The word “Gospel” means “Good news” and that is exactly what the message of Christ brings to humanity and to the world. As we advance in technology and science, man also in his finite wisdom is beginning to ask some very tough questions, these questions arise from the curiosity of the human mind. The questions of origin, whether God created us or we simply evolve, are becoming major sources of contentions among people in this century; it has even become a course of study in several schools. Man’s origin, the issue of sexuality and even to the sacred institution of marriage, all the fundamental questions clearly addressed by the Gospel is under serious attack of intellectualism and human reason. Friedrich Nietzsche, the famed atheist said “Is man merely a mistake of God’s? Or God merely a mistake of man?”
This said, we can no longer as Christians bury our heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich and say “God forbid”, or “God will judge them” or “these are the end-times”. We have been saying and declaring end-times since the 1960s, thus the time has come for us to intellectually engage and give the reason for our faith. For instance, how do you quote scriptures to a man who does not believe in the coherence of the written scriptures? Robert Anton Wilson said “belief is the death of intelligence.” In engaging some believers, you want to almost believe this statement.
I like to reference Paul. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” 1 Peter 3: 15 .
The word ‘Answer” in the original Greek is verbal defense, speech in defense or a reasoned statement or argument.
The above does not connote quarreling and arguing as Paul warned had warned Timothy against such (2 Timothy 2:24). The Instructions written by Peter clearly speaks of an intellectual reason and defense of the Gospel. The first task of the Christian apologist is to sanctify the Lord in His heart, you cannot defend a God you do not have relationship with and so the beginning of Christian apologetics (the art of intellectual defending the Gospel) starts from sanctifying God in our heart. The heart must come before the head. It is the relationship of the heart that provides the wisdom for the head. The famous Christian Apologist – Ravi Zacharias Ravi once said “― what I believe in my heart must make sense in my head.
In the life of Jesus, we noticed several instances, where citing from the Pentateuch to the Psalms, down to the prophets, he provided an intellectually reasoning in defense of the Gospel. Several times in the book of Acts, you see the scriptures talking about Paul defending the Gospel or reasoning together with the Jews, as Judaism was imposing itself on the realities of the New Covenant.
See some examples
As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, Acts 17:2
And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks Acts 18: 4.
Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. Acts 19: 8.
Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women. Acts 17: 4
They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. Acts 28: 23.
I would like to end by saying that when the Scriptures tells us to contend for the faith, there must be an intellectual aspect to it as this generation, as aptly captured by Ravi Zacharias, is one that “thinks with her feelings”.
Apostle Paul speaking said “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences. 2 Corinthians 5: 11.
I would love to conclude by drawing a quote from Ravi Zacharias “We have a right to believe whatever we want, but not everything we believe is right.” This is the age we are, where men believe everything. We must not also reduce the sacredness of the pulpit to just preaching and proclamation without raising a new generation of young thinkers who can defend the Gospel and persuade men about the message of Christ and His undying love for humanity.
(c) 2017 – Pastor Maxwell E. Ogaga