During 2015, the Board for Home Outreach will present a series of articles with the theme “Be Ready to Give an Answer.” This title is drawn from 1 Peter 3:15: “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….” As Christians, all of us are to be on the lookout for opportunities to tell others about Jesus, our true basis for hope in this seemingly hopeless world. It is the board’s prayer that these articles will help you in your witnessing efforts.
Noah’s wife was Joan of Ark. Lot’s wife was a pillar of salt by day and a ball of fire by night. Samson killed the Philistines with the axe of the apostles. The epistles were the wives of the apostles.
Sure, we may chuckle at these nuggets of “knowledge” as reported by children, but how many adults know very much about the Bible? One survey found that 12% of adults believed that Noah’s wife was Joan of Ark! Many of us who were raised going to Sunday School and church take for granted certain facts from the Bible and assume that most of the people we know have the same knowledge we do. But that’s an assumption that may be a roadblock to us telling someone about what we as Christians believe. If we’re going to tell people about the “hope we have,” we ourselves need to know all the facts.
Let’s start with God. God is not just a nice old man who has a moderate interest in us. He is powerful, creating the entire universe out of nothing (Genesis 1-3). He is the perfect judge who demands that we also be perfect (Matthew 5:48). Anyone who is not perfect, He will destroy eternally since He demands that anyone who sins must die (Ezekiel 18:20).
Sounds pretty mean, doesn’t He? And that’s the picture that some people have of God: a vindictive judge who punishes us even when we sin just a little. But is that all there is to God? As Christians, we know the “other” side of God. We know He is also a God of love (1 John 4:8) who did not want to send us to hell. So to rescue us, to get us out of the damnation we deserve, God sent His Son to take our place, to live a perfect life that we can’t and to die instead of us. Jesus, true man yet also true God, is the ultimate solution to sin: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV).
The result of Jesus’ work is simple: salvation. And the best news is that we don’t have to do anything to get that salvation! God gives us salvation completely by his grace, washing us clean in our baptisms and creating a new man within us (Romans 6:4-5). When God makes us his own children through faith, we are headed for an eternity in heaven instead of hell.
You may have breezed through the previous three paragraphs because you know these facts so well. But how can you express these “givens” to your family member or friend who doesn’t know them or doesn’t know them as well? Don’t make it harder than it has to be. When you get the opportunity, simply use your own words to tell someone what you know, what God has taught you from his Word. Let God take care of the results. All he asks is that you be ready to give an answer when asked!
Professor Michael K. Smith
Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary
Chairman, ELS Board for Home Outreach