How to do Apologetics like the Apostle Paul
by Robin Schumacher
A veritable sea of competing religions, beliefs, and worldviews.
A vast number of vocal skeptics and antagonistic mockers.
A strong spirit of persecution, marginalization, and governmental hostility.
These are some of the major characteristics of the Apostle Paul’s world that existed over two thousand years ago. I think you would agree with me that they are also (sadly) becoming increasingly representative of our present day where the exclusive claims of Christianity are concerned and reflect how our society treats those who desire to faithfully live and proclaim God’s Word.
However, despite such a climate, we read that even Paul’s enemies complained that his preaching had “upset the world” (Acts 17:6). What was it about Paul’s apologetic and evangelistic approach that caused him to become such a powerful and influential force in his world and what can we learn from it so that we can have the same impact?
Finding Paul’s Apologetic Framework
In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, we find his apologetic approach and framework articulated as follows: “We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord
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Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake” (1 Thess. 1:2–5, my emphasis).
In these few verses, the Apostle plainly describes his approach to apologetics. Paul’s gospel came to the people in three distinct ways:
- A message that was proclaimed.
- A method that relied on the power of the Holy Spirit.
- A manner that showcased a changed life and love for those around him.
Paul’s three-pronged apologetic tactic was formed to address humankind’s three dimensions: (1) the rationale dimension; (2) the spiritual dimension; (3) the moral dimension.
After studying Paul’s approach for a number of years, I’ve come to label it Three-Witness Apologetics. Let me walk you through each area and briefly touch on the particulars of what is involved…