Apologetics in the New Testament

Uses of the Word Apologia

The Greek word apologia is used several times in the New Testament, and each usage reflects the meaning of defending against an accusation.

In Acts 19:33 Alexander attempted to make a “defense” to a crowd that had erupted after Paul was charged with persuading and turning many people away from idol worship. Paul’s great offense was to say that the idols made the craftsmen in Ephesus were not real gods.

In Acts 22:1 Paul gives his “defense” to the tribunal in Jerusalem who had arrested him after the mob attacked him. He was accused of teaching against the Mosaic law and temple worship (21:28) and of defiling the temple by bringing Gentiles into it (21:29). This happens again in 24:10 where he makes his defense against the accusations that he was a public enemy, one who stirs up riots, and a leader in the sect of the Nazarenes (a follower of Jesus). Note, two of these accusations are false and one is true. This word is used again in Acts 25:8, 16; 26:1-2, 24, and in each occurrence Paul defends his preaching of the resurrection of Messiah Jesus.

In Philippians 1:7, 16 Paul refers to these incidents in Acts, and describes them as a defense of the gospel. In other words, what Paul was defending was the good news of the risen Christ. In 2 Timothy 4:16 Paul recounts his first defense when no one was present with him, because they had deserted him, presumably in fear of their lives. But the Lord stood with Paul and strengthened him.

In addition to the actual uses of apologia, the concept of defending the truth of the gospel and the glory of God can be seen throughout Scripture. It is clear, then, that apologetics was the very essence of Paul’s ministry when dealing with unbelievers. He did not separate evangelism and apologetics. They are inseparable.

In the next post we will look at the relationship between evangelism and apologetics.

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