The Humanism of Evangelistic Apologetics
Preach the Gospel!
Much of what calls itself Evangelistic Apologetics also chooses to associate that activity with what the apologist typically calls evangelism. After all, if “apologetics” means “to make a defense”, it must be obvious that it is the lost who “need” the defense of the Bible, not the saved (after all, there is no need, generally, to “preach to the choir.”)
To “make a defense of the Bible”, to defend the authority of the Bible, the believability of the Bible, the sufficiency of the Bible, the trustworthiness of the Bible, ad nauseam, is their working definition of true evangelism—because, the evangelistic apologist maintains that the lost is simply not prepared to receive the “unfiltered” message of the gospel until they (the apologist) have properly set the stage, intellectually speaking.
They typically regard their work as “pre-evangelism” or “preparatory” or “setting the stage” for evangelism (concepts NOT found in the NT!) From this defective and destructive frame of reference, the typical evangelistic apologist appears naturally to “mush together” (my term; aka., confuse, obfuscate, distort, disfigure, complicate, muddle, bedevil, convolve) true evangelism with their apologetic tinkering, claiming they are equivalent.
Let’s be very clear about this: apologetics and evangelism are not equivalent. The former can never and should never replace the latter. In fact, in case you've missed it as I’ve maintained and demonstrated in this series, the former has no place in evangelism!
One of the most prominent facets of the history of the NT church in its evangelistic activities is that it knew nothing of the supposed pre-activity of “pre-evangelism”. It knew and implemented one thing, and one thing only, when it came to bringing the message of grace to the lost: the fulfilling of the Great Commission:
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The remainder of most of the NT is the record of their implementation of this four-part command.
[I say “most” in this context instead of “all” because the Revelation, for example, deals primarily with how the Lord will fulfill His promise to King David in 2 Sam 7, namely that one of his sons (“the Branch”, the Lord Christ) will sit on the throne of national Israel to rule over Israel and the world. This will be the subject of a later series.]
Something that we must consider carefully is that the “gospel” is mentioned as such long before the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (clearly the message of all the epistles). The first (in NT order) mention of the gospel is found in Mat 4:
Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.
It is interesting to note that the content of that “gospel of the kingdom” was the simple message of repentance mentioned a few verses earlier:
From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
The gospel writer Mark corroborates this perfectly (referring to it as the “gospel of God” rather than the “gospel of the kingdom”):
Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
So, it is by no means a “theological stretch” to say that, first and foremost, the message of the gospel is the message of repentance and faith—and this is from the Lord Christ Himself!
Did the early apostles and disciples continue with this stark message of repentance? Well, let’s see:
Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;
He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.”
When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”
After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I HAVE FOUND DAVID the son of Jesse, A MAN AFTER MY HEART, who will do all My will.’ From the descendants of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, after John had proclaimed before His coming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.
Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”
And when they had come to him, he said to them,
“You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.”
It is not the "defense of the faith", the Bible, its manuscripts, archaeology, history, trustworthiness, believability, authority, etc.! It is the simple, direct message of repentance and faith. Truly, the evangelistic apologist has missed "the forest for the trees" with their "repentance-poor" message and methodology and can justly be accused of operating on a new principle, one not commanded by the Lord or His Book.
But, the gospel is not only a message of repentance and faith: it is a message of repentance and faith based on the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Christ. Here it is in as beautiful and compact a form as appears anywhere in the NT:
1 Cor 15.1-5
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received [that is, believed], in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
The same Spirit-inspired writer (Paul) teaches us another perspective of the message of faith (the gospel he preached):
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
Though I’m not taking the time here to prove it, the Bible knows nothing of a true faith that is not accompanied with true repentance, and vice versa. To truly repent is to truly believe, and this is always accompanied with a true confession of Christ as Lord! This is the essence of Paul’s instruction here.
So, in summary: the gospel is the message of repentance from sin and faith in the risen Lord Christ. It is the confession that Christ is Lord. Please note that in the preceding references, there is no biblical mention of recognizing the consistency of the biblical manuscripts, the believability of the Bible, its authority, the “providing of rational warrant for Christianity’s truth claims”, along with all the other typical, hellish slop of the evangelistic apologist. It is the message of Christ alone—pure and simple, adding nothing, removing nothing.
But, one of the elements that I’ve noticed in my review of the intellectual babble of modern evangelistic apologists is the noticeable absence of the message of repentance.
As I will demonstrate in Part 13, I would be hard pressed to prove from the typical writings of modern evangelistic apologists that the message of repentance isn’t what he/she is trying to suppress! (They do so at least implicitly if not explicitly.) To read their articles is to come to the reasonable and defensible conclusion that repentance appears to be optional—if not actually unnecessary— based on its essentially non-mentioned status.
