In this series of apologetics articles, we have looked at several ways to provide evidence for the faith we have in God, the Bible, and Jesus. In this article, we want to pause for a moment and consider how we approach people with this evidence. When the apostle Peter tells us to,

“Always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…”

Too many Christians leave out the end of that verse, “…yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15).

Having all of the proof does us no good if we are not presenting it with the correct purpose in mind.

Our goal is not just to win an argument. Our goal is to influence minds and touch hearts with the truth, which cannot be done if we are not reverent and gentle in our approach.

The world we live in today requires more than just having all of the right answers. Now more than ever, people are turning their noses up at the “facts” or simply yawning and walking away. Then again, some people do not walk away, are critical, and put up a fight, no matter what the facts may be. Too many times, Christians are caught off balance, or they tuck their tail between their legs and retreat because they either don’t know how to respond or they are afraid of being accused of being intolerant or offensive. As the apostle Paul said, we should be prepared to approach this in a “more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). The superior method that Paul was referring to is love.

Even Jesus, when He was sending His disciples out to preach and teach, said,

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves”…Matthew 10:16

Jesus understood that it was going to be very difficult, and even dangerous at times, for the disciples as they tried to convince others of the good news of Jesus Christ. He instructs them to be “shrewd” (PHRONIMOS), which also means to be prudent or wise. This is the same word Jesus uses in Matthew 7:24 to describe the “wise man” who built his house on the rock. It is the same word He used to describe the five virgins who were prepared for the wedding feast because they were “prudent” enough to know to bring extra oil for their lamps (Matthew 25:2). When we are defending our beliefs, we must be wise in how we speak to others.

Yes, it is true, that we are involved in spiritual warfare, but every time we engage someone in a conversation about our faith, it should look less like D-Day, and more like diplomacy.

In Matthew 10:16, above, Jesus also points to the need of being “innocent as doves.” One thing we must all remember is that if…

  • If any conversation turns into an argument, you lose.

  • If you lose your cool, you lose.

  • If the person you are talking to gets upset, you lose.

  • If anyone on either side gets mad, you have lost every opportunity you have to try to plant a seed of truth in their minds.

Remember what the apostle Paul tells us: our responsibility is.

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us…”…2 Corinthians 5:20a

As ambassadors, we have a responsibility to use our knowledge of the truth, but that knowledge must be tempered with wisdom. This is what makes our message clear and persuasive. This requires the tools of a diplomat, not a warrior. We must always maintain a character that demonstrates the virtues of our King. It doesn’t matter how much you know, and how good you are at saying what you know, if your character isn’t consistent with your words, it will undermine your message every time.

Again, the apostle Paul put it this way:

“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person”…Colossians 4:5-6

He later reminded Timothy,

“The Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth”…2 Timothy 2:24-25

While keeping all of this in mind, however, we must also,

“contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints”...Jude 3

So, what do we learn from all of this? God expects us to use our minds to discern good from evil.

“But solid food is for the mature who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil”…Hebrews 5:14

The only way we can accurately know what God is saying through His word is to use our minds properly, the way God designed them to be used. God gave us the tool of reason to use our minds to sort out what is true and what is false. But we cannot forget that the people we are trying to teach have also been given a mind, created by God, that has the ability to sort out fact from fantasy. We must present the evidence so they can make up their own minds about what is true and false. This is exactly what we see the apostle Paul doing as he tries to persuade others to believe the truth.

“And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths, reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead”…Acts 17:2-3

“And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks”…Acts 18:4

As much as I wish it weren’t the case, you cannot just love someone into the kingdom of God. There have been countless numbers of people who have experienced the sacrificial love of God through Christians but never responded to the gospel of Jesus. Love is crucial, but it is not enough by itself. But what we must also realize is that the gospel, by itself, is not enough either. Yes, it is true that when someone has an open, seeking heart, they can, and many have picked up a Bible and come to an understanding of the truth and be added to the kingdom. But if the gospel, by itself, is all that was necessary, then God would have no need for us as His ambassadors. God could have just dropped copies of the gospel into every synagogue and city in the first century, and that would have been all it took to convert people by the thousands. But that is not what it took. It required men and women, scattering out all over the land, to preach the word (Acts 8:4) and to persuade others to believe the truth.

We have a great responsibility and a monumental task that has been set before us. And it is going to take great effort to prepare ourselves with not only the knowledge of the word of God but also with the skills that are needed to convince others to believe the truth while at the same time showing them the flaws in the foolish thinking of the world. But just as important, we must understand how important it is to be “shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Steve Schinnerer
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Steve Schinnerer was raised in the church in Scott City, KS where his father served as an elder for 25 years.  Steve attended Oklahoma Christian for one year where he met his wife, Jennifer, of Yukon, OK.  Steve and Jenni have four children: Ajay, Jagger, Liberty, and Jase, they also have 4 grandchildren. Jenni is a stay-at-home mom where she homeschools and is focused on raising her children in the Lord.

Steve and Jenni both attended Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver where they graduated: Steve with a Bachelor’s degree in Biblical Theology, and Jenni with and Associates degree in Bible. 

Following Bear Valley, Steve and his family moved to Porter, OK where he served as their pulpit minister for six years, and then another six years as the pulpit minister for the Cherokee Hills church of Christ in Oklahoma City before coming to Cave Springs in the fall of 2013.

Steve and Jenni have a passion to teach the saving message of Jesus Christ and do so whether it be in their home congregation, at summer camps, gospel meetings, lectureships, or in the foreign mission field.  Steve has been able to preach in eight different countries around the world with most of his time abroad spent in Africa and Australia.  Steve and Jenni have recently been focusing on young families, trying to help strengthen marriages, encouraging parents to utilize Biblical discipline and training with their children and especially in helping men in their battle to become the husbands and fathers that God desires for them to be.