Outreach Ministry: Apologetics
Apologetics Corrects Misconceptions, Addresses Doubts, Gives a Reason for Hope
"Always be prepared to give an answer ..." (1 Pet. 3:15)
"to give an answer" = Greek word, apologia
1 Peter 3:15-16 gives us the "how-to's" of apologetics.
We need to ask why this verse starts with "but." The context lets us know of a problem -- fear that comes from asking 'What if?' What if I "suffer for what is right?" What if I am persecuted? Verse 14 says then "you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." "But," begins verse 15, there is an alternative to fear.
Fear is often one of the biggest hindrances in witnessing.
What will they ask?
How will I answer?
What if I don't know what to say?
What will they think?
"in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord."
You must first settle the issue of the sovereignty of God. If it is God's will for you to suffer, are you okay with that? Do you truly believe He knows what is best? We can know in our heads what the Bible teaches. We can say He is Lord.
But, if it has sunk down into our hearts, then we can step out in confidence without fearing the consequences.
"Always be prepared"
Being prepared to "give an answer" takes more than a course or two on apologetics. A Bible college degree is not enough. We need on-going training if we are going to be ready at any given moment. Hebrews 5:14 says "But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."
Being able to discern what to say or do is dependent on a consistent walk with God wherein you constantly feed on His Word.
"to give an answer"
At some point lifestyle evangelism needs a voice. Live the life but also be ready to give a statement of explanation. Defend (apologia) the hope you have in Christ.
Know why you believe what you believe and be ready to put it into words. Remember, faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17) not merely by seeing it lived out.
"to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."
Not everyone is ready for "apologia." Too often people are turned off to Christianity because of zealous defenders of the faith. Notice that 1 Peter 3:15 says we give a defense when asked. We aren't to go looking for a debate. We aren't to be manipulative in getting people to listen to us. "Apologia" comes by invitation. Also note that 1 Peter 3:15 exhorts us to share with "everyone" who asks, not just those with whom we are comfortable.
We need to be discerning when it comes to witnessing and defending the faith. What does the person need most at this particular point in time? .... to observe authentic Christians? .... to hear the simple Gospel message? .... to experience a tangible expression of the love of Christ? .... or to engage in a discussion of why Christ is the way, of why the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, of why it makes sense to believe there is a God, etc.?
"But do this with
gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience"
2 Timothy 2:24 parallels the stance Christians should take with others --"And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct ..."
Know when to bail out. 2 Timothy 2:23 says "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments because you know they produce quarrels." If a person genuinely wants an answer, you should be able to get beyond the smoke screens and deal with the real issues in a civil manner.
"so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil."
You are not going to convince everybody. Some people may not like you because of what you believe. Jesus didn't have a 100% approval rating yet "for the joy set before him endured the cross" (Heb. 12:2). Jesus focused His attention on those who wanted His salvation. He didn't ignore the others but neither did He cave in to their attempts to stir up arguments with Him. How often Jesus silenced His critics by the way He responded.
"Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart" (Heb. 12:3).
"For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit . . ."
God's plan from the beginning of time has been to bring people into a relationship with Himself not to merely conform to a set of beliefs or standard of living. Never forget the Gospel message.
It is easy to get caught up in side issues. This is not to minimize people's questions and doubts about creation, why good people suffer, etc. Remember, however, to keep bringing them back to Jesus. See 2 Corinthians 10:5.
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The Outreach Ministry Manual includes this content along with some Scripture and questions to help you further think through each of the above points in light of your own practices.