Because apologetics is a spiritual endeavor more than it is a philosophical one, believers can never forget two simple truths:
- The Holy Spirit is the power and ultimate persuasion behind apologetics. We dare not seek to persuade unbelievers of the truth of the gospel in our own power. Since salvation is essentially the supernatural regeneration of a person dead in sin, the Spirit must be the active power behind someone getting saved. Human effort and persuasion cannot bring about regeneration. This means that when I share the gospel with someone, I am not trying to convert him by my own power, but rather sharing and defending the truth that he must embrace in order to be transformed by the Holy Spirit.
This is important to remember, or else we can quickly depend on our own persuasiveness and personality to evangelize. We can come to believe that it is our eloquence and ability that brings people to Christ. This often results in a focus on techniques that pressure, manipulate, or coerce unbelievers into “making a decision.” However, the Bible never describes salvation as the result of making a decision. A person is saved when he repents of his sin and places his faith in Jesus.
In order for a person to repent he must first be convicted of his sin to the point that he wants to turn from it to Christ. This will not happen if the Holy Spirit is not changing his heart toward his sin. Esau tried to the point of tears to repent, but could not because the Spirit had not convicted him (Heb. 12:17). We realize, then, that while we confront unbelievers with the need to repent of sin, only the Holy Spirit can produce real repentance in the heart. Likewise, unless the Holy Spirit convinces the unbeliever that Jesus is the Son of God who is the way the truth and the life, he will not turn to Jesus for salvation.
The Holy Spirit’s role in salvation is mentioned throughout the New Testament. The Holy Spirit and prayer are the means by which closed doors and closed hearts are opened (Col. 4:2-6)
- Prayer is the means by which we remain cognizant of Point #1. Apologetics is a spiritual battle more than it is an intellectual battle, since an unbeliever’s opposition to the truth is primarily an ethical one, not an intellectual one. Prayer is the primary evidence that we are depending on God and not ourselves. Those who pray much are fully dependent. Those who pray little demonstrate self-reliance for the persuasiveness of their witness.
When we pray for God to save someone we are asking God to override their blindness to help them see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God (2 Cor. 4:6). We are asking God to stop the person from continuing in unbelief. We are asking God to show them the emptiness of life without Christ. In every version of our prayers for unbelievers we are asking God to do what we cannot. Our prayers show our reliance on the Holy Spirit’s convicting work in the heart of our conversation partner.
The roles of the Holy Spirit and prayer should increase our confidence to share the gospel, because we know the power does not come from us. Our role is to simply pray and speak. God’s job is to save.
This leads us into the next topic—the difference between persuasion and argument. When many people hear the word apologetics they think of arguing with unbelievers about the truth. For those who love arguing, this sounds fun. For the majority of Christians, however, the prospect of arguing with unbelievers about the truth of the Christian faith holds no appeal. The next post will deal with persuasion in apologetics.