1 Peter 3:13-22: Confessing and Defending the Faith

Prepared to give an answer (610x351)In today’s Church, probably for about the last 200 years, we’ve often heard about Christian “witnessing,” telling others about Jesus, and how every Christian is supposed to be a witness. Yet, that’s not true. But hear me out before you brand me a heretic. For what I’m going to share with you comes from the Bible. And as Christians, it’s good for us to have our worldview shaped by God’s Scriptures.

When the New Testament uses the word “witness,” it means telling someone else what you’ve seen with your own eyes. If you didn’t see it, you can’t witness about it. It’s like being a witness in a court of law. If you didn’t see something, you can’t testify about it.

Now, Jesus does tell His Apostles to be witnesses, eyewitnesses, to what they had seen. That’s because they did see Jesus do what He did with their own eyes. But after the first generation of Christians, Scripture no longer tells those brought into the Church to witness but, instead, to confess. Faith changed from seeing to hearing.

Jesus pointed forward to this shift when He said to Thomas: “Do you believe because you see me? Blessed are those who believe without seeing” (John 20:29). And, later, the Apostle Paul said, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Hearing is how we are brought and kept in the faith–through our ears, not our eyes.

If you haven’t seen something with your own eyes, then what you say only becomes your subjective experience against someone else’s. That’s not how God wants the Christian faith to be expressed, based on your subjective experience.

God wants us to take Jesus’ life-creating Word beyond mere feelings and subjective experiences to objective truths. That’s why after the first generation, the New Testament speaks of confessing, of saying the same thing that you have heard, not saying what your eyes have witnessed.

In the Greek, confess (homolego) literally means “to say the same thing.” After all, you haven’t seen Jesus do something with your own eyes. But you have heard about Him from the Word that has been preached into your ears. That’s why Scripture exalts us to walk by faith [that is, by what you have heard] and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

1 John 2:23 says, “… the one who confesses the Son also has the Father.” And this confessing agrees with the truth of who Jesus is. The Apostle John later says: “Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come as a human is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God” (1 John 4:2-3). God calls us to confess the Christian faith (1 Timothy 6:12), the Christian hope (Hebrews 10:23), and the Gospel (2 Corinthians 9:13). Those are objective truths that Christians are to speak as they confess the saving Word of Jesus to others.

And so we now come to what the Apostle Peter says. Peter, writing to Christians, both laity and pastor, said: “Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks about the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Always be a ready to defend the faith, ready to give a clear answer to anyone who asks you why you believe what you believe.

But how can you do that if you only know the basics of the Christian faith? To give a robust answer, you must know the faith in a robust way. And how can you know the faith in a robust way if you don’t make a robust effort to learn it?

You may think that you’ve learned all you need to know from the sermon or the Catechism all those years ago. But that’s not true. Jesus told His Apostles to preach repentance into the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47). And if you take Jesus at His word, the sermon’s purpose then is to bring you to repent of your sin, so you are brought again into His forgiveness.

The sermon’s purpose isn’t to teach, although teaching does happen. It’s to bring you to repent and then hunger for the forgiveness that Jesus gives. That’s why the Lord’s Supper follows the sermon. That’s by design, not by accident. If a pastor preaches repentance into the forgiveness of sins, he’s always preaching you to the Lord’s Supper.

To confess the faith is to know the faith. According to a proper Christian worldview, the most-important hour of the week is the Divine Service. The second most-important hour is then Bible class. You can’t speak of what you don’t know. And today, the whispered lies of Satan against God have become more and more sophisticated. Bible class will help arm you to defend and understand the faith as you should.

It’s easy to be lulled into thinking that you know enough. After all, Jesus saves us. Isn’t that enough to know? And yes, that is a proper, faith-based understanding, that Jesus saves you, but with a sinful-nature conclusion–that I don’t need to know more than that. The Apostle Peter says otherwise.

So does Jesus. How are you to learn the “all” that Jesus told His Apostles to teach if you don’t open yourself to instruction? Learning the “all” that Jesus commanded doesn’t happen on its own. It takes active listening and learning. And on this side of heaven, the Christian is never to stop learning. We should always be hungry to learn more of what it means to be God’s baptized child. Bible class will help in that way.

