Here is perhaps the earliest evidence of lay-level apologetics: “Always be ready for a reply to everyone who requests of you an account of the hope that fill you” (1 Pet 3:15). That readiness becomes credible only when it is done properly and emerges from a lifestyle that is good.
Jesus’ advice to his disciples was not to worry about being ready because the Spirit would take over: Matthew 10:19-20. Since it is nearly certain Peter was among the first group, his words here show a development: Spirit-prompted words and readiness are not opposites. Both emerge from a good life.
First, there is here evidence of an ongoing running debate with culture and community: readiness is “always” and “to everyone.” And Peter expects their readiness to take the form of a “reply” (apologia). But observe that the apologia is provided when requested. And Peter urges them to carry on this debate with meekness and reverence.
Second, I’m impressed by what it is that calls for a request: their hope. The context makes it clear why it is the “hope” that triggers a request for an apologia: suffering. The resident aliens and temporary residents of the Asia Minor Christian community were suffering at the hands of various sorts and they evidently were facing such suffering in an unexpected manner: with hope. That is, they were confident in God, that the last word would be life, and they faced their sufferings with a tranquility and hope that suprised their oppressors.
Third, we should probably observe that this is not “evangelism” per se but readiness to give an apologia for the hope that sustains them. The apologia becomes, as 2:11-12 makes clear, a form of evangelism: it evokes wonder on the part of the oppressors.
Finally, the apologia gains its credibility from the good life the Christian community is living. Again, 2:11-12: avoid sin, do good, and these will speak for your faith. And this is precisely what Peter says in 3:16-17: it is all about “doing good” (which is the term Peter uses for community benevolence).
Peter’s emerging reflection on apologetics is an apologetic that emerges from a lifestyle of goodness, a gentle approach to how to respond, and a fortitude in faith that provokes curiosity. And from such factors a credible apologia can be built.