In all seriousness though, I get that it's a little unsettling to think of the idea of someone asking you about your faith and you having to give a reason for it right there on the spot.
But in equal seriousness it's truly something we're all called to do, isn't it?
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
While I don't think we're all gifted for and called to active, public, unsolicited evangelism (I think there is a gift of evangelism),1 I do think it's clear that we are all equipped (it's not even a special spiritual gift, but anyone who is in Christ is equipped), to give an answer to anyone who asks us for the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.
And it might seem scary at first.
But it shouldn't. And here's why. You're not called to convert the person. You're called to give an answer as to why you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
And why do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?
I'll tell you why I do.
Because He saved me!
It's basically that simple.
I mean, yeah, you elaborate on how and from what He saved you.
Like that you were dead in your sins and in rebellion against God in thought and deed; and Christ, having loved you with a love so deep, that, though being God, He descended on earth and became a man in order to live a perfect life and die on the cross in the place of all those who trust in Him, so that rising again from the dead He would save all who call upon Him as Lord and Savior - that the Father would then count Christ's own perfect righteousness to the ungodly sinner (like you) who, by His grace, has trusted in Him for salvation.
Something like that.
All this comes from the Bible though, what if they ask about how I can trust the Bible? Don't I need to memorize a bunch of facts about how the Bible was produced and its historical reliability, etc.?
It's never bad to have some of that information on hand, but it's not necessary in order to give a reasoned response as to why you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let's take a look at those verses again. Paul says to the Colossians, "Walk in wisdom toward outsiders."
Now it's important to realize that in this same letter Paul describes all true wisdom as being found in the person of Jesus Christ: in Him, "are hidden all the treasure of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:2).
Likewise, Peter says that, as the foundation to always being prepared to give a defense, you must, in your heart, set apart Christ as Lord. In other words, you must stay committed to Him as your one true authority in life and not leave the high ground of His word (Mt. 7:24, 25) for the unstable shifting sand of the unbeliever's word (Mt. 7:26, 27).
Remember this: there is no unbeliever who is neutral toward God (Mt. 12:30; Rom. 3:10-11, 8:7-8; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 4:17-18), and there is no area of life (even thought life) that is neutral in regard to the Creator and Sustainer of all things (Col. 1:16, 17).
So don't be tempted to put down the Word of the very One who saved you - in order to come to some alleged "neutral" territory to where you can argue back to the validity of His word. If you do that, His Word is no longer your authority, which means, in effect, He is no longer your Lord.
He saved you from that kind of thinking. So don't abandon back to it in order to make your case on how you were saved. You trusted in Him to save you from your sins; surely you can trust in Him when talking to an unbeliever who doesn't accept the Bible as the word of your Lord.
Stand on His Word, and from that position explain to anyone who asks why you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now when I say that, the next question is generally, "Wouldn't that basically be circular reasoning?"
Not in an illogical, vicious sense, no.
Everyone has a final authority to which they must appeal in order to give a reason for their other beliefs.
For example, when thinking about the nature of man, the Christian believes (or should believe) that man is fallen (Rom. 3:10-18, 5:12-14; cf. Ps. 51:5), and, apart from God's gracious work in him, is unable to turn to God for salvation (Rom. 8:7, 8; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 2:1-3, 4-10).
Why does the Christian believe this (or why should he believe this)? Because his final authority for all of life - the Bible - says it. But why does the Christian view the Bible as his final authority? Or, on what basis has he decided that the Bible is his final authority for all of life?
Well it's not by his own reasoning. Since the Christian is no longer futile in his thinking (Eph. 4:17, 18) but has the mind of Christ (Eph. 4:20-24; cf. 1 Cor. 2:16), he takes for granted that the Bible is the Word of God and his final authority for all of life.
If the Christian says, "I've examined all the evidence and have decided that the Bible is the Word of God," then the Bible is not truly his final authority. His own reasoning is. And, according to the Bible, man's own reasoning is not the place to start (Rom. 1:21, 22-23; 1 Cor. 1:20, 21; Eph. 4:17, 18). Rather, the place to begin our thinking is with the fear of the Lord (Prv. 1:7, 3:5-6).
This means at the very outset (Prv. 1:7) we need to accept the Bible as our final authority, and on its own self-declared say so (Num. 23:19; Isa. 46:8-11).
So back to the question of circular reasoning...