My speculation for this “convenient lapse” is that they (the apologists) deem it “offensive”, “controversial”, “counter-productive”, “counter-cultural” or just simply “in bad taste” or “discourteous” in contrast to the polished, rehearsed and intellectual methods they deem better suited to the modern man. ("After all", their writings imply, "the ancients were so … primitive!")
This perspective is destructive to the true gospel and misleads the lost! It is an affront to the Lord Christ and His self-sacrifice, and shows contempt for the gospel He commanded be preached—the same gospel that He Himself preached, and for which He suffered and died!
The gospel is a vital, irreplaceable, precious, and unique message. Look how the Lord describes its worth:
Peter began to say to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.” Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.
The ability—and privilege—to present the true, undiluted message of the gospel is worth the loss of all earthly possessions. Is your “defense”, evangelistic apologist, worth the same? Not by any stretch!
The greater the distance between your “defense” and the true gospel the more damnable it becomes! Evangelistic Apologist: the judgment of 1 Cor 3 awaits you. You will see your "ministry" burned away as stubble.
Note, moreover, that it isn’t merely the loss of earthly possessions the Lord had in mind:
And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.
In the Lord’s view, no sacrifice, including the life of the evangelist, is too great for the gospel! And do you, evangelistic apologist attempting to “prepare the lost” with your putrid and humanistic attempts at “pre-evangelism”, do you dare to presume that your “reasoned defense” and polished methodology are the essence and beginning of the fulfillment of the Great Commission of Mat 28?
Really?!?! Your hubris is spectacular!
Your attempts are nothing more than an efficient, effective and practical dulling of and contempt for the real Sword of the Spirit. You may be sure that to the extent that you ignore the true essence of the gospel message you strive against the Lord and His simple message of repentance and faith!
Luke had the same perspective as Matthew and Mark when he recorded the history of the Lord’s activity early in His ministry. I want you to consider His audience as the Lord Christ read from Isaiah 61 the beginning of a prophecy of Himself:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.
You will search this passage—indeed, any text of the NT—in vain to find anything of “pre-evangelism”.
The Lord's audience of this context clearly was not the best philosophers, lawyers, doctors, professionals, intellectuals that Jerusalem and Judea had to offer. The Lord preached to the audience that He encountered—indeed, anticipated centuries before! They were Israel’s worst! Yet, some of them believed; and many more followed once the Lord rose again and the Apostles and early disciples began their unfettered and unfiltered preaching of the gospel of faith and repentance.
[Regarding the resurrection, I devote an entire article to it—and to the fact that no lost person ever observed the person of the risen Christ, including Saul of Tarsus and those who traveled with him. cf. Luk 16.]
There are several references to the gospel in the Acts, but this one is particularly special. The great(est?) evangelist, Paul the Apostle, had the same perspective regarding the intrinsic value of the gospel:
But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.
As we know from other references in the NT, Paul’s trip to Jerusalem (the context of the preceding reference) was the beginning of his final trials and imprisonment (though he continued preaching the gospel wherever he found himself). But this is the point that I wish to underscore here: he preached the gospel of the grace of God! This is his summary of his own life; it could not be more clear. And you, misguided(!) evangelistic apologist who thinks your “pre-evangelism” and “preparation of the lost” with your sad and silly humanistic reasoning: what can you demonstrate that is more powerful than the “gospel of the grace of God”, a message that the faithful Paul the Apostle preached his entire life?
Evangelistic apologist: maybe you should consider these:
For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.
2 Tim 1.8
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God …
In am convinced by the conspicuous absence of the message of repentance in nearly every article on evangelistic apologetics I’ve reviewed for this series, that the apologist is essentially ashamed of the message of repentance expressed through the true gospel.
Evangelistic apologist: have you never considered this:
So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”
Please note that the Romans weren’t prepared with the proper “pre-evangelist message”! Paul simply preached the gospel of grace and those who believed it were saved! To the believer is imputed righteousness! (Rom 4.5) There is no mention of any other necessary activity, including intellectual preparation.
He maintained this perspective when he traveled to Corinth:
1 Cor 1.17
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.
One of the passages in the Pauline Epistles that I have loved since college is this:
1 Cor 9.16-18
For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.
The contrast is stunning:
- If Paul preached the gospel willingly, he enjoyed a reward.
