Do we need to defend the faith as we make disciples?
There are those who think that we don’t need to defend the faith nowadays. That all we have to do is make disciples. They feel that apologetics is merely an intellectual exercise. So, do we really have to choose between apologetics and discipleship? Let me point out that they are friends, not enemies. That defending the faith and making disciples are two sides of the proverbial coin.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, ESV)
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)
|This is how atheists caricature those who believe in God. Image credit|
In his “Beyond Opinion: Living The Faith We Defend,” Dr. Ravi Zacharias answered those who say, “You can’t argue anybody into the kingdom.” “Apologetics only caters to pride, you know.” “Conversion is not about the intellect; it is all about the heart.”
Apologetics is a subject that ends up defending itself. The one who argues against apologetics end up using argument to denounce argument. The one who says apologetics is a matter of pride ends up proudly defending one’s own impoverishment. The one who says conversion is a matter of the heart and not the intellect ends up presenting intellectual arguments to convince others of this position. So goes the process of self-contradiction.Were it not for apologetics, how would we know whether the encounter between Jesus Christ and the disciples in Matthew 28 really happened or not? And this encounter hinges on whether Jesus rose from the dead or not.
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2)
Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place. (New Living Translation)If the resurrection did not actually happen, then this encounter did not happen also. The fact of the resurrection is crucial in the Gospel message itself.
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:14-19, ESV. Emphasis mine.)
|"And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain." Image credit|
Now, let me ask you something profound yet troubling. If you became believers because you trusted the proclamation that Christ is alive, risen from the dead, how can you let people say that there is no such thing as a resurrection? If there’s no resurrection, there’s no living Christ. And face it—if there’s no resurrection for Christ, everything we’ve told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you’ve staked your life on is smoke and mirrors. Not only that, but we would be guilty of telling a string of barefaced lies about God, all these affidavits we passed on to you verifying that God raised up Christ—sheer fabrications, if there’s no resurrection. If corpses can’t be raised, then Christ wasn’t, because he was indeed dead. And if Christ weren’t raised, then all you’re doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever. It’s even worse for those who died hoping in Christ and resurrection, because they’re already in their graves. If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot. (Emphasis mine)
|"And face it—if there’s no resurrection for Christ, everything we’ve told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you’ve staked your life on is smoke and mirrors." Image credit|
because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9, ESV)If He is not really who He claimed He is, then He does not have right to command us to “go… and make disciples of all nations.” But, if He is who He claimed He is, then not to make disciples is disobedience.
|How prepared are we to defend the faith from memes like this? Image credit|
When we baptize people “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” how do we know that the Trinity was not concocted by men? When we teach people “to observe all that [Christ] have commanded [us],” how would we know that the Bible has everything we need to know? That it was really what the text said and nothing was added to it or subtracted from it during its transmission?
|“Do not underestimate the role you play in clearing the obstacles in someone’s spiritual journey.” Image credit|
We need to defend the faith as we make disciples.