Bible Study: Christian Apologetics

Pastor Steven Pagels, Used with permission


Christian Apologetics – Part 1 (Student’s Guide)

I. Understanding Your Base
II. Stating Your Case

This is the first of a two-part Bible study on the subject of apologetics. The dictionary defines apologetics as “the branch of theology that deals with the defense and proof of Christianity” (American Heritage Dictionary: Second College Edition, 1985). This narrow definition seems to limit serious spiritual discussions to the hallowed halls of seminaries and universities.

On a more practical level, however, Christians often find themselves in situations in which they must defend their faith against the attacks of co-workers, classmates, even close friends. In the first part of this series, we will examine what motivates Christians to speak up for what they believe. The second part will apply these principles to specific situations, with an emphasis on life-related issues.

Introduction

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). The words of the apostle Peter are clear. God expects his people to be witnesses in the world. Christians are to be prepared to talk about what they believe at all times.

The difficulty comes in the application. What is the best approach? Is there a right way and a wrong way? What do you hope to accomplish? When you discuss spiritual matters with people who do not share your faith, a clear goal will help you determine what to say and how to say it.

Which of the following choices best describes the role of a Christian when talking to unbelievers, or even liberal-minded Christians, about God’s Word? What makes your choice the best choice?

A. Teacher
B. Role model
C. Friend

Let’s examine what God’s Word has to say about these descriptions as they apply to our role as Christian witnesses in the world.

I. The Christian as a Teacher

Read Acts 17:16-23

1. Athens had a reputation as a city of wisdom and higher learning. How did the people react to Paul’s message (18-20)?

2. In the opening words of his address to the Areopagus, how did Paul customize his message to his audience?

3. Can you think of another example of a New Testament teacher who made an effort to speak with people on their level? Explain.

Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

1. Paul wrote these words to the members of the congregation he had founded in Corinth. What did Paul confess about his early mission work among them (3)?

2. What was Paul’s opinion about his own abilities to preach and teach?

3. Paul understood that his success did not depend on the messenger, but on the message. Explain.

Discussion Questions

1. If you lose an argument with an unbeliever about the Bible, you lose. If you win the argument, you still lose. Explain.

2. Agree/Disagree. It is impossible to convince anyone that the Bible is true.

3. What role does human reason play in the area of Christian witnessing?

II. The Christian as a Role Model

Read Matthew 5:14-16

1. These verses are part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. What metaphor does Jesus use to describe believers?

2. What command does Jesus give in verse 16? What is the Christian’s goal in all of this?

3. List some different ways that you can “let your light shine” on a daily basis.

Read Roman 10:13-17

1. According to Paul, who will be saved?

2. How does the Holy Spirit create faith in the hearts of people (17)?

3. These verses would make an excellent text for a mission festival sermon. Explain.

Discussion Questions

1. Agree/Disagree. We can assume from Jesus’ words above (Matthew 5:14-16) that formal evangelism programs are unnecessary.

2. The following quotation is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” What was he trying to say?

3. The Holy Spirit works only through the means of grace. Explain.

The Christian as a Friend

Read 1 Peter 3:15,16

1. What is Peter’s counsel for believers who live/work in a hostile environment?

2. Why is it so important for Christians to always speak “with gentleness and respect”?

3. What effect can a believer’s witness have on the conscience of someone who opposes Christianity?

Read Isaiah 55:10,11

1. What comparison does Isaiah make in these verses?

2. What assurance does God give to the believer who is not afraid to speak the truth?

Discussion Questions

1. How is witnessing to an unbelieving friend more like a marathon than a sprint? (See also Proverbs 17:17)

2. God’s promise in Isaiah motivates us to carry out Peter’s command. Explain.

Conclusion

Because we live in a sinful world, conflict between believers and unbelievers is inevitable. If you are ever engaged in a heated debate about faith or religion, remember that your top priority is not to win the argument. In different situations, you will assume different roles, but the primary goal remains the same. God calls us to speak the truth in love, and he promises that he will take care of the results.

In part two, we will apply what we have learned to specific situations, with a special emphasis on life issues (i.e. abortion, euthanasia, etc.).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Forgive me for those times when my faith is challenged and I respond with silence. Thank you for working through me, and sometimes in spite of me, to advance your kingdom and bring glory to your name. Give me opportunities in my life to let my light shine and share your life giving Word with a dying world. Amen.

