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For followers of Jesus, the term “Apologetics” simply means a reasonable defense of the Christian faith. The word is derived from the Greek noun apologia and means “a defense.” Apologia and its verb form apologeomai are used nearly 20 times in the New Testament, often in the classic legal sense, but more importantly to describe the call of God to all believers to defend the Christian faith with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15-16).
But how is sound doctrine applied practically? Put another way, what good is Christian apologetics?
Apologetics has at least four practical applications. We may use apologetics to:
Build. There is a positive case to be made for Christianity, and apologetics helps us get there.
The Bible, history, archaeology, and other sources help establish that a real person named Jesus burst onto the scene 2,000 years ago. He claimed deity, performed miracles, spoke the truth, modeled compassion, died on a Roman cross, was buried and rose physically on the third day. His coming to earth was the most important event in human history.
Further, apologetics helps us know who God is; who we are; why there is purpose in life; how we can be restored to a right relationship with our Creator; why we can face death without fear; and what God is doing about evil in the world.
The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features the first half of Chapter 15: But You, Dear Friends: Hating the Garment Defiled by the Flesh.
Previously: The Divisions False Teachers Create
But you, dear friends, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life. Have mercy on some who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; on others have mercy in fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. (Jude 20-23 HCSB)
Fans of the phenomenally popular sit-com Seinfeld may recall the episode that first aired April 15, 1993. “The Smelly Car” revolves around a parking valet’s excessive body odor, which attaches itself to the interior of Jerry’s BMW. The malignant scent clings to Jerry’s clothing, and it lingers in Elaine’s hair, ruining her romantic life.
Exasperated, Jerry tells his friend Kramer, “Don’t you see what’s happening here? It’s attached itself to me! It’s alive! … This is not just an odor – you need a priest to get rid of this thing!”
Determined to get satisfaction, Jerry drives back to the restaurant where the valet soiled his car and demands that the maître d’ pay for detailing. When the maître d’ refuses, Jerry locks him in the car until, overcome by the stench, he relents. Jerry has the car thoroughly cleaned, but to no avail; the B.O. remains. So, he tries returning the car, but the dealership won’t take it back due to the invasive stench.
At last, Jerry drives into a rough neighborhood, leaves the car unlocked, and sets the keys in plain sight. At this point, he just wants to be rid of the vehicle at any cost. A young thief waits for Jerry to walk away, then seizes the opportunity to take the BMW for a joyride. Once inside the befouled car, he changes his mind.
Co-writer Peter Melhman reportedly got the idea for the episode from the real-life experience of a friend.
It’s not uncommon to find ourselves in situations where flop sweat, the smoke of burning trash, or a run-in with a skunk produces a malodorous companion to our hair and clothing, attracting unwanted attention and requiring a thorough remedy. The polluting effects of soiled garments are in Jude’s mind when he writes the final verses of his epistle, for he warns his readers to beware of the collateral damage done by those engaged in ungodly behavior. He instructs followers of Jesus to “have mercy in fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh” (v. 23).
Fortunately, the One who is able to make us “stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy” (v. 24), is the same One who walks through a Babylonian furnace with three Hebrew men and delivers them safely without so much as a hint of smoke on their clothing.
This is the first in a series of excerpts from “The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith,” available in print and Kindle editions here.
My business card is standard fare. It identifies me and describes my role at the MBC. It also tells how to get in touch with me. That’s what most business cards do: serve as practical, brief, and efficient introductions.
Some people, however, use business cards more creatively. Take Guangbiao Chen, for example, a Chinese tycoon and philanthropist. His business card details illustrious titles and heroic accomplishments:
- Most Influential Person of China
- Most Prominent Philanthropist of China
- China Earthquake Rescue Hero
- Most Well-Loved and Beloved Chinese Role Model
We’re only halfway through Chen’s list, but you get the idea. This may be one of the cheekiest business cards ever produced.
But how would you respond if someone handed you a business card that simply read, “Jude, a slave”? That’s how the author of the Epistle of Jude opens his letter. With profound humility, he models the manner in which followers of Jesus should defend the Christian faith.
Thanks, Missouri Baptists, for defending the Christian faith this year through the MBC’s apologetics ministry. A few metrics in the paragraphs below illustrate the degree to which you have sought to fulfill Peter’s exhortation to “always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you … with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15-16).
In 2015 the MBC released two timely new resources: What Every Christian Should Know about Islam and What Every Christian Should Know about Same-sex Attraction.
These two books have been widely distributed across the state and are still available for personal or group study in 2016. Order print copies here or by calling 800.736.6227, ext. 303. Or visit Amazon.com and order the Kindle editions.