And the more you know, the more God’s truths become ingrained within you, the better you can confess and defend the hope that is in you. We have Bibles, we have Bible classes, and we have the Lutheran Confessions. Ignorance is no excuse.

To confess Christ is to defend the faith. It’s not talking about your experiences, for experiences vary from person to person. One person can have a powerful awakening where God turns his life around. One day, he is hell bound in unbelief; the next, he’s on his way to heaven, confident in Jesus, his Savior. Yet, someone else may not have such an experience. God brought him into the Church as an infant through the waters of holy baptism. He has known Christ as long as he can remember.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all religious experience for Christians. But there is this common denominator: It’s as the Apostle Peter tells us at the end of our epistle reading: “Baptism now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21).

Defending the faith isn’t talking about yourself. It’s talking about what God reveals of Himself to us for us to believe and confess. God gives us the reason for the hope that is in us. Knowing that, you are then better able to answer the people who are going to ask you, “Why?” Why do you go to church? Why do you believe in God? Why do you worship Jesus? Why do you call yourself a Christian and what does that mean? People want to know. You get to tell them.

Our silence is our sin. We have failed to give a reason for our hope. We have failed to do it with gentleness and respect. We have failed to do it with a good conscience, which is the gift that God gives us in our baptism.

Baptism is an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are free, forgiven people. We have nothing to lose because we have everything in Christ. We have nothing to fear, because faith in Christ trumps all fear.

Forgiveness means freedom, even freedom to risk, even freedom to fail. Now, as God’s people, we should never choose failure. We should never keep ourselves so ignorant of the truths of the faith that, by doing so, we cannot defend what we believe and why. We should always be able to give the reason for the hope that we have to the genuinely curious, even to the scoffer and skeptic.

What is that hope? It’s the sacrificial blood of Jesus forgiving your sins, making you righteous before God. That righteousness isn’t your own, but Christ’s. And because He lives, you, too, will live. Not even death can separate you from God’s love in Christ Jesus. Why is that? In baptism, God the Holy Spirit joins you to Christ’s death and burial, even connecting you to Jesus’ resurrection and life. That’s why baptism saves.

And then in His Supper, you personally receive what Jesus sacrificed to save you: His own body and blood. Christ even speaks the words of forgiveness into your ears through the pastor He has sent to you. And you believe this because Jesus is risen from the dead and live and reigns to all eternity. That’s the hope that you have!

The hope that God gives every Christian is what all people need. As someone brought into the Church, adopted into God’s family, you need not even be afraid of facing Jesus on Judgment Day. Why should you? In baptism, you’ve met Him where He suffered and died for you to take away your sins. Even more, you meet Him here, where He gives Himself to you every week in His Supper.

When the Holy Spirit is working in our lives, we never become tired of hearing this Gospel of Jesus. We never become weary of coming to church, of confessing our sins, of being absolved. Finding God’s refuge for us in our baptism never becomes old. And neither does eating and drinking the medicine of immortality that gives us eternal life. And always hungry to learn more of what it means to be God’s baptized child, we never become bored with Bible class, as we continue to learn the “all” that Jesus wants us to learn (Matthew 28:19-20).

As we receive those precious gifts, as we learn the content of the faith all the more, we are ready, willing, and able to give a reason for the hope that is in us, with gentleness and respect. So, do not fear. Do not be troubled. Instead, consider Christ the Lord as holy, always being ready to give a defense to anyone who asks about the hope that is in you. Amen.



  1. Friendly Lutheran says

    This is a healthy distinction! We are indeed confessors of the faith! However, while we are not eyewitnesses of the Resurrection, we are still witnesses to what God does through His people (1 Thessalonians 2:10-) and the living voice of the Gospel as it is proclaimed in messages just like yours and our shared confession as Church (regula fidei). And so the notion that we can “witness” to all people we can encounter about what God is doing is very, very biblical. Indeed, you have just done it with this post as you shared the power of the Gospel in the Divine Service through the Word you preached and the Sacraments your people shared. Furthermore, in doing so you have provided a powerful witness to the importance of confession! Praise be to His name!

    Οἱ μὲν οὖν διασπαρέντες διῆλθον εὐαγγελιζόμενοι τὸν λόγον.