[K:NWTS 25/3 (December 2010) 11-24]

The Christian Apologist in the Present State of Redemptive-History

William D. Dennison

As Christ's church lives out her pilgrimage in the sovereign plan of the triune God of the Bible, we face the question—should her present status in that plan include a significant role as a defender of the truth of orthodox Christian thought? Typically, the church's present position in redemptive-history is not a serious consideration for the Christian apologist. Although aware that he is operating in history with the canon of Scripture closed and the data for the evidence of Christianity now considered effectively somewhat complete, the typical apologist does not make a self-conscious effort to understand his task in the context of his position in the progressive providential plan of God. Normally, apologetics involves engaging a non-Christian, or non-Christian thought, by building deductive and/or inductive arguments in order to demonstrate the authentic truth of the Christian religion. In other words, this particular apologist goes into the marketplace of ideas equipped with tools: the laws of logic, capable of convincing any rational creature of the evidences for Christianity; Christian revelation capable of compelling surrender from any autonomous creature; and/or the stories of personal experience capable of melting the heart of any unbeliever. Clearly, for many engaged in the apologetics, the goal is to defend the historic truth of the religion found in the Bible—to present and win the arguments of engagement in the hope of the unbeliever's becoming convinced of the Christian faith.

On the other hand, a different and richer view of the apologist's task before the unbelieving world emerges when that task is shaped by a commitment to the self-attesting Christ of Scripture in conformity to the progressive revelation of God in history. This version of apologetics keeps a focus on where the church stands in revelational history, acknowledging that with respect to the metaphysical, psychological, epistemological, and ethical elements of the apologetic task, a change has occurred in history—Christ has arrived and has been exalted. The "fullness of time"—redemptive history—has come in the person and work of Jesus Christ (Gal. 4:4). The gracious promise of God in the federal head of the new covenant (the eternal Son) has come into history as one born under the law in order to bring the transition of the eschaton into the life of Christ's bride and the creation (Gal. 3:15-19, 29; Col. 1:15-18). The church has now moved into the period when the justifying grace of God in Christ has dissolved the divide between Jew and Gentile, slavery and freedom, male and female (Gal. 3:28-29). By virtue of the birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, the kingdom of heaven has already arrived—the eschaton "now" is (Mark 1:15; Luke 4: 16-21; 4:43; 1 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 1:1; 1 Jn. 2:18). Although the eschaton has "already" begun (Gal. 4:4; 2 Cor. 5:17; 6:2; Eph. 2:2-3, 12-13; Titus 2:12; Phil. 2:15), it has "not yet" been consummated, i.e., its completion still remains in the future (Rom. 8:18; Eph. 1:21; 2:7; 2 Tim. 3:1; 4:1).

In the construct of Paul's eschatology in harmony with the canon of the New Testament, the church/believer now lives in two aeons or worlds: the age/world to come and the present evil age/world. Although the present pilgrimage continues in the tension of the two ages, the church/believer is only a member or citizen of the age to come—not a member or citizen of the present evil age (Phil. 3:20). More specifically, the covenantal flock of Christ has its citizenship in heaven where she enjoys her exclusive identity in union with Christ (Rom. 6:1-14; Gal. 6:14-15; Eph. 2:1-10; Col. 3:1-4; 1 Cor. 1:30-31). Hence, in Paul's eschatological structure, the age to come (glory of heaven) is identified with its federal head, the Last Adam, i.e., the person and work of Christ as grounded in his death, resurrection, and ascension. By contrast, the present evil age is identified with its federal head, the First Adam, i.e., the person of Adam, fallen into sin, caught in the web of seduction of the god of that age, Satan (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:20-23; 2 Cor. 4:4).