 

Christian Apologetics – Part 1 (Leader’s Guide)

I. Understanding Your Base
II. Stating Your Case

This is the first of a two-part Bible study on the subject of apologetics. The dictionary defines apologetics as “the branch of theology that deals with the defense and proof of Christianity” (American Heritage Dictionary: Second College Edition, 1985). This narrow definition seems to limit serious spiritual discussions to the hallowed halls of seminaries and universities.

On a more practical level, however, Christians often find themselves in situations in which they must defend their faith against the attacks of co-workers, classmates, even close friends. In the first part of this series, we will examine what motivates Christians to speak up for what they believe. The second part will apply these principles to specific situations, with an emphasis on life-related issues.

Introduction

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). The words of the apostle Peter are clear. God expects his people to be witnesses in the world. Christians are to be prepared to talk about what they believe at all times.

The difficulty comes in the application. What is the best approach? Is there a right way and a wrong way? What do you hope to accomplish? When you discuss spiritual matters with people who do not share your faith, a clear goal will help you determine what to say and how to say it.

Which of the following choices best describes the role of a Christian when talking to unbelievers, or even liberal-minded Christians, about God’s Word? What makes your choice the best choice?

A. Teacher
B. Role model
C. Friend

Let’s examine what God’s Word has to say about these descriptions as they apply to our role as Christian witnesses in the world.

I. The Christian as a Teacher

Read Acts 17:16-23

1. Athens had a reputation as a city of wisdom and higher learning. How did the people react to Paul’s message (18-20)?

There were several different reactions to Paul’s message. Some philosophers called him a “babbler” (18). Others thought that he was advocating foreign gods. Still, they wanted to hear what Paul had to say, and they invited him to speak at a meeting of the Areopagus.

2. In the opening words of his address to the Areopagus, how did Paul customize his message to his audience?

Paul recognized the fact that the Athenians were “very religious” (22). He had taken the time to walk around the city and study their religious practices. He used the altar “to an unknown god” as a starting point. In the verses that follow, Paul explained that this “unknown god” is the only true God.

3. Can you think of another example of a New Testament teacher who made an effort to speak with people on their level? Explain.

Jesus spoke in language that was easy for the people to understand. He used simple parables to explain deep spiritual truths. Ask the class to give some specific examples.

Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

1. Paul wrote these words to the members of the congregation he had founded in Corinth. What did Paul confess about his early mission work among them (3)?

Paul came to them “in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.”

2. What was Paul’s opinion about his own abilities to preach and teach?

Paul did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom (1). His message was not effective because he preached with “wise and persuasive words” (4).

3. Paul understood that his success did not depend on the messenger, but on the message. Explain.

Paul recognized that he did not have the ability to convert a single soul. No one came to faith because of his superior preaching ability or his flawless logical presentations of the gospel. The faith of every believer rests “on God’s power” (5). The message of Jesus Christ crucified is the only message that saves souls from eternal death.

(See also 1 Corinthians 3:5-7, 12:3)

Discussion Questions

1. If you lose an argument with an unbeliever about the Bible, you lose. If you win the argument, you still lose. Explain.

It is easy to get side tracked when we are talking about matters of faith with a non-Christian. If our faith is under attack, the natural reaction is to become defensive. An argument, however, will never lead to conversion. If we lose, the non-Christian will be confirmed in his unbelief. If we win, the non-Christian will probably be embarrassed and want to avoid us. Instead, the Christian witness will want to listen carefully and bring the conversation back to what is truly important.

2. Agree/Disagree. It is impossible to convince anyone that the Bible is true.

Agree. Christians don’t believe the Bible is true because it “makes sense.” The Holy Spirit creates faith in our hearts to believe what human reason tells us is impossible (Trinity, the resurrection of the body, etc.). In the same way, we cannot argue anyone into heaven. Our role is to spread the Word and leave the results up to the Lord. (See Hebrews 4:12, 11:1)

3. What role does human reason play in the area of Christian witnessing?

While we recognize that God alone creates faith in the heart of a believer, we do not want to put any obstacles in the way either. When a pastor prepares a sermon, he presents the major points clearly, uses appropriate illustrations, and applies the Word to the people in the pew. In the same way, a Christian will use his God given reason to witness clearly and effectively.

