Because Scripture is inerrant and inspired by God, it is the Christian’s sole authority concerning matters of life and godliness. Therefore, whatever the Bible teaches on any topic binds the Christian’s conscience. Christians are obligated then to believe what the Bible teaches and to obey what the Bible prescribes (having been rightly interpreted of course). Because of the nature of Scripture, people attack the many claims of Scripture and its life-giving doctrine. Consequently, defending of the Christian faith is necessary. I desire to conduct a brief overview on the nature of apologetics in Scripture, extrapolating some practical lessons for us as we engage the culture with the life-changing power of the gospel and as we defend our faith.
I Peter 3:15-16
Peter’s classic passage on the defense of the Christian faith contains the verse from which the term “apologetics” originated from. We are exhorted to make a “defense” of our faith in this verse. The “hope” in verse fifteen refers to the things that we know to be true, the things we read in the Word of God and the promises and truths contained therein. Peter is boldly proclaiming that there is no excuse for a Christian to be completely unable to defend his or her faith. Every genuine believer should be earnestly working to give a reasonable presentation of his or her faith in Christ. I am not saying that people need to be experts on apologetics, but every Christian should be striving to know what he believers, why he believers it, how to share it with the lost people around him, and how to keep lies and false teaching out away from the church. Christians have reasonable, God-given answers to questions and objections that unbelievers have.
I Peter 3:16 calls Christians to make their stand on Scripture with gentleness and reverence, not hostility and in anger. We do not want to allow our own hardheadedness to become an obstacle for the proclamation of the gospel. Whether formally or informally, we need to explain our position in a tender and gracious attitude when speaking. This does not mean that Christians are to show no discretion to those they speak to and interact with, for in Proverbs 26:4 we are told that there are people who will not listen and will scoff at even a hint of truth. Psalm 14:1 declares that people who reject the notion that there is a God are foolish. At some point it is unnecessary to answer a fool to his folly.
Did Jesus Practice Apologetics?
Matthew 12:22-29 helps us see that Jesus interacted with the false claims of the Pharisees. Jesus did not ignore their incredible false claims. Christians should model Christ and identify and not ignore false doctrine. In fact, preaching truth to the hard hearts of people is good because it can bring them to repentance, even if they are not receptive at that time. Matthew shows Jesus using logic to try and bring them to the truth. Logic and reason are acceptable to use when dealing with unbelievers. We do not always have to only use Bible verses to fend off attacks. Jesus created logic in the first place, so of course we can use it liberally, with Scripture as our anchor and ultimate authority!
Jesus used miracles as an apologetic, in order to confirm his message (Exodus 4:1-9; John 3:2; Hebrews 2:3-4). And this he did in great abundance for ‘Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him’ (Acts 2:22).
This passage teaches that everyone knows of God’s existence, and those who deny His existence are just suppressors of knowledge. Atheist and God-haters will often ask why God does not give us more proof. This objection though reveals a flaw in their understanding, as if God is simply attending to convince people that He exists. That is not what the biblical evidence teaches.
In Acts 17, believers are introduced to a fine way to present the Christian worldview. Paul followed a legitimate approach that we can use today. First, he tailored his starting point to where the audience was. He appealed to nature (Acts 14) and ended by preaching Jesus to them. With the Jews he began with the OT and moved on to Christ (Acts 17:2-3). But with the Greek philosophers Paul began with creation and reason, to a Creator and then on to His Son Jesus who died and rose again (17:24). It is advantageous often to meet people where they are at, at least on some level, never to the point though where the absolute truth of Scripture is compromised.
Jude 3 tells us to “contend earnestly” for the faith. Apologetics is about making a defense for the Christian faith, for the things that God has revealed and for the doctrines that comprise the Christian faith. Jude adds an important line in verse 22: “Have mercy on some, who are doubting.” While practicing Christian apologetics, we should strive to be strong in our defense and at the same time Christ-like in our presentation. If we were to win a debate over a Christian doctrine but turn a person even further away from Christ, then we have lost the true purpose of Christian apologetics.
This verse is a reminder from Paul, informing Titus what to look for in spiritual leaders, particularly elders in the church. The person who will be an elder in the church will “be able to exhort in sound doctrine.” I know that verse is speaking of elders, but really what Paul is setting forth as a goal and requirement for the office of an elder is a spiritual goal that all Christians should strive for. We should teach and guard the things that are true.
II Timothy 2:24-25
Paul also gives us a glimpse into God’s ideal for apologists. This passage reminds us that we may be wronged or be treated unfairly as we seek to speak truth into people’s lives. Yet believers are not to lose heart at what they are doing. Therefore we must keep in mind that the ultimate goal is that they might “come to a knowledge of the truth.” Do not get caught up in secondary issues. Ultimately, the defense of the faith is not to put people in their place, but to lead lost sinners to the truth of the glorious gospel and to see them repent and believe.
So what can you and I take away from these verses? As I studied these passages, I was reminded that God calls all believers to be apologists! There is no Christian who is called to sit on the sidelines. Every last soldier of Christ is called upon to know God’s Word, and to be armed with a defense of it.
Second, invest yourself in equipping your own heart to answer difficult questions for friends, unsaved family members, teachers, and everyone else. You see, the truth is not afraid of scrutiny! You don’t have to be afraid to seek out God’s Word for the answers that people may be asking you. In contrast, every false system and worldview is found to be false when placed under the microscope of God’s Word.
When Americans take the stand in a courtroom, they are called to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Similarly, believers in this evil culture must be committed to God’s truth and be willing to speak up when the chance presents itself. We must not present the truth just as academic textbook truth, but as life-changing truth!