But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear…
1 Peter 3:15
Our text above is an interesting one, especially in light of some of the modern “soul-winning” tactics. A careful examination of this verse reveals several important points regarding being a witness of Jesus Christ. These points might just challenge what we’ve been taught over the years concerning sharing the gospel. It would be worth our time to see if our definition of “witnessing” agrees with the apostle’s instruction.
“sanctify the Lord God in your hearts” – We cannot be an effective witness for Christ unless we see the Lord in His glory. The word sanctify here means “to make holy”. Of course, we can’t make God any more holy than He already is. This phrase tells us rather that we must witness with a clear view of His holiness. As the verse reads, He must be holy “in your hearts”! How can we declare His greatness to others if we don’t stand in awe of His majesty ourselves? If you ever see Jesus Christ in His glory, no one will have to teach you what to say as His witness. You will confess His absolute holiness, His eternal righteousness, and His great power. You will declare that He alone is mighty to save! (Is 63:1)
“always be ready” – Witnessing isn’t something that only happens one night a week with your church group or twice a year on a mission trip. God provides opportunities for witnessing “always”! So, how can we always be ready? By practicing the other things the word of God instructs us to “always” do! We should be ever watchful and prayerful. (Lk 21:36, Eph 6:18) We should live in constant thankfulness to God for all things, never complaining but ever rejoicing! (Eph 5:20, Ph 2:14, 4:4) We should be continually denying this flesh, dying to its lusts and appetites, that Christ might be manifested in us. (2 Cor 4:10) We should always meditate upon the word of God, walking in constant obedience to what He’s called us to do. (1 Tim 4:13-15, 1 Cro 15:58) In short, if we would “always” be ready, we should be “always” doing what we do for the glory of God! (Col 3:17, 1 Cor 10:31)
“to give a defense to everyone who asks” – Notice this witness is a “defense”, not an “offense”. In football, the offense determines the play, while the job of the defense is to properly respond to it. In other words, our defense is a response to questioning by others. The way we live our lives should be such a strong testimony that it makes others ask, “Why do you live the way you do?” When they see others crushed by the same experiences in which we triumph, it should prompt them to question, “Why are you so hopeful and not in despair like others would be in your situation?” Like the godly wife that’s married to an unbelieving husband in 1 Pet 3:1, our manner of life should preach the gospel so strongly that lost souls, “without a word, may be one by the conduct” of the Christians they see living around them. We can quote the Bible all day, but we destroy our witness if the things we do don’t back up the word we’re speaking. It is by our “good works which they observe” that men will be affected for their eternal good so that they might “glorify God in the day of visitation.” (1 Pet 2:12, Mt 5:16)
“with meekness and fear” – We must not share the hope we have with others in a high-minded, I-know-more-than-you-do sort of way. We are to deal with others in meekness. “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth…” (2 Tim 2:24-25) How can we deal with all men in meekness? By also maintaining a proper “fear” of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom. (Ps 111:10) When we properly fear God, we won’t lose sight of who we were before God saved us. If we always remember where we came from, we will be able to be a servant to all men and will never think of ourselves as better than anyone else. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” (Ph 2:3)