The implications of this eschatological position are crucial for believers facing the apologetic task. To begin with, the apologist does not stand on earth pointing the unbeliever to heaven (where Christ is); rather, the apologist stands in heaven—"age to come"—pointing the unbeliever to heaven. You must start with heaven to get to heaven; you must start with eternal life to receive eternal life; you must start with God to inherit God; and you must start with the gift (grace) in order to receive the gift (grace). In apologetics, you begin with your identity in Christ as part of the bride of Christ in the heavenly places, and you defend Christ and full-orbed Christian theism from this position of identity (a heavenly atmospheric presence). For this reason, the apologist cannot start with an independent appeal to the faculty of reason (logic) or temporal experience (empirical data), since the apologist, through Christ's Spirit, is already draped in the glorious atmosphere of Christ's presence in heaven. In Christ, the apologist's faculty of reason and experience has been transformed by the mind of Christ—locked by a perspective of heavenly existence as he defends the sacred faith against those whose reason and experience is conditioned by the mind of rebellion and suppression against the truth of the Creator. This antithetical status between the age to come and the present evil age, the kingdom of heaven (triune God) and the kingdom of hell (Satan), and the believer and the unbeliever, does not share a common platform of reason and experience. The Christian apologist's mind is shaped by the cognitive translation of all things through union with Christ in the heavenly places, whereas the unbeliever's mind is blindly, stubbornly, and arrogantly translating all things through a grid of obedience to the evil one. The former binds reason and experience to a heavenly existence: the latter binds reason and experience to a temporal and earthy existence. After all, as the Westminster Confession speaks of all our human faculties being affected by the fall, clearly, all our human faculties would be affected and transformed by our redemption in Christ. Christians who fail to acknowledge this point will continue to live equally in the world of classical synthesis between secular Greco-Roman thought and in the world of Christian revelation. As Van Til has demonstrated, such a position is found in Roman Catholic thought, Arminianism, and less-than-consistent Calvinism. The world of antiquity and the coherent understanding of Christian revelation are antithetical; and, thus, the Christian apologist should never surrender or compromise their heavenly life in Christ in order to attempt to win unbelievers to the gospel—to do so allows the invasion of secularization into a holy heavenly existence (2 Cor. 10:5; 1 Cor. 6:19-20; Rev. 21-22).

Plainly, the apologist cannot overlook the fact that nothing is the same since Jesus came. Having ascended into the heavenly places with Christ, one can now, through faith-union with Christ, view all things through the new spectacles of heavenly reason and experience. The actual and literal historical work of Christ has changed everything; the event has ushered in a new interpretation. The eschatological event of Christ shapes the interpretation of all things, as the apologist is now in heaven even while continuing his pilgrimage in the creation. Unmistakably, in this condition and state of grace, the apologist will not discover such positions as Aristotle's view of reason or Locke's view of experience to be credible analogies to the truths in the eschatological mind of Christ Jesus.

The apologist is involved in a defense (apologia) of the eschatological state of heavenly life in Christ. For this reason, the apologist begins the apologetic task not with a creaturely or temporal conception of reason and experience on the same level as the unbeliever lives; rather, he begins with an imperative—the sanctity (hagiasate) of his covenant Lord in his heart as he enters into defense. What is the object of that defense? It is the hope that the Spirit of God has placed in the believing apologist (1 Peter 3:15). Peter places the corpus of this hope before the believer: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:3-5, NKJ). In a hostile world of suffering and persecution, the apologist defends the person and work of Christ (the gospel)—the assurance of what Christ's resurrection has "already" accomplished in history as the foundation of the believer's "not yet" resurrection (that hope) that is to come. With this context before us, it should be noted that if "reason" is the best translation for the term logos that appears within 1 Peter 3:15, the point stated earlier about the believer's use of reason is confirmed, i.e., this faculty must operate within the sanctified covenantal devotion to the Lord and his secured work of redemption in Christ. Herein, Peter's thinking can be supplemented with the revelation of the author of Hebrews, i.e., the apologist is always accompanied by faith that embraces the God who has spoken through his Son in these last days (Heb. 1:1-3), a faith that rests upon Christ as the source of "things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1).

