Weekly Readings: Acts 21-24
Small Group Questions
- In his Acts bible study book, Craig Keener points out that one form of religion we encounter in our reading for this week is religion “exploited in the service of nationalistic objectives.” In our world today, do you ever see religion exploited so that a nation’s goals could be achieved?
- Last week we talked about the Church changing culture (God’s intent). Do you see ways that the culture has too much of an effect on the Church? A) In our reading; B) In our culture today
- Apologetics comes from a Greek word meaning “speaking in defense.” Has there ever been a time when you have had to defend your faith?
- Often being on the defensive can be an agitating and tiring experience. How did Paul seem to respond to speaking in defense of the faith?
- What has strengthened or built you up in those moments when you have had to defend the faith?
Sermon: “The Church Apologizes”
Texts: Acts 24:10-15
10 The governor nodded at Paul, giving him permission to speak. He responded, “I know that you have been judge over this nation for many years, so I gladly offer my own defense. 11 You can verify that I went up to worship in Jerusalem no more than twelve days ago.12 They didn’t find me arguing with anyone in the temple or stirring up a crowd, whether in the synagogue or anywhere else in the city. 13 Nor can they prove to you the allegations they are now bringing against me. 14 I do admit this to you, that I am a follower of the Way, which they call a faction. Accordingly, I worship the God of our ancestors and believe everything set out in the Law and written in the Prophets. 15 The hope I have in God I also share with my accusers, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. (Acts 24:10-15, CEB)
He is risen! He is risen indeed!
What typically comes to mind when we hear the word “apology”? “I’m sorry,” right? I’m sorry. I realize I was wrong. Please forgive me. But what if I came to you and said, “I’d like to offer you an apology,” and then I began defending what I did and the reason I did it? According to Merriam-Webster the word “apology” has come to mean in one definition “an admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret.” This is probably the definition most of us would expect to hear. But another definition that still exists and is truer to the origin of the word is “a formal justification,” a defense. I’ve heard of the phrase “unapologetically Christian,” meaning, I will never compromise my faith or back down from it even if it’s unpopular or offensive. But today, I want us to consider what it means to be apologetically Christian. I believe our passage this morning teaches us something significant about the early church through Paul, an attribute that is still part of our DNA as God’s representatives in the world.
Apologetics comes from a Greek word, απολογία, meaning “speaking in defense.” This is what we find in the life of Paul as we read Acts 21-26 and Acts 28, the final chapter. He wasn’t apologizing in chapter 27, because he was busy surviving a shipwreck. Once he gets to Jerusalem, Paul continually catches flak from people agitated by his claims that Jesus is the Messiah and He is not dead but is risen! He repeatedly takes the opportunity to απολογοῦμαι, apologize. He gives an example for us.
1 Peter 3:15 says, “always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.” We’ve said through this series that Acts teaches us the primary function of the Church, to witness. We are called to defend the faith.
So, let’s look at how Paul does this in Acts 24…
You’ve heard it said that the best offense is a good defense, or the other way around. The interesting thing about defending our faith is that it is a result of a life of offense. Paul got himself in positions to defend the faith because he was living and witnessing in such a way that shook up the present order of things. He was proclaiming news that some believed and some refused to believe and were even agitated by.
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, “…I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” The truth is if we are not having to defend our faith it should cause us to examine how we are living as a witness to the Risen Christ. Going back to 1 Peter 3:15, how can anyone ask you to give an account of the hope that is in you if they don’t see that hope! And this brings me to an important point: Apologetics should not be about argument.
There is no proof “out there” of Resurrection. There is now only one proof of Easter – the Church. We must witness to the world that “He is risen.” Faithful witness risks rejection, because faithful witness is utterly dependent on the Holy Spirit, not good argument. Not even Paul convinced everyone. But he defended the faith and risked everything to do so. The proof wasn’t Paul’s argument. The proof was Paul. He wasn’t trying to convince people to buy into his argument of Resurrection. He was witnessing to his experience of Resurrection. The Church apologizes, because we are the only proof of Easter.
As we take this Communion meal this morning, we do so in order to experience Resurrection once again. We will ask that the Holy Spirit make it be for us the body and blood of Jesus Christ and that as we eat it He would make us the Body of Christ for the world, a living witness, an apologetic Church, always ready to feed the world when we are asked to give an account for the hope that is in us. This hope is Christ, the One who was broken and poured out for our sins and who is alive that we too may have life. Let us pray…