Last week we started looking at the challenging task of apologetics, which we defined as giving a reasoned or positive defense of the Gospel, as opposed to being apologetic for being a follower of Christ. This week we continue our brief study as we consider two great apologetic encounters in the New Testament, both of which the “apologists” clearly adhere to the principles set out by the apostle, Peter in our key verse from 1 Peter 3:15 –
“…do it with gentleness and respect.”
The first encounter is considered a classic as an example of an apologetics discourse by Paul on his visit to what was known as Mars Hill, in Athens where the apostle engages some highly intellectual Greek minds of the day – a group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, recorded in Acts 17:“ 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned (apologia) with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women…16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols….22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man…”
Notice the word used for “reasoned” which is translated from our word for “apologetics” – the basis of his argument being clearly rooted in the Old Testament Scriptures. See how skillfully the apostle identifies with his listeners as he acknowledges their religious endeavors but then proceeds to reveal to them the only true and Living God, ending the discourse with a call to repentance. While our task at hand focuses on the pre-evangelistic endeavor, the clearing of the rubble as it were, the end goal must be to lead people to an understanding of the Gospel.
The second scene we look at is that of the Lord Jesus engaging the Samaritan woman at Jacob`s well from John 4. While the writer doesn’t give us her name, we are well aware of the social/cultural, religious and gender barriers that Jesus crosses in order to reach this woman of ill repute:
“7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true…21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
While this passage is not normally considered an apologetics encounter, I see a number of dynamics of such in the conversation as the Lord not only reveals His intimate knowledge of her true needs but also of Himself as the only true Saviour. He does so, gently but directly, showing no condemnation but only the love of His Father for those even beyond the borders of Israel. The story ends with not only the woman but virtually the entire village coming to faith in the Living Christ, mission accomplished!
I trust that these brief thoughts have inspired and challenged you again to continue to build meaningful relationships with those who need a Saviour, in spite of every conceivable human barrier, so that we would see many coming to faith in these days as we seek to be effective ambassadors for the Master.
Join us this coming Sunday as we continue looking at some amazing Miracles in Matthew`s Gospel, with a focus on Jesus healing a paralytic from his disability as well as his sin.
Yours in His Service,