"So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields." Matthew 9:38
Mutt and Jeff.
That’s what people called us when my wife and I first began dating. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that Mutt and Jeff were iconic comic strip characters from the early 1900’s who were together all the time. Mutt was very tall and Jeff was extremely short. I stood at an abnormally proportioned 6 feet five inches tall weighing around 225 lbs. And my wife Lacy measured in at 5 feet 5 inches in height weighing around 100 lbs.
Ergo the nickname, Mutt and Jeff.
Now imagine for a moment that someone came up to me and said, “I’m very good friends with your wife, Lacy Parish.” However, this person then goes on to describe Lacy as being a very tall, heavy-set woman with red hair.
I have two options at this point in our conversation. I can say to them, “Well that’s just your interpretation of what my wife looks like.” Or I can personally introduce the person to my wife and let the truth of what is plainly before them speak for itself. I would have made my point and a defense against their erroneous statement by simply presenting them with the facts.
We defend against false statements not with opinion or interpretation, but by presenting truth.
This is an example of apologetics.
Apologetics comes from the greek word which means “to speak in defense.” Expository apologetics is the study of defending the Christian faith through the use of scripture. And it is a discipline that has been greatly neglected by many modern day Christians.
Contrary to what some may say, there is no such thing as a private faith in Christ. The scriptures themselves contradict this notion. We are called by Christ proclaim His name to the world (Matthew 28:19). Every Christian is considered and appointed to be a ‘Royal Priesthood’ (1 Peter 2:9), preaching His Gospel to everyone.
And in preaching the Gospel, opposition to our message is unavoidable. Therefore as believers in Christ we must be properly equipped and ready to make a defense of our faith. And if that defense is based on opinions, feelings, or anything other than the Word itself, our proclamation will be powerless.
Unfortunately, a great majority of professing believers stay relatively quite about their faith in Christ around unbelievers. Their reasoning for this is two-fold. First, because they don’t want to offend anyone with their beliefs. And secondly, they don’t feel up to the task if a situation arises where they may have to defend their beliefs.
So instead of standing on the truth of God’s Word, Christians will either try to change the subject or resort to saying, “Well that’s your interpretation.” If someone were to point to a fire and tell me that it was actually cold to touch, I wouldn’t say to them, “That is your interpretation of what fire feels like.” Rather I would tell them to touch it and see what happens.
Pastor Voddie Baucham used a similar illustration. Baucham asked his listeners to picture two medieval knights getting ready to do battle. The first knight draws his sword. The opposing knight then says, “I do not believe in your sword.” The first knight can either put his sword away and try to explain through his own reasoning why his sword really does exist. Or as Pastor Voddie says, “He can cut him with the sword.”
Instead of defending the truth of God’s Word, far too often many feel like they have to make apologies for the offense or sharp edge that it brings. As believers in Christ, we should be less concerned about offending people with God’s Word and more concerned about offending God with our sins.
But we live in a day and age where the golden rule is quoted more by Christians than the scriptures. Many will not defend their faith because of the possible offense that doing so may cause. Being nice to others is seen as better than speaking truth. And goodness knows that if Jesus Christ was known for anything, it was being non offensive, peaceful, and polite….right?
The scriptures describe God’s Word as a sword. So when our faith is questioned, and we answer with anything other than the Word of God, we are in essence putting away our sword and trying to explain why it exists. That is why it is so vital that Christians don’t merely believe in Christ, but they also know Him intimately through His word. Jesus specifically said in the Gospel of Matthew;
““Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34.
This is not a Bible verse that is quoted too often in our world today. The sword Christ spoke of was the word of God. Jesus wasn’t concerned about offending others with the truth of scripture. Jesus was not concerned with being nice. He was concerned with speaking the truth. And He was unapologetic in doing so.
At the passover celebration when Jesus saw His Father’s house being blasphemed by setting up shop in the temple, Jesus didn’t ask them to Kindly remove their wares with a smile on His face. Jesus was outraged that their sin was offensive to God the Father, and He thrashed the temple in a rage. (Matthew 21:12-13).
Some would say that Jesus was only harsh with the self righteous Pharisees, and that He was meek and gentle with those who were not religious and lived in their sin out of ignorance. However this is not true. The Lord consistently rebuked unbelieving Israel as a whole for their rebellion all throughout the Old Testament.
“…and say to the land of Israel, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Behold, I am against you; and I will draw My sword out of its sheath and cut off from you the righteous and the wicked.” Ezekiel 21:3
Also when we read the book of Revelation, we see Christ returning with wrath against all those who are unGodly, not just those who are self righteous. And certainly not just the religious leaders.