When reasoning at the level of final authority it will always in some sense be circular, but it has to be at that level or else, as stated above, whatever you appeal to in support of your final authority, ends up itself becoming your final authority instead. Final authorities must be that - final.
Let me give you a quick example:
Let’s say that in your conversation the unbeliever claims that you, as a Christian, cannot appeal to the Word of God in establishing why you believe the Word of God to be your final authority. He might say, "You must give me rational justification - without using the Bible - as to why the Bible should be your final authority."
Now don't panic at this; simply point out that if that's the case, we must maintain, in a matter of fairness, that he also must now show - without using his final authority, presumably logic/reason/rationality etc. - why logic/reason/rationality should be his final authority.
And now he's in a quandary. If he avoids using logic/reason/rationality in giving grounds for them being his final authority, he is being irrational (something he won't want to be), because he's abandoned logic/reason/rationality. And if he uses logic/reason/rationality, he is arguing in a circle - the very thing he is accusing you of being wrong for doing when you argue for the Bible as your final authority.
All final authorities are just that - final. And so in a broad sense of the term, arguments for them must be circular.
So what happens next?
The conversation could lead various ways; but as you have the opportunity, press him on his own final authority. If the Bible is not the final authority in his life, where does he get his ultimate standard for truth, for morality, for thought?
He will not be able to give you a cogent answer. Ultimately his standard for truth, morality, thought, or anything else will be arbitrary, subjective, or simply pragmatic - none of which are authoritative or rationally defensible.
Truly, with the Lord over all these things at your side, you will quickly find the unbeliever being the one on the defensive, trying as much as he can to hide from the very God regarding whom he is in rebellion.
But amazingly, as you press him on this issue (gently and respectfully) and call him to repentance, you could also just as quickly see the Lord opening his eyes to the truth that without trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, he can't make rational sense out of anything in his life, and he needs to repent and trust Christ to be his Lord and his Savior.
Now regardless of the outcome, the important thing is, you did your part. You gave an answer - a similar answer to the one Peter equipped his flock with in the same epistle he was instructing them to defend their hope. And why did the believers he was writing to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Peter tells us in chapter one:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
You believe in the Lord Jesus Christ because according to the great mercy of God the Father, He has caused you to be born again to a living hope through Christ's resurrection! And it is He who keeps you in the faith by His own power.
You need not fear anything, my friends. Trust in Christ as your Lord and give an answer from His Word as your final authority. In doing this, you will not fail.
If you would like any clarifications in this, please contact me.
But all I can say now is, be bold in the Lord. Whether you're wearing this shirt to the park with your family, to the grocery, to a ball game - no matter where you wear it, wear it with confidence that He who saved you is your Lord and final authority, and is no match for an unbeliever who is in darkened in his mind and heart and in rebellion against God (Mt. 12:30; Rom. 3:10-11, 8:7-8; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 4:17-18). He truly doesn't have a leg to stand on, whereas you are standing on the rock of Christ.
Still some slight hesitation? Again, contact me for clarification. But I strongly encourage you to wear this shirt or one like it. Either way I think you'll realize it's a lot easier than you think, that God will use this to grow you in your own faith, and that He will also use it in converting His chosen elect who are as of yet not in Christ.
(1) I generally get in trouble for saying that not everyone who is in Christ has the gift of evangelism - that it actually is a spiritual gift given by God to certain individuals (but see Eph. 4:11; or even 1 Pet. 4:10-11, where some have speaking gifts, some have serving gifts).
I think it's pretty evident, but I get the antagonism against the idea.
After all, aren't we all called to participate in the Great Commission (Mt. 28:28-30)?
Yes, we're all called to do our part in discipling the nations. But not all are called to "go" (Acts 13:2; cf. Rom. 10:15), not all are called to "baptize" (1 Cor. 1:17), and not all are called to "teach" (Rom. 12:4-5, 7; cf. Jas. 3:1).
However all are called to use the spiritual gifts they do have (Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12) so that when each part is working properly, the church (and might I say, kingdom of God - Col. 1:13) is built up in love (Eph. 4:15-16).
I do think we ought to consider that it indeed might be better for the church if those gifted with "helps" (1 Cor. 12:28) actually "stay home" (1 Thess. 4:11-12; cf. 1 Sam. 30:24) and provide acts of service to the body so that those with the gift of evangelism can be out there "on the streets."
But this isn't a crucial argument in this post, so I'll leave it alone.