking the streets at night, selling themselves for money.
How do you respond? Do you respond by proving your spouse is in bed by 9pm and wakes up at 6am? Do you respond by saying, well that could be true, but you might be wrong? Do you respond by finding evidences that your spouse doesn’t do that?
No. You don’t respond by trying to demonstrate your spouse doesn’t do that. You respond by saying, “Not my husband,” or “Not my wife.”
So don’t do the same with God. Don’t prove He exists, because you know He does. They know He does, as Romans says. Instead, you tell them the truth. “God is in heaven, and you will have no excuse when you are judged.”
Love the Lord more. And don’t fear man, but fear God. You don’t need arguments, you just need to know your Lord.