What is the value of apologetics in the church?
Positive Verbal Defense of the Faith
Apologetics isn’t making a practice of saying we’re sorry for our faith. As followers of Christ our calling isn’t to passively apologize for believing in things like the inerrancy of the Bible, the existence of the supernatural or the exclusivity of the Gospel. Rather apologetics is about making a positive verbal defense of the faith. In fact that is the short definition of the underlying Greek word apologia, from where we get the term apologetics.
But the question I would like to raise at the moment is this: do the benefits of apologetics only extend to those perishing in Adam, or are there benefits to be had by those of us who have found mercy in Christ? I believe that Peter’s first epistle will afford us some insight into answering that question. Here the Apostle is writing to those who are suffering for Christ in the early church. This group of believers has been scattered, distressed, and are told to expect fiery trials (1:1, 6; 4:12). Such is the lot of every child of God on pilgrimage to their heavenly home.
In 1 Peter 3:15 we hear the Apostle instructing his readers to “sanctify Christ as Lord…” We are told by the Holy Spirit that we must begin here, but why? Before we go any further we will do well to remember again the context of this passage—suffering. It is precisely because of our weakness in such moments that we often ask desperate questions such as: Is this really my Father’s will for me? Wouldn’t He keep me from this trial? Has He forgotten me? Amidst these feelings of hopelessness, we are not suited for our apologetic task… there is a chink in our armor…and what we need is to sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts.
What we may readily know in our minds concerning Christ’s absolute sovereignty must make its way to our hearts if we are to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is within us. We must set Christ apart in our hearts, and by doing this the Advocate intends to do His work. He wants us to remember that Christ is not only the omnipotent Lord who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Mat. 28:18), but is also the Mighty One who has promised to never leave us, even to the end of the age (Isa. 9:6; Mat. 28:20). The Holy Spirit is intimately concerned with us, even before we defend the faith. He reassures us of who Christ is and reminds us that God has brought about our trials for a purpose (Eph. 1:11).
These initial observations reveal to us a deeper value of apologetics within the local church. Apologetics rightly practiced not only defends the truth of the gospel, but is used by the Holy Spirit to provide hope for the elect in their expectant sufferings. As we practice defending the faith in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, let us meditate on these truths for they will cause us to remember that the Lord has not only gone before us, providing for our every need in His word, but ensures us the victory… for ultimately the battle belongs Him.