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Making an Apology

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Making an Apology

1 Peter 3.15

April 22, 2007

This Thursday evening, we will have a guest speaker, James White, who will be speaking on the general subject of Christian Apologetics.

I thought I would prepare the way a bit by looking at the one of the key passages in the NT which endorses this idea. 

1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)
15 but in your hearts regard 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;

 

So, what do we mean by Christian apologetics?  You can see from 1 Peter, the word defense is the word from which we get apologetics.  It doesn’t mean to make excuses for Christ – it means “being prepared to explain what we believe and why we believe it, with gentleness and respect.”

Two examples:

ESV Acts 25:8 Paul argued in his defense, "Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense."

ESV Acts 26:24 ¶ And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, "Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind."

Acts 18:4 (ESV)
4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

He dialogued or we today we say we held a conversation with them.  But, for sure, the conversation was intended to persuade his hearers of the truth of the gospel.

2 Corinthians 5:11 (ESV)
11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.

An example from Whitehorse Tavern at a Christian School on why they believed in the Bible.

I couldn’t tell you.

I believe it is true.

Because from my experiences – it fits.  I feel it and it’s true.

The question caught most of them off guard, as it would us as well.  Some of the answers were good; most were not.  Why?  Because few would speak to the Bible’s claim to reveal real events which took place in history.  And on the basis of these events which really happened, we are encouraged to put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

John 20:31 (ESV)
31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

To help us in our thinking, and in our living, I want to turn to 1 Peter 3.15.

As we ask the question, what makes for a Christian apologetic, we really learn what makes for a Christian life.

Point One:  Fear of God – But in Your hearts, honor Christ the Lord as holy v 15

Christian apologetics begins with a reverential fear of the Lord.  If you do not fear the Lord, you will fear or revere something or someone else.

And in the context of 1 Peter, that could be one of a number of things:  neighbors, government, and even family members. 

In this letter, Peter speaks of the various trials they might well face; the testing of their faith.  He speaks of the sorrows Christians experience in the face of injustice (2.19); and he speaks of the blessedness of suffering for Christ’s sake But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.  Have no fear of them, nor be troubled. (3.14).

After all, Peter reminds his readers, Jesus suffered, even though he committed no sin nor was any deceit found in his mouth (2.22)  Of course, Peter reminds his readers, Jesus’ suffering is in one sense distinct from ours in that he suffered for us, that we might be forgiven by God.  However, as the collect says, his suffering also serves as an example for us.  For as Christians will suffer.  And that is nothing we need fear if we fear the Lord.

Jesus told his disciples:

John 15:18 (ESV)
18 "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.

Suffering does have a purpose.  Peter means by suffering – suffering as a Christian.  He is not talking about the aches and pains of physical illness or the suffering which is occasioned by such tragedies as experienced by Virginia Tech students. 

He means suffering which comes as a result of being a follower of Jesus.  In many parts of the world, this can and is physical suffering.  In the West, thanks be to God, our suffering is very different.            

However, Peter says that our suffering deepens our fellowship with Christ who also suffered for our sakes.

Notice:

1 Peter 4:13-15 (ESV)
13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.

Noted Methodist theologian, Thomas Oden, says No Christian teacher is worth listening to who is not willing to suffer if need be for the truth that is being taught.

He adds:  Paul’s teaching was personally validated by his willingness to be exposed to hardship, even to the point of being shut up like a common criminal…

Peter alludes to Isaiah 8:12-13 (ESV)
12 "Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the Lord of hosts, him you shall regard as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.

The way of the Assyrians were a great temptation to the Israelites.  Why?  Because they were powerful, and they feared them, even to the point of going along with them.

One more verse in 1 Peter – 1 Peter 4:3-5 (ESV)
3 The time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

Suffering here means the ridicule we face by others when we refuse to go along with their immoral ways.

We rightly applaud the fact that justice was served in Durham, NC.  But what if those students had simply NOT GONE to that party – They are innocent of crimes; but not innocent of putting themselves in a situation of moral compromise, to say the least.

One more point.  The handmaid of fear of God is confidence in his goodness.

As in CS Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia.  Lucy asks whether Aslan, the great lion who represents Christ in the story is quite safe.  She hears, “No, Lucy, Aslan is not safe, but he is good.” 


Point Two:  Always being Prepared to Make a Defense to anyone who Asks You…

William Edgar says that being prepared means 1)  knowledge and 2) sensitivity.

Regarding knowledge – the word, hope is used here. 

The word, hope, expresses a desired, but often uncertain outcome.  I hope I pass the test.  I hope the Mariners win

Now, listen to Peter in his first chapter. 

1 Peter 1:3-5 (ESV)
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

The outcome of our trust in Jesus Christ is such that we are willing to stake our lives on it. 

Romans 5:5 (ESV)
5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.


Notice too, that this defense requires us to make it verbally.

Spurgeon famously said that the defense of the gospel was ‘sheer impertainence – like defending a lion.  He said, it is better to let him out of his cage.

But the gospel – which concerns the good news of Jesus’ life, his death and resurrection for our salvation – involves a messenger – you and me.  The gospel needs some kind of agency to bring it within earshot of real people.  God could have arranged a different situation – but this is what he did decide.

So, we do need to have a good, basic grasp of the Christian gospel.

In some of our adult classes, I have tried to do this using the 2 Ways to Live model – you can find 2 Ways tracts in the narthex.

Of course, the preparation called for is not simply or in the first place intellectual, although that is a part of it.  Preparation means readiness to share our faith when asked!  Sometimes that can be in a very inopportune time, or we may not feel at all ready to do so.

We can’t pick and choose the opportunities to witness to our faith. 

Point Three:  With Gentleness & Respect

I remember years ago attending a seminar on politics.  One of the speakers was a Christian.  He began to critique the moral failures so evident in our culture – and as he spoke, he became angrier, and angrier until he was in a rage – all in the defense of Christian values!

Notice how we are to explain the hope that lies in us?  with gentleness and respect.

I think this involves two things.  Knowing about the times we live in, and also it implies courtesy, humility and kindliness.

Certainly, the professor I spoke of before lacked gentleness and instead displayed anger. We believe the Christian faith is true.  Therefore, it can stand up to any scrutiny.  It may be that we can’t at the moment explain that to someone.  But, we must have the confidence that it can be done. 

Therefore, we must listen to the objections or skepticism that people have.  I know sometimes I already begin to develop a response to someone before learning what it is that they are asking. 

Francis Schaeffer used to say that we need to listen to the problem behind the problem.

And with respect.  The word here is often used of God.  People have many ideas about God, indeed, if their ideas about God have not been formed by the Bible’s revelation of God, they are sure to be off the mark.  But, we are to respect them, and allow a full airing of their views, despite the vehemence we may feel at the moment.

This word, respect, I think, is related to tolerance.  Tolerance means that I will give another person a full hearing, and I will respect his beliefs.  Tolerance doesn’t mean agreement or even approval.  That is where I think, we get into trouble.  Tolerance literally means, sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own but it does mean agreement or even approval.

Summary

Apologetics is close to evangelism.  Evangelism is the sharing of the gospel.  Apologetics is the argument and reason for believing as on does. 

Apologetics also focuses on issues and methods which  destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, (2 Cor 10.5)

 

Why do you believe what you believe?  And are you able to give reasons for the hope that is in you?

Let us pray

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