Apologetics Has Two Sides. We Should All Be Experts in One, if Not Both.
Most Christians know that Apologetics is the technical term for defending the Christian faith. The concept comes from 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 a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. “Defense” comes from the Greek word apologia. Clearly this text is saying that when people ask questions about why we have set our hope in Christ, we are to be prepared with ready answers. That is one aspect of Apologetics, being prepared to answer questions like: why I believe the Bible is true; why I believe Jesus rose from the dead; why I believe there is only one way to heaven? Some Christians are real experts at this. Dr. Norman Geisler, a former professor of mine, is a world-renowned authority in Apologetics. Few can match his skill in this area. His books are very helpful.
But there is another side to Apologetics, that those less skillful with verbal arguments, can still be experts at in defending the faith. In fact, this form of Apologetics must precede and be the basis for the first form. We can call this a “life-apologetic” in addition to an “answer-apologetic.” It is interesting that before Peter gets to the important and necessary “answer-apologetic,” he emphasizes the “life-apologetic” in 1 Peter 3:8-12. Look at just verses 8-9.
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil of reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
Peter is clearly in v. 9 reflecting on Jesus’ teaching about how to respond to those who persecute us – bless and curse not, said Jesus. So, we are justified in seeing v. 8 as referring to our relationships primarily with believers, while v. 9 likely refers to our relationships with more hostile unbelievers (as vv. 13-17 go on to explain). Seeing this, Peter is certainly teaching that God wants us to live lives that are attractive so that people see the gospel at work in us. In fact, we can see two lessons emerging from verses 8-9 that are developed by Peter in the entire section of verses 8-17:
- Among believers, create a community that models all the virtues of relationships at their best so that people will be attracted to it (v. 8).
- Among nonbelievers, react in ways so unexpected that they will be surprised and attracted as to why we are so different when mistreated (v. 9 = the Golden Rule).
Charles Spurgeon once told his congregation that the best sermons are preached during the week by the people who came to hear him preach. He said that in the shops, in the offices, in the homes, etc., the most powerful sermons are preached every day to a watching world that cannot deny the power of the eternal gospel on display in Christians’ lives. Spurgeon was referring to the “life-apologetic.” Most Christians can trace their conversion to a trusted friend or relative whose respected testimony made the gospel believable. One of the believers who impacted me the most so respected his quiet, unassuming Christian uncle, that when his nephew heard the gospel it had credibility because of his uncle. That uncle was living the “life-apologetic,” and we should all be experts at it. The gospel is both seen and heard, and it takes both to win the lost.
Your friend, wanting to BE an apologetic, Pastor Brian (: -}).