When is the last time God did something in your life that can only be explained as God? Was it yesterday? Was it just last week? A month ago? A year ago? The answer to this question may mean several things. If it has been some time since you saw God's activity in such a way that you know it was His hand, you may not be trusting to a level that requires faith. You may not be risking enough for God to show Himself. The converts in the early Church changed the world they lived in because of what they saw and heard. It was the power of the gospel that changed lives, not what they learned from mere teaching. This power drew people to Christ. Things happened that could not be explained as anything other than the activity of God. Is that the kind of faith you are experiencing in your life? Many of us live a wholesome, moral life, but those we associate with do not see this activity as anything that cannot also be achieved by themselves. That is why many are not drawn to our lives. God's power is not evident. The Lord has been challenging me to trust Him at levels I have never trusted before. This level of trust has placed me in a vulnerable position. However, the blessing of this relationship is that I see the activity of God as never before, and those close to me see it as well. It builds their faith and draws others to investigate.
When I became a Christian, I was immediately drawn to apologetics. Apologists are all wired a certain way, and I’m definitely wired in a way which causes me to dig deeper for answers to questions, especially those related to Christianity. I have plenty of questions which come from my own proclivity to doubt, plus there are questions from other Christians, questions from genuinely seeking nonbelievers… and then there’s the crowd of village atheists. As Christians, we need to know the questions and be prepared to give an informed response.
As Christians, we can not only know that our faith is true, but we can show others that our faith is true. We can not only defend our faith against attacks and objections, but we can positively set forth reasons for others to believe in Jesus Christ as well. We can not only present compelling reasons to believe evangelistically to those outside the church;we can also present apologetics devotionally, giving Christians a strong rational foundation on which to build their faith.
Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow.
Psalm 25:4, NLT
David expressed his desire for guidance. How do we receive God's guidance? The first step is to want to be guided and to realize that God's primary guidance system is in his Word, the Bible. By reading it and constantly learning from it, we will gain the wisdom to perceive God's direction for our lives. We may be tempted to demand answers from God, but David asked for direction.
When we are willing to seek God, learn from his Word, and obey his commands, then will we receive his specific guidance.
The Biblical Case for Apologetics
"But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense [apologia] to anyone who asks you for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect." (1 Peter 3:15)
In addition to the above passage in 1 Peter, the Bible commands us elsewhere to apologetics:
"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." (Titus 1:9)
"I urge you to contend for the faith." (Jude 3)
"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
"Whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me." (Philippians 1:7)
Apologetics was a common practice that accompanied the proclamation of the Gospel in the New Testament:
Jesus used testimony and evidences (miracles and fulfilled prophecy) to confirm His identity (Matthew 4:23, 11:5; Luke 24:25-27; John 5:31-36; John 10:37-38; John 14:11; John 20:30-31).
Paul routinely reasoned from the perspective of the audience (Acts 9:22, 14:15-17, 17:2-4, 17:16-32, 19:8, 26:25-29, 28:23-24; Romans 1:18-2:16; 1 Corinthians 9:20-23).
Paul includes a strong apologetic with his clearest explanation, that is definition, of the gospel in the New Testament—1 Corinthians 15:1-11.
Luke insists that the truth of his account was verified by "many infallible proofs" (Acts 1:3)
A model apologetic for Jews is Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. In verse 22 he appeals to Jesus' miracles. In verses 25-31 he appeals to fulfilled prophecy. In verse 32 he appeals to Christ's resurrection. By means of these arguments the apostles sought to show Jews that Christianity is true.
Inference: If you are preaching, evangelizing, witnessing, or sharing the gospel without apologetics, you are not doing them biblically.
Faith vs. Reason
Thanks to sin, human wisdom has become entangled with pride. As a result, "not many who are wise" are among the believers in the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:21), which demands humility. Men "suppress the truth" (Romans 1:18-32) and are "blinded" to justify their unrighteousness. (Ephesians 4:17-18; Romans 3:10-11; 2 Corinthians 4:4)
Faith is equally available to all. Unlike knowledge of, say, quantum physics or classical Chinese, faith requires no special intellectual gifts. "I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes." (Matthew 11:25)
When Paul condemns human "wisdom" and "philosophy," or Luther condemns "reason," it is not the gift of reasoning and knowledge that is being condemned, but only its abuse, as twisted by pride and sin. (Isaiah 29:13-14; 1 Corinthians 1:18-21; 1:27-29, 2:1-5, 2:13-14, 3:18-20; Colossians 2:8, 23; 1 Timothy 6:20; James 3:15-17)
Jesus instructed us to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind." (emphasis added, Mat. 22:37)
Luther's famous Diet of Worms proclamation in 1521: "Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything. Here I stand, I can do no other!"
Role of the Holy Spirit
We know that the Holy Spirit is actively engaged in regenerating a person and bringing him to faith. In fact, without the role of the Holy Spirit nobody would be saved. But this does not mean that we should not use apologetics. As put by William Lane Craig in his book Reasonable Faith, "When one presents reasons for his faith, one is not working apart from or against the Holy Spirit." Craig argues that it is indeed unscriptural to refuse to reason with an unbeliever.
While there may be times when it is inappropriate to use apologetics in our witnessing, it is correct to say that the Holy Spirit often uses our apologetic arguments to bring people to faith. We must always be prepared to give an answer to the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15). (1)