- If Paul preached the gospel with anything less than full willingness, you expect (in balance) to hear him claim that there will be no reward. But that isn’t how he completes the contrast: willing or not, the Lord Christ entrusted the gospel to him and that same Lord expected Paul to fulfill his responsibilities! And, it is no stretch of the imagination to assume that Paul feared the consequences if he failed that responsibility.
Paul was absolutely, completely committed to preaching the simple gospel message. And, he did so willingly and will therefore receive great reward from his Lord! Evangelistic apologist: remember this the next time you think that in order to share the gospel with the lost that you start with anything other than the gospel!
I also have articles on my site which deal with eschatology, but here I want to point out how the gospel is inextricably linked with the election of grace:
For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.
This is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”
From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
One of the promises that the Lord made regarding Israel is that He will call them—nationally—to Himself at a time yet future. We, currently, are still in the “time of the Gentiles”: that period of time is not yet complete, and from the standpoint of the gospel of Christ they (the Jews) are its enemies. But the day will come when the then remnant of the Jewish nation will turn to the Lord Christ, understand and embrace the simple gospel:
I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo.
This is the same gospel that was preached to them two millennia ago, and by the election of grace it will bear national fruit at that time as they experience a time of national repentance and faith.
As I've labored to prove biblically in the first three articles, the lost is unable to come to Christ by nature, and lacking the electing grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit to open the mind, the lost person can’t be saved. Note how clear this is:
2 Cor 4.3-4
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Evangelistic apologist: if the presence of the gospel is somehow “veiled” (and it is!), it is veiled to the lost! You can’t change that spiritual fact regardless of the amount of “defensive evidence” and "rational warrant" that you present to the lost! Unless the Spirit opens the heart of the lost to the message of the gospel—the Lord Christ Himself!—your message remains “veiled” because it encounters a dead heart!
One of my favorite passages in the Acts is the account of the message that Paul preached in Athens (Act 17.22-31). It is also a text typically abused by evangelistic apologists who attempt to claim that Paul preached a sermon in which no Scripture was directly referenced, choosing instead to proceed from a pagan inscription and quoting from a pagan poet. “After all”, these apologists claim, “Paul could not proceed from the Tanakh since the Athenians likely would have no knowledge of or intrinsic respect for it.”
This claim is not only nonsense, it is unthinkably stupid! I now prove clearly from that wonderful Scripture just how inexcusably ignorant and irresponsible the typical evangelistic apologist is who maintains that ridiculous opinion.
That Paul recognized and seized the opportunity to launch his message from a pagan inscription on an altar is actually irrelevant, since Luke mentions the fact that the audience there in Athens was “religious” (v22).
[It is reasonable to assume the Athenians were “covering their bets”, religiously speaking, wanting to ensure that they didn’t leave out any god whom to worship might bring them blessing and to ignore might equally bring them the opposite.]
So, did Paul actually preach an OT-free message (because he didn’t reference any text by chapter and verse), building his message instead on a short phrase from a pagan poet to present the gospel? Not by any means!
[The verse references below are active: to open a popup showing the verse, simply click on it.]
- v24: “The God who made the world and all things in it” [Gen 1.1-31; Exo 20.11; Psa 146.6; Isa 42.5]
- v24: “He is Lord of heaven and earth” [Deu 10.14; Psa 115.16; Mat 11.25]
- v24: “does not dwell in temples made with hands” [I Kin 8.27; 2 Chr 2.6; Psa 139.7-16; Isa 66.1]
- v25: He needs nothing [Psa 50.7-13; 1 Chr 29.14-16; Job 22.1-3]
- v25: “He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things” [Gen 2.7; Job 27.3, 33.4; Psa 104.27-30; Ecc 12.6-7]
- v26: “He made from one man every nation of mankind” [Gen 2.7, 3.20; Mal 2.10]
- v26: “having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” [Gen 11.7-8; Deu 32.7-8; Psa 139.15-16; Job 12.23]
- v27: “that they would seek God” [Deu 4.29; Psa 32.6; Jer 29.13; Amo 9.12 (with Act 15.17)]
- v27: “they might grope for Him and find Him” [Deu 4.29, 12.5]
- v27: “He is not far from each one of us” [Deu 4.7; Jer 23.23-24; Psa 145.18]
- v28: “for in Him we live and move and exist” [Job 12.10; Dan 5.22-23]
- v29: “Being then the children of God” [Isa 43.6; Hos 1.10]
- v29: “we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone” [Isa 40.18-26, 46.5-7]
- v30: “having overlooked the times of ignorance” [Psa 81.11-12]
- v30: “God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent” [Mat 3.2, 4.17; Mar 6.12]
- v31: “because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world” [Psa 9.7-8, 96.11-13, 98.7-9]
- v31: “through a Man whom He has appointed” [Mat 25.31-46]
- v31: “having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” [Act 2.24; 1 Cor 15.1-3]
There is something stunning here: if you read Act.17.22-31 aloud, you’ll find that the entire message takes only about 90 seconds from beginning to end! And, if you bothered to count the references I cited above, you’ll find that Paul referenced an astounding 50+ texts—or, viewed another way, Paul quoted/paraphrased a text of Scripture every 2 seconds!
