How Does Apologetics Explain Matthew 10:19-20?

Yesterday I read a blog on the relationship between spiritual warfare and apologetics. These aren’t two areas we typically connect in our daily lives. I can hear someone asking skeptically, “What on earth does apologetics have to do with the spiritual warfare I’m facing?” If you’re wondering about the connection I suggest you read the blog by clicking here.

After posting the link to the blog on Twitter, I received this question in response, “How does Apologetics explain Matthew 10:19 -20?” It’s a good question that gets to the heart of the matter, dealing with a question many Christians have about the relationship between apologetics and reliance upon God in communicating the Gospel. Matthew 10:19-20 records a statement Jesus made to his disciples. He said,

“When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

What does Jesus mean here? Is He telling his disciples that to rely upon the Spirit means not to use apologetics? I don’t think so, but to understand what Jesus is saying we need to look at the context in which He made this statement. I believe it’s seen that he is not banning apologetics, but referring to something else entirely.

A Look at the Context of Matthew 10*

Matthew 10 records a time when Jesus gave His twelve disciples authority to do the same kind of miracles He was doing, commanding them to go throughout Israel preaching the message that “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  He then told them of the inevitable persecution that would come because they were bearing witness to His name.  They would face trials, be flogged, and dragged before governors and kings because of the message they proclaimed in word and deed. This would fill even the bravest of men with apprehension. If the thought of public speaking makes you nervous, how would you feel if your life was at stake? So Jesus assures them,

“When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

What does Matthew 10:19-20 mean?

Into this context it’s important to notice what Jesus actually commands. The command is to not be anxious. The issue is one of confidence and trust. It was a reminder to the disciples of where their authority and power came from, and a call to rely upon the Spirit to communicate effectively. When the inevitable persecution came they were not to fear because they’d been sent by Jesus and His Spirit would speak through them. Jesus was not telling His disciples to enter hard situations unprepared and to avoid giving the reasons for the message they proclaimed.  It was not a call to shun using apologetics.  Rather, the opposite could be argued. Jesus commanded his disciples to display wisdom and bear testimony about Him. Even the miracles they would do would be an apologetic for the message they proclaimed.

Matthew 10:19-20 in the Context of the New Testament

The immediate context of Matthew 10 does not have Jesus dismissing apologetics; rather, He reminded His disciples where to rest their confidence when the anxiety and fear of persecution threatened to undo them. This is a command His disciples took to heart. In Acts we see them facing the persecution Jesus promised with confidence because of the strength they received from the Holy Spirit. When they stood before religious and political leaders they boldly gave an apologetic for their belief that Jesus was the Son of God (see Acts 2, 4, 7, 17, 22). In Philippians, the Apostle Paul links his imprisonment to apologetics (1:7, 16). And in 1 Peter, as believers faced persecution for their faith in Jesus, they were to always be ready to share the reasons for their hope (3:14-15).

An Apologetic for Apologetics

The right place for apologetics within the Christian’s life and witness is one that is worthy of our consideration. As we heed the call of 1 Peter, we need to remember that as Jesus said, the work of persuasion ultimately rests upon the work of His Spirit. For further reading on the biblical basis for apologetics, I highly recommend you read the article Regarding Apologetics, an Apology.


*While I believe the context of Matthew 10 is clear, exegesis is not something to treat lightly and I approach it tentatively.


2 thoughts on “How Does Apologetics Explain Matthew 10:19-20?

  1. In the original article ‘ relationship between spiritual warfare and apologetics.’the Apologetic appeared to disregard the Power aspect of the scripture in question, which prompted me to ask the question “How does Apologetics explain Matthew 10:19 -20?”

    I do not questioning the validity or place that Apologetics may play in our daily lives as Christians in being able to ‘Defend the Faith’.
    2 Timothy 2:15 tells us to study (Greek work can be interpreted as study, though mostly Diligent is used), which is something we possibly don’t do enough of, we need to immerse ourselves in the Word of God, so that it can become a part of us so we are ready in every season (see Psalm 1:2-3)

    In my opinion one of the reasons we are not seeing the power of God through the Holy Spirit at work in our lives is that we rely too much on Man’s interpretation or study a Theology, hermeneutics, exegesis etc. rather than going to the source, which is what the Apostle Paul did, and is one of the Holy Spirits main roles in our lives viz. to teach us all things.

    Paul himself asked the Ephesians church in Ephesians 6:19 to pray for him so he would receive the ‘words’ to make known the mystery of the Gospel. (my paraphrase) also my take on Matthew 10, (see also Luke 12:12) which as you rightly say deals with anxiety, points more to their reliance on the power of the person of the Holy Spirit and His function as Comforter, Teacher, Revealer, so they would not just be given the words to speak but that those words would contain authority and power.
    In Acts 13:2 it appears the Holy Spirit clearly spoke to them.

    It is my desire that the church, the bride, the body of Christ will all come to a place of incredible intimacy with God, to walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh, and be in unity of spirit and mind, hating evil with a passion, walking in the real Fear of God He is just so Awesome and Holy, and get to a place where we are as aware of his Spirit and Hear his voice, as clearly as we hear the voices of those around us just as Jesus heard him, He is calling us to be Holy and Righteous, not our own but his, a total surrender, abandonment of ourselves to him, so we can start to operate in the power and authority that he has given to us! A return to Acts so to speak.
    I re-iterate I don’t want to question the validity of Apologetics, I just believe that on its own, it can perpetuate the type of Church at Laodicea mentioned in Revelation 3:14, being lukewarm in our faith, is to me no longer an option for the body of Christ, having a form of Godliness but denying its power 2 Timothy 3:5. There is so much more available to the body of Christ , paid for in his blood, He is the Risen Lord, the blessings of God are ours, God wants us to walk in that blessing, which includes Healing, Deliverance, prosperity. The Bible is full of the promises of Blessing, which we do not see in the church today, God has not changed his mind regarding those blessings, therefore we have to change, to surrender and let the Power of God the Holy Spirit, change us from glory to glory as we get to know The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, through spending time in Prayer, study, fasting, waiting, so that the Glorious Church of Christ the Bride may begin to manifest in the world. Be Blessed!

    • I agree, it is so easy to start relying upon our own understanding/knowledge of theology, exegesis, etc. that we forget Who it is that has the power to transform lives. In apologetics I have to constantly ask myself WHY I’m doing what I do, believe what I believe, and say what I say. Is it because I love Christ, desire to be used to proclaim His power and glory, and to invite others into a relationship with Him, or because I like to sound smart and knowledgeable? As the Church, it’s my prayer that all we act, feel, and do would be motivated by an all consuming desire to grow in love for and knowledge (in the relationship sense of the word) of Jesus Christ.

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