In my last post, I briefly mentioned three reasons why everyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ should engage with apologetics, or in other words, should have a defense for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). I want to highlight one of those reasons in this blog post and expand on what I said.
So why should we think that doing apologetics will help us reach out to unbelievers with the gospel? I have three reasons:
- Jesus did it.
- The apostles taught and practiced it.
- It works.
Jesus Did Apologetics
So let’s take one point at a time. First, Jesus did it. I’m not sure if many Christians who don’t use apologetics know about this but Jesus did not just come on to the scene and only say, “Believe me or you will perish in your sins.” He gave reasons why you should take him seriously. 1
So what were the reasons Jesus gave for taking him seriously? Jesus used testimonial evidence for his claims. Jesus states that there are five witnesses who testify on his behalf:
John the Baptist
Jesus’ own works (i.e., miracles)
The Old Testament scriptures
Jesus also used His resurrection from the dead to verify his claims. 3 And Jesus’ use of prophecy is evident in the gospels. 4 In addition to that, Jesus used His very life as an apologetic. 5 In his public dialogues, Jesus is shown to be a skilled logician. In His dialogues with the Pharisees and Sadducees, He is constantly using logic and reason to confound His opponents while amazing the crowd with His wisdom. 6
The Apostles Taught and Practiced Apologetics
My second major point, the apostles taught and practiced it, is also important. Again, I’ll have to be brief but I’ll point to a few passages about how the apostles taught their disciples and other Christians to do apologetics:
Peter taught it:
1 Peter 3:15-16 – “…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.”
Paul taught it:
Colossians 4:5-6 – “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Titus 1:9 – “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”
Jude, Jesus’ brother taught it:
Jude 1:3 – “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”
The apostles practiced it: Peter used Jesus’ miracles and resurrection from the dead 7 as well as miracle healings Peter performed as evidence of Jesus’ identity; 8 Stephen, the first martyr of the church, confounded his opponents with wisdom and his miracles 9 as well as appealed to prophecy; 10 Philip uses prophecy as a defense of Jesus’ identity; 11 Apollos vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate and proving from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 18); and Paul was the biggest example of an apostle who used apologetics. 12
And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” Acts 17:2-4
My third and final point, apologetics works. I could go on and on about the testimonies that I have seen and heard from numerous people who believed based on the evidence they were given, but I want to get real personal with this. I am not a Christian because I grew up in a Christian home. I am not a Christian because someone preached the gospel to me or they gave me their personal testimony. I am a Christian because I looked at the evidence and arguments for the reliability of the New Testament, Jesus’ identity and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead…and I believed the most rational thing I could do is place my faith (i.e., trust) in Jesus and what He did for me. I grew up as a cultural Christian. I didn’t really believe in Jesus but I identified as one because my parents were Christians. It was about half-way through college when I slowly became skeptical of Christianity being true. Fortunately, I made friends with actual Christians who got together and had a Bible study every Wednesday…except they were not doing a Bible study, they were studying The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. Over time, after looking at the evidence, I found it impossible to disprove and gave my life to Jesus as a result. This is really my main reason why I’m so passionate on this subject. It works and I’m living proof of that.
Some may say, “Well it doesn’t work on everybody,” and I would agree with that. People reject God for all kinds of reasons: intellectual, volitional, or emotional reasons. Apologetics can only take you so far. All I’m saying is let’s not throw it away just because it doesn’t work on some people, because I’m living proof is does work for some.
- I have to point to a resource on this. For those who want to look more into this area check out the book, The Apologetics of Jesus: A Caring Approach to Dealing with Doubters by Norman Geisler and Patrick Zukerman. It is a phenomenal resource on this topic. ↵
- John 5:31-47 ↵
- John 2:18-22 ↵
- Matthew 21:1-3 & John 5:39 ↵
- John 8:41-51 ↵
- Matthew 12:9-14 & John 7:21-24 ↵
- Acts 2 ↵
- Acts 3 ↵
- Acts 6 ↵
- Acts 7 ↵
- Acts 8 ↵
- Acts 9; 13; 17; 18; 19 ↵