Apprising Ministries has been among those who have spent years continuing to pioneer a mission field of online apologetics and discernment ministry (OADM). A common fallacy way too often promoted concerning some of us involved in OADM is an alleged anger in our writings as we cover various issues.

I can only speak for myself, but I can assure you that what is done—on my part anyway—is not done in personal anger. Truly, it’s really quite the opposite. For you see, when people become angry they are taken right out of their game, so to speak, and that is never a good place at all for anyone to be.

In carrying this analogy a little further, God often has me involved on the “playing field of ideas” much as a football defense uses a middle linebacker. Unlike many involved with OADM, I happen to be a pastor-teacher; and as such, it’s also a part of my job at times to play tough and hard, as it were.

However, we must always be striving to do so within “the rules.” The fact is, this type of work the Lord has me doing right now is simply not for everyone. The verse serving as the opening text for the Martin Luther devotion to follow is misunderstood in the timid time of tolerance in which we now find ourselves.

Sadly, we really have not had good role models; take for example, Billy Graham: Long Leader In Evangelical Apostasy. A careful look at his ministry reveals he rounded off much in doctrine as the price for his popularity. And so do milquetoast men like Joel Osteen quivering weak-kneed before television hosts today.

Apostatizing evangelicalism has long ago turned away from the offense of the Cross (cf. Galatians 5:11); and while so-called “Christ-followers” seek friendship with the world they’ve developed a crossless social message. However, the fact is, Jesus wasn’t popular with the world and, in the end, neither will the Christian ever be.

These are His Words, not mine:

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” 

21 “But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin,[c] but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’” (John 15: 18-25)

Now, as we get ready to turn to Luther’s words, there’s often a difference between preaching the Gospel to people in a crowd and speaking privately with an individual. For example, we can contrast the aggressive preaching of our Lord recorded in Matthew 23 with his tender, albeit direct, message to the Pharisee Nicodemus in John 3.

There is a time for righteous indignation and there’s certainly a place for gentleness and respect. To tell someone the truth does not mean you are angry with that person; it’s not unloving. You can come into conflict doing so, but that’s not unloving. Let me also encourage you that you don’t need to feel pressure to argue someone into believing.

Remember, God has told us:

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:8-11)

Here we find some great comfort and encouragement as we share the Gospel and defend the faith. That’s because how someone responds to what we say is in the hands of the Lord. We are only His messages to share whatever He may lead us to at a given moment; the results are entirely His.

Finally, as Luther shares below, we must make sure what we say is completely in line with God’s Word in Holy Scripture and not merely “insignificant human words.” However, so often today human wisdom  is what we find because too many are reading books by men rather than meditating on the Book.

And Martin Luther lived what he teaches below. As he faced a life and death situation at the Imperial Diet of Worms he would say, “My my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”

But 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 Peter 3:15)

When you’re challenged or asked about your faith, you shouldn’t respond arrogantly. You shouldn’t be defiant or forceful, as if you were tearing trees out of the ground.

Rather, you should respond with fear and humility, as if you were standing before God and answering him. If you were summonsed before kings and princes and had prepared yourself well in advance with Scripture, you might think, “Just wait; I’ll answer that correctly.”

But the devil will grab the sword out of your hands so that you can’t use them, even though you have them memorized. God allows this to happen to subdue your arrogance and make you humble.

So if you don’t want this to happen, you must stand in fear and not rely on your own power. Rely instead on what Christ promised:

19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:19-20)

When you have to give an answer, you ought to arm yourself with Scripture. But don’t pound it home with a proud spirit. Otherwise, God will tear the verse from your mouth and from your memory.

This is so even if you were armed with all the verses beforehand. Therefore, caution is needed here. But if you are prepared, you can answer princes, leaders, and even the devil himself.

Just make sure you aren’t speaking insignificant human words, but the Word of God. ((Martin Luther, Faith Alone [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005], January 22.))

Martin Luther

Further reading