Evangelistic apologist! When is the last time you shared the gospel with the same level of “solid Bible density” (lacking a better term) as did Paul in Athens with intellectuals? Instead, you waste time trying to impress the lost with the sham of your intellectual prowess at the expense of the gospel and the real salvation of those to whom you speak!
Paul, with his encyclopedic knowledge of both the Tanakh and everything that existed at that time of the beginnings of the NT canon, had many, many references in mind!
[Virtually the entire message could have been preached directly from the rich content of the book of Isaiah!
Note: If one uses a non-quoted-from-the-Bible expression that is nevertheless thoroughly biblical, the content is no less true than if the passage(s) had been quoted verbatim. (We typically see this principle at work in the LXX translation, from which the vast majority of OT quotations in the NT are sourced.)
What must be avoided is any distortion to a biblical phrase/concept by means of an alternate expression or paraphrase beyond that biblical truth. The evangelist must at all times present a message thoroughly grounded on the Word of God.
Alternately, equivalent expressions are completely legitimate and are precisely what Paul did at Athens and what Peter did when he preached to the Jews in Acts chapter 2. Yes, without a doubt Peter quoted OT texts extensively—until he got to verse 22. At that point, his message was a valid alternate expression of the truths of God’s sovereignty and the resurrection of the Lord Christ. He does the same thing in his summary words in verses 29 to 36. Peter had lots of OT references in mind, to be sure, but his purpose was not direct quotation but to express various truths in other forms that he believed to be useful at that time.]
There is one last, vital element that I need to emphasize: Paul called this audience of Hellenistic pagans to repentance, not more intellectual discussion at a later date!
This alternate tactic (later discussion) certainly would have been most suitable the Athenian culture, who loved to “spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new”, would it not? To the typical evangelistic apologist, this tactic of Paul is probably viewed as a missed opportunity to extended discourse with the lost!
It is not possible to overemphasize this fact: before an audience that would most likely have no knowledge of the OT and probably were as different from Jewish OT theology as a culture could be, Paul stuck to that gospel of God that calls the sinner to repentance—even to the extent that it brought an end to the attention of nearly the entire audience!
Note that in the summary paragraph of the response of his audience (Act 17.32-34), it is recorded:
Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.” So Paul went out of their midst.
So, here is a clear indication that when Paul introduced the topic of the resurrection of the Lord Christ (v31), the message (already logically, at least, was near the end) was, practically speaking, over. It isn’t clear whether the temporal scope of “Paul went out of their midst” is meant only that single preaching event or rather that he left Athens entirely; the latter seems more likely, based on how chapter 17 ends and how abruptly chapter 18 begins. He preached the message that he was sent to preach and then moved on.
We also should not lose sight of something else here: as I noted above, if you read verses 22-31 aloud, you’ll find that the entire message takes only about 90 seconds from beginning to end! What can we learn from this? The evangelist does not need to carefully “set the stage” for the lost to hear the message of the gospel! He/she simply needs to present the gospel, and perhaps in the mercy of the election of grace, the Lord will be pleased to call some out of the darkness of sin to Himself, as happened there at Athens:
But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.
The Lord directed Paul to bring that message to what was actually a very small audience (regardless of the number actually in attendance). Was that message a rousing success, seeing thousands come to Christ? No! But all who were to come, according to the election of grace, heard the message and were saved.
[BTW: It is well known that nearly all of the OT quotes in the NT are from the Septuagint; it is also well known that some of the translations of the LXX are “less than literal” from the Hebrew/Aramaic.
My point is simply this: a truly biblical paraphrase is just that: it is biblical as well as a paraphrase. A Bible truth is in no way diminished by virtue of it being expressed differently or without direct chapter/verse references. And, when you think about it, is not this one of the vital aspects of what true Christians believe regarding the Inspiration of the Scripture, that those words of Scripture are from God, but expressed with the very personalities, cultures, vocabularies, styles, backgrounds and aspects of their human authors? Those the Lord used to record His words in the Bible were not mere automatons!]
