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.1 Peter 3:15, KJV
This passage here has caused me a lot of stress over the years. Well, maybe not this passage itself, but the interpretation of application of it has definitely kept me up at nights, not to mention keeps the UPS guy busy dropping off new books on my doorstep.
But this idea that I needed to always be ready to give an answer to to give a defense has made Bible study a matter of life or death. When I started rethinking eschatology, or the study of the last days, back in 2015, I had no choice but to study until I felt like I was ready to give an answer. When I had questions about marriage and divorce, I had to study until I felt like I could give an answer. When I had questions about hell, Penal Substitutionary Atonement Theory, and creation, I studied the Bible, looked at the original language, listened to lectures, watched debates, read books, and spoke to my friends because… I had to always be ready to give an answer.
As the answers came, the questions multiplied, and as the questions multiplied, the reality that I could never answer all of the questions sufficiently began to dawn on me.
This, at first, brought panic.
The questions I was told had been figured out weren’t as easy to deal with as I thought. The answers given by trusted authors in commentaries and seminars didn’t seem to work. The great preachers of the past were good men who had a great love of God and were in search of truth, but their ability to quote dozens of scriptures in ever sermon didn’t make their arguments work for me.
That’s when it hit me…
“Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you…”1 Peter 3:15
Does my hope lie in my ability to answer deep theological questions that have been hotly debated for two thousand years? Questions that wonderful God-loving Christians have sincerely answered differently?
Does my hope lie in my ability to ace a Bible quiz or place first in Bible trivia?
Does my hope lie in my own knowledge and understanding?
The Proverbs writer said, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be a healing for your flesh and a refreshment for your body.Proverbs 3:5–8
Trusting in your own knowledge and understanding makes the body sick and produces anxiety, but when we turn to the Lord, healing is available. I like how the Message paraphrases this passage,
Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for GOD’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to GOD! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life!Proverbs 3:5–8
Jesus is our hope. We don’t have to depend upon ourselves. While studying theology and asking tough questions is fun, our hope is in Jesus and all he has done for us. Let go of the need to know and trust that you are already known.
Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge, but anyone who loves God is known by him.1 Corinthians 8:1–3