It seems odd that academic apologists often have used 1 Peter 3:15 to justify their discipline in a seminary curriculum. Such professionals use this particular verse to declare that it is imperative for all believers to be engaged in an academic defense of the Christian faith. I have never been convinced of that particular interpretation of Peter's text, and my skepticism has been reinforced by looking at passages in the New Testament where the word apologia and its cognates are used—especially such references in the writings of Luke, not only his gospel, but also the Acts of the Apostles.

As we focus on this term in the Biblical theology of Luke-Acts, an interesting pattern emerges. First, in Luke 12:11-12, we note that Christ is speaking to his disciples (12:1); he is warning them about those who deny him and those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit (vs. 9-10). He then states, "Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer [verb form: apololesethe from apologeomai], or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say" (12:11-12). The verb form of apologeomai is the subjunctive, aorist, middle, 2nd person plural. In v. 11, Luke presents a phrase that has the following construct: me ("not") + aorist subjunctive = prohibitory subjunctive. The idea here is this: his phrase refers to action that has not yet begun. Specifically, the action of the disciples in providing an answer in persecution has not yet begun; hence, when the time of persecution arrives, they are not to worry because their response will be contingent upon the presence and words of the Holy Spirit (pointing to post-Pentecost). Moreover, as we add the middle voice here, we note that the disciples will speak receiving the active directive of the Holy Spirit.

Second, we turn our attention to Luke 21:14, where once again Christ is speaking to his disciples. Note the context in 21:12: Christ informs the disciples that they will be persecuted as they are delivered to synagogues and prisons—brought before rulers and kings; he then charges them, "Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer [verb form: apologethenai from apologeomai]; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist" (21:14-15). In this case, the verb form is the infinitive, aorist passive, communicating that the disciples will be passive, while the Lord will be the active transmitter of their wisdom.

Note the pattern: Christ is delivering a sincere and serious prophecy—the disciples will face suffering and persecution after he departs from them. Even so, Christ also declares a promise which will secure them in their trial. He promises that the Holy Spirit will provide for them an answer, a defense, for the gospel that is within them. In fact, both passages in Luke advise no prior preparation concerning what they are to say, e.g., a rehearsed answer, or academic apologetic talking-points. Rather, the presence of Christ through his Spirit will be sufficient. We must be careful to be precise here. Christ is not saying that the disciples are to go before their persecutors with a blank mind (a spiritual tabula rasa). Rather, he is saying that the Spirit will lead them with respect to the testimony that he has already placed within them—a testimony of the truth of the gospel in Jesus Christ. Their defense will arise by the directive and wisdom of the Holy Spirit which corresponds to the truth and testimony of the gospel that has taken root and is continuing to grow in their hearts. In other words, no one can say, "Jesus is Lord,"—no one can make a true defense that "Jesus is Lord" and all that that phrase means except by the Spirit of God. It is this type of confession and defense that Christ is promising to his disciples before their future persecutors.

The pattern here involves prophecy and promise: Christ prophesies the trial for his disciples, and Christ promises perseverance in that trial. We must not overlook the movement here in the history of redemption as espoused by Luke. This gospel is immersed in the prophetic dictates from the lips of our Savior, the one who controls the providential sequence of the whole course of history. Christ's prophecy takes place prior to his death, resurrection, and ascension (Lk. 12:11-12; 21:12-15). Therefore, after he leaves them at his ascension—in the period between his death, resurrection, and ascension and his second coming—Christ will continue to preserve them. The disciples will enter into an era defined by Christ—an era of church and kingdom characterized by trial, suffering, and persecution, in synagogues as well as in prisons; a time when kings and rulers will abstain from nothing to prevent the furtherance of the gospel. This harassment is the reality of living in the apostolic age—the reality of living between Christ's ascension and his second coming. In this final era of the history of redemption, what is Christ's gracious gift to the disciples in the church? It is his continual presence as mediator in the midst of his people through the release and abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. Christ's Spirit is the gift of grace to the disciples to secure their redemption and the church for the final day of Christ's glory.

