Many websites for Christian apologetics quote 1 Peter 3:15 as providing the trumpet charge to go forward and defend the Christian faith to skeptics, i.e., "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..." 1 Peter 3:15. Here's the problem: 1 Peter 3:15 doesn't start with the words "be ready". 1 Peter 3:15 is part of a chain of thought that begins back in 1 Peter 3:13. The entire section of text as translated in the New American Standard Bible version (removing the verse numbers) reads:
Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.
Looking at the verse in context gives it a different flavor. No, it doesn't take away the central portion of the message: be prepared to give an accounting of the reasons for your faith in Jesus. The passages central focus remains being prepared to (1) make a defense and (2) give an account for the hope that is in you. But what surrounds this oft-quoted verse is equally important to these two directives.
First, there is a exhortation to recognize that there is no need to fear when you are doing what is right, i.e., telling people the Gospel. After all, according to the Bible verses cited immediately prior to 1 Peter 3:13, God is with the righteous, but he is against those who do evil. But as the verses continue, there is no promise in this that a person standing up for the Gospel will not be harmed or even killed. 1 Peter continues "But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness . . . ." This is a clear acknowledgement that a person who is speaking for the Gospel can and will experience dangers.
How does one reconcile the two? Very simply -- the kingdom of God is not of this earth. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21:
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
A friend of mine works for a hospital where he constantly encounters people who are dying and who have questions about the healing power of Jesus. They want to know why Jesus doesn't heal the sick. While there are lots of ways to answer that question, he approaches it from God's point of view -- heaven is a better place than earth. The only reasons that we fear death is (1) we fear the pain associated with death and (2) we are not certain of what lies beyond death. If we realized that our lives on this earth are very short in comparison to eternity, and if we realized that what awaits us beyond is infinitely better than what awaits us here, we would not fear death at all. In the words of 1 Corinthians 15:55, "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is gone because of the victory of Christ.
So, when God says in 1 Peter 3:13 that we have nothing to fear, He is not talking about not having concerns over whether we will be hurt, tortured or even killed. He is talking about the fact that as Christians we have the assurance of eternal life. And with that assurance we can approach evangelism without fear because nothing on this earth can do us everlasting harm. At best, the slings and arrows of this world can only wound us for a time. As Peter says, "do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled".
How do we avoid being intimidated and troubled? We do so by "sanctify[ing] Christ as Lord in [our] hearts". Do we, as Christian apologists and evangelists put God in the central place in our hearts? Do we, instead, preach our own Gospel and hope that it comports with God's Word? Do we say a prayer for inspiration of the Spirit before entering the fray? Do we, instead, trust our own knowledge and insight to lead someone to knowledge of the truth? I leave these questions to your own heart.