II. The Christian as a Role Model

Read Matthew 5:14-16

1. These verses are part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. What metaphor does Jesus use to describe believers?

Believers are “the light of the world” (14).

2. What command does Jesus give in verse 16? What is the Christian’s goal in all of this?

A. “Let your light shine before men”

B. “that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Ultimately, the goal of the believer is the same as that of God, that all people be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (see 1 Timothy 2:4).

3. List some different ways that you can “let your light shine” on a daily basis.

Answers will vary.

Read Romans 10:13-17

1. According to Paul, who will be saved?

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (13). Ask the class to explain what that means.

2. How does the Holy Spirit create faith in the hearts of people (17)?

“Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.” Again, have the class discuss the meaning of the passage.

3. These verses would make an excellent text for a mission festival sermon. Explain.

Lutherans believe that the Holy Spirit creates faith only through the means of grace, the Gospel in Word and sacraments. The Gospel cannot be believed if it is not heard. The Gospel cannot be heard if it is not preached. The Gospel will not be preached in faraway places unless missionaries are sent out. Verses 14 and 15 remind us of the important role God has given us to share the Gospel in our communities and throughout the world.

Discussion Questions

1. Agree/Disagree. We can assume from Jesus’ words above (Matthew 5:14-16) that formal evangelism programs are unnecessary.

Disagree. Every believer is to let his light shine, but that does not make canvassing, mass mailings, and telephone surveys useless. Consider it a “both and” rather than an “either or” proposition. An evangelism program can also raise the profile of outreach in the congregation and encourage members to be witnesses wherever they are.

2. The following quotation is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” What was he trying to say?

This quotation captures the meaning of Jesus’ words in Matthew (see above). Christians are to let their light shine at all times. If a believer says all the right things and nothing more, his actions will bring shame upon himself and the God he claims to represent.

On the positive side, other people watch how Christians act. They may notice when Christians choose not to participate in things that are sinful. When others observe how believers react to stress, tragedy, etc., they may seek them out for help with their own problems. These opportunities can be open doors to share the good news (with words).

3. The Holy Spirit works only through the means of grace. Explain.

The Bible clearly teaches that the Holy Spirit creates faith through the Gospel in Word and sacraments. A non-Christian neighbor can come to the conclusion that you are a friendly and outgoing person by little more than a few words exchanged over the fence, but he will not know that Jesus died for his sins unless someone tells him.

While it is important for Christians to practice what they preach, it is even more important to understand that God works through the actual preaching of the Word to bring people to faith.

The Christian as a Friend

Read 1 Peter 3:15,16

1. What is Peter’s counsel for believers who live/work in a hostile environment?

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (15).

2. Why is it so important for Christians to always speak “with gentleness and respect?”

Remember that the goal of the Christian witness is to see the person to whom he is speaking in heaven. We do not want to push anyone away from us by coming off as “preachy” or arrogant or superior.

3. What effect can a believer’s witness have on the conscience of someone who opposes Christianity?

We speak with gentleness and respect “so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (16). (See Romans 12:17-21)

Read Isaiah 55:10,11

1. What comparison does Isaiah make in these verses?

Isaiah compares the rain and snow to the Word of God. Water is essential for the budding and growth of vegetation. God’s Word is essential for creating and strengthening faith.

2. What assurance does God give to the believer who is not afraid to speak the truth?

When we witness to the truth of God’s Word, our labor will produce God’s intended result. God makes this promise about his Word: “It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (11).

Discussion Questions

1. How is witnessing to an unbelieving friend more like a marathon than a sprint? (See also Proverbs 17:17)

No matter what kind of job it is today, there seems to be pressure to get “results.” When applied to witnessing, this bottom line mentality can be a source of frustration for the Christian.

If God allows us have a spiritual conversation with a non-Christian and nothing happens, it is easy to get discouraged. We must remember that God’s Word is powerful and it does produce results. However, God’s timetable may be much different than our own.

2. God’s promise in Isaiah motivates us to carry out Peter’s command. Explain.

We have God’s sure promise that his Word achieves the purpose for which he sends it out. Therefore, when we “give others the reason for the hope that we have” in Christ, we can do so with confidence in the God who stands behind his Word. Even if we cannot see any “visible results,” we know that our labor is not in vain.

