Every day we are in contact with people that think and believe differently than us. Sometimes we are given the opportunity to discuss our beliefs with them. When this opportunity presents itself, what do you do? Let us see if we can use the Scriptures to come up with a good approach to making the best use of the opportunities that are presented to us.
These opportunities are not all alike. Some come from people that are really interested and other simply come from people that want to argue. The interested people can further be divided into those that are seeking for answers in order to change, and others are simply curious with no intend to change their beliefs. This makes it almost impossible to come up with a single solution or recipe for every discussion. However, we can try to have a general view of how to approach this. We should also know what we should not do.
Let us start by first looking at what Y’Shua is expecting from us in this regard.
What is our commission?
At first we need to determine how active we need to be in seeking these conversations. Are we given the instruction to go and find people with the purpose of convincing them of our beliefs? Is it our job to go and spread the Gospel to all?
Whenever this topic comes up for discussion, we will hear the verses that Y’Shua mentioned when He sent out His disciples.
18 And Y’Shua came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
When looking at these verses, we need to ask the contextual question: Is this specifically for the disciples or does it apply to all His followers in the future?
We also see that Paul gives his disciple, Timothy, specific instructions as to what he should do. These instructions include preaching the word, reproving and rebuking.
2 Timothy 4:1–2
1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of YHVH and of Messiah Y’Shua, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
In the letter written to the assembly in Corinth, Paul mentions that the body of Messiah consists of many individual members. Each of these members may have a different calling. Some of these members will have the purpose in life to bring the message to the others (Apostle), others have the calling to teach their own brethren (teachers.)
1 Corinthians 12:27–30
27 Now you are Messiah’s body, and individually members of it. 28 And YHVH has appointed in the assembly, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? 30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?
From this verse we see that Paul is of the opinion that not all of us have been called to be sent out as apostles. Paul saw himself as an apostle with a very specific calling. He was tasked to take the gospel to the Gentiles.
1 Timothy 2:7
For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
2 Timothy 4:17
But YHVH stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth.
We can thus conclude that Paul did not have any issue with people going out to preach the Gospel. He taught that not all people have this calling, some will be called for teaching or prophetic work.
But, do we have a commandment that is applicable to all believers? Yes, we do!
Works vs. Words
During His ministry on earth, Y’Shua told us to be a light to all the nations. This is an instruction that is applicable to all His followers and disciples. This we should do, not only for the people around us, but also to glorify YHVH. This should be one of our acts of worship.
16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. 17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
This section is actually a lot more interesting than it first appears. We are specifically told to be a light. We are not told to be a shofar or trumpet. Why? The nations should see, not hear. This is the reason why the next passage is about the instructions (mitzvot) that are recorded in the Word. The way we testify to the nations is by what we do, not what we say. The task we are given is to show the nations the kingdom of heaven, via our deeds.
There is a quote from Francis of Assisi that summarizes this whole point very well.
It is clear from the message we received from Y’Shua, that our actions really need to speak louder than our words. We do not need to convince others that they should be following the instructions. We through our actions, and when necessary, our words, are to simply sow the seed. The Ruach will do the rest.
26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
When we need to use words
Sometimes our actions do get us into places where we need to use words. You may be invited to the neighbors for a cup of tea, or attend a function at your workplace when somebody starts asking you questions. These questions may have been triggered about what the people have observed you doing (or not doing!) Now is the time when you really need to use words. What to do? Here are our three basic rules for the words you should be using.
1. Scripture is the basis
The one rule we always apply is to use Scripture as the basis for our answers. This implies that we need to know the Scriptures well enough to be able to incorporate it into our answers. This is also the reason we mentioned, in our previous article, that you should try to memorize Scripture within a specific context. Paul has told us that the Scriptures are inspired by YHVH and that it will equip us for good work.
2 Timothy 3:16–17
16 All Scripture is inspired by YHVH and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of YHVH may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
2. Keep the Context
If you want to handle the Word of YHVH accurately, you also need to ensure that you keep the context of all the verses that you quote. It is very easy to use a verse out of context and then twist it to support a specific doctrine. I always use this example to illustrate the point:
Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Y’Shua said to him, “Go and do the same.”
