By: John Bradley Wheeler
Jesus is Lord and his word is the standard of truth and reality. All things are to be judged by Scripture. From Scripture the Christian derives their worldview. From reading Genesis, it is clear the world was made in six days. In reading the Gospels, Jesus’s virgin birth is presented as history not myth, as is the resurrection, his ascension, and all the miracles within the narratives. The Bible contains much of what the world considers foolishness, yet it is the Bible which is the final arbiter of truth not only for the Christian, but also for the world that is caught up in unbelief.
The mission of the Church is to be “in the world and not of the world.” Christians are to be the salt and the light. God has given Christians the “Great Commission” to “make disciples of all nations,” and “fishers of men”. The Church, therefore, is tasked with evangelism.
Likewise in the context of an unbelieving world, Christians are to “be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in them.” Hope is often found in the context of persecution and suffering. Thus, while being mocked and scorned, the Christian is to defend the faith and apply Scripture to unbelief. This is the task of apologetics.
Evangelism and apologetics are tasks that every Christian is instructed (even commanded) to engage in doing. Yet, both these tasks are viewed as daunting; with many arguing either a lack of gifting or a lack of training. I’ve heard many say, “Evangelism isn’t my gift.” Likewise, I’ve heard objections to studying apologetics, such as, “I’m not very good at philosophy” or “I don’t believe that Christians ought to argue.” Both of these objections indicate a misunderstanding of evangelism and apologetics. Further, neither of these objections can be used to ignore the clear commands of Scripture for the believer. Evangelism and apologetics rightly understood are related tasks which every Christian is commanded to engage in within the context of the lost and fallen world.
One of the last commands of Jesus is recorded in Matthew 28:
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
The Christian is called to live under the authority of Jesus in every area of their life. The Holy Spirit resides in the Christian to enable the Christian to be obedient. The Christian message is Jesus is Lord over all of heaven and earth. No one makes him Lord and he is not anxiously waiting in heaven hoping he will be recognized as Lord. As the Psalmist notes, “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry” and “ The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” Christ is enthroned in heaven as Lord, and the gospel is to be proclaimed by Christians throughout the world, announcing his authority and calling all men everywhere to repent lest the Son be angry and his enemies be trodden under his feet.
Yet, many Christians respond to the command to evangelize with disobedience. This disobedience may stem for a lack of discipleship or from a rejection of a particular form of evangelism (disobedience is still disobedience). The content of evangelism is always the gospel, but there are many ways to be faithful to evangelism. One may be passionate about sharing Christ through street preaching, another through daily witnessing (both in actions and in words) to one’s friends, family, and co-workers, while another engages unbelievers with the gospel through writing and other media. There is no one style or method that fits all. The command is for God’s people to live under God’s lordship in their public and private lives making Christ known in all the world calling everyone everywhere to repent.
Apologetics, like evangelism is commanded by God for all Christians. Peter writes in 1 Peter:
15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
Notice that verse fifteen begins with Lordship. The NKJV renders the passage, “the Lord God.” The New American Standard based on older manuscripts of the book of 1 Peter translates the passage, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.” The difference is negligible given that each member of the Trinity is fully God, but the emphasis on Christ in this verse seems consistent with what follows in the rest of chapter 3 and 4 with Christ being our example in suffering and obedience. Therefore, this passage, like the Great Commission, begins with the authority of Christ.
Further the command of the passage is for all Christians. Voddie Baucham notes this by placing the passage in the fuller context, where verse 8 begins, “Finally, all of you. . .” Baucham writes:
The phrase “finally, all of you” makes it clear that Peter is now addressing all Christians regardless of circumstance. He is now summing up his teaching on submission and having gone from the general to the specific, he returns to the general. This is crucial to our understanding of the next paragraph as it removes any doubt as to who is responsible for engaging in apologetics. The idea that apologetics is for a select few must give way to the clear teaching of Scripture, which places the practice squarely at the feet of every believer.
The Christian, is therefore, to be prepared to give a defense (an apology) to those who ask and to do so even in the midst of persecution and suffering. In a very real way this is the Christian, “confessing Christ before men” (see Luke 12:8).
In the same manner that many resist a particular type of evangelism, many also have a misconception of what apologetics entails. There is the notion that one must be an argumentative person (neglecting the difference between presenting an argument or case and being one who starts fights with everybody) or one must be educated in philosophy in order to engage in apologetics. These misconceptions lead to rejecting a task that Scripture makes clear is the responsibility of all Christians.
To clarify, then, what is apologetics if it isn’t picking fights or quoting Plato? The Greek word apologia simply means, “defense.” K. Scott Oliphint provides this definition, “Christian apologetics is the application of biblical truth to unbelief.” John Frame dealing with the context of 1 Peter 3 states, “We may define it as the discipline that teaches Christians how to give a reason for their hope.” Therefore apologetics is defending the Christian faith under the lordship of Jesus, using Scripture to defend the faith and to give reasons for the Christian hope.
Note, nothing in this definition requires a PhD in Philosophy. There is no requirement to memorize the cosmological argument, the ontological argument, or the teleological argument. What is required of the Christian is submission to Jesus as Lord and a commitment to Scripture for defending the faith and proclaiming the hope that one has in Christ.
The Christian prepares oneself for the task of apologetics by submitting to Christ and being a student of Scripture. When a challenge to the faith is raised, the response of the Christian is to state what the Bible says on the matter. When asked the reason for hope, the reason the Christian gives is grounded in Scripture. Over and over again, the Christian answers the challenges of the secular culture to the Christian faith from the Bible because the Bible is the authority by which all things are judged.
The related tasks of evangelism and apologetics are not optional for the Christian. In the context of the lost and fallen world, Christians are commanded to proclaim the gospel and to defend the faith, giving the reason for the hope that is in them. Jesus as the Lord and authority has called Christians to this task.
The resistance to certain forms of evangelism and common misconceptions of apologetics are not legitimate excuses to being unfaithful to engage in these tasks. The Christian faith is a public faith and such a faith necessitates sharing the gospel and defending the faith. The context of the world, the need for the gospel, and the hatred of the message of Christ makes such activities inevitable for the faithful Christian, who desires not to deny Christ before men. Therefore, Christians, under the lordship of Jesus, his authority, and the standard of his word must evangelize and defend the faith. Christians have hope in a world without hope, truth in a world where truth is relative, and light where there is darkness, and this is why no Christian can be silent.
Works Cited and Notes
Baucham, Voddie. 2015. Expository Apologetics: Answering Objections with the Power of the Word. (Crossway. Kindle Edition.)
Frame, John M. Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief. Edited by Joseph E. Torres. Second Edition. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2015.
Green, Michael. The Message of Matthew: The Kingdom of Heaven, The Bible Speaks Today. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001.
Oliphint, K. Scott. Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013.
The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.
 Voddie, Baucham. 2015. Expository Apologetics: Answering Objections with the Power of the Word. (Kindle Locations 470-474). Crossway. Kindle Edition.
 K. Scott Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 29.