Paul records an interesting event in Galatians chapter 2. Sometime after Paul met in Jerusalem with the early elders (which included at least James, John and Peter), he traveled back to Syrian Antioch. Apparently, Peter also traveled to Antioch, to be followed (after an unspecified interval) by “certain men from James” (Gal 2.12). During that interval, Peter “loosened up” in his observance of Jewish tradition and began to eat with Gentile believers. But, once the Jews from Jerusalem visited, he held himself aloof—an indefensible and undeniable hypocrisy.
What is interesting is how Paul rebuked him:
The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel …
Paul made no attempt to soften his rebuke of Peter’s action because to do so would dilute and distort the message of grace of the one, true gospel! Peter, by his action, was teaching another gospel, one that dealt with Jews differently than Gentiles, one that falsely honored Jewish traditions, one that implied that salvation was something obtained by doing the “right things” or, perhaps, being with the “right people” or having the “right heritage”. Can you imagine what Paul would say today if he read the numerous articles and books on apologetics that neatly sidestep the gospel for a message of intellectual preparation, all the while insisting on calling it evangelism!
[Actually, I believe that I can imagine what Paul would say. The purpose of this series is to show, from the Bible, exactly where the modern evangelistic apologist runs amok from that Bible. I think that he would express the same things as I’m expressing here, because we reason from and apply the same Word!]
I anticipate the challenge that someone might raise the following verse in objection to my claims that evangelistic apologetics, with its attendant “preparation”, is detrimental to the true gospel:
and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace
I can hear someone saying, “See, here is an activity of preparing the way for the gospel.”
No, you have it backwards; that isn’t what the verse says at all. It’s a pretty clear in the original:
καὶ ὑποδησάμενοι τοὺς πόδας ἐν ἑτοιμασίᾳ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου τῆς εἰρήνης
- ὑποδησάμενοι is an aorist middle participle used to describe the process of binding or shodding the Christian’s feet (τοὺς πόδας AP noun) as you begin the life-long task of bringing the gospel to the lost.
- ἐν ἑτοιμασίᾳ is translated in the NASB as above. It is a dative phrase that describes the action that implements the “shodding” of the feet, not an action that is to be applied to the gospel.
- τοῦ εὐαγγελίου τῆς εἰρήνης is a genitive phrase that describes the type of preparation. It answers the semantic question “What type of preparation?”: the answer is a “gospel-of-peace-type preparation for the feet”.
Here is a translation that might make this point a little more clearly (though admittedly wordy):
and having shod your feet by means of being prepared by/with the gospel of peace
There simply is no substitute for the gospel!
There are many, many references to the gospel in the Pauline epistles; it was the chief of all messages for him and he considered himself entirely unworthy of its responsibilities—but he nonetheless lived to deliver its message to the lost. Here is a sampling:
- to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel (Eph 6.19)
- the greater progress of the gospel (Phi 1.12)
- conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (Phi 1.27)
- the furtherance of the gospel (Phi 2.22)
- the word of truth, the gospel (Col 1.5)
- not moved away from the hope of the gospel (Col 1.23)
- we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God (1 The 2.2)
- He called you through our gospel (2 The 2.14)
- join with me in suffering for the gospel (2 Tim 1.8)
- who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Tim 1.10)
- he might minister to me in my imprisonment for the gospel (Phm 1.13)
Anything, anything at all, that distances, distorts, softens, prepares, discounts, delays or simply gets in the way of the one true gospel is to push the Lord Christ away and to show contempt for His work and message; it will lead to the ruin of the lost!
Look at the longevity of the gospel. It was preached to Abraham:
The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.”
and it will be preached at the consummation of all things:
And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.”
Why would anyone—anyone!—even dare to try to improve or replace it with their own humanistic ramblings and reasonings? If this is you, evangelist/apologist, then shame on you! How is it that you’ve come to accept treating the true gospel with such contempt, and that without any pang of conscience?!?!
Before closing out this chapter, here's a sobering perspective of the activities of the modern evangelistic apologist who believes that his/her work is “pre-evangelism” and “preparing the lost to receive the message of the gospel”:
I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
I must maintain, based on all that I’ve demonstrated from the Scripture to this point, that anything—even that which purports to be “preparing the way” for the gospel—is, in fact, “another gospel” and is therefore accursed!
If you, by your so-called “defense” of the Scripture, essentially and practically set aside the one, true gospel for that which is actually “another gospel”, then you need to confess this grievous sin to the Lord and seek His forgiveness! You need to realize that the Lord has established only one gospel for all time, and that it is the single message, that Sword of the Spirit, that is to be delivered to the lost without addition, deletion, distortion or intellectual manipulation. It alone is the divinely-sanctioned instrument for saving the lost throughout all time:
This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.