“But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense (ἀπολογίαν) to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:14-16).
- The arena of apologetics is “suffering,” “intimidation,” “slander,” and “reviling” – the believer is “blessed” just by being in this arena.
- The root & foundation of apologetics is the holy of holies (“sanctify”) in the heart of the believer, where Christ rules all as the only Lord.
- The method of apologetics is not just “a defense,” but “good behavior in Christ.”
- The attitude of apologetics is “gentleness and reverence,” and not “troubled” or “fearing.”
- The subject of apologetics is “hope that is in you.”
- The rule of apologetics is “a good conscience.”
- The result of apologetics is “shame” for the unbeliever.
It seems to me that, in the evangelistic encounter and/or debate with an unbeliever, the apologist stands before God being humbled and tested “to know what was in your heart” (Deuteronomy 8:2), just as the preacher (2 Corinthians 2:17; 4:2; 12:19).
“Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory...” (Romans 9:21-23). The “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” are allowed to continue so that God can “make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy.” The arena of apologetics is not for the purpose of scoring points, humiliating opponents with superior debate skills/logic, or the establishment of truth (for truth is not determined by the reasoning of man) – the arena of apologetics is the place where God calls the apologist to the blessedness deeper humility before Him in Christ to reveal the riches of His glory in the mercy He has poured out on the apologist.
And, I have to add, the arena of apologetics is a place where the all three Persons of the One true God glorifies Himself:
- “Behold, I [the Son] send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father Who speaks in you” (Matthew 10:16-20).
- “But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:9-11).
- “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I [the Son] will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute” (Luke 21:12-15).
In the debate, be humbled before the Trinity and His limitless eternal gracious mercy.