How Can I Defend The Gospel?
The Bible today is being charged with being a man-made book, full of inaccuracies, a mass of myths and fairy tales. Christians are exhorted to present a verbal defense for the Word of God, and the greatest defense of all is the proclamation of what Christ has done in our own hearts and lives. And there is no greater testimony than personal experience—the telling of your condition before and after receiving salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as we see in the examples that follow.
BEFORE: A demoniac
“And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones” (Mark 5:5).
Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest says this man’s cry denoted “a loud scream or shriek.” And the cutting was “in the sense of gashing, hacking, or cutting one’s whole body so as to leave it covered with scars.”1 This man’s condition is a symbolic picture, which takes place in the spiritual one way or another, to one degree or another, with all unredeemed. There is no peace for those who do not know the Lord.
Jesus encounters this man just after He had calmed a storm at sea. Now he would calm the storm in a man’s soul.
AFTER: Sitting at the feet of Jesus
Christ the Deliverer and the Healer commands the devils plaguing this man to leave, and the Bible says he (who hours earlier had been possessed by at least six thousand demons), was now “sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind” (Mark 5:15). This miraculous deliverance terrified those who saw and heard of it, and they asked Jesus to leave their coasts, so He did. The man who had been delivered followed Jesus onto the ship and “prayed him that he might be with him.” But the Lord told him, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.” (Mark 5:18-19).
What the Lord told him referenced three things:
- The man was to testify to any and all what was done.
- He was to tell that it was Jesus who had done it.
- He was to understand that the cure was permanent; the demons would never return.
And that’s exactly what this man did. His gave his personal testimony to all who would hear. Only he could relay the comparison of his suffering and torment to his miraculous deliverance by the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no testimony like that which Jesus alone can do for an individual. It is undeniable proof of His divine love and power.
BEFORE: A Samaritan sinner
In John 4, we see the Lord waiting for her at the well. She finally comes, like she had every other day to draw water from the well. But when Jesus says to her, “Give me to drink,” she, surprised that He would speak to her, replies, “How is it that you, being a Jew, asks drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?” Here we see the effects of her calloused heart, numb from the many hurts she suffered through five broken relationships—each husband taking with him a measure of this woman’s hope and trust. When she hears Jesus speak, what surfaces in her is a somewhat sarcastic question: “How is it that you …?” The woman asks Jesus, with some degree of disbelief, “Art thou greater?” Her faith in self has been all but destroyed by circumstances, yet with every word Christ speaks to her, a new faith in Him begins to build. As this incredible conversation continues, the Lord answers her: “Whosoever drinketh of this water.” Whosoever. Yes, even this woman, with her moral reputation in ruins is included—and invited—to partake of the life that Jesus offers.
The woman knew that her life had not been changed by the worship she had previously been engaged in, but now she senses that Jesus is about to give her what she has craved all along—salvation from sin and true communion with God. Still, she was confused because He did not match up to her beliefs. So much like the world, yet so much unlike the world. The similarity is this woman needing help but looking for it in the wrong place, but the similarity ends with her accepting Jesus and the world not.
AFTER: He told me all that ever I did
“And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did” (John 4:39).
Salvation, afforded and given by Christ, is a peculiar thing in that its glory is not obvious until one has accepted Christ. When that happens—when a person is born again—suddenly the glory appears, and that believer’s first desire is for others to know.
But how was it possible for the men this woman told—men who were obviously leaders in the Samaritan religion—to be so quickly swayed by her testimony, especially considering who she was? Perhaps it was because of who she was and what she was that they did heed her words. Evidently, they saw an obvious change in this woman, which could be readily observed in her spirit, and that made them extremely curious.
So while we do believe that the greatest defense of the gospel is the proclamation of what Christ has done for us in our own hearts and lives, we caution believers to never give their testimonies from a holier-than-thou stance. We must follow in the footsteps of Jesus who said of Himself, “I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29).
Christ Defended the Gospel
The Lord Jesus Christ, while always kind toward His enemies was, at the same time, firm with them. He defended the gospel to the utmost, always. Christ would not allow accusations or erroneous interpretations to go unchallenged, and His challenge always silenced the critics. So if the preacher of the gospel, or any Christian for that matter, stands up boldly for the gospel, don’t think that he is not evidencing love. That stance is, in fact, the love of God.
As believers, we must defend the faith with fear in our hearts, and this fear is self-distrust. Whatever it is that we have in the Lord is completely because of Christ and what He did at the cross—the greatest example of love and humility that mankind has ever seen, known, or witnessed. Of ourselves, we don’t have anything to boast about. And to be sure, unsaved listeners know that. They quickly pick up on what we are really saying and how we say it. If it’s pride coming through, they pick up on that; if it’s humility, they sense that too. One thing the unsaved can’t stand, and rightly so, is the domineering, self-righteousness of those who refer to themselves as “Christians,” and it’s so easy for us to fall into that mode. When we do, it’s always from the mode of self-righteousness, and never the righteousness that comes exclusively from Christ.
The Testimony of Our Lord
In II Timothy 1:8, the apostle Paul writes, “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God” (II Tim. 1:8)
Paul knew that some difficult times were coming. Christianity was now existing under new and dangerous conditions; it was no longer tolerated. It was regarded, mistakenly, as the enemy of the state. Sound familiar? We believe that true Christianity is dangerously close to this same condition today; the gospel is under attack as never before.
Defending the gospel, witnessing to others, and testifying of what the Lord has done for us calls for a certain kind of courage. The apostle Paul knew this, which is why he was telling Timothy—and us—not to draw back but to be partakers of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God.
1 Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 101.