I am reminded that when we, as Christians, witness to unbelievers, although it is helpful to have a knowledge-base like a doctorate in Theology or a degree in Christian History, we don't have to have these in order to share Christ and/or our personal testimony with others.  The Twelve Disciples and early Christians did not have formal classes to attend and learn the material needed to successfully win friends and influence people to the point of conversion for Christ.  What they did have was life as their task master and the Holy Spirit of Christ as their Comforter and Leader into all truth.

I can only imagine the cultural and societal response to such a one-minded belief - that this Jesus of Nazareth was not only the Savior of the Jews, but Savior of the world and only through faith in Him, His sacrifice and resurrection can all humanity be reconciled to God.

"...the fact that the Christian faith was so new and so different from the pagan religions of the Roman Empire, many people were skeptical of Christianity and didn’t understand its message. In fact, they were even afraid of Christians. They had many questions about what Christians really believed, and rumors about them abounded." (Rick Renner)

It is in the middle of this firmly rooted polytheistic, pagan culture and society that Paul lives out his faith, writes to the churches, and teaches us how to live the Christ-like life - by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  It is also in the middle of this time when the Holy Spirit says through Peter (1 Peter 3:15) -
  • But in your hearts set apart 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,
Peter's audience for this verse was not the unbeliever and it was not theologians. The verse was for the believer ("To God's elect..." - 1 Peter 1:1) and probably those new to the faith since Peter was giving much instruction in this letter.  There is great encouragement here to be prepared to speak on behalf of your faith by the life-trials you have experienced and your relationship with God.

"You do not have to be a theologian to tell someone why you love Jesus and what He has done in your life. But it would be wise for you to ponder in advance what you would say if someone asked you about it." (Rick Renner)

How can you be prepared to give an answer for the hope that you have if Christ is not set apart as Lord in your heart first?  There is a reason that Peter mentions sanctification first or cherishing The Lord in your heart above ALL other relationships.  It is only after a full realization of this truth in our lives, knowing Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, that we can proceed to the next sentence or step. 

To "Always be prepared to give an answer" means not only to have a succinct Testimony, but it also means to try and be caught up on current news, cultural, and societal information, SO THAT when asked about whatever "it" is from a Christian point of view, we will be ready - at a moments notice or "always" to respond. 

Last, but certainly not least is the manner in which Christians should respond - "with gentleness and respect". Showing these toward others in any situation, apart from being a Christian, is a wonderful way to make friends and influence people.  Just imagine the impact if Christians would implement this "gentleness and respect" more in their answers to the world.

How about you? Are you ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you about your faith? How prepared would you say you are to give an answer to every person who asks a reason for the hope that is in you?

To be more specific, if you found yourself sitting next to a non-Christian who asked you about what you believe, why you believe it, and how your faith affects your life, could you answer those questions promptly?

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you aren’t adequate to answer such questions because you haven’t been to seminary or Bible school. I remind you again that when Peter wrote this verse, there were no seminaries or Bible schools or graduates with diplomas. All there was at that time were simple, everyday Christians who went to work every day, raised families every day, and conducted business every day. And in the process of it all, they were constantly rubbing elbows with non-Christians from every walk of life, every class of society, and every ethnic group, who would ask them: “What is your faith all about?” “Why do you believe what you believe?” “Give me a reason for the hope you have!” (Rick Renner)

Christians, like Peter, I encourage you - If you cherish your relationship with Christ, in your heart, above all others, then always have in the forefront of your mind and on the tip of your tongue a gentle and respectful reason for the hope that you have through Christ Jesus for any opportunity that may present itself to share Him and His Good News. [Pritchard Paraphrase of 1 Peter 3:15]