“I am totally convinced the Christian faith is the most coherent worldview around.” – Ravi Zacharias
What I love about Christian Apologetics is that many people I meet, and share with, tell me that they never knew there was more to Christianity than just basic religious teachings, or politics and blind faith. I love it when people get that a-ha’ moment like I have so many times. There are so many great Christian Apologists today like Ravi Zacharias, Greg Koukl, J. Warner Wallace, Frank Turek, Lee Strobel, Sean McDowell (and his Dad Josh), William Lane Craig, and J.P. Moreland just to name a select few that I’ve read and studied under.
My newest favorite Apologist is former Muslim, now Christian, Nabeel Qureshi. If you haven’t read his book I highly recommend it: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.
However, my favorite Christian Apologist of all time is the Apostle John. You might say, I thought Christian Apologetics was a modern day field of study. In previous posts we have looked at the fact that the Gospel writers gave eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus and if you look closely you find that they are using apologetics all over the place, proving who Jesus was.
The early first century Church was under attack right away by those who wanted to add to, take away from, or correct the teachings of Jesus. There are many today who do the same and there have been many over the centuries. The New Testament as a whole was written, at least in part, to defend against these types of attacks and to keep the teachings of Jesus intact.
Last week I recommended reading the Gospel of John to get to know Jesus and what it means to believe and follow Him. John wrote quite a few years after the other Gospel writers later in the first century because, as common to human nature, people were beginning to twist the teachings of Jesus. John, a close companion of Jesus and probably the only remaining original disciple, saw the need for a clear and specific description of Jesus’ identity and ministry.
THE GOSPEL OF JOHN
The Apostle John, son of Zebedee and Salome and brother of James, who together Jesus called the “Sons of Thunder,” was part of Jesus’ closest inner circle of three. In his Gospel he refers to himself as “the disciple that Jesus loved” and before following Jesus he was a disciple of John the Baptist. Of anyone in the first century John would have the best insight into Jesus’ life and ministry.
John wrote to all believers, both Jew and Gentile, in the early Church with a primary purpose of proving that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah, and the pre-existent divine Son of God. He wrote to show that Jesus is indeed God incarnate with evidence of His authority over all of creation. He also wrote that by believing and receiving Jesus as LORD we could know that we have eternal life with Him in Heaven.
John writes his Gospel like a good defense attorney and in his opening statement (1:1-2) discloses Jesus’ identity from the very beginning (Compare with Genesis 1:1). Key Passage for this feature is John 1:1-18.
John then focuses on specific miracles that would reveal Jesus’ divine nature and his life-giving mission:
- Turning water to wine (2:1-11)
- Healing the official’s son (4:46-54)
- Healing the lame man at the pool of Bethesda (5:1-9)
- Feeding the 5,000 with just a few loaves and fish (6:1-14)
- Walking on water (6:15-21)
- Restoring sight to the blind man (9:1-43)
- Raising Lazarus from the dead (11:1-44)
- His own resurrection (20-21)
After the resurrection Jesus gave the disciples an overwhelming catch of fish symbolizing the building of the Church that they would be part of (21:1-14)
Notice that all of these miracles are “apologetic” demonstrations of Jesus’ ability to control the science of the natural order. Only God the Creator could do this. For example, his power over chemistry (water to wine), power over biology (healing disease and disability), power over the laws of nature (walking on water), and finally his power over death both physical and spiritual (raising Lazarus and his own resurrection).
In every chapter John focuses on Jesus’ deity being revealed. The most convincing account is found in John 8:58: Jesus said to them: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”
John provides evidence that Jesus Himself claimed to be God by revealing a series of “I AM” statements that correspond to Old Testament language and prophecy: (Great article on this at gotquestion.org)
- “I am the bread of life” (Ch. 6)
- “I am the light of the world” (Ch. 8-9)
- “I am the door” (Ch. 10)
- “I am the good shepherd” (Ch. 10)
- “I am the resurrection and the life” (Ch. 11)
- “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (Ch. 14)
- “I am the true vine” (Ch. 15)
In addition, we can trace the chain of custody of John’s teachings through his disciples starting with Ignatius (ca. AD 35-117) and Polycarp (69–155) who taught Irenaeus (AD 120-202) who taught Hippolytus (AD 170-236). According to J. Warner Wallace, “John’s students recorded his teachings and identified the sources for later generations. Long before the Codex Sinaiticus was first penned or the Council of Laodicea formalized the canon, the New Testament was established as a reliable eyewitness.” The chain of custody can be further corroborated and established through the other Apostles (Peter, Paul and Mark) and their disciples.
A summation of the Gospel of John by Ben Shin, professor of New Testament studies at Biola University:
“John’s purpose was to show that Jesus is the revelatory Word (logos) of God and as such He reveals the Truth as the reality of God’s own person and character to which Jesus bears Witness. This Light of the revelation illumines those who believe and drives back the darkness of evil. The repulsion of darkness is the Judgment of the world. This includes the understanding of Jesus as The Lamb of God and final sacrifice for humanity’s sin. This Belief in Him brings Rebirth by the Holy Spirit so that all can come to Know God through Jesus Christ. Those who do accept the invitation receive Eternal Life and an Abiding Place in Christ.”
Let me know what you think:
- Is it important as a Christian to understand the purpose and use of Apologetics?
- If the early Disciples and Christians used Apologetics are there examples that Jesus used this method too?
…these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. – John 20:31 (NASB)
For further reading I highly recommend: “Cold-Case Christianity” by J. Warner Wallace
Join us next week as we continue our Case for Christianity
In these posts I am going to continue to present logical reasoning and sound scientific evidence not found in the public school textbooks.
This blog is part of a series. You can start the series by going back to the September 1, 2014 Introduction called A Case for Christianity: Why do we need one?
Always be ready to give an answer for the hope that you have in Christ Jesus as Lord. 1 Peter 3:15