When Jesus came as God incarnate the first time, the golden rule was not his priority. And when He returns, it will not be in hopes of making new friends. Read what John wrote in Revelation about the second coming of Christ.
“From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.” Revelation 19:15.
When Christ returns, the word of God, (which is the sword) will place a guilty sentence on those who are enemies of God. And the Lord Jesus Christ will destroy all of those who have opposed Him.
“If I sharpen My flashing sword, And My hand takes hold on justice, I will render vengeance on My adversaries, And I will repay those who hate Me.” Deuteronomy 32:41.
After the resurrection, when Peter was preaching to the thousands of unbelieving Jews at Pentecost, he didn’t resort to using human reasoning or give them his personal opinions on why they should believe in the risen Christ. And Peter didn’t tell them that if they didn’t believe that Christ had risen, then they could just agree to disagree based on differing interpretations of the resurrection.
Rather, Peter began quoting the prophet Joel from the Old Testament scriptures and King David regarding the prophecies of the Messiah. Peter did not coddle their sin, but rather pointed out that it was their unbelief that led to the crucifixion of their long awaited Messiah. In essence, Peter put all of Israel on trial by making a defense of his faith.
“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”Acts 2:36.
Peter was not worried about offending the Jews. He was offended by their unbelief. And Peter didn’t just explain to the Jews why they should believe that his sword existed. He pulled it out of its sheath and pierced them with it.
“Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart,” Acts 2:37.
Thousands came to faith in Christ that day as a result of Peter’s sermon. And it wasn’t Peter’s kindness that led them to repentance. It was his defense of the truth and the piercing blade of the Word of God pricking their hearts.
There are people who sit in churches each Sunday who have a problem with preachers that preach against sin in a serious manner from the pulpit. They are more concerned and afraid that someone who may be dealing with sin might get their feelings hurt if it is addressed rather than telling them the truth.
And unlike Peter, they are more offended that God’s Word cuts like a sword rather than realizing that the very sin they don’t want spoken of is an offense to God. Granted we should always speak the truth in love. But therein lies the issue. Because whenever you speak the truth of God’s Word to a lost person, it will cut and offend.
Regardless of how much proverbial honey you put on the Word of God, it’s still a sword. In order to defend our faith in our postmodern culture, we must be less concerned with being nice and more concerned with speaking truth.
Let me use an example. If your child were playing ball in the middle of the road and an 18 wheel truck we barreling down the road, just moments away from hitting your child, what would you rather I do? Would you rather I speak softly as not to hurt your child’s feelings? Maybe say something like, “I really wish you would get out of the road, but if you don’t feel like it that’s ok.”
Of course not! No one would be concerned about the feelings of the child when death could be seconds away. Any parent would want someone to scream as harshly and seriously as they could, “GET OUT OF THE ROAD…NOW!!!!!” The most unloving thing that I could do in that situation would be to focus on not offending the child.
Or if out of ignorance the child ignored the warning, claiming that there was no truck, is the correct response to agree to disagree based on differing interpretations of the situation? Absolutely not. The truth is that death is imminent. The response would be to do everything possible to put the child’s eyes upon the truth!
We shy away from presenting truth, because the truth of God’s Word is offensive to those who live in rebellion to it. This is our problem when it comes to defending the faith. We don’t like apologetics because it is not viewed by the world as nice. We don’t like apologetics because the Gospel is no longer viewed as life or death. It’s urgent message has been replaced by a soft plea that is referred to as an interpretation rather than truth.
“I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Luke 13:3.
This warning from our Lord is not a passive plea. It’s an urgent warning. And in our evangelism we should treat it as such. Countless people who do not know the Lord die unexpectedly on a daily basis who are walking down the middle of the eternal highway. And Hell is about to hit them full force. We speak truth because we love. We fight because souls are at stake.
“…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15.
Why are apologetics important?
Because we are called to be prepared to make a defense of our faith. Always. Who are we to defend it too? Anyone that may challenge it or ask the reason for our hope.
We speak truth with kindness and gentleness. But we dare not dull the blade of God’s sword that we present to them. And we had better not be concerned that it might pierce their sinful consciences. Lest the sword of almighty God be used upon us.
The sword of God’s Word will indeed cut down those who are flaunting their sins in His face. But this same sword of truth will be the salvation of His people. The lost will not be saved by our human reasoning or giving them our opinions or interpretations of what we think about His Word. The captives can only be set free by a sword.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is serious, not jovial. It is truth, and not personal preference or up to interpretation. In your evangelism and defense of the Gospel, place the truth of God’s word before your hearers and not your opinions. Only it has the power to save.
“Blessed are you, O Israel; Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD, Who is the shield of your help And the sword of your majesty! So your enemies will cringe before you, And you will tread upon their high places.” Deuteronomy 33:29.