Without any context, I can now make the following statement: “Cain killed Abel, his brother. Y’Shua said we need to go and do the same!” Please note that this is a real exaggeration to prove the point. Everybody should see the flaw in this. Exodus 20:13
This is why we find the technique of Scripture memorization of singular context so useful. You can prepare for some of these conversations by having a number of Scripture references ready on the key topics, examples are:
- Keeping Sabbath on the seventh day,
- The Feasts of YHVH,
- Keeping His commandments
- Do not do what the other nations do.
Go and find yourself a small number of key verses that support what you believe about each of these topics. Make the list and then start to memorize them within the context.
3. Do not argue the details
One of the biggest traps that we tend to fall into, is to start arguing/discussing at the detail level. This is specifically true for people that tend to be literal. Whenever you find yourself in a discussion about the words being used in a specific translation or how we interpret a specific word in the context, remind yourself – focus on the big picture! One of the key lessons in rhetoric is to focus on the outcome you want to achieve rather than being right on every topic.
Paul gave Timothy the same advice.
2 Timothy 2:14–15
14 Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of YHVH not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to YHVH as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
Getting the essence of the Gospel across must be the goal of your conversation. The goal is not to be right and win every argument. Get out of me-ville!
In group conversations this becomes even more important. The other tendency we have noted is that fellow believers tend to jump into doctrinal discussions. They start debating interpretations of topics like calendar, what to eat, etc. To people that are not part of our group this creates the impression of strife and disunity. It is not wrong to have these discussions, but please, pick the right audience. Do not do it in the company of new believers or in front of people you are trying to reach with the Gospel.
4. Pray for guidance
Most importantly – do not try and do this by your own wisdom and strength. We need to ensure that we have our spiritual senses open to hear where we are being led. Y’Shua told us that the Ruach (Spirit) will come to teach us.
“But the Helper, the Set Apart Ruach, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
If we allow the Ruach to lead us in these conversations we should see the fruits of the Ruach in the conversation.
22 But the fruit of the Ruach is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Would it not be wonderful if all our conversations could be marked with love, joy peace and gentleness. What an impression that will make in our current day. Quite contrary to the knowledge- and self centered conversations we see so often. Pray that the Ruach will lead you to do His will, not yours. Pray that the prophecy of Isaiah may become a reality in your life.
20 Although YHVH has given you bread of privation and water of oppression, He, your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. 21 Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.
How wonderful it would be to hear His words behind us as we take each step.
If we allow the Ruach to lead us in these critical conversations, we must ensure that we maintain the right attitude throughout the conversation. As you get challenged and disagreements come forward, do not get worked up and start to argue. This is our natural tendency. We all believe that we need to defend ourselves and prove that we are correct. In the process we get ourselves really excited and worked up. This leads to emotional discussions that tend to add little value.
In his letter to Titus, one of his spiritual children, Paul also gave some advice as to which habits Titus should establish in the community. In principle, he provides the same advice that he provided to Timothy. In both cases he was specific that it is important not to get involved in all sorts of arguments.
1 Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, 2 to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. 3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.
But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.
2 Timothy 2:14
Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of YHVH not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers.
2 Timothy 2:24–26
24 YHVH’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps YHVH may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
One of the most important ways to ensure that you remain in the conversation with the right attitude is to ensure that the conversation does not become emotional. You can achieve this by remembering that the conversation / disagreement is not about you. The person on the other side is not disagreeing with you, but with what you have said. This is not pure semantics. It is important to keep yourself from being the topic of discussion in your mind. You are discussing YHVH’s Word and the person simply has a different view on it than you do. All you need to do is to sow the seeds and let the Ruach do the convincing.
26 “But the Helper, the Set Apart Ruach, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. 27 “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.
It is important that we remember that Y’Shua told us that love remains the greatest of the commandments. Y’Shua tells us to love YHVH and our neighbor. We are also given the message by Y’Shua as to whom our neighbor is. He explains this in the story of the Samaritan. Luke 10:30-37
Later, Paul is also very explicit about the fact that love is the greatest gift. He makes a very good case in 1 Corinthians 13. This is how it starts:
1 Corinthians 13:1
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
And then Paul builds it up.