What role does the present gift of the Holy Spirit play in the context of persecution? At the heart of Christians' perseverance, the Spirit provides a credible defense, i.e., an answer and testimony of the gospel in the midst of hostile opposition. Christ's prophecy and his promise of assurance in the final era of salvation for the disciples and the church will be fulfilled. Is this a trained defense or a professional academic defense? No, it is one defined by the events of the gospel—the redemptive acts and facts of God's work in the accomplished redemption of his Son in history. One's defense, one's answer is grounded in the work of Christ; what true believers have come to know in their heart and confess with their lips about the gospel of Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 10:10). The work of the factual activity of the triune God in history is the content of our defense; we (covenant people/church) do not first look to the temporal construct of reason and/or experience to mediate that activity. Rather, as Christ is seated on the right hand of his heavenly Father, he sends his Spirit who mediates the apologetic answer in the midst of suffering and trial, while the apologist is positioned in faith-union with Christ in heaven. The believer's reason and experience has been saturated by the aroma of glorification and from this glorified status of union with Christ, believers respond, through the Spirit, to attacks of unbelievers with the affirmation of the eschatological declaration of the Psalmist: "The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" (Ps. 118:6; cf. Rom. 8:31-39). Through his Spirit, Christ will not forsake his promise. We rely on this promise to the disciples and the church because of the testimony of Christ's letter to us from the pen of Luke. Christ takes the oath of promise, fulfills the promise, and records that fulfillment (in Luke-Acts) as a testimony of his covenant faithfulness to the truth of his word. Let us turn to that page of revelational history.

Luke takes us to Paul, who is Christ's chosen disciple and apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 22:1; 24:10; 25:8; 26:1). In the midst of hostile opponents—from the Jews and the Romans who bound him in Jerusalem (Acts 22:1) to Ananias, the high priest, and the Roman governor, Felix (Acts 24:10); from Festus (Acts 25:8) to King Agrippa (Acts 26:1)—Paul gives his defense (his answer) to his accusers about his relationship with the gospel of Christ. There is no mistake about the testimony that Paul delivers: Paul's life has been radically transformed by the appearance of the ascended Christ to him on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-9). As we see Paul testify before his accusers about this incredible event, we must be careful not to misconstrue his words as justification for a kind of personal testimony popular in the church today, which places subjective, self-gratification and self-authentication upon a pedestal. For too many evangelicals, the example of Paul's rehearsal of his conversion before his accusers (Jews/Romans in Acts 22:3-21; Agrippa in 26:2-27) is validation for all who get converted to give their personal testimony before the congregation or before those in the marketplace, thus granting personal testimonies center stage as the apologetic evidence of the work of Christ in the midst of the church.

A serious problem emerges if we view elevation of personal testimonies as the point of this passage concerning Paul in Luke's narrative. Religions (e.g., Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism) and systems of thought (e.g., Marxism, Socialism, and Democratic capitalism) also push to center stage the personal testimonies of their converts as evidence that their position is true. In that case, whose personal testimony must be believed? Which one can be authenticated as evidence of truth? On what basis should one believe the personal testimony of the convert to Christ over against the convert to Buddhism? No doubt, I have just opened a host of questions that I will not be able to address here. However, the reason we must deal with this issue of personal testimonies in the context of conversion is that it is imperative to perceive the unique character of Paul's conversion on the landscape of redemptive-history and its position in his defense (answer) before his accusers.

Paul's conversion is unique; it is a distinctive revelation of the exalted Christ to one who had persecuted Christ and his church, to one who has been designated the "apostle to the Gentiles" in redemptive-history. Such a conversion in relationship to his mission has neither been duplicated nor will it be duplicated in its full revelatory sense in the history of the church. Hence, when we place Paul's conversion in its appropriate position in the organic flow of redemptive-history, significant points are worth noting. As the Lord "appeared" to Abram to confirm his covenant to him—calling him out of the midst of pagan Gentile religious worship (Gen. 12:7), likewise, Christ "appears" as the "light" of the world to Paul in order to call him out of an apostate Jewish religion in order to return him to the Gentile world in order to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant (Acts 9:3; 22:6; 26:16). This unique position in relation to the historic revelatory "appearance" of the "Lord" in "covenant" to his chosen servant both ties and propels the gospel to the nations—the Gentiles (Gen. 12:7; 17:5; Acts 1:8; 9:15; 26:16-17). This point is further impressed upon us in the context of Paul's own persecution and imprisonment. Hear the pointed words of Christ as he comes to assure Paul of his unique status in the history of redemption (Acts 23:11): "Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome."

