Monday, February 29, 2016


While theology answers the “what” question – What are we to believe? – apologetics answers the “why” question: Why do we believe what we believe? But is apologetics – the rational defense of the faith – biblical? It certainly is! In fact, we find apologetics in all of the evangelistic sermons of the Book of Acts!

Notice how Peter answered the “why” question. The crowds had heard the Apostles speaking with the supernatural gift of tongues. Some of the crowd concluded that they must be drunk. However, Peter used this phenomenon to demonstrate that this represented a fulfillment of prophecy and, consequently, a proof for the faith:

  • “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.’” (Acts 2:14-20; ESV) 
Peter understood that this fulfillment of the prophecy of the Prophet Joel was evidence supportive of the new Christian faith. However, Peter was on an apologetic role. He now centered his proof of the faith on the resurrection:

  • “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’” (Acts 2:22-28)
First, Peter mentioned the miracles. They all knew about these, but didn’t the crucifixion put to death this Messianic hope? No! By quoting Psalm 16, Peter tried to prove that the resurrection had been prophesied and had turned everything around. Peter then explained the meaning of the Psalm and how it pointed to the resurrection:

  • “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. (Acts 2:29-31) 
Peter then offered testimonial evidence of the resurrection that anyone could ascertain by speaking to the many witnesses. Then, he cited another Psalm (110) that the Israelites also regarded as Messianic:

  • This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ 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 2:32-36) 
According to Peter, the evidence was enough to produce certainty.” What was the result of such apologetic preaching?

  • So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41) 
Admittedly, argumentation alone does not save anyone, but neither does any salvation message. Both must be accompanied by the work of the Spirit in changing hearts.

During Paul’s first recorded evangelistic message, in Antioch in Pisidia, Paul also brought forward evidence to establish the Person of Jesus:

  • Of this man’s [King David’s] offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.  And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’ Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. (Acts 13:23-31)
First, Paul identified Jesus as David’s promised offspring, in accordance with prophecy. Then he cited John the Baptist’s testimony, followed by allusions to prophecies of the death of the Messiah. This, of course, was followed by the evidence of the resurrection – eyewitness testimony of those who are still alive. He was now ready to provide the Scriptural evidence for the resurrection:

  • And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’ And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ Therefore he says also in another psalm [16], ‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’ For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. (Acts 13:32-38)
Again, both of the quoted Psalms were regarded as Messianic. This would avoid any controversy as to whether or not prophecy was fulfilled by a Messiah. Meanwhile, God too had been providing His own evidence:

  • So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. (Acts 14:3)
If God provides reasons-to-believe, we should not be hesitant to also provide reasons.

In Athens, Paul reasoned with them as Gentiles. He appealed to argumentation and reasons that might make a difference to them. Therefore, it does not seem that he cited Scripture. Instead, he appealed to what they already knew and valued – their own thinkers:

  • Yet he [God] is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. (Acts 17:27-29)
Paul reasoned from what they knew to what they didn’t know – that the Athenians should not worship idols, their own creations. Even their own poets had asserted that we are His offspring. If this is so, then God cannot be “an image formed by the art and imagination of man.” Instead, He – the Cause – must be greater than we, the result of His work.

Apologetics, the “why” of belief, is woven into the very fabric of Scripture. It had also been integral to the Hebrew Scriptures and the experience of Israel, as Moses had reasoned 40 years after the Exodus:

  • “For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of. Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live?  Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him. (Deuteronomy 4:32-35)
Israel had no reason for their unbelief and rebellion. They knew better. Jesus was also cognizant of our need for evidence and even evidential reassurances. After John the Baptist had been arrested, he underwent a crisis in faith. He had declared Jesus to be the Lamb of God:

  • John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.” (John 1:15-16)
However, John now instructed his disciples to find out if Jesus is truly the One. When they found Him, Jesus could simply have told them, “Tell John to just believe.” However, He provided them with evidence to reassure John:

  • And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. (Matthew 11:4-5)
We need food for both our hearts and our minds. Consequently, Jesus never instructed His followers to turn off their minds but instead to love Him with all their hearts, souls, and minds (Matthew 22:37). We too must love Him accordingly.

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