Conclusion

Because we live in a sinful world, conflict between believers and unbelievers is inevitable. If you are ever engaged in a heated debate about faith or religion, remember that your top priority is not to win the argument. In different situations, you will assume different roles, but the primary goal remains the same. God calls us to speak the truth in love, and he promises that he will take care of the results.

In part two, we will apply what we have learned to specific situations, with a special emphasis on life issues (i.e. abortion, euthanasia, etc.).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Forgive me for those times when my faith is challenged and I respond with silence. Thank you for working through me, and sometimes in spite of me, to advance your kingdom and bring glory to your name. Give me opportunities in my life to let my light shine and share your life giving Word with a dying world. Amen.

 

Christian Apologetics – Part 2 (Student’s Guide)

I. Understanding Your Base
II. Stating Your Case

This is the second half of a two-part Bible study on the subject of Christian apologetics. Remember that the dictionary defines apologetics as “the branch of theology that deals with the defense and proof of Christianity” (American Heritage Dictionary: Second College Edition, 1985).

Review

Before we begin, let’s review the guiding principles from the last lesson. When Christians are engaged in a debate with non-Christians, the goal is not to “win the argument.” Ultimately, we want to see their faces in heaven. As we defend our position (and witness our faith), we may assume different roles depending on the situation.

Read the following passages and complete these statements.

A. Teacher 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
The success of our witness depends on
B. Role model Matthew 5:14-16
Witnessing includes
C. Friend 1 Peter 3:15,16
Apologetics is more than

Introduction

Because the wisdom of the world opposes the wisdom of God, Christians sometimes find themselves in situations in which their beliefs are challenged by co-workers, classmates, and even close friends. In this lesson, we will apply what the Bible has to say about God’s gift of life to some hypothetical situations.

Situation #1

You are enrolled in a political science class at a public university. The topic of your small group discussion is individual rights. Eventually the discussion turns to abortion. The student next to you says: “I am pro-choice. I believe that a woman has a right to control her own body. Besides, a woman should not be forced to go through with an unwanted pregnancy.” Other comments from the class support the speaker’s position. What do you do?

The arguments for legalized abortion can be persuasive. The nation’s court system continues to uphold the pro-abortion position. Satan is working hard to convince Christians that abortion is a morally responsible alternative. Therefore, it is important for us to get back into the Word and review what God says about the beginning of life. Based on these passages, answer the following questions.

1. Deuteronomy 32:39, Acts 17:25,28. Who alone is responsible for the beginning of life?

2. Psalm 139:13-16. How does David describe God’s role in the creation of human life?

3. Psalm 51:5. What is “original” sin? When does that sin begin?

4. Luke 1:41-44. How does this passage support the Christian position that life is present in the womb?

Discussion Questions

1. What is the flaw in the argument that it is the woman’s right to control “her own body?”

2. What is the flaw in the argument that it is the woman’s “right” to control her own body? (See 1 Corinthians 6:19,20)

3. Abortion is often proposed as a solution for the problem of unwanted pregnancy. How does this “solution” address a symptom instead of the underlying problem?

4. What role should rational arguments (i.e. the slippery slope of abortion, physical and psychological dangers for the mother) play as we defend our beliefs?


Situation #2

You have invited an old college roommate for dinner. During the conversation, it comes out that your friend’s aged mother is not doing well. She says: “I hope that I don’t live that long. Seventy-five years will be plenty for me.” She then goes on to express her sympathy for the man she read about in the newspaper who was recently arrested for taking the life of his sick wife. How do you respond?

The arguments that support legalized euthanasia appear to be caring and compassionate on the surface. Who wants to depend on other people for everything? Who wants to endure excruciating pain day after day? Satan would have us believe that any action taken to end suffering before it becomes unbearable is the loving thing to do. Therefore, it is important for us to get back into the Word and review what God says about the end of life. Based on these passages, answer the following questions.

1. Deuteronomy 32:39, Psalm 31:15. Who reserves the right to end human life?

2. Exodus 20:13. What clear message does God send regarding the termination of life?

3. Job 2:9,10, John 16:33. What is a fact of life in this sinful world?

4. 1 Corinthians 10:13. What promise does God give the believer with a terminal illness?