Furthermore, Christ's "appearance" to Paul on the road to Damascus not only directs us back to the Abrahamic covenant, but it also opens up to us the revelatory content of Christ as the "light of the world:" he appears to Paul as "light"—pushing us to reflect upon the fact that Christ has come into the world to overcome the darkness of sin and evil. Christ's appearance in association with the light impels us back to the original creation, in which God separates the darkness from the light (Gen. 1:3-5; first day). Indeed, in the original creation the light brings resolution to a dark universe. In Paul's conversion, Christ's grace penetrates Paul's heart of darkness, which had hated and persecuted the church. Yes, Christ reveals himself in the light—a light so glorious and so marvelous that it brings blindness to this new elect servant so that he can understand that no eye has seen what Christ has laid aside in glory for those whom he loves. Indeed, when sight is restored to Paul, he is completely absorbed with viewing the world through eyes that have been to glory, eyes that have seen the risen Savior in all his splendor, eyes of someone transformed into the new eschatological creation.

Moreover, this Christ revealed in light points Paul to the Old Testament testimony of Christ, including the pillar of fire by night—Israel's "light" in a dark and desolate wilderness, representing the presence of Christ, redeeming them, directing them, and defending them. And we cannot forget that other unique appearance of the Lord to a chosen vessel in the midst of a burning bush that would not be consumed. Moses is chosen by the Lord to secure for Israel redemption out of bondage. Then, although Paul is the designated apostle to the Gentiles, the Lord makes clear that Paul is also called to the lost sheep of Israel (Acts 9:15; 26:17).

This religious transformation in Paul turns his prior life completely on its head. Prior to this conversion event, Paul's reason and experience were shaped by his identity as a Pharisaic Jew born as a Roman citizen. Applying the rational and experimental presuppositions of someone with this identity, Paul could not accept Jesus as the promised Messiah, nor did his life as a Roman citizen leave any room for the Lordship of Jesus and citizenship solely in heaven. On the Damascus road, however, those prior presuppositions are entirely truncated by the revelation of the exalted Christ. Paul's life is freed from the bondage of Jewish and Roman unbelief. Specifically, Paul's reason and experience are transformed by the redemptive-historical content of revelation being communicated to him in this conversion event. He now understands (reason) his position in the progressive revelation of the gospel starting with Abraham and leading on to the Gentile world in the apostolic age. The revelation, upon his conversion, has made him a participant in God's revelatory activity in the past, i.e., he is now a participant in God's promises to Abraham as well as God's prophetic word for the Gentiles. As a Pharisaic Jew, he had been merely a spectator and, thus, he could never truly experience Old Testament revelation as his own experience.

Furthermore, in the revelation of the Christ of heaven, Paul is now a participant in the domain of heaven's glory in Christ, whereas he was previously a spectator of that glory as he savored his citizenship in a kingdom of this world. When we comprehend what God is doing in this unique event of conversion in his progressive revelation, we understand that Paul's conversion is not a model for every conversion that occurs within Christendom. Rather, it is a unique event that serves the Father's purposes as his Son ushers in "the fullness of time" (Gal. 4:4). In this new atmosphere of time, God will bring the earthly into captivity of the gospel. In particular, the Lord uses Paul's status of being a Roman citizen in order to fulfill the prophecy Christ gave to him, i.e., as God's chosen servant to the Gentiles, kings, and Israel, his destination is a life of suffering leading to imprisonment and final death (Acts 9:15-16; remember Paul's destiny must always be tied to Acts 1:8). Indeed, irony is involved here. Although Paul's mind, heart, and life reside in the heavenly places with Christ during his continual earthly journey (Eph. 1:2; 2:6; Col. 3:1-4; Phil. 3:20), his Roman citizenship assures the prophecy of his Savior that he will suffer for the gospel as his Lord takes him and the gospel to the "end of the earth" (Rome). Paul's appeal to his Roman citizenship is not an appeal to a two kingdoms doctrine for the sake of his ministry and the church; rather, Paul's appeal to that citizenship is only to undermine it for the purpose of serving his sole, real, and final citizenship in faith-union with his Savior who now sits at the right hand of his heavenly Father. Paul perceives that his journey even as a Roman citizen is death, but he now knows, in light of his citizenship in Christ's heavenly glory that he will not die. There is no boasting in an earthly domain; there is only boasting in Christ.

