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.

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

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