MARTIN CHEMNITZ DOCTRINAL BULLETIN
A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
6421 W. Poinsettia
Phoenix, Arizona 85304
KJV 1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
GNT 1 Peter 3:15 ku,rion de. to.n Cristo.n a`gia,sate evn tai/j kardi,aij u`mw/n( e[toimoi avei. pro.j avpologi,an panti. tw/| aivtou/nti u`ma/j lo,gon peri. th/j evn u`mi/n evlpi,doj(
Two Lutherans I know are having a debate in Christian News about apologetics. One is a layman, James Romnes. The other is an ordained Lutheran minister, John Warick Montgomery, a man with many degrees, several doctorates, even a law degree or two. The layman, with less training, is correct, while the professor is terribly wrong and more dangerous than an atheist with a webpage.
The term apologetics comes from the word used in the text from the appointed Epistle for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity in the historic series. The word can be translated as “giving an answer” or “providing a defense” or “giving a reason.” Plato’s Apology, for example, is Socrates’ defense of his life before being put to death.
First Peter was written during a time of persecution. We know that through references made in the letter. The early Christian church spread through persecution, just as it does now.
1 Peter 1:6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
Therefore, this word “apology” or defense really does mean a defense in the sense of a court trial. Christians were brought before judges, tried, and convicted of being disloyal to the state. (See Acts 22:1; 25:16; John 7:51).
2 Timothy 4:16 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.
Acts 22:1 Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you
Acts 25:16 To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him.
In general we use the term apologetics to describe how one answers those who question what we believe. That can be done badly, or according to the Word of God. One can appeal to emotions, to institutional power, or to human reason and cleverness. Some kids are thinking right now: Oh, this applies to the adults and not to me. Some adults will think: This is why we send men to the seminary. Some pastors will say, too, “I will leave that question to the seminary professors and the doctrinal board of the synod.”
But that would be wrong. Nothing is more dangerous to the soul than to give up responsibility to another person or authority. Ultimately we must give our own account, our own defense, to God. On that day it will not matter whether we belong to this church or that synod, whether we are Lutheran or something else, whether our parents or relatives believe this or that.
The answer is simple, yet many cannot say it. Before God we must be able to plead, “I am innocent and completely without sin…But not on my own account. It is because your only-begotten Son, Jesus, died on the cross for my sins. He took all my sins upon Himself and gave me His righteousness. I trust only in His righteousness, because I am nothing without Him.”
St. Augustine worried that his mother would be tempted by Satan into believing that she should go to heaven because of her saintliness, and she was a saintly woman. Her husband was an unbeliever and her son defied Christianity for much of his life.
God’s will is that our faith be tested again and again throughout life, so that our final defense is correct, in harmony with God’s will, grasping those promises so freely given by our gracious heavenly Father. Each questioning or accusation can make us ashamed of the Savior or more clear in our answer.
Some people in the visible Church are so hardened against the Word that they have a Satanic ability to get at us and drive a wedge between us and the Scriptures, to make us unsteady. Satan does use the Scriptural knowledge of those people to devise fiendish questions. I heard one ELCA woman leader respond to a man who said that an ELCA book destroyed people’s faith. She said sweetly, “Did it destroy your faith?” He said, uncertainly, “Noooo.” She concluded, “Well, then.”
Luther warns us not to be proud and haughty, so that we would “tear up trees.” Because then Satan will tear the Sword from our hands and destroy us while we are talking. So we should answer with “meekness and fear.” Remember, meekness is the primary characteristic of Christ. Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls
He never answered haughtily, saying, “Did you forget I am God’s Son, the Word who created the universe?” He mentioned legions of angels, but in a resigned way, as if to say, “This is one more chance for you to repent.” Appealing to years in the ministry or to earned degrees is a wrong step, more dangerous to the speaker than to the listener. Spiritual truths can only be supported by the Word.
When I criticized the use of Church Growth books written by false teachers, one district president said, “Is there any reason for reading those books?” I said, “I think we should study them so that we can refute false doctrine.” (The district president became visibly angry. Later he confessed in writing that the warming made by many of us were absolutely correct. Soon after he banned me from the WELS and ELS.) False doctrine is any teaching, even a phrase, that questions what is revealed in the Word of God. An obvious one would be questioning the Virgin Birth of Christ. Less obvious would be saying that we can use our reason to make the Word of God attractive or appealing to others, as if the Scriptures derive their power from our human efforts.
There is another attack, often made by our own family members, who know us and our weaknesses from way back. Although they are not alone in making personal attacks, they may be more effective in getting our goat, as the saying goes. Someone will say something close enough to the truth to really hurt. It will lodge in our skin the way a goat’s head (thistle) will poke first, then leave a sticker behind. I know of several cases where someone did what was wrong because a family member said, “If you go with them, I will never speak to you again.” Keeping the peace or following the demands of friends can slowly erode someone’s faith. We can see the subtle power of this by noting how many things happen today in the Christian Church that would have been grounds for burning at the stake 30 years ago.
One of the most glorious church buildings in America is the Washington Cathedral in D.C. In the name of tolerance anything can be taught from the pulpit. When I visited a vespers service in this marble palace, the singing was so slight from the tiny membership that I could only hear the “s” sound as they sang. (Navy Seals avoid the s sound because it carries better than any other.) It was a distant, sad hissing, not the singing of God’s Redeemed. Far better to teach God’s truth in a log cabin than to shrink from it in a cathedral.
How do defend the hope that is within us? First we must know the most basic lessons of the Christian faith, the 10 commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacraments. Secondly, we must understand our experiences, good and bad, in light of God’s Word. Will we say with Job, “We have received good from the Lord’s hand, can we not also receive bad?” At the moment we cannot see God’s wisdom in the bad, but later we may see that the dark clouds hide God’s smiling face.
When evil people do us harm, they still carry out God’s will, although they will suffer themselves for their wrong. God may wish to chastise us for a time, to make us humble. He may wish to drive us away from our own plans, to carry out His. He may know what is good about something that looks so unpleasant to us. Nothing is so terrible that we cannot glorify God with it, whether it is an illness, a loss of income, a loss of a loved one, or any other misfortune.
The proud and haughty of the world may impress most people, but they have never helped anyone, comforted anyone, encouraged anyone, or spoken the true Word of God to a soul.