Ready to Testify

When the great Protestant reformer Dr. Martin Luther famously stood before the Roman Catholic Diet of Worms in Germany in 1521, he had been called upon by the Holy Roman Empire to explain himself—or more specifically, his doctrine. He did so with great capability and earnest humility. What we observe in Luther’s situation and response is what any Christian should expect and model in faithfulness to the Gospel, whether it be in the face of civil or ecclesiastical judicatures or more often simply the court of public opinion in one manner or another. 

While the Scriptures teach Christians not to deal with each other in the world’s legal system[1] we are taught that we do need to be ready to officially testify about the Christian faith and life for Christ at a moment’s notice.

As I have been preaching through Pauls’ letter to the Philippian church, his use of the word “defense” in Philippians 1:7, 17 regarding the Gospel stood out to me because I had recently given a lecture for my children’s speech and debate club on Apologetics for this category in which all are encouraged to compete. The Greek word for “defense” in Philippians is the same for “answer” in 1 Peter 3:15, the classic text on apologetics which I had just taught about. And that Greek word is apologia, which means “to give a defense or answer to an objection or questioning,” and it is where we get the word for the formal study and discipline of Christian “apologetics”.

This Biblical call for a defense is not of oneself but of one’s Gospel message. It is something Paul says the Philippians were partakers in related to the Gospel and its “confirmation”, which Gordon H. Clark says could be translated, “certification”.[2] Frank Thielman notes that both Greek words—answer and confirmation, “are technical legal terms for providing a speech of defense before an official.”[3] In fact, Paul was writing from prison awaiting Caesar’s verdict regarding his Gospel ministry.

So to give a defense of the Gospel is to give a practiced answer to opposition against it. It is less like we are the defendant in the courtroom and more like we are the lawyer or a witness in favor of the accused. And this witness stand response needs to always be in gracious ways that glorify God and respect the judge for the purpose of persuasion. In 1 Peter 3:15 the apostle writes: 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.

Here Peter teaches us that Christians must always be ready to answer hostile questions about their resurrection hope with gentle respect. That is, our defense must be concerned to offer a proper witness when we are called upon to give testimony. In fact, the Hebrew word for “Congregation” could be translated “Testimony”. Christians, may we always be ready to give an appropriate witness of our Christian hope. May we Always be Ready to Testify.

Always be ready to give a defense of Christianity.

In courtroom trials, a defendant and his lawyer show up properly prepared to give a convincing defense. So Christians as citizens of the kingdom of heaven need to be ready to adequately explain themselves for living in the world but not of it. Again, the word for “to give an answer” in 1 Peter 3:15 or “defense” in Philippians 1:7, 17 in Greek is apologia. But let us not confuse its meaning with our modern idea of “apologizing” for something we’ve done wrong. The apologia here means to give a defense as if on trial. So Paul gives an “answer” (apologia) in 2 Timothy 4:16 and 1 Corinthians 9:3 for being a Christian minister who is under attack because of that fact. 

Paul and Peter want us to be ready to go to trial with well studied and practiced answers to present about the Christian faith. According to various lexicons, the etymology of “apologia” comes from the courtroom context of one speaking on behalf of oneself or others against accusations presumed to be false. Our content is the focus. Christians need to be prepared to defend ourselves in tested testimony to the facts and a proper explanation of them in witness to Christ, Christianity, and ourselves as Christians. If our Lord endured formal (and false) trials, so we should expect to for our Master. We need to be ready to give a witness to the “hope” within us—and that hope is our resurrection in Christ Who is the resurrection (1 Peter 1:3; John 11:25). So we see Paul defend the doctrine of the resurrection that was under question in 1 Corinthians 15 as vital to our Christian faith. And we observe Peter defending Christ as Messiah because of His resurrection in Acts 2 using Psalm 16.

Our answers about Christianity must come from the Bible, knowing it well and how it all relates. Thus we must study to show ourselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15), making good use of the means of grace and Bible study. So that we like Paul can say … I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God (Acts 20:27). And we should make good use of systematic theologies (especially the Westminster Standards). Just as I instruct my children to borrow from the time-tested answers and Scripture references of the Westminster Shorter Catechism for their apologetics speeches. 

