We word “apologia” means “a verbal defense, a speech in defense, or a reasoned statement or argument” (Thayer’s Greek Dictionary). This word is seen, when used as a noun, 8 times in the New Testament. In each of these cases, a defense is given: either to false accusations within legal charges, or a defense to the gospel against false claims and ignorance.
Some examples of the use of the word as a defense to the faith are as follows:
• Philippians 1:7 ( NKJV ) …just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.
• Philippians 1:17 ( NKJV ) but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel.
• 1 Peter 3:15 ( NKJV ) But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
Nelson’s defines apologetics this way: “Systematic and logical defense of Christianity against its detractors and unbelievers backed up by evidence of its credibility” (George Thomas Kurian).
I feel that apologetics serve a dual role in both defending the faith during evangelism and strengthening the believer. It’s kind of like the old song, “love and marriage, you can’t have one without the other”. As we begin to undertake the great important task and mandate of formulating a defense for the hope that is within us, we are more equipped for the challenges we face and the obstacles we have to face regarding those who challenge the gospel.
As we begin our apologetic task, we start because we are all called to bring the gospel to all men, because Christ died for all men, because Christ wants to have a relationship with all men, and whoever cries out to the Lord will be saved (Caner). We have to be prepared, then, to present, at the very least, the fundamentals of our faith as we carry out the evangelistic apologetic task and submit ourselves to the clear command of the Great Commission.
However, as we give a reason for the hope that lies within us with meekness and fear, and as we grasp the concept that the chief goal of apologetics is to show the unbeliever the truth of scripture (evangelism), something else happens. Although we are, rightly so, viewing apologetics in a pre-evangelism context, we begin to grow ourselves spiritually. We learn more of the timeless truths of God’s Word, we become empowered, and thus more compassionate toward the lost, and gain a deeper, richer relationship with Christ through our obedience to carryout the evangelist task.
Have you ever been told by your mother to do something, only to ask, “Why, mother”. She most likely responded, “Because I said so”! We must remember that the most important reason for carrying out the apologetic task is not for defending our faith in evangelism or for our own spiritual growth. It is merely because God said so. We are told to be ready, and that’s the end of it. The question remains, “Are we ready”.
George Thomas Kurian, Nelson’s New Christian Dictionary : The Authoritative Resource on the Christian World (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Pubs., 2001).
Ergun Caner, APOL 500, Lecture Notes 1, The Need For Apologetics, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.
An Apoplectic for Apologetics, by Norman Geisler, Section II, A.