By Elias Ayala (MDiv & M.A.T.)
Jesus often found himself in dispute over the Law with the religious leaders of his day. He had to constantly correct their misapprehensions and misinterpretations of the heart of the Law often times exposing their true legalistic and often sinful motives. This is hardly surprising to the believer who understands that in comparison to Jesus our works are but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). In the presence of pure holiness and righteousness we are like the prophet Isaiah who when confronted with the presence of the Lord declared, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” While the true nature of Jesus’ identity was hidden before the eyes of the religious leaders, and indeed the splendor of the divine Son of God cloaked in his humble frame, there was yet no doubt that even as a man, the righteousness of Jesus shown forth. For who else could confidently declare: “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” (John 8:46).
The fruit of Jesus life was evident in that there was none who could accuse him of wrongdoing. The fruit he produced was consistent with who he was. This is also the case when we consider the reality of the heart of sinful man. Jesus wisely taught that “a tree is known by its fruit” (Luke 6:43-45). With this in mind, when engaging in apologetics we should never forget what the Bible teaches in regards to the consistency of our words and practice. If we confess Jesus ourselves, then how much more should that confession be consistent with the approach we take in defending God’s Word? As apologists we must fight the temptation to be snarky, disrespectful and unbecoming of the call of Christ. The Apostle Paul teaches us: “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but be kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
While it is easy and indeed tempting to be unnecessarily contentious when interacting with unbelievers, we need to remember that the nature of the conflict is not one that is merely intellectual, pitting one’s arguments against another, but the fight is spiritual as well. Paul goes on to say elsewhere: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12). Behind every intellectual conflict between the believer and unbeliever, is a spiritual conflict that can only be overcome by spiritual weapons and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Do not be deceived into interpreting this article as being too preachy. It is a great detriment when Christian apologists who engage intellectually with unbelief forget the spiritual dimension involved in apologetics. We must never forget that our arguments are nothing if not superintended by the Spirit of God. May we bathe our apologetic in study, prayer and obedience to God and his Word.