Apologetics - Defending the Word of God

Apologetics - Defending the Word of God

What is Christian Apologetics?

The word apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia, which is used eight times in the New Testament: Acts 22:1; 25:16; 1 Corinthians 9:3; 2 Corinthians 7:11; Philippians 1:7, 17; 2 Timothy 4:16; 1 Peter 3:15.  This last verse is popular and most commonly quoted by Christian apologists.

 

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts,
and always be read to give a defense (Greek, apologia)
to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you,
with meekness and fear."
1 Peter 3:15.

 

Webster has defined apologetic as "1. defending in writing or speech; vindicating 2. showing realization of and regret for a fault, wrong, etc.; making apology."  Christian apologetics is not an apology, but rather a defense of the Christian faith.

There's more.  The Greek word can be broken down into two parts: apo + logia.  Apo means from; logia means word or thought.  The word logic is derived from logia.  A better definition would be to defend reasonably.  Defending our faith, we should give "a reason" for the hope that we have as Christians.  Our faith is not based upon myth or superstition.  It is founded upon biblical truth which can be reasonably defended.

 

Why Should Christians
Defend the Faith?

For the Christian, defending the faith isn't just a good idea.  It is a command to be obeyed.  In 1 Peter 3:15 we are commanded "to give a defense" to those who approach us.  Jude also has something to say about this, when he says, "Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints."  Jude 3.  Fight the good fight!

Defending the faith is also necessary.  Our evangelical Christian faith is constantly attacked by the liberal media, false religions, cults, and so-called Christians, such as the postmodern gang.

The following list of questions are those most frequently asked.

  1. If God is good and omnipotent, why is there evil and suffering in the world?
  2. If there is one God and one faith, why are there so many denominations?
  3. Why has so much blood been shed in the name of Christianity---witch hunts (Salem), the Crusades against Islam, and the Inquisition, in particular?
  4. Why are there so many different translations of the Bible?
  5. What about contradictions in the Bible---Paul and James on justification?
  6. What about scandals in the church---TV evangelists, priests, and homosexual pastors?
  7. Why are conservative Christians intolerant, insisting there is only one way to God?

In defending the faith you may not only silence the critics, but may also be able to help those who have intellectual difficulties regarding the faith and are seeking help.  Be aware that the debate is not always about belief and unbelief, about truth and error.  It is often about truth and unrighteousness.  Paul writes of those "who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness."  2 Timothy 2:12.  Jesus said, "Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."  John 3:19.

 

How Should Christians
Defend the Faith?

First and foremost, "sanctify the Lord God in your hearts."  1 Peter 3:15.  In Jude we are exhorted to "keep yourselves in the love of God."  Jude 21.  In defending the faith knowledge (what we know), service (what we do), and character (what we are) are important.  The latter is most important.  What about your integrity and personal relationship with the Lord?  Before answering the questions and criticism of others you might ask yourself the following questions.

  1. Am I building my own faith through the study of God's Word?
  2. Do I pray for others?
  3. Do I have a confident assurance that I am ready for the coming of Christ?
  4. Am I compassionate toward those who are unsaved?

Jesus Christ should have first place in your heart.

Second, don't be intimidated.  "But even if you should suffer for righteousness sake, you are blessed.  'And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.'"  1 Peter 3:14.  The quotation in the verse is from Isaiah 8:12.  Don't let anyone frighten you.  Don't be scared.  The Lord had some timely words for the prophet Jeremiah.  "Therefore prepare yourself and arise, and speak to them all that I command you.  Do not be dismayed before their faces...."  Jeremiah 1:17.  You'll see many sourpusses along the way, but don't be afraid.

Those who have never been born again by the Holy Spirit are no match for you.  They have their questions and arguments.  However, they do not have answers to spiritual things.  "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."  1 Corinthians 2:14.  The Spirit of truth will help you in your defense of the truth.

Third, only defend that which is important---"the hope that is in you."  1 Peter 3:15 again.  In your defense of the truth don't wander off into that which is unimportant or irrelevant.  In the early Alexandrian church scholars debated how many angels could sit on the end of a pin!  Take to heart Paul's advice to a young preacher.  "O Timothy!  Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings (or empty chatter) and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge---by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith."  1 Timothy 6:20, 21.  Later he added, "But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife."  2 Timothy 2:23.  To another young man, Titus, he wrote, "But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless."  Titus 3:9.

Fourth, "always be ready to give a defense...."  Be prepared!  Here are some suggestions to assist you in your defense of the faith.