5. Romans 8:38,39. What comfort does this passage give the Christian whose death is near?

Discussion Questions

1. Ultimately, euthanasia is a sin against the first commandment. Explain.

2. Some people make the claim that euthanasia is an act of love. Can you think of some sinful motives that might lead a person to consider it?

3. Christians believe in the sanctity of human life. The world bases its philosophy on the “quality” of human life. What is the difference?

4. What role should rational arguments (i.e. the slippery slope of euthanasia, the negative effect on society) play as we defend our beliefs?

Conclusion

Christians do not belong to the world (John 15:19). At the same time, Jesus calls believers to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Because of who we are and what we believe, we will come into contact with people in the world who will challenge our beliefs. As defenders of the truth and witnesses for Christ, keep these thoughts in mind:

1. God calls all Christians to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves” (Proverbs 31:8). This command includes the unborn and the dying.

2. Our faith may be put on trial by people who do not share our faith. God tells us to stand firm, and he promises that the Holy Spirit will give us the words to speak (Mark 13:11).

3. The sinful mind is hostile to God (Romans 8:7). Unbelievers cannot understand spiritual truths because the Spirit of God does not live in their hearts (1 Corinthians 2:14). As a result, it may be necessary to “meet them on their level,” to use logical arguments that support your beliefs.

4. Christians don’t believe that life is sacred because it agrees with human reason. God has revealed the truth to us in the Bible. Whenever we testify to the truth, we know that God’s Word is powerful and effective (Isaiah 55:10,11). Therefore, we can speak with boldness and confidence, and leave the results up to the Lord.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you did not back down when your enemies brought their threats and accusations against you. Give us the strength to stand firm when the world challenges our faith in you. Make us shining lights in this world darkened by sin. Use us to defend your gift of life in the world and to share our hope of eternal life in heaven. Amen.

 

Christian Apologetics – Part 2 (Leader’s Guide)

I. Understanding Your Base
II. Stating Your Case

This is the second half of a two-part Bible study on the subject of Christian apologetics. Remember that the dictionary defines apologetics as “the branch of theology that deals with the defense and proof of Christianity” (American Heritage Dictionary: Second College Edition, 1985).

Review

Before we begin, let’s review the guiding principles from the last lesson. When Christians are engaged in a debate with non-Christians, the goal is not to “win the argument.” Ultimately, we want to see their faces in heaven. As we defend our position (and witness our faith), we may assume different roles depending on the situation.

Read the following passages and complete these statements.

A. Teacher 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
The success of our witness depends on
B. Role model Matthew 5:14-16
Witnessing includes
C. Friend 1 Peter 3:15,16
Apologetics is more than

Introduction

Because the wisdom of the world opposes the wisdom of God, Christians sometimes find themselves in situations in which their beliefs are challenged by co-workers, classmates, and even close friends. In this lesson, we will apply what the Bible has to say about God’s gift of life to some hypothetical situations.

Situation #1

You are enrolled in a political science class at a public university. The topic of your small group discussion is individual rights. Eventually the discussion turns to abortion. The student next to you says: “I am pro-choice. I believe that a woman has a right to control her own body. Besides, a woman should not be forced to go through with an unwanted pregnancy.” Other comments from the class support the speaker’s position. What do you do?

In this situation, the Christian has two options: say something or say nothing. If you choose to speak, then you have to decide what to say and be prepared for negative responses.

Discuss some possible ways to present the pro-life position in a positive manner (without letting the discussion break down into a heated argument). Also, look for additional comments in the “Conclusion” section at the end of the lesson.

The arguments for legalized abortion can be persuasive. The nation’s court system continues to uphold the pro-abortion position. Satan is working hard to convince Christians that abortion is a morally responsible alternative. Therefore, it is important for us to get back into the Word and review what God says about the beginning of life. Based on these passages, answer the following questions.

1. Deuteronomy 32:39, Acts 17:25,28. Who alone is responsible for the beginning of life?

Passages from both the Old and New Testaments clearly demonstrate that God is responsible for the creation of life.

2. Psalm 139:13-16. How does David describe God’s role in the creation of human life?

God is intimately involved in the creation of life. The word pictures of knitting and weaving emphasize God’s attention to the smallest detail.