We have gone from the prophecy and promise of Christ to Paul's apology in the midst of his opponents and, then, back to Paul's conversion experience. Perhaps, we need to connect the dots clearly. Remember that Paul is Luke's paradigm in relation to Christ's words of prophecy and promise—Christ's prophecy that his disciples will suffer and be persecuted in the hands of kings and rulers and Christ's promises that in this era in redemptive-history the Spirit will provide a defense before their enemies. Christ's promise is fulfilled in Paul before Ananias, the high priest; the Roman governor, Felix (Acts 24:10); Festus (Acts 25:8); and King Agrippa (Acts 26:1). But what is the defense that Christ's Spirit supplies Paul in the midst of persecution and suffering? It is much richer than a personal testimony that we might hear in an evangelical church today. Paul's conversion, apology (defense), and testimony are grounded in the historical revelation of God as embodied in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ's self-revelation to Paul on the Damascus road incorporates the profundity of the original creation, in which light is the resolution to darkness; indeed the light of Christ is the only resolution to the darkness of sin as initiated in Adam's fall. Further, his conversion incorporates the "appearance" of the Lord in "covenant" to the nations—pointing us back to the Abrahamic covenant and the promises the Lord made to that patriarch, that out of Abraham's seed (Christ) the light would be extended to the nations. Moreover, in pointing to Moses, it incorporates the revelation and appearance of the Lord in redemptive-history as a consuming and blessed light that redeems, directs, and defends us. Herein lies the full-orbed gospel that convicted and converted Paul on the road to Damascus; it is the gospel that he came to know and love and declare before his persecutors. In this incredible testimony of sovereign grace, Christ turned him from being the persecutor to being the persecuted. In fact, in the providence of God, Luke shows that the Apostle Paul, rather than any of the disciples that Christ addresses in Luke's gospel, serves as the paradigm of the Spirit's defense and answer in the synagogues and before kings and rulers. As Christ's prophecy is fulfilled uniquely in this servant, we see the basic pattern of the Spirit's defense, which is extended into the entire period of the eschatological life of the church between Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension and his second coming. Let us return to Peter in order to consider this extension of the church's continual apologetic task.

In the post-apostolic era of the present eschaton, a promise from Christ to his church remains—the life pattern of suffering and hope. Peter embraces this promise in writing to his audience so that they realize that their lives will continue to be characterized by suffering after the apostles die (1 Peter 3:14). As long as the age to come and the present evil age collide, evil people will attack and threaten those who are righteous and live in the goodness of the Lord (see 1 Peter 3:10-17). In this context, defending the faithful Word of God will always involve believers' undergoing the tension between suffering and hope. After all, suffering in the hands of the church's accusers can be an extremely painful, agonizing, and even, gruesome experience. Nevertheless, it is in this exact historical context that we find the greatest comfort for the Christian apologist—faith-union with Christ in the heavenly places. From what better position could the Christian apologist present a defense and answer in a painful and sinful world? Even as he is enduring persecution and assault for the sake of the gospel, he is enveloped with the goodness, holiness, righteousness, justice, and peace of Christ's heavenly eternal glory. The apologist's eternal hope is established and assured in a suffering and chaotic world.