1 Corinthians 13:8
Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
In this verse Paul specifically states that love is longer lasting than any knowledge we may have.
Also, be very aware of the tone of your voice. As you get involved in the discussion and you start getting to a point that you feel very passionate about, you may end up unknowingly raising your voice. To the other party this may come across as a sign of you getting upset. One of two things may happen. Either the other person also gets upset, or they simply withdraw. In both cases you may end up in a place you did not desire. Make sure you remain soft spoken and calm all the time. This also prevents the conversation from getting too emotional.
In the Scriptures we have some very good examples from Y’Shua that we can follow. In the past, we have done detailed studies in some of these. Please have a look at these if you have not yet read them.
- The Temptation of Messiah
- The discussion with Nicodemus
- The Samaritan woman at the well
- The two men on the road to Emmaus
If you study these four sections of the Gospels you will see how Scripture always plays a key role. What is also obvious is that Y’Shua treats all these people with love and respect. He does not insult, belittle or mock any of the people. He also does not get angry if they simply do not get what He is telling them. Yet, in all cases He has a successful outcome.
What is Apologetics?
Some of you may have come across the word “Apologetics” in this context. Let us see what it is and what we should be doing about this. In its essence, Apologetics is the defense of your faith.1 The English word is derived from the Greek word “apologia“, which refers to speech of defense. In Athens it was used as a normal part of the judicial procedure. It was the speech that the defendant gave to refute the accusations that were made against him. The Greek word is also used several times in the Apostolic Scriptures, e.g. Acts 22:1; Philippians 1:7; 1 Peter 3:15.
1 Peter 3:15
but sanctify Messiah as master in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
In the verse above we see that Peter teaches his followers to be ready when they need to give an account for what they hope in. Yet, he reminds them to do it with gentleness and reverence. This is what he saw the Messiah doing. This is what all the followers of Y’Shua should be doing.
But how can we ensure that we are ready to make a defense. Over and above the study of Scripture and memorization of these key Scriptures you can also make sure that you are clear as to what it is you hope for (believe in.) You need to record this as your personal faith statement. In this document (yes, I do recommend you write it out) you can put in your own words your belief regarding the key topics. Please do not try and make this a complete discourse of doctrine. Stick to the key topics that you get asked about regularly and then define in your own words what you believe. Here are some topics to get you started:
- Who is YHVH
- Who is Y’Shua
- What is the Bible
- The sabbath
- The feasts of YHVH
- Clean and Unclean
- Keeping the commandments
- The end times
Also look up the key verses of Scripture that support your belief. Now, once you have such a document, make sure you read through it often. Even better, put it on your smartphone, keep a physical copy with you in your drawer at work or any other place where you think you may need it. This is not only for when you need to provide account, but also for when you need some encouragement.
We also do have ministries that focus themselves on the defense of the Messianic faith. A good example of such a ministry is Theology News Network a.k.a TNN Online. On the site you will find a number of articles that address and discuss topics that are key to our hope. J.K McKee always provides a good balanced view that is academically sound. You can also see their statement of faith on their website. Not all of us are called to a full time ministry of Apologetics. Having your own statement of faith ready, is a good way to ensure that you will be able to provide a good account when needed.
This study has shown us that we simply need to be the instrument that YHVH will use to bring people back to Him. We need to be available for YHVH to bring His word to our neighbors. We do not have the responsibility to convert everybody. We do not have the responsibility to prove the Word correct. The Ruach will do all these things. We simply need to be a conduit through which He can work.
In order to be the best vehicle or instrument for the Ruach, we can prepare ourselves by memorizing His Word and using it responsibly. We have several ways that we can use to ensure that we are prepared to give an account for what we believe, but not all of us are called to do this full time. If we do have the opportunity to do this, it is important that we do it with the right attitude. Y’Shua, Paul and Peter have taught us to do this defense in love.
Thus, we can again conclude that we have the responsibility to love and obey. Do what Y’Shua did.
1. Cabal, T. et al., 2007. The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith, Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
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