3. Psalm 51:5. What is “original” sin? When does that sin begin?

Original sin is that sin all human beings inherit from their parents. The first sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden has been passed on to every subsequent generation (Romans 5). In Psalm 51, David confessed that he was sinful from birth, even from the time of his conception.

4. Luke 1:41-44. How does this passage support the Christian position that life is present in the womb?

When Mary visited Elizabeth, John the Baptist leaped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb at the news that God had chosen Mary to give birth to the promised Messiah. This is not the usual reaction of a developing lump of cells. Excitement is the expected response from a person who has just heard good news.

Discussion Questions

1. What is the flaw in the argument that it is the woman’s right to control “her own body?”

This “right” is a major pillar of the pro-abortion position. They argue that abortion is an individual rights issue. Government laws and regulations cannot restrict a woman’s constitutional right to control her own body.

This position ignores the fact that pregnancy creates another life. At the time of conception, two parties are involved, the mother and the child. Up to this point, the courts have failed to recognize the individual rights of the unborn.

2. What is the flaw in the argument that it is the woman’s “right” to control her own body? (See 1 Corinthians 6:19,20)

Humanly speaking, this right enables a woman to end the life the child growing inside of her. This right takes precedence over the negative effects that abortion has on society: physical and emotional effects on the mother, decreased value of life in general.

God’s Word reminds Christians that even if the government gives women the “right” to abort a child, the Lord does not. Our bodies are not are own. They are gifts from God, to be used to give him glory and honor.

3. Abortion is often proposed as a solution for the problem of unwanted pregnancy. How does this “solution” address a symptom instead of the underlying problem?

God has reserved his gift of sex for couples in marriage. Children are a blessing from the Lord on this intimate relationship (Psalm 127:3, Proverbs 17:6). When people disobey the sixth commandment through sexual immorality, adultery, and fornication, they destroy God’s institution of marriage. Children are viewed as an unwanted byproduct of a sexual relationship instead of as a gift from God.

Abortion is an attempt to fix one sin (adultery) with another sin (murder), and two wrongs do not make a right. Abortion fails to stop the problem at its source (sex outside of God’s created order that leads to the pregnancy). In fact, easy access to abortion actually encourages people to sin. The reasoning goes like this: If I get pregnant, I can just get an abortion to take care of it.

We must remember that God didn’t give us the ten commandments to spoil our fun. He is always looking out for our best interests. If everyone followed God’s plan for sex and marriage, there would be no more unwanted pregnancies, and no need for abortion.

4. What role should rational arguments (i.e. the slippery slope of abortion, physical and psychological dangers for the mother) play as we defend our beliefs?

In the above situation, rational arguments might prove beneficial. If the people in the class do not share your Christian beliefs, Bible passages will probably not mean a whole lot to them. The goal is not to win a debate. The Christian wants to speak the truth in love.

The classroom may not be the ideal setting for witnessing, especially if you are in the minority, but speaking in class may give you an opportunity to talk to individuals in the class about your faith in the future. Do not sell the power of the Spirit short. His Word always accomplishes its desired purpose. (Refer to the comments in the “Conclusion” section.)


Situation #2

You have invited an old college roommate for dinner. During the conversation, it comes out that your friend’s aged mother is not doing well. She says: “I hope that I don’t live that long. Seventy-five years will be plenty for me.” She then goes on to express her sympathy for the man she read about in the newspaper who was recently arrested for taking the life of his sick wife. How do you respond?

Your response will probably depend on the background of your friend. If she is a Christian, you can lead her to Bible passages that describe all life as a precious gift from God. Based on her comment about the man in the paper, you will want to stand your ground on the moral absolutes that God gives in his Word. Murder is a sin. Murder is wrong, no matter how compassionate it may sound.

If your friend is not a Christian, Bible passages will probably not have the desired effect. You may want to probe for explanations to her comments. Why don’t you want to live more than seventy-five years? What makes the final years a valuable and important part of life?

You may also want to discuss the motives of the man who took the life of his wife. Why is your friend sympathetic? Were there other options available? Was his choice the best choice? How would you feel about his decision if you were the one who was sick?

