Believers who engage in evangelism often face an important question. What part should that which is normally called “apologetics” play in an evangelistic conversation? In other words, must you present your proofs that Christ is the Son of God and give the philosophical arguments which support that before you explain the gospel? Or, do you simply tell him about Christ’s death and resurrection and invite him to trust Christ? Which is the biblical procedure?
Two things become clear to the student of the Scriptures. The first is that when speaking to a lost person, our approach is first and foremost not to be, “Here is my defense,” but instead, “Here is my declaration.”
In 1 Corinthians 2:1, Paul says, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.” Unlike the rhetoricians of Corinth, who loved discussions and philosophical arguments, Paul was not about to engage in either. Instead, he gave them the testimony of God concerning Christ and His finished work on the cross. Paul was interested in making a declaration, not engaging in a debate.
However, when Paul encountered a situation where philosophical arguments were needed, he was prepared to give them. Acts 17 presents such a situation. He here finds himself confronted with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, neither of whom had regard for biblical truth.
In verses 22–34, Paul presents his apologetic argument that the Creator is not one who is carved out of stone; instead, He is the one who carved all His creatures. But, lest you think this represented a change in procedure for Paul in terms of his presentation, verse 18, just prior to that passage, reminds us he had already “preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.”
Paul was simply using his apologetics to support the declaration he had already made. The reason is simple. He knew the carefully articulated argument of the most persuasive speaker will not save. Instead, only the Spirit of God anointing the message of the gospel will bring a person to Christ (1 Cor. 2:4–5).
Hence, the teaching of the Scripture is, go forth with a declaration—Christ, and Him crucified. Make that declaration, regardless of whether you are talking to a barista or a college professor. When a defense is needed, be prepared to give it. But, first and foremost, do not be a person characterized by defense; be a person characterized by declaration.