Having previously given several examples of Jesus’ and Paul’s use of persuasion and careful reasoning approaches to evangelism, let me now show you how God, through His inspired authors, has given us the commission to each be careful and considered Christian case-makers.
Let me start by reminding you of Paul’s instruction to the church in 2 Corinthians 10:5 –
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
Through careful reasoning and persuasion we are to destroy the arguments raised against the knowledge of God, not through empty rhetoric, intimidating personality, abusive use of Scripture, or threat of force.
Over in Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul writes concerning the Christian’s gifts and design:
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. [NASB, emphasis mine]
Does the thought of evangelism make your palms sweat? Relax, that may not be your gifting. Paul says that some, not all, received the gifts of being apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. However, no such qualifiers are given in 1 Peter 3:15 –
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.
This command is not issued to “some” of the believers, but seems to have the expectation that all believers should be ready to make a persuasive defense (apologia) of their faith. God expects all Christians to engage in apologetic study; this should not be simply a niche, academics club within the church, or a peripheral topic relegated to a specialist teacher or occasional special guest lecturer, but a discipline in which all Christians ought to apply themselves. As J. Warner Wallace puts it, “Christianity does not need another million-dollar apologist, we need a million one-dollar apologists.” We need people studying, getting into the game, engaging and improving their interaction skills as they do so.
Move down towards the end of the New Testament into the book of Jude, in which we will find this verse in Jude 1:3 –
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
We are to stand up for and contend for the faith! Not just as “true for me,” or a private experiential and subjective faith, but as a public, objectively true reflection of reality. Repeatedly we are called to a convinced and reasonable trust in Christ:
1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 – Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.
1 John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Romans 14:5b – …Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.
2 Timothy 3:14 – But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.
You are probably familiar with the passage in Matthew 5:13-16 in which Jesus tells us to be salt and light in the world:
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
I believe that these verses instruct us to provide cultural correctives towards Biblical truth and morality as it goes astray, and do so by confronting ideas and arguments. If Christianity truly reflects reality as it is, even apparent contradictions between it and contemporary thought can be shown to be faulty. We need to approach each situation with care, tact, and discernment, using the right tool for the job at hand; use “gentleness and respect,” as instructed in 1 Peter 3:15 above. This tactical approach is summarized in Colossians 4:5-6:
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
In the next post, I will give you some practical reasons why you as a Christian should study apologetics (if the previous posts haven’t yet convinced you!).
Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!
(All Scripture in this post is from the ESV translation)