The Eleventh Commandment
When we talk about defending the faith, a lot of times people get upset. We don’t like the idea of apologetics. We don’t like the idea of claiming to be right and assuming that other people are wrong. We have a problem with the idea of engaging forcefully in a disagreement over ideology because of what I like to call the eleventh commandment. The eleventh commandment is, “Thou shalt be nice” and, in order to obey the eleventh commandment, we often act as if we don’t believe the other ten.
So we have got these two issues. First, from an ideological philosophical perspective, we don’t like the concept of apologetics. Second, from a dispositional perspective, we don’t want to engage in these battles. We don’t even like the word battle. We don’t like war language — “We’re Christians. We should not be engaging in battles with people. We should be loving people.”
We Are Commanded to Fight
Let’s begin with Ephesians 6:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints (Eph. 6:10-18).
The first metaphor he uses is wrestling and the second is engaging in full combat.Paul is describing the uniform of a Roman soldier—a centurion—all the way down to the sword. If you don’t like combat language, you have a problem with God.
Let’s now look at the Epistle of Jude:
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, to those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you (Jude 1:2).
There are three references to the same people: those who are called, “beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.” This refers to Christians—all of us. Jude says to all Christians, “May mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you.” One of the reasons people are hostile to apologetics and this war language is that they believe it stands in opposition to things like mercy, peace, and love. But Jude continues,
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you, to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).
In verse two, he wants mercy, peace, and love to be multiplied to you, and in verse three, he wants you to go hand-to-hand in combat. This means that there is no contradiction between being a loving Christian, abounding in peace and love, while also engaging in the combat of apologetics.
We must recognize an important distinction. It is not just that we must engage in combat over these issues, but that we are already engaged in combat over these issues. There is a war being waged, and it is a war being waged against us, and a war being waged against the gospel. We are in a war, but not everyone is fighting.
Waging War Correctly
So how do we wage this war? First, we must remember that Paul says, “[T]hough we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh” (2 Cor. 10:2). We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but we wrestle against rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers. We’re not at war with people. We’re at war with those ideas that stand in opposition to the truth of the gospel. We must keep this in mind.
Second, to engage in this battle we have to understand the power of our weaponry. Paul continues,
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4).
True enemies are spiritual and the power of our weapons is divine and not human in origin. Keeping this in mind means that we will be forever mindful of the fact that we’re not calling upon our abilities, but upon God himself. Because the power of our weapons is divine, they have the power to destroy strongholds. The word strongholds can also be understood as fortresses or castles. Paul says our weapons are so mighty they have divine power to accomplish in an instant what it takes man weeks, months, or years to accomplish. What Paul is describing here is weaponry and warfare that are from a completely different realm, more powerful than the mind of man can fathom.
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience when your obedience is complete (2 Cor. 10:5-6).
With divine weapons, we are commanded by God to go to war against every false ideology. We have to identify them, identify the danger that they pose, and we have to dismantle them.
Paul says we take every thought captive to obey Christ. This is about developing a biblical worldview. This is about us, as Christians, learning to think biblically about everything. Part of the problem we have today is that many of us have not thought biblically about race and ethnicity and don’t have a well-developed theology in this area. So when someone comes along with a well-developed theology—and yes, this is a theology—we fall prey to this unbiblical theology and embrace it. We know that there are wrong things that need to be made right, but if we don’t have a well-developed, biblical theology on these issues, we will not have an answer for the unbiblical alternatives. We have to take every thought captive about sexuality. We have to take those thoughts captive instead of just parroting ideas from the culture and falling prey to every wind of doctrine that comes our way. We have to take every thought captive, making our thoughts obedient to Christ. This is how we wage this war.
We must recognize that we are in the midst of a battle, that we are under attack, that we are under siege. Recognize that this battle is a spiritual one. We’re not at war with people. This is a spiritual war. Recognize that the weapons we have, this gospel we preach, this Bible we possess, is the absolute truth from the one true and living God. These things are more powerful than any weapon we can comprehend. And they are enough. They’re sufficient.
We keep Peter’s words in mind, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15).
The way I define apologetics is this: know what you believe and why you believe it, and be able to communicate that to others in a winsome and effective manner. When we destroy arguments, that’s how we destroy them. And we are diligent to take every thought captive.
Trust God for the greater results. Be encouraged, knowing that the bride of Christ will be defended, she will be protected, she will be preserved, and she will be restored, redeemed, and rescued by her savior.
The gates of hell will not prevail against us. Amen.