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.

Advertisements

The Terror of Quiet Stillness

One of the joys of life for me these past months has been to go to my favorite little café two or three times a week. There’s something special, or maybe sad, about not having to place my drink order. The women who run the café see me coming and automatically begin preparing my beverage of choice (tall spiced chai latte). I sit down with a book or two, sometimes three, and enjoy a few hours or reading, writing, or reflecting on the latest Facebook updates.

The other day as I was contemplating words of wisdom as posted on Twitter, I noticed a plaque sitting on the shelf across the table from me. It read, “Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.”  I had read it before, but its message struck me afresh as I sat there.  I saw it as a message of quiet stillness. Ironically, as I read it, I was facing my open laptop, had a few books to the side, could hear the soft buzz of conversation around me, and was listening to the jazz-like music coming from the café’s radio. Why am I, why are we, afraid to sit and think? I wonder if the fear for many of us isn’t in sitting and thinking but in the quietness that will inevitably go with the stillness.

There’s something terrifying about quiet stillness. I’m afraid of it because I’m afraid of what I’ll hear when there’s no noise to drown out a whisper. When the world around me grows still and becomes quiet, the whispers in my head increase to a shout. I’m bombarded with anxiety, feelings of failure, guilt, and regret. My brokenness and inability to live well seem to mock my feeble attempts to find meaning and purpose. So I keep myself busy. I fill my time with noise. Some of the noise is good and worth listening to.  But all too often its white noise that subtly grates on my nerves and leaves me feeling hollow. Where can a girl find relief?

I have discovered that the relief I long for lies in the quiet stillness I fear. Yes, when I am quiet I am attacked by the noise of my brokenness and disappointments. Yet in the quiet I am also met by the One who fills the silence with the peace of His presence. When I sit quietly and think I discover that God has much to say that I need and long to hear. His voice does not fill me with empty white noise. His words bring life, healing, and refreshment to my soul. The words of Jesus are like cold water to my parched nerves, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”[1] As He quiets me with His love and I learn to trust the truth of His voice, I find strength.[2] I have discovered that quiet stillness is a place of deep intimacy with the God who has redeemed my brokenness. And so, I’m not afraid to sit awhile and think.


[1] Mark 6:31

[2] Zephaniah 3:17; Isaiah. 30:15

The Apologetic of Not Knowing

For any lover of British humor Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a classic movie. The unique comedy of the film follows King Arthur and his knights as they search for the Holy Grail. As Arthur and his men draw closer to the end of their quest, they come across an old and dangerous footbridge guarded by an old man. In order to cross the bridge the brave knights have to answer three random and ridiculous questions. If they fail to answer correctly or have no answer at all, they fall into the ravine to their death.

This movie is not typically known to cause one to stop and ponder the deeper issues of life. Yet I believe the footbridge scene is a good example of how many people view apologetics and why they are afraid to share their faith. Apologetics is the word used to describe sharing the rich intellectual evidence Christians have for trusting in the historicity and truth of the claims Jesus and the Bible make.

For years I was afraid to share my faith and the hope that I had in Jesus. I was afraid that I would be asked a question I couldn’t answer correctly or wouldn’t know the answer to at all. I thought that if I didn’t have an answer to the tough questions it might mean my faith wasn’t real. Maybe I’d find out that my faith was blind and irrational. Or I thought that if I couldn’t answer a tough question I would forever hinder that person from knowing the truth. If I had no answer I’d fall into the ravine to the death of my faith and the faith of others.

Over time I have learned that there are answers to the tough questions of life. My faith is not blind. My lack of apologetic knowledge will not thwart God’s salvation purposes. Yet with all the ‘answers’ I have learned, one of the most significant lessons I have gained took me by surprise. To honestly answer a question by saying, “I don’t know,” is refreshingly liberating. Imagine my surprise to discover that there is a great apologetic for the Gospel in not knowing.

To admit there are things I don’t know can create many significant opportunities to share with others what I do know. I may not know the philosophical arguments for how a good God can allow suffering. But I do know that Christ in His goodness suffered on behalf of humanity. When He cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he demonstrated that he knows personally what it means to feel rejected and alone. I do know that in the Bible God has promised to correct every wrong and bring justice to the earth.

“I don’t know” creates a natural invitation to investigate questions with the one asking them. Rather than brushing the inquiry aside I can ask the questioner to search for the answer with me. Not only will this investigation hopefully help answer the seeker’s question, it will also strengthen my faith as I see the reasonableness of what I believe.

To humbly admit I don’t have the answer also demonstrates that my faith is not based solely upon my limited understanding. Though what I believe rests on sound reason, “I don’t know” shows that my faith finds its basis in the personal Triune God.  While I will never know the answer to every question life produces I can still have confidence in my faith. This is because it rests upon a relationship with the trustworthy character of God, not my limited knowledge.

C.S. Lewis once said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”[1] You don’t have to know the scientific process of the earth’s rotation to have confidence in the sun’s daily appearance.  In the same way, you don’t have to know the answer to every question to have confidence in the person and work of Jesus Christ. When the questions do come, which they inevitably will, you can face them with excitement and confidence. You can use “I don’t know” to know more than you ever thought possible.


[1] Lewis, C.S. The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses, Harper One, 2001: p. 140