  1. Use your personal testimony.  Be able to clearly tell the story of your conversion.  Whenever the apostle Paul found himself in a tough situation, he testified of his experience on the road to Damascus.  Acts 9:1-19.  After Paul had been attacked by an angry mob in Jerusalem and arrested in the temple, he was given permission to address the hostile crowd.  He told the people of his conversion.  See Acts 21:26-22:21.  Again, when Paul stood before King Agrippa, he recounted his salvation experience.  Read Acts 16:1-23.  You don't have to be a theologian or pastor or deacon or missionary to defend the faith.  "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy."  Psalm 107:2.  Even someone young in the faith may have nothing more to offer than his personal testimony, but it is enough!
  2. Focus your defense on the Word of God.  "Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.  Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, 'This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.'"  Acts 17:1-3 (Bold added for emphasis).  Paul reasoned with others from the Word of God.  This is the logical place for you to defend your faith, because what you believe is based upon the holy Scriptures.
  3. Direct your defense to one issue---the Word of God!  A smart salesperson will try to get prospective customers to reduce their reasons not to buy to one.  He (or she) will ask, "Apart from the price is there any other reason why you would not want to have this product?"  If the customer answers no, then the salesperson only has one issue with which to deal---the price.

    When others bring their questions or arguments to you, you may ask them the following question.  Do you believe the Bible is the Word of God?  This is important.  If the other party answers no, then that should signal the end of the debate, unless he asks, "Why do you believe the Bible is the Word of God?"  Now you are in a position to give a reason for the hope that is in you.

    The Christian faith is established on the Word of God.  Use the Scriptures in its defense.
  4. Keep cool.  Defend the faith "with meekness and fear."  1 Peter 3:15.  Remember that meek is not weak, and fear is not disrespectful.  We don't cave in to men, but we are always reverent toward the God we serve.  In our defense of the truth we represent Him.

    Avoid being rude and arrogant.  Show respect for others, especially your elders and those in positions of leadership and authority.  Be offensive without being offensive.  Heed Paul's words to Timothy, when he writes, "And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will."  2 Timothy 2:24-26.

    You have an answer for every question.  Sometimes the answer will be, "I don't know."  (Later find the answer.)  The most important thing in defending the truth is telling the truth.  Always speak the truth in love.

    The other person might even win the debate.  The winner isn't always right.  He may be more skillful and knowledgeable in presenting his argument.  The author of this study once was involved in a debate in Bible college in logic class, where he won a debate, arguing that a person could be a Communist and a Christian at the same time.  The argument was based on a false premise, but my opponent failed to disprove it.

    Learn from your experiences, and keep the faith.

 

An Apologist in Action

Peter and Paul had more to say about Christian apologetics than anyone else.  Of course, they were both apostles, leaders in the early church.  But we can learn a lesson in apologetics from an unlikely example, a blind man in John 9.

First, he had a personal experience with Jesus Christ.  The Lord anointed his eyes with clay and told him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam.  The man went, washed, and came back seeing.

Second, he now had a personal testimony because of Jesus Christ.  His neighbors had trouble believing their eyes.  They debated among themselves, "Is not this he who sat and begged?"  He shared his testimony with his neighbors.

Next the religious leaders questioned him about his experience, and once again he testified of his healing.  They had all kinds of theological arguments that Jesus could not possibly be the Christ.  After all, Jesus had healed the man on the Sabbath.  They told the man, "Give God the glory!"  Wonderful!  But they added, "We know that this Man is a sinner."  Wrong!

Third, the man who was healed admitted what he didn't know.  "Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know."  But he continued to speak the truth as he knew it.  He stayed cool, and didn't back down.

Fourth, he said what he knew.  It was only one thing.  "One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see."  There was a lot that he didn't know.  He had never been to Bible school or seminary, but he had been to Jesus.

Fifth, he had a question for those who questioned him.  "Do you also want to become His disciples?"  There is a lesson to be learned here, a lesson taught by a blind man who had been healed.  Neither Peter nor Paul taught this lesson.  When others question your Christian faith, ask them why.  Feel free to ask, "Are you trying to destroy my faith in Christ?"  Or better, "Do you also want to become His disciple?"  End of lesson.

 

Review Questions

  1. What is Christian apologetics?
  2. Which verse is most popular among Christian apologists?
  3. Why should Christians defend the faith?
  4. What are some commonly asked questions?
  5. How important is your own personal relationship with the Lord?
  6. How do you deal with intimidation?
  7. What did Paul use in defending the faith in difficult situations?
  8. Why should you focus your defense on the Word of God?
  9. How should you present yourself when defending the faith?
  10. What lessons did you learn from the blind man in John 9?

 

ANSWERS (Pop Up Window)

 
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Scripture taken from the
New King James Version.
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