With the apologist's present identity with Christ established, how does he combat his accusers? The apologist begins with cleaving to the blessings of being in Christ (1 Peter 3:14). In 1 Peter 3:15, Peter tells us to "sanctify the Lord God in your hearts." Specifically, this phrase in the original Greek says, "But sanctify (consecrate) Christ as Lord in your hearts." Here Peter is not indicating the believer's process of sanctification; rather, sanctify here means to "set apart" and to be "holy for sacred purposes." Christ the Lord is set apart; the name and person of Christ the Lord is holy for a sacred purpose. Set apart for what? Holy for what purpose? For the suffering believer's defense, apologia, answer, and testimony before accusers; Peter's imperative means that, as the foundation, starting point, and peaceful counselor in the apologetic situation, the believer must set apart Christ as Lord. This Christ—in whom the believer already shares the inheritance of his accomplished redemption—only this Christ compels us always to be ready to give the reason for the hope that is in us. At this point, we are reminded of Christ's promise of the Holy Spirit in Luke 12:11-12 and Luke 21:14-15 and the fulfillment of that promise in Paul's defense throughout the last part of Acts. There is, however, a notable difference between Christ's word for the disciples facing opposition in the apostolic era and the body of the church facing opposition in the post-apostolic era. For the apostles, Christ's Spirit will immediately intervene with a defense and answer before their adversaries, whereas the post-apostolic church is given an imperative to defend and answer their adversaries. Nevertheless, in both eras the Holy Spirit operates in relationship to the person of Christ at all times. Since the Spirit has placed Christ within believers and has set Christ apart in their heart, the Spirit will voice their defense before accusers as believers testify about the accomplished redemptive-historical work of God in Christ as found in the final canon of Scripture (see 1 Peter 1:11-12; 1:3).

Clearly, the Holy Spirit's voice is to go forth in the apologist with meekness, humility, and fear. Fear of man? No, it is the fear of God because as a believer the apologist is to have absolute reverence for the Lord of blessing and judgment in the marketplace. And when the apologist's Christ-centered hope is placed before his persecutors, he must not deviate from the message of truth that is grounded in Christ so that his "good conduct" (vs. 16; cf. 2:12 same Greek word) will shame unbelief. By contrast, if the apologist's defense crosses the line by vilifying and/or slandering the unbeliever (i.e., the apologist spitefully abuses the unbeliever with a spirit of vengeance), then the apologist has turned to evil, having passed over the bounds of conducting himself "in Christ" (vs. 16).

How can a believer know he is ready for the marketplace? Peter's life offers encouragement as we see how he grew into embracing a mature faith. He had denied his Savior before Christ's sacrificial death, but, as the Holy Spirit invaded his heart in repentance and faith, the tremendous weight of guilt was released by a gracious and redeeming Savior. For this reason, Peter could face his own death prophesied by Christ with the hope that Christ put in him. Christ remained his hope. The work of Christ in the past assured Peter's blessed inheritance in the future. This hope in Christ is so powerful, so assuring, so convincing, that it is the apologia—the defense of the believer in a hostile marketplace. The believer is impregnable when he defends the hope of Christ since his life is encompassed by what Christ has done in the past, what Christ is doing in the present, and what Christ will do in the future (cf. Ps. 27:1-3; 118:6; Rom. 8:31-39). This blessed hope, grounded and centered in one's union with Christ in heaven is what the apologist takes into the hostile world of ideas. And we can rest assured that, as the Christian embraces the full-orbed gospel, the Spirit of Christ is the voice of the believer. Indeed, comprehending the position of the apologist in the history of redemption, we have every reason for confidence, strength, stability, and surety of Christ's preservation in the continuing tension of the two ages since it is an apologetic from Christ's Spirit in heaven. In this apologetic, the apologist's reason and experience is rooted in, shaped by, and projected from an entirely different world-order as the believer stands along-side the enthroned Son at the right hand of the Father.

(This essay is an abridged edition of the opening section of my course, "Christian Apologetics" at Northwest Theological Seminary in Lynnwood, Washington. I express my appreciation to Mariam Mindeman for reading the text and making editorial suggestions.)