My husband and I served in ministry overseas for 24 years. Yet, despite experience and training, all too many times I felt stumped by questions about faith. I simply couldn’t come up with satisfying answers to difficult subjects. My picture of what does “always be prepared to give an answer” and the difficulty I faced with knowing what to say collided.
What Does 'Always Be Prepared to Give an Answer' Mean?
“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” 1 Peter 3:15 NIV.
“To be prepared” in the original Greek is “hetoimos,” an adjective giving the idea of being made ready or prepared.
“To give an answer” comes from the Greek “apologia” by which we get our English word “apologetics” meaning to give a defense. Various versions translate the word as “answer,” “defense” or “response.”
Peter, the same fisherman Jesus called from mending nets to become a fisher of souls, is beloved partly because he managed to stick his foot into his mouth at the most inopportune moments. I feel a certain affinity and affection for him because of this, perhaps you do as well.
Peter is the one quoted as not knowing what to say when Jesus was transfigured, so he said something anyway (Mark 9:6). How many of us have made that mistake? And in Matthew 16:23 Peter reproved Jesus’s words predicting Christ’s suffering and death. Jesus’ stern response, “Get thee behind me Satan,” showed again Peter’s readiness to speak without careful thought. Peter, shortly after declaring he was ready to die with Christ, emphatically denied Jesus three times.
“Always be prepared to give an answer” coming from the one-time-fisherman testifies of Peter’s spiritual growth. It confirms an exchange from his natural tendency of speaking far too quickly to one who spoke with considered preparation. It demonstrates a disciple submitted to the Holy Spirit ready to give a verbal defense despite great testing of faith.
Let’s back up to see a fuller picture of the context into which Peter tells his listeners to “always be prepared to give an answer.”
Peter wrote the letter of 1 Peter near the end of his life. The culture was unfriendly toward believers. Christians became scapegoats for Rome’s burning and the ripples turned into a tsunami of persecution throughout the empire. Jesus’ followers lived with physical and emotional duress under mounting persecution.
In the verses immediately before Peter’s call for preparedness, he speaks about suffering for doing good. The Christians of Asia Minor faced injustices and a social climate of uncertainty.
Peter wrote to give them hope. He didn’t want them to become bitter or renounce their faith in the middle of grueling trials. He encouraged them to live victoriously within difficult circumstances, trusting Christ, and to respond with gentleness and meekness. He believed this testimony would work to evangelize the world around them.
Peter taught acceptance and obedience to the Gospel despite hardship, inviting questions about faith. Thus, he makes a case for intelligent preparation. He wanted his readers to know how to verbally support their perseverance in the faith.
What if I'm Not Prepared Enough?
Jesus Himself promised to help us know how to give an answer in life-threatening persecutions.
“When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say” Luke 12:11-12 NIV.
“But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” Matthew 10:19-20 NIV.
“Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit” Mark 13:11 NIV.
If God Prepares Me, Does That Still Mean I Have to Prepare Myself?
After being in various ministry positions for many years, I always see the need for more preparation; however, never should I allow lack of preparation to be an excuse.
The authors of Scripture instruct us about the importance of truly knowing God’s Word so we can be always prepared to give an answer. The best preparation comes with consistently reading and studying God’s Word.
Paul instructed in 2 Tim. 2:15 NIV, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
Scripture speaks in its own defense. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” 2 Tim. 3:16-17 NIV.
The Bible is our anchor for the defense of our faith. When someone sincerely wants to know the reason for our faith, God’s Word is powerful. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” Heb. 4:12 NIV.
Knowing God’s Word well is a lifelong pursuit. Digging in His Word for answers is one of the first and foremost disciplines of the disciple of Jesus.
Why Is it Important to Always Be Prepared to Give an Answer?
It is important to always be prepared to give an answer because Scripture commands it. As obedient believers, it is our duty to be diligent in our preparation to defend Biblical truth. (Col. 4:6 NIV).
As we see in Acts, the first Christians had to defend their faith (Acts 4:20 ESV). By their bold declaration of the gospel, it spread.
We live in a world today drifting farther and farther from knowledge of Jesus Christ and His gift of salvation. Paul reminds us of the power of the Gospel itself (Romans 1:16 ESV).
Eternity is at stake. “Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” 2 Timothy 2:25-26 NIV.
When we are prepared to give an answer, our own faith strengthens (Philemon 1:6 ESV).
The nature of spiritual growth demands that we continue to mature in sound biblical knowledge so that His power can flow through His Words to turn hearts to the Gospel of Christ. Peter’s instruction, always be prepared to give an answer, speaks directly to me and to every person passionate for others to know Jesus.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Greenleaf123
Sylvia Schroeder loves connecting God’s Word with real life and writing about it. She is a contributing writer for a variety of magazines and online sites. Sylvia is co-author of a devotional book and her writing is included in several book compilations. Mom to four, grandma to 14, and wife to her one and only love, Sylvia enjoys writing about all of them.
Her love for pasta and all things Italian stems from years of ministry abroad. She’d love to tell you about it over a steaming cup of cappuccino. Connect with Sylvia on her blog, When the House is Quiet, her Facebook page, or Twitter.
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