Biblical Apologetics and Ministry Today

By David Mappes

Apologetics is derived from the Greek noun apologia and verb apologeomai, which appears 18 times in the New Testament. In each instance, the terms emphasize the sense of defending or vindicating oneself and/or truth claims.

The New Testament authors repeatedly affirm the critical importance of defending or justifying the truthfulness of the Christian truth claims. For example, Paul commends the Philippian church for supporting him in the defense of the gospel (Phil 1:7, 16). Later, Paul defended himself against unjust allegations (1 Cor 9:3) and he defended his apostleship (2 Cor 12:19).

Toward the end of his ministry he wrote that at his first defense no one supported him though the Lord stood with him (2 Tim 4:16). When Paul appeared before the Roman authorities of Felix (Acts 24), Festus (Acts 25), and Agrippa (Acts 26), he presented a defense of himself and the Christian faith. Scripture writers repeatedly appealed to historical facts and logical arguments in presenting, explaining, and defending the truthfulness and veracity of the gospel.

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However, this defense (or apologia) provided only justification for the truthfulness of the gospel which then was appropriated by faith. The gospel message was never reduced to a mere mental assent to facts.

Importantly, all believers are called to sanctify Christ as Lord “always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet. 3:15). Peter clearly instructs all believers to give an account (a reasoned and rational explanation) for their confidence in Christ.  Notably, the recipients of Peter’s letter were suffering immense persecution (1 Pet. 1:1, 4:1-5), and yet they were to have a supreme confidence in Christ and be able to provide a reasoned explanation for their hope even to their tormentors…

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