Reasons to Reason
This is the title to the next book (manuscript completed) that should be out late Summer 2021. Yes, I have been writing a lot since the lockdowns and quarantines. Thus far Creedal Apologetics will be out end of February or early March, then They Were Eyewitnesses (an apologetic book examining how the Apostles proclaimed and defended the faith using their own sermons in Acts) and then Reasons to Reason (several others are in the works too, For You, Nothing Else Matters and Black & White Theology in a Gray World).
Today I finished up the final chapter of Reasons to Reason and thought I'd give you a sneak peak at it's contents. Here is the chapter titled: Endurance. Since the book is primarily to those who are a bit frightened by the discipline of Apologetics, this book is written for you so that you can understand the benefits of engaging in defending the Christian faith and the benefits for you, as a believer.
I hope you enjoy.
Chapter 5 of Reasons to Reason)
No one knows what will happen in their generation. Will Christians be permitted to live their lives in quietness and peace? Or, will persecution come?
What does the study of apologetics have to do with endurance? It is simply one tool God has given us to shore up our own faith when tested. When the Apostles were challenged regarding the reasons they believed that Jesus conquered sin, death and the grave, they did not say, “I know Jesus lives because He lives in my heart.” As nice a hymn as that is it is completely focused on the wrong reasons. Your feelings will falter. Your faith will be tested. What are you basing it upon? The fleeting feelings and emotional experiences you testify about? No. But the absolute truth of God’s Word, the testimonies we have from the Scriptures, that is what will stand the test.
When Peter was telling the Christians in his letter to have an answer ready, he was writing to those who had been thrown out of their homes because of their faith. He was encouraging those under persecution to be ready to answer those who were dead set against the message of the crucified and risen One, Jesus. He was reminding them that they have reasons to believe and it is not just all in their heart.
In the same way, Jude reminds us that “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions…but you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” (Jude 17-21) Not only do apologetics offer the unbeliever reasons to believe but it builds up the Christian in their faith.
Scripture is filled with those who endured to the end. Church history is laced with the testimonies and martyrdom of those who endured to the end. Their stalwart faithfulness should serve to encourage Christians in each and every generation to endure to the end. Jesus promises us the crown of life if we but endure to the end.
As I was reading the text from the Revelation of John (2:10b) “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life”, I began to go back to the beginning of chapter two. There was an interesting thing about nearly all of the seven churches that John writes to: they are each are enduring in some fashion even the churches that are being a bit scolded to straighten up.
To the Church in Ephesus, Jesus says, “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.” (Rev. 2:2-3) A closer look teaches us that the Ephesians do not permit false teachers to remain. Even then, just as it is now, there are those who call themselves apostles and are not. In my book A Modern Ninety-Five I go through the requirements of an Apostle and these evidently do not meet that requirement.
Here is what I wrote:
Therefore, if by the term “apostle” we mean “one who is sent on a mission,”1 then that is still a functioning office. If by the term we mean one who has biblical authority, has seen the Risen Christ personally, has infallibility in preaching, has a direct call from God, and performs signs and wonders on demand, then this is the criteria by which we challenge the claimant to prove by the written word of God that his or her authority is from above…Peter in his discourse in the upper room gives the criteria for apostleship which we read in Acts 1:21–22. So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection. (Acts 1:21–22) The position of the apostles was unique to them and to Paul—all directly chosen by Christ Jesus with no hint of succession. In the New Testament, the apostles appointed not apostles but rather elders and deacons. (Click picture to order the book)
It never ceases to amaze me how accurate the Scriptures are. The Preacher wrote:
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. (Eccl. 1:10 ESV)
In the Book of Revelation we find Christ telling John how false apostles had already arisen, even while the Apostle John was alive, and in today’s churches many claim to be Apostles. However, as we read in Acts the biblical qualifications for holding that Office, we learn that it is impossible to be an Apostle because no one living today, or since the death of the last Apostle (John), none saw the risen Christ personally. Yet, here we are and many claim this office. The question remains, then, do you, Christian, find them to be false as the Church in Ephesus did? Or, are you accepting them and blindly following them instead of God’s Word.
You see, part of enduring to the end is being able to discern the true from the false. The accolade given to the Church in Ephesus, was that part of their “enduring patiently” was testing those who claimed to be apostles by what they taught and said. You see, apologetics also works within the Church. You no longer endure their false claims or teachings but hold fast to the true teachings of the Bible.
By you, the Christian, reading the Scriptures prayerfully heeding all that it says and believing it to be the true Word of God, you can test those who come to you with some new teaching. Testing what they say, exactly like the Bereans did when the Apostle Paul taught them (Acts 17:11) who “examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things (what Paul was preaching) were so…”, is what Christians are called to do. How we do that is through studying the Word, learning from Church History, believing the Ecumenical Creeds (Apostles’, Nicaean and Athanasian) and Confessions, prayerfully considering and meditating upon them. Christians learn to endure through the attacks by believing that which is Truth. As Jesus said in His prayer, “Thy Word is Truth.” (John 17:17)
The encouragement to the Church in Ephesus was also, “I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary….” (Rev. 2: 3). While they certainly had some things wrong this statement should be that of every believer. When we are persecuted for our faith we should continue to bear up the name of Jesus Christ as the one who died, was buried and rose again according to the Scriptures. We are called Christians (Acts 11:26) precisely because His Name was placed upon us at our baptism. We believe in Him because He died and shed His Blood for the forgiveness of our sins. We are never to be ashamed of this truth and through apologetics we have learned the reasons behind our faith. We have found that these reasons are very, well, reasonable. We have learned that because He was raised from the dead, we too were raised to newness of life (Rom. 6:4) and that when this earthly tent is shed, we will be with Him. This is the faith that the Church in Ephesus remained steadfast upon and endured with great patience.
The Apostle Paul’s reminder to the Church in Corinth was similar when he writes, “When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure;…” (1 Cor. 4:12). Then to the Romans he wrote, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (Rom. 8:35). “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” You see,, in every age the Church has been persecuted. Yet, those who endure to the end, through the trials and persecutions, will receive that Crown of Life that is promised in Revelation (Rev. 2:10b).
To my own amazement, I began to notice that even though Jesus had to rebuke and correct some things in the various churches that John is to write to, there are also encouragements and each one is quite similar: they do not deny the Risen Christ. To Pergamum He saiys, “yet, you hold fast my Name and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness…” (Rev. 2:13). The Pergamum Christians refused to reject the Name of Jesus by whom comes the forgiveness of sins. We know from the Apostle Peter’s sermons that “there is One Name given under heaven whereby men can be saved…” (ff. Acts 2:21, 38; 4:12; 10:43; 22:16). Since we have studied apologetics, the reasons to believe (though certainly saving faith is a gift of God not based upon human argument) it has strengthened us in the inner man to endure to the end, God willing. It is His Name we confess and profess. It is Who He is, what He has done that we proclaim and it is His resurrection that we defend against all antagonists.
To Thyatira’s church Jesus says, “I know your works, you love and faith and service and patient endurance…” Once again, Jesus encourages them by saying, “I know….” They are enduring with patience in a time of severe persecution. Many are martyred for the Christian faith and they have remained steadfast in their confession of faith proclaiming the Name of Christ above the false gods of the time. They believed Jesus rose again through the promise given at their baptism they would rise again too. In fact, Paul taught them that they were raised at the time of their Baptism with Water and the Word.