As someone who has studied apologetics extensively, I know and have used all of the logical arguments for the existence of God, the deity of Christ and the reality of miracles. I have talked with people about the rationality for believing in the reliability of Scripture and the resurrection of Jesus. As a natural skeptic, I tested my inherited faith against reality until it became a proven faith to me. I began to have a confidence in what I always thought was true as I scrutinized it and it began to make sense beyond the “blind faith” responses we often hear to questions about how we know it’s true or why we believe.
I was reading in John 1 yesterday and was reminded of how people initially came to Christ during His time on earth. Take a look at this passage:
35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.[h] 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus[i] was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Look at how that played out. When Andrew and the other follower of John asked Jesus about where He was staying, Jesus didn’t convince them to follow Him based on His trustworthiness or He deity. He simply said, “Come and you will see.” Whatever the rest of that day held, it was enough to convince Andrew that Jesus was the Messiah. So what did he do? He told his brother, Simon, which apparently roused Simon’s curiosity that resulted in Peter going to check it out for himself. Something tells me there was something that Simon saw in the way his brother had become so quickly convinced that set things in motion.
My favorite, though, is Philip with Nathanael. This guy is no push-over. He has questions. He’s not into “easy believe-ism”, even doubting that it can be possible that this is the Messiah because of where Jesus is from. Now, I would be tempted at that point to dive right into the apologetics and give the reasons as to why God could, in fact, bring the Messiah from Nazareth or anywhere else He chose since He is, as it were, you know…God.
Philip let’s me down, though. Not a word of defense. He doesn’t argue the historicity of Christ’s having actually been born in Bethlehem which lines up perfectly with the Old Testament prophecies or anything. He doesn’t engage in any arguments at all. Doesn’t he know that God needs these arguments? Please!
What he does say is awesome!
I love what Philip actually said: Come and see. It’s like, “Dude, I don’t know…see for yourself.” That is incredibly powerful and how often I forget that part!
If Christ is real and alive and well, there is no need to try and argue someone to Christ. Just point them in the right direction and let Jesus do the rest. Am I swearing off apologetics because of this? No. There is a place for helping people understand the reasonable nature of Christianity, but in my opinion, it’s not the strongest apologetic. You know what is?
A life well-lived.
That’s it. It’s like the apologetics of life. If I live my life according to the power given me through the Holy Spirit of God, my life will be the greatest apologetic there is. Joy in all circumstances. Hope. Purpose. Power. Love. Kindness. Grace. Man, if my life bleeds these things and they’re on display for all to see, then all I have to do is say to people, “Jesus is the power source for a life lived well. Come and see for yourself.”
I still struggle to get my mind around that…that “come and see” was all that these guys said, but think about what they did: they left the rest up to Jesus. They really trusted that Jesus would take care of revealing who He is Himself. Actually, I think there is more faith in that than the attitude we often take that it’s up to us to convince people of God’s existence. It’s almost as if we don’t really believe this stuff, so we have to make a really good argument so they realize this is a bargain they can’t refuse. That’s not the heart of apologetics, but it can be our own attitude. If it is, we have to ask whether or not we really believe in the working of the Holy Spirit and the power of God to draw to Himself anybody He chooses.
What does a “come and see” approach look like now?
Well, when Jesus was here on earth, it was possible to literally take them into his physical presence. Obviously, He’s not here anymore. Now, what?
Now, we are His physical presence. His transformational work within us is evidence of His presence so we can essentially say, “Watch what He’s doing in me and if you like what you see, follow Him. Believe in Him. Swear off following your own path and doing your own thing and watch what He does in you, too.” This is about living authentically, loving people genuinely, and not being afraid to give a reason for the hope that is in me. (1 Peter 3:15)
That last part is important, so make sure you hear what I’m NOT saying.
I’m not encouraging you to live according to that old saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.” I think words are most always necessary. Without words, our hope and joy can be attributed to anything: exercise, good fortune, positive thinking or Tums. Paul certainly used an abundance of words in his reasoning for the faith. Look at his life, though, and you can see why his words were so powerful. They backed up a Spirit-fueled life. If my life isn’t “preaching the Gospel” first, my words are probably weak. That’s when we look hypocritical. On the flip side, if my life is already communicating the results of faith in Christ in how I am living, my words will carry a tremendous amount of weight.
Yeah, I’m still big on apologetics. I still believe that reasoning with others about the legitimate claims of Scripture is important. I believe it is imperative that we know Scripture that points to Christ. I also believe, though, that a lack of knowledge in the area of apologetics keeps many people from feeling confident in sharing their faith and answering questions they have about God, but a life well-lived coupled with accrediting the One who empowers it is the strongest apologetic there is. In that, I don’t have to know all of the answers. Philip certainly didn’t know whether or not anything good could come from Nazareth and didn’t feel compelled to try. He just said what anybody can say: “Come and see for yourself.”
“Taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” ~Psalm 34:8