Relying Upon the Spirit and Not on Our Apologetics

And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:3-5

There are some great books that defend the Christian faith that I’ve personally enjoyed in the past. They could be grouped broadly into the category of “apologetics.” This name isn’t based on our saying “sorry” for our faith, but the word relates to giving a defense. While I certainly believe that there are reasons to believe in Jesus Christ and that our Bible is a trustworthy book, it is important to remember that we cannot argue someone into faith. We shouldn’t present some sort of bullet point list to someone, then demand that she believe.

While Paul does use argumentation and is thoughtful with his words and his audience, he is primarily a witness pointing to Jesus. Paul can’t make someone believe. In fact, he doesn’t want to. His desire is that a person’s faith “might not rest in the wisdom of men.”


This chapter goes on about how what we now know–the wisdom of God that we see in the cross of Jesus Christ–is not based in our own intellectual achievements. It is not because I’m smart enough that I’m a Christian. Likewise it is not because someone is dumb that they may not believe. The eternal purposes of God are known to us because they have been revealed to us by the Spirit of God.

But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.”
1 Corinthians 2:9–10

We can’t even boast in our knowing because it is a gift of God’s grace. Our coming to believe and understand is a work of God’s through and through.

We ought to love God with our minds, seek to know him better, to discern the mind of Christ, and speak ably about Jesus to those around us, always giving a reason for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15). But we do not do this as though everything hinges on my skillful argumentation. Christianity is not an anti-intellectual faith, but it is not a faith dependent on advanced understanding and academic achievement. Our faith is dependent on the working of the power of God.

Always Have a Reason

“…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…”
1 Peter 3:15

This is an utterly simple command of Peter, and one I think we take for granted. In many areas of life we assume we know what is needed. We assume we’ve got something under control or that we know “how to take it from here.” But when we finally are out in the position to reveal what we know, to put our learning into practice and take off the training wheels, only then do we realize our deficiencies.

I almost know the lyrics to countless songs. Pop songs and hymns, bubble gum oldies and classic rock, contemporary Christian and country. I know them when I sing along. I do not know the lyrics well enough to sing on my own, which is embarrassingly revealed as I stumble through half-remembered lines when I’m singing around the house. I overestimate my knowledge and it an example of the behavior that leads us to think we know, really know, more than we do.

Getting back to Peter’s call to us, we all can pick answers about our faith if it were a multiple choice quiz. But if we are asked about the hope that we have, can we give a response? Can we clearly communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ? Can we do so on the spot, without help (except by the Spirit)?

I hope reading though God’s Word helps you prepare yourself. Peter tells us in plain language to be prepared, so what is stopping us? This story of Jesus Christ is the good news for the world and our only hope. If we don’t share his story, who will? It is not only beneficial for the hearer, but when we know more about the hope we have, it will only strengthen our own belief, too.

If you’re interested in working on your ability to communicate the gospel, let me know. I’ll always make time for that. I even have some resources from a recent class that has some visuals to help us learn, remember, and communicate Jesus that I’m happy to pass along. I’ll try to remember once I get back in town to post some to our site.

The Problem of Violence in the Old Testament

A friend from church pointed me to this presentation on the problem of violence in the Old Testament. It isn’t something that deals with any specific passage for this week, rather I bring it up as a response to difficulties that arise from many passages we’ve now covered in past months of Year in the Bible. Follow this link to Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and click to listen to the talk by John Dickson. It is about 25 minutes, so maybe save it to listen to later today.

Violence in the Old Testament, part 1 of 2

Some of his point is that we should not approach the Old Testament thinking throughout that Israel is some sort of paragon of morality and holiness. Just because Israel performs an action or one Israelite performs an action, and such actions are recorded, does not mean that those things are right and good for us to emulate. Much of what is recorded is the sinfulness of God’s people, further showing to us the continued dependence we all should have on God’s grace. Not now and not ever have we been able to rely on our own righteousness. But Dickson does concede that he is troubled by some passages, and we should not avoid such feelings.

But don’t just read to my summary, go listen. He’s got an Australian accent, if that further encourages you to give it a shot.

Philip Had His Sneakers On

Philip Catechizes the Ethiopian, Exeter College Chapel, Oxford

I love the story of Philip and the Ethiopian in Acts 8. In a nutshell it is a story of Philip telling this man the good news of Jesus Christ, but it is much more. There are details like how Philip runs in verse 30 when the Spirit tells him to go to the chariot. He doesn’t just walk, but he runs in obedience to the Spirit. This story is a great testament to Jesus’ fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies in that Philip teaches Isaiah as speaking about Jesus. There is great urgency from the Ethiopian at hearing and believing the good news as he wants to immediately be baptized. Then at the end Philip is carried away by the Spirit never to be seen by the other man again, and then finds himself in another town.

Like I said, a great story. And it also a great challenge to us to heed the words of 1 Peter:

…Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.

Would we have been prepared to instruct someone reading Isaiah with such questions? Are we equipped when someone asks us to tell them about our faith? Can we do it and will we do it with such enthusiasm that we run to those opportunities?