Jesus used Apologetics. So should we.

Every once in a while you run upon someone who has an aversion to Apologetics, usually out of misunderstanding. “I will not ‘apologize’ for Jesus”, they might say.It is at those times that we often pull out our limited Greek knowledge and explain to them the meaning of 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 for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15, ESV)

The word defense is the Greek word ἀπολογία, or in English apologia, which means to make a defense. Lots of people get the word apologetic confused with the modern word apologize, or to say “sorry”. Even after this mini Greek lesson though, some remain unconvinced.

Here’s another approach though. Many of the same naysayers to Apologetics would affirm WWJD. So let’s look at Jesus’ approach to apologetics.

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”” (John 10:25–38, ESV)

It’s interesting that Jesus used Apologetics to convince unbelievers of who he was. When asked the question (v. 24), are you the Christ, Jesus first of all clarifies the position of the Jews. “You do not believe”. It is not the case that there has been no evidence submitted already though. Jesus reminds them that he has already told them. Its interesting here to note that Jesus’ word is in fact the Word of God.

There are those opposed to Apologetics proper that would say that God’s Word is quite enough when it comes to evangelism. Our only responsibility, they would argue, is to only give the Word. Any efforts beyond that they would deem unfaithful at least and maybe even sinful.

The problem with that view is of course the fact that Jesus did not take that approach. Reaffirming the unbelief of the Jews after the Word was proclaimed, Jesus used apologetic methods. The first of these was his appeal to the evidence of his ‘good works’.

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me,” (John 10:25, ESV)

These ‘good works’ are of course the miracles that he had done in the name of the Father. These works bear witness or testify that he is Christ.

This appeal to evidence is exactly what apologists do with the typical apologetic arguments like the Cosmological, Teleological, or Moral Arguments. These arguments testify of the works of God. The Cosmological Argument testifies of God’s specific work of the creation of the Universe. The Teleological Argument testifies of God’s work of design within his creation, especially as it culminates to his highest created being, mankind. The Moral Argument testifies of God’s work inside of God’s special creation of mankind, instilling morality to all men of all times. The facts that the Universe had a beginning, it is peculiarly fit to allow for the existence of humans, and that there is an innate sense of morality in humans each testify of the works of God.

Jesus used evidence to appeal to his deity. We should too.

As if he was teasing the Jews, Jesus then explains to them why they don’t believe.

but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.” (John 10:26, ESV)

I don’t believe that we have that kind of discernment of course, but there remains a lesson for us here. It is not our responsibility to convert people. People are saved totally by the grace of God. He chooses whom he wants, calls them, and saves them completely. Our preaching or evangelism is merely the means by which he accomplishes those things. Likewise, if we ‘preach’ the Word and people reject it, we must realize that their rejection is out of our control. We should continue to preach but never to coerce or force people into the Kingdom. Indeed we cannot do that. If you have been unsuccessful reaching people for Christ, do not be discouraged. 

Jesus understood his role. We should understand ours.

Finally, in verse 30, Jesus restates his claim to be God. This, along with the revelation that they are not God’s sheep, enrages the Jews. They picked up stones to kill Jesus and then Jesus does what? He gets sarcastic!

That’s right. Jesus uses sarcasm to add to his apologetic. Knowing full well that the Jews were not going to kill him for his good works, Jesus asks them for which good work they are going to kill him. The sarcasm drips from this line. What is his sarcastic approach supposed to accomplish? He is pointing out the fact that his good works are so obviously of God that they should and in fact do know it.

Jesus was winsome and pithy. We should be as well.

This seems to be Jesus idea of presuppositional epistemology. He is working off of the premise that the Jews already know who he is but that they are willfully rejecting him. He is displaying Paul’s argument in Romans.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:21, ESV)

Although they knew he was God, they denied him. It is what Calvin called the sensus divinitatis, the innate sense in every person that God exists.

There is within the human mind, and indeed by natural instinct, an awareness of divinity.2 This we take to be beyond controversy. To prevent anyone from taking refuge in the pretense of ignorance, God himself has implanted bin all men a certain understanding of his divine majesty.[1]-Calvin

Jesus understood human depravity and the work of the Spirit. So should we.

The Jews then follow with statement calling into question the deity of Christ.

Jesus begins another apologetic effort. This time he appeals to Scripture, but not merely by quoting it. He quotes an ambiguous passage from the Psalms and uses logic to point to their logical mistake.

Jesus appealed to Scripture. So should we.

If God’s Word said, “you are gods”, and Scripture is true, and God not only sent Jesus but he consecrated him and did many good works in him, then how much more is he God?

Do you see the syllogism? If, and, then? Why would the God of logic not use it to communicate truth? Why wouldn’t we? If God raised Jesus, and Jesus claimed to be God, then he must be.

Jesus used logic. So should we. 

Once again, after Jesus’ appeal to logic, he points to his miracles as evidence of his person. Have you ever thought that without the miracles of Jesus including his resurrection, we could only know that he “claimed” to be God? It would be very difficult for me to believe that he is actually God without some evidence that only God could provide. What kind of evidence would that be? Miracles of course.

Jesus appealed to miracles. We should point to his miracles too.

Jesus ends with the reiteration of his deity. “The Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

He leaves no room to wiggle here. As CS Lewis said, he has not left us with the idea that he is a good teacher. He claimed to be God. In light of that, we only have three choices about what to believe about Jesus.

He is either a liar, and simply did not tell the truth about his relationship with God. In that case, the authenticity of his miracles would come into question.

He may be a lunatic. For a person to merely think he is God is definitively insanity. To say this about Christ takes away all of the common niceties people love to use to describe him rather than Lord. If he is crazy, then why given him any of that respect?

Finally, the only other choice one has when looking at Jesus, is that he is Lord. If he claimed to be God and he is neither lying nor crazy, then he must be God.

Jesus claimed to be God. We should proclaim his deity as well.

Jesus did not leave the Jews any other option either. He systematically took away their escape routes by Apologetics. He removed stumbling blocks to their beliefs.

This is what Peter calls us to do. This is what Christ calls us to emulate. It is his apologetic for himself. We should cultivate and nourish that very skill.

Jesus used Apologetics. So should we.

[1] Calvin, J. (2011). Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2. (F. L. Battles, Trans., J. T. McNeill, Ed.) (Vol. 1, p. 43). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

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  1. Pingback: mid-week apologetics booster (1-28-2016) – 1 Peter 4:12-16

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