What does 1 Peter 3:15 mean?
ESV: 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,
NIV: 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,
NASB: but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, but with gentleness and respect;
CSB: but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.
NLT: Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.
KJV: But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
NKJV: 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;
Verse Commentary:
In the previous verse, Peter instructs Christians not to fear those who cause them to suffer for the sake of Christ. In this verse, he reveals how believers should choose to respond, instead.

First, we should set aside our hearts as the place where Christ is fully honored as the Lord. Peter is writing to people who are already believers. His audience already understands Jesus to be the Lord of all. Still, he instructs Christians to focus intently on Christ's role as our master, living as if that were absolutely true in all cases, even in suffering. Peter calls us to full submission to Christ.

When we set apart Christ as Lord, it will change us. Peter says those who observe us will notice the difference. That difference is hope. Even in the midst of our suffering, our hopefulness should be apparent. So, Peter instructs us to be ready to answer the question our life should inspire: "How can you be so hopeful in such difficult circumstances?"

Peter anticipates people will become curious. Hopefulness and joy are starkly different from the normal human response to suffering. So much so that people will be eager to understand it. What will we say when they ask? We must be prepared to give our defense, to make the case for faith in Christ. We need to reject the cultural pressure to keep our beliefs to ourselves. Instead, believers should openly share the good news of redemption through faith in Christ.

The Greek word translated as "make a defense," or "give an answer" is apologian, from the root word apologia. This is not related to the English word "apology," where one expresses regret or remorse. Rather, the term means a justification, or an "answer back," or a reason. This is the source of the terms "apologetics" and "apologist," which refer to a rational defense of the Christian faith.

Finally, it matters how we make that case for Christ. We must present it with gentleness and respect. Christians are not called on to condemn those who are curious about our hopefulness. Nor are we to be vindictive, vengeful, or insulting to those who disagree. Rather, we should explain our faith without harshness or dismissiveness.
Verse Context:
1 Peter 3:8–22 addresses all believers, commanding Christians to be unified and to refuse to seek revenge when wronged. Peter quotes from both David and Isaiah to show that God’s people have always been called to reject evil and to do good. This is true even when we are suffering. In fact, it may be God’s will for His people to suffer, in part, to demonstrate His power. Our good example can convict others into repentance. Christ, too, suffered, died, was resurrected, and ascended to power and authority in heaven.
Chapter Summary:
Peter continues teaching about Christian submission to human authorities, now addressing Christian wives. Believing wives must be subject to their own husbands, even if the husband is not a follower of Christ. By doing so, they might win them to Christ through the example of their own changed lives and hearts. Christian husbands must honor their wives. All believers must live in unity together and refuse to seek revenge. In part, God means to use our hopeful response to suffering to provoke the world to see His power in us. Christ, too, suffered and then died, was resurrected, and ascended to heaven.
Chapter Context:
Peter’s letter to persecuted Christians is about how to endure suffering for faith in Christ. Thus far, he has assured Christians that their future is secure in eternity with God. We are His holy people, set apart for His specific purposes. Because of this, it matters that we live out that truth, even when we suffer. Christians are called to live in submission to every human authority, including kings, governors, and slave masters.
Book Summary:
Some 30 years after the resurrection of Jesus, Christians are facing greater persecution for their faith. How should they respond? How should we respond to suffering today? The apostle Peter writes this letter both to comfort believers and to encourage them to stay strong. He urges them to put all their hope in their perfect future with Christ, and to obey and trust Him in the present, even in their suffering. Christ suffered greatly; now the Christ-followers have the opportunity to follow Him even in this, showing His grace and power in their hopefulness, obedience, and faith.
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