Notice also in 1 Peter 3:15 that the way to be prepared for all this is to sanctify the Lord in our hearts (that is, set Him apart as special to specially serve). The Greek word for “sanctify” looks like the one for “saints” in Philippians 1:2. Christians are to give a holy message that reveres the name of their Heavenly Father. And especially how do we do this? Jesus prays in John 17:17 that God would sanctify us in His truth, and explains that God’s Word is truth. 

May we make our hearts a holy place for the Holy Spirit to minister His Holy Word. So that we are ready to give a holy witness—a righteous defense of the faith.

But always give a defense of Christianity without being defensive.

If a defendant is arrogant or aggressive during a trial, the judge may hold him or her in contempt of court. And this is how the world will judge us and our message if we give that style of witness.

While giving a defense (apologia) is not to be apologetic, neither is it to be defensive.  The issue is mainly the content to be shared. But equally important is the manner and method of how to give the witness so that it could be most easily received: “with meekness and fear”. That is, with gentleness and respect. We are not looking to win an argument to our own satisfaction but a person to salvation in Christ. Psalm 18:35 says, thy gentleness hath made me great. And Titus 3:2 calls on Christians to … be gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. We have a message of hope! The hope of the resurrection in Christ (1 Peter 1:3). So we should be happy about it and delighted to represent it. Jesus explains in Matthew 5:5 that the meek are blessed. By our gentle testimony may we seek to show how great is our God.

There is a risk of getting angry and frustrated because we will be falsely accused. When put on the defense, it’s easy for us to get defensive and argumentative—but that is not a Christian quality and especially not one of a leader representing Christ.[4] People will misrepresent the Bible, God, Christ, Christianity, and Christians. Especially with illogical arguments dressed in the “education” of vain philosophies and science falsely so called that can drive one crazy. But we must remember to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). And we need to take heed to ourselves with Colossians 4:6: Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.[5]

Ask questions and put accusers on the witness stand under God’s Word, not our attitude. To draw them to hear a true witness and be turned to God through Christ by the Spirit in gratitude.

Always prepare to witness for Christ.

Because you will always be on trial for being a Christian. The context both for Paul and Peter in their call to be ready to give a defense is that of suffering ridicule, rivalry, and attacks upon our Christian faith and life. Sufferings and persecutions will come to us by the world because we are Christians. They will test our testimony—but also give us an opportunity to be and give one. Jesus tells us we will be persecuted and falsely accused; and thus that we are blessed for representing Him. Let us make sure we are a blessing in how we respond, as peacemakers. And truth tellers. Giving a defense without being defensive. Making our message meekly that the hearts of men would open to the Messiah of Whom all the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms speak (Luke 24:44). 

In all situations always be ready to give a witness to Jesus and the resurrection and the hope within us as an explanation of how we stand up to all kinds of trials. Let us Always be Ready to Testify.[6]

Grant Van Leuven has been feeding the flock at the Puritan Reformed Presbyterian Church in San Diego, CA, since 2010. He also serves the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals as community engagement coordinator as well as managing editor for and assistant editor for He and his wife, Fernanda, have six covenant children: Rachel, Olivia, Abraham, Isaac, Gabriel, and Gideon. He earned his M.Div. at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA.

Related Links

Podcast: "Reforming Apologetics"

"Nature and Apologetics" by Arthur Hunt

"A Resolution for the Church" by Zachary Groff

"When Calling Yourself a "Christian" Isn't Enough" by Adam Parker

Joyfully Spreading the Word, ed. by Kathleen Nielson & Gloria Furman

C.S. Lewis: Apologetics for a Postmodern World by Andrew Hoffecker

[1] 1 Corinthians 6:1-8.

[2] Gordon H. Clark, Philippians (Unicoi, Tenn.: Trinity Foundation, 1996) , 18. The author is persuaded of the distinctive presuppositional apologetic method represented by Dr. Clark. For more info, see and This link also is helpful: (but one must be patient reading it and be sure to get to the closing remarks). Also relevant is the author’s submission near the end of this web page:

[3] Frank Thielman, Philippians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995) , 40.

[4] 1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 3:2; Proverbs 21:9; 25:24.

[5] Something that has helped the author a lot with a self-tempered apologetic method is Stand To Reason’s mp3 lecture series, “Tactics in Defending the Faith”, which he highly recommends training through often.

[6] For a sermon by the author on this text and title, visit