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The goal of apologetics is more than the dissemination of facts, it’s the invitation into a relationship.
By Dustin Messer
“The heart is not changed by argument, the heart is changed by divine intervention.” –Ravi Zacharias
How long after becoming a Christian should one wait before engaging in apologetics? Three years? Four? The disciple Philip waited only two verses! In John 1:43 Philip becomes a follower of Christ. In verse 45, he’s found sharing the gospel with Nathanael!
Listening for the question behind the question
Then as now, sharing the gospel was met with skepticism. Nathanael’s doubt revolved around Jesus’ hometown, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” While Nathanael’s question may seem straightforward, it’s more complex than it first appears. This is typically the case in evangelistic encounters.
All skeptics enter into theological discussions with myriad interests, backgrounds, and wounds. To truly address their question, one must truly hear their question. That is, one must listen with the goal of understanding, not just the goal of responding. This requires as much love as learning, as much empathy as answers. In Nathanael’s case, his question regarding Jesus’ hometown has at least two aspects: cultural and theological.
A cultural objection: Nazareth isn’t Jerusalem
Culturally, Nazareth was an out of the way, nowhere town. How could the long awaited Messiah be found in such a seemingly insignificant place? The good news is always proclaimed in seeming weakness (1 Cor. 2:1-2).
While the gospel is vast and cosmic—Christ redeeming all of creation—the means of fulfilling the promise are quite humble: preaching, sacraments, small acts of mercy and grace, and similarly obscure acts.
Resurrection is brought about through the cross. In Nathanael’s question, we’re pricked with the sting of scorn. We stand vulnerable with Philip, proclaiming a message we know to be so large, yet seems so small and culturally insignificant in the moment…
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