Why is it so important to be ready to give an answer? Is it simply because we need correct doctrine? Doctrine is important, but what shall it profit a man, if he shall learn every doctrine, but knows not the love of God?
Why did Peter speak of giving an answer with meekness and fear? I believe this is because the most important part of being ready to give an answer is the matter of our heart.
This is the reason we are told that we must be converted and become as little children. This was so important, that God said that without this spirit and nature, we shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
(2) And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
(3) And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
(4) Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
If this is our commandment, then we ought to expect that those who are teachers and are studied in the scriptures should know this best of all, and serve as a powerful example of service and humility. They should never be offended if someone asks them a question concerning their faith, and even be most eager to search the scriptures with noble "Bereans" and "prove all things." (See Acts 17:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:21).
That is what we ought to expect, but what is the reality? Let us continue with Christ's words from where we left off above...why would he need to issue such a warning?
(6) But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
(7) Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
There seems to be an overabundance of people who will set themselves up as teachers and experts in the ways of God. They are there to tell you the intended meaning of scripture. Their writings are infallible and their say is final. They are the master, and you had better not question their authority for any reason whatsoever. Yet they will refuse to answer questions or be held accountable to scripture.
For these people, the greatest offense one could commit is to ask them a question, and to expect an answer or at least a sincere reply. I will admit that God has spoken even to these pastors, sometimes called scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites, blind guides, and even lawyers.
(1) Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.
(2) Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD.
Mat 23:15-16, 27-28
(15) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
(16) Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!
(27) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.
(28) Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
(52) Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.
(53) And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things:
(54) Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.
This seems to be a consistent warning of scripture, that the very people that would claim to "shepherd the flock" would be the ones to scatter the sheep, that the scribes and the keepers of the law themselves would be the greatest hypocrites, that the lawyers would take away the key of knowledge from the people, neither entering in themselves, and hindering anyone else that would seek the truth.
Any true Christian should appreciate an opportunity to share their faith, to discuss the scriptures, or to answer any question, fairly, with meekness and fear, with an open mind and love of the truth. If they have not this they cannot be saved, and thus we should recognize these false prophets by their fruits.
I believe that every Christian should be ready to give an answer at any time, in meekness and fear. But if this is something that is too difficult for anyone, we are told that it would be better for them not to be a teacher at all.
(15) Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
(16) Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
(17) Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
(18) A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
(19) Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
(20) Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
(21) Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
(22) Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
(23) And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
(1) My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.
Sadly, it has been my experience that when a "teacher" is asked a question that is difficult for them or exposes a contradiction, hostility is the most common reaction. It seems that most everyone wants to teach their own ideas and reiterate their own traditions without responsibility or accountability to anyone at all, regardless of how their teachings or responses might cause a little one to stumble.
Let us all strive to become as little children, with a love for the truth, that it may set us free. If you are a pastor or a teacher or a bible student, you have a great responsibility to be humble, and to be ready to answer any question in meekness and fear, for we will all be held accountable to God.
"Woe unto you lawyers!"
I have realized that I am obtaining quite a collection of absurd and non-Christian responses from the very people that claim to be "Preaching the Gospel", even those that claim to be "Defending the Faith."
These communications ought to be so embarrassing to the participants as to shock them into sensibility, but strangely enough I have found that this is seldom the case. They flaunt their bad behavior as if it were a badge of honor. It is as Paul spoke surely, when he said that these are enemies of the cross of Christ, "...whose glory is in their shame."
(18) (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
(19) Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
Throughout all of this, we should always remember that if they hated and killed the Son, we can expect them to do worse to his disciples. We are sent forth as sheep in the midst of wolves, and no matter how many times we are cast out while they proclaim "Let the LORD be glorified" he shall appear to our joy, and they shall be ashamed.
(16) Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
(17) But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;
(5) Hear the word of the LORD, ye that tremble at his word; Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name's sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.
A Sad Response from Bible Life Ministries
I recently contacted Bible Life Ministries after reading their web page describing the history of Calvinism and comparing it with their printed statement of beliefs.The page advertised that "You can contact the author by clicking the mailbox above" so I sent a polite invitation for him to talk with me concerning a subject that he had raised in his essay.
Since when should it be such an offensive thing for one Christian to ask to talk to another about the Bible, especially on a subject that he thinks is important enough to teach to others and openly declare to the world? Was he "ready to give an answer?"
I later went and reviewed more of his website, and I would have to admit that his reply actually seemed consistent with the theme of his total site. For the record, I did ask this man if this was really the answer he wanted to put forth, and offered that he could make a retraction if he did not feel that this properly represented his ministry.
Ironically, his very own site gives the following description of brainwashing which he himself has seemed to aptly demonstrate:
"Members are also forbidden to question any church teaching or doctrine. Peer pressure and ridicule are used against the person who dares to ask the wrong question or express a negative feeling. Consequently, members become noncommunicative. Bible or doctrine discussion between members dries up. The member is expected to get all of his doctrinal interpretation from the leadership of the church. This practice discourages individual Bible reading and Bible study. Researching doctrinal information on the Internet, radio, or in Bible commentaries is strongly discouraged. Members are taught to not trust their own interpretation of Scripture and avoid doing so."The purpose of this section is not to evaluate or critique his ministry's web site, but merely to focus on the responsibility that a pastor has to be willing to talk with fellow Christians and be held responsible for what they preach at least according to the standards they say that everyone else should be following. "Woe unto you pastors!"
But the most common response is no response at all...
"Is there anyone responsible there for what you preach?" This ministry has distributed perhaps millions of tracts for over forty years, but are they ready to give an answer, or will they say whatever they want to say without being held accountable to anyone? What is the point of advertising with tracts if you are unprepared to answer when they are received?