As I look forward to tomorrow's debate over the issue "Is baptism a necessary condition for salvation." I've given some thought yet once again about the purpose of apologetics. That is, why is apologetics important and what purpose does it serve. It is my personal conviction that apologetics has (at the very least) three major and crucial functions within the church.
1. Defending the Faith: Obvious I know. But let us never forget that the word apologetics comes from the Greek phrase "pros apologian" which literally means "toward a defense." Apologetics is the area of ministry that stands as a shield for the church. I think this is a major reason why I am so passionate about apologetics. With all of the wolves that are trying to snag the sheep, apologists play the role of a shepherd in a universal sense. I do not mean this in any way to downplay the more central role that pastors play as shepherds to local congregations, I honor that role as supremely important and it is an official office given by Scripture where "apologist" is not.
But nonetheless, apologist's practice the art of refuting false doctrine and clarifying Biblical doctrine. The work of an apologist is to silence "false prophets" and point towards the truth of Jesus Christ as found in the Scripture. Apologetics is an academic ministry, a fight on the front line of Christian doctrine, saying "thus says the word of God" and telling false teachers "you stand condemned by Scripture." I love apologetics because it is a noble profession of holding the line.
2. Building up the Body: Another purpose of apologetics that is closely related with the first purpose, the other side of that coin perhaps, is encouraging Christians to know what the Bible teaches and have confidence in solid Christian doctrine. While apologetics is the art of defending the faith, the best way to defend the faith is to equip the church with the truth so that each believer can themselves call a spade a spade. Apologetics keeps out false doctrine away from the church and solidifies Biblical doctrine within the church.
3. Evangelism: A good apologist always has, in addition to the first 2 points, this third one in mind. A desire to see the lost saved. Whether it be the false teachers we refute, the people who follow them, or the people who are neutral but by hearing the truth compared to falsehood are drawn by God's Spirit to know Christ Jesus. Yes apologetics is also a way of proclaiming the gospel. One cannot help while clarifying the gospel message to also proclaim it and pray that God draws His elect to Himself.
As I engage in this debate tomorrow, I hope I accomplish in the name and power of Christ and the authority of Scripture, all three of those purposes. I appreciate your prayers for the debate tomorrow.