a·pol·o·get·ics (noun): reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine.
This term apologetics always used to confuse me a little. It sounds like the word “apology” and I once thought, “Why do I want to apologize for my faith? That’s the last thing I want to do!” I’m not familiar with the word’s origination, but it does not mean to apologize. Apologetics is a defense of the faith. It’s a term often heard in scholarly circles, especially theological institutions. That fact itself might scare us off from apologetics, thinking that only a person with a degree and letters behind their name are qualified. I want to assure you that we are called to defend the faith and there is no need for an advanced education in order to do so. The Holy Spirit and a desire to know God’s word are the only qualifications you need!
What I hope to accomplish today is to once again give you some points you can come back to and use in your daily encounters with others. Conversations naturally lead to faith the longer we are around people. We are still a society in which church is very much a part of our weekly routine. There is a still a majority of people who believe in some sort of religion. And being we rub shoulders on a daily basis with co-workers, other parents, neighbors, clients, and so forth, the topic inevitably comes up in some fashion.
So how do we defend or even unpack our faith? We should not overcomplicate this process. But we must take the time to do some investigation on our own to understand Who Jesus is, why He died, what it means to be saved and so on. Certainly we should be attending church and in fellowship with other Christians. That alone helps equip and strengthen. We must also lean upon the Holy Spirit to help us understand so we can speak boldly when needed.
All this being said, let’s take a brief look at what defending the faith means and what sharing our testimony looks like. Let’s go!
1. Be able to articulate the Gospel
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15
We talked about this some last time; that we should know the basic tenets of the faith and how to support them. Every conversation is unique so there’s not a cookie-cutter approach for each encounter. However, I do think conversations can start in various ways that may help get the ball rolling. Questions like:
Do you believe there’s a God? How would you know Him?
Do you believe there’s a heaven? How do you know if you’re going there?
If there’s no God, how did we come to be?
Do you attend church? If so, why?
Who do you think Jesus is? Did He really live? Do you think He really died and was resurrected?
These sort of questions can open the door to other questions and begin a process of engagement. A lot of people we encounter already believe in some aspect of faith; loose as it may be. But the aspect of Christ-alone as the ONLY way to heaven may or may not be something people are familiar with; even many who have been in church their whole lives. What is important is that when we engage others, we are doing so out of “gentleness and respect” as Peter describes. It is more important to build a bridge rather than cause a rift that leads to rejection of Christ. Our words must be seasoned with salt but also full of truth. It’s a balance. Again, don’t overcomplicate it but allow the Holy Spirit to guide you. Any of those questions and others you can think of are good conversation starters. Just be sure you have some grasp of how to answer them yourself.
2. Be able to tell your story
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 1 John 5:11
When we speak of our story in Christ, we are referring to our “testimony.” A testimony is something that is done in a court of law. As a witness, you are called to testify to what you have seen or experienced. Witness testimony in court is an important part of making the case for something. That evidence is used to deliver a verdict. On behalf of the testimony of one or several witnesses, a judge or jury can determine what is actually true. As a witness for Jesus, you are telling someone else what you have received and believed as true. The person you are trying to convince is really only “won over” by the Holy Spirit. You are just stating the facts of the case; you are giving them the evidence you have found.
The amazing thing about your story is this: it’s yours and it is difficult for anyone to argue with it. To bring all the evidence of Scripture before someone is one thing. It is something else to actually “see” these things in action and hear the words of someone who has come to know Jesus. It makes no difference whether you’re a former drug addict or a housewife. God has done something in you and the way you were before is not the way you are now. That 180 degree turn happened the moment Jesus met you. To share that story and know it well enough to recite it is an important aspect of our faith we all must possess.
3. Become all things to all men
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible…I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:19,22-23
Going back to point #1, there’s a certain flexibility we must have that allows us entry into people’s lives with this message. No single conversation will ever be the same. Paul has set an example for us in this way: he became like his audience so that he could win some to the Lord. This is part of apologetics because we speak of what we know to those we know. But sometimes it’s those who we don’t know as well. It may even be online through a chat or message (Facebook, social media, etc). We try to meet people on the level they are at, with the understanding they possess. I believe Paul is saying he didn’t allow certain roadblocks to keep him from reaching others. If you read the rest of the context of 1 Corinthians 9, he is sharing his approach in the hopes that it helps others as they reach people like and unlike themselves.
There’s a bit of a warning here and it’s a reminder from last week: be mindful of the balance between being in the world but not of the world. Paul, in modeling Christ, got down to a level where he could speak as he had the opportunity (rich/poor, educated/uneducated, Jew/Gentile, and so on). Jesus never sinned in any aspect of reaching a sinner. Paul emulated that and although he was not perfect, he appealed to Christ’s holy standard. We should find ways to introduce and live out the Gospel before others. We tailor the message however appropriate for the situation. But the Gospel is always first and we act out of obedience to Christ.
Again, the subject matter here is a bit weighty and requires our own walk with the Lord to be strong and confident. The fear of “Will I say something wrong, what if I mess up, what if they reject me?” must be replaced by a humble boldness in Christ. Those two words, “humility” and “boldness” seem like oxymorons when put together. But there is a humility we draw from in the Lord as well as a boldness that comes from Him and not ourselves. To see these attributes in action, we do well to study the apostles in the early days of the church. Their words and actions as they modeled Jesus are the same we should exhibit today.
I hope you’ll join me again next week as we close out this series “This Great Gospel.” Next time we look at false gospels and how to both identify and dismantle false truths about Christ. As always, I love you guys and I love walking this journey with you!
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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17