Jesus Christ gave his disciples the Great Commission of proclaiming the good news of redemption through his death, burial and resurrection to the whole world. This is evangelism. People are at odds with their Creator and they need to hear the great message that, through Jesus Christ, all their sins can be forgiven and that in Him a new and truly meaningful life awaits them.
Christians also need to be able to defend their faith when challenged by the doubter, skeptic, critic, and even persecutor. This is apologetics. It is an opportunity to help unbelievers understand better the truths God has declared in His Word and the nature of the world in which they lives and often feel lost – the world that God has made.
The aim of these short lessons is to set out from the Scriptures the essential principles of evangelism and apologetics.
God made man (Adam and Eve) in His own image, in knowledge, righteousness and holiness with dominion over the creation. They sinned. They rejected God’s authority and disobeyed His word by eating from the only tree in the garden from which God told them they could not eat. In doing so, they became alienated from God, aliens in His world, in conflict with one another, and troubled in their own souls. From Adam and Eve on, these problems spread to all their posterity. The “good news” of the gospel is that Jesus Christ has brought redemption to fallen man and is bringing into the world a new kingdom – the kingdom of heaven.
Apart from Christ, mankind truly is lost. A recent article, Med Schools Are Now Denying Biological Sex, illustrates just how remarkably lost and blinded mankind can become when it rejects God and His Word:
“During a recent endocrinology course at a top medical school in the University of California system, a professor stopped mid-lecture to apologize for something he’d said at the beginning of class.
“I don’t want you to think that I am in any way trying to imply anything, and if you can summon some generosity to forgive me, I would really appreciate it,” the physician says in a recording provided by a student in the class (whom I’ll call Lauren). “Again, I’m very sorry for that. It was certainly not my intention to offend anyone. The worst thing that I can do as a human being is be offensive.”
His offense: using the term “pregnant women.”
“I said ‘when a woman is pregnant,’ which implies that only women can get pregnant and I most sincerely apologize to all of you.”
It wasn’t the first time Lauren had heard an instructor apologize for using language that, to most Americans, would seem utterly inoffensive. Words like “male” and “female.”
Why would medical school professors apologize for referring to a patient’s biological sex? Because, Lauren explains, in the context of her medical school “acknowledging biological sex can be considered transphobic.”
When sex is acknowledged by her instructors, it’s sometimes portrayed as a social construct, not a biological reality, she says. In a lecture on transgender health, an instructor declared: “Biological sex, sexual orientation, and gender are all constructs. These are all constructs that we have created.”
The most significant statement from the article is this one: “These are all constructs that we have created.” Fallen men (and women) think they live in a world of their own creation. They may not have actually brought all the matter into existence. But they determine what its essence is – what it all really means. Simply by speaking, they think they can remake themselves and God’s world into what they or the prevailing culture around them want it to be. All their efforts leave them lost and confused. They are not a peace with their Creator.
With Apostle Paul, every Christian can attest to his own sin and helplessness and to the glory of God’s great mercy in Jesus Christ:
1 Timothy 1:15 – “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”
Ephesians 2:8-10– “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
2 Corinthians 5:17-19 – Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
This is glorious “good news” to proclaim to the whole world and to defend on with joy.
The following are basic principles from the Scriptures on evangelism and apologetics. The Scripture selections are from the King James translation.
1. Every Christian is called to evangelize: I Peter 3:15, 16
15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
But Peter is clear: the evangelism must be done out of a clear conscience and godly life.
2. Do not be surprised if there is conflict: 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ
The opposition is great, but God is greater. His weapons are more powerful and the prospect of success is great.
3. Apologetics is not apologizing for but defending the gospel: Acts 22:1
Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defense that I make now unto you.
Justin Martyr (AD 100-165) wrote his “First Apology” and “Second Apology” as defenses of the Christian faith to the Roman Senate. Plato’s “Apology of Socrates” is believed to be Socrates legal defense made before his death in 399 BC.
4. Do not be afraid when defending the gospel: Matthew 10:16-20
16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. 17 But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; 18 And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. 19 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. 20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
The Father will provide the right words in the face of even the greatest threats.
5. God’s Word is the only sure foundation for evangelism and apologetics: Matthew 7:24-27
24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
The tasks of evangelism and apologetics must be based on God’s Word and not the so-called wisdom of man.
6. God’s Word provides the light necessary for living.
Psalm 119:105 – Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
2 Timothy 3:16, 17 – All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
Apart from the Scriptures, men walk in darkness and cannot truly understand themselves or the world.
7. Jesus gave His disciples the Great Commission: Matthew 28:18-20
18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
The Fact, The Task, The Future: Grounded in the fact of his authority, Jesus lays out the task for his disciples, the good prospect of their success, and the promise of His presence with them.
8. God has empowered His church with His Spirit for a Worldwide Witness: Acts 1:6-9
6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
In his Gospel account, Luke set out what Jesus “began” to do and teach (Acts 1:1). In Acts he begins the account of what Jesus does and will do (evangelism and apologetics) by His church through the power of the Holy Spirit.
9. The Spirit’s great work in the Non-Christian is to convict of sin: John 16:7-8.
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.
The Spirit deals with the heart of the unbeliever, persuading him of his true condition and need of redemption.
10. The Spirit’s work in the Christian is to comfort, teach, remind, and guide him.
John 14:26 – But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
John 16:13-14 –Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
In that work, the Spirit will reveal God’s divine glory.
11. A faithful Christian witness calls for basic spiritual sensibilities:
Prayer, Thankfulness, Opportunity, Clarity, Wisdom, Industry, Grace, Salty: Colossians 4:2-6
2 Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; 3 Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: 4 That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. 5 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
Ambassadorial Boldness: Ephesians 6:18-20
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; 19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
The evangelist, most fundamentally, is a herald, entrusted to proclaim the good news of the gospel.
12. The evangelistic horizon is the whole world: Acts 1:8
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Jerusalem (Acts 2:5 – local, home town); Judea (Acts 8:1 – nation, country whether city, suburb, rural or remote); Samaria (Acts 8:2-5 – people nearby but with greater differences); Ends of Earth (Acts 11:19-21 – Distant lands);
Habakkuk 2:14 – For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (Including the Jews: Isaiah 49:5-7; Romans 11:25-27).