As in the first situation, the goal of the Christian is not to prove that you are right and your friend is wrong. You want to share God’s Word and let the Spirit work. Realistically, you may not see success overnight. But an open and caring attitude will give you more opportunities to talk about spiritual matters in the future.

The arguments that support legalized euthanasia appear to be caring and compassionate on the surface. Who wants to depend on other people for everything? Who wants to endure excruciating pain day after day? Satan would have us believe that any action taken to end suffering before it becomes unbearable is the loving thing to do. Therefore, it is important for us to get back into the Word and review what God says about the end of life. Based on these passages, answer the following questions.

1. Deuteronomy 32:39, Psalm 31:15. Who reserves the right to end human life?

Again, these passages clearly demonstrate that God reserves for himself the right to end human life.

2. Exodus 20:13. What clear message does God send regarding the termination of life?

The words of the fifth commandment could not be clearer. God forbids murder.

3. Job 2:9,10, John 16:33. What is a fact of life in this sinful world?

Because of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, this world is no longer a perfect place to live. Paul tells us that death is the greatest consequence of sin (Romans 6:23). The words of Job and Jesus also remind us that Christians will face their share of trouble during their lifetime.

4. 1 Corinthians 10:13. What promise does God give the believer with a terminal illness?

In verse 12, Paul warns against spiritual complacency. The following verse is full of assurances for the Christian. First, our troubles in this life are not unique to us. Other believers have faced the same challenges in their lives. Other believers have faced the pain of disease and the fear of the unknown.

Second, God promises that he will not give us more than we can handle. At times, our lives may feel like a heavy burden, but the Lord will not allow us to take on more than we are able to bear.

Finally, God has promised to give us a way out. God already has removed the burden of our sin by sending Jesus to die in our place. This does not mean that the lives of Christians will be problem-free. God’s promise is to give us the ability to cope with the trials and tribulations (cancer, stroke, etc.) that come our way.

5. Romans 8:38,39. What comfort does this passage give the Christian whose death is near?

Death separates the body from the soul. Death separates a person from his loved ones on earth. What death cannot do is separate one of God’s children from the love of Jesus.

Discussion Questions

1. Ultimately, euthanasia is a sin against the first commandment. Explain.

The first commandment states: You shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3). God reserves the right to end human life. When a person takes the life of another person, he is usurping God’s power and authority for himself. In effect, he is putting himself in the place of God. The person who commits euthanasia, not God, decides when life should end.

2. Some people make the claim that euthanasia is an act of love. Can you think of some sinful motives that might lead a person to consider it?

Every situation is unique, but here are a number of possibilities. Sometimes these motives may not be a factor at all. At other times, a combination of things will be at work.

Guilt. A person may feel that he is in some way responsible for the suffering of the dying person. He may take the life of the patient to “set him free” from the pain, and relieve his own guilt.

Doubt. A person may not trust that God is looking out for the sick person. He may think that God is punishing the dying person for past sins, or even that God doesn’t care. Despite God’s promises to protect and care for his children, a lack of trust may lead a person to take matters into his own hands.

Selfishness. A dying person often demands a large amount of time and energy from loved ones. The caregiver may resent the patient for taking away his freedom even though he is not the one who is sick. Euthanasia may be seen as an option that will allow the caregiver to “get on with his own life.”

Greed. As hospital bills begin to mount, the life savings quickly disappears. Euthanasia solves two problems. It frees the patient from his pain and suffering, and removes the pressure on the family to pay high healthcare costs.

3. Christians believe in the sanctity of human life. The world bases its philosophy on the “quality” of human life. What is the difference?

God’s Word gives the Christian an absolute objective standard. Because life is a gift from God, all life is equally valuable. Every human life is valuable simply because it is life.

A qualitative view of human life is much more subjective. If all human life is not equally important, then what standard do we use to measure a person’s value? If you make productivity (contribution to society) your guide, then some people will be more valuable than others. For example, a thirty-year old engineer will be considered more important to society than an eighty-year-old in a nursing home.

Taken to the extreme, subjective criteria can lead to the conclusion that some lives are expendable, not worth living because they do not measure up. This mindset shift makes it easier for people to rationalize acts of killing like euthanasia.

4. What role should rational arguments (i.e. the slippery slope of euthanasia, the negative effect on society) play as we defend our beliefs?

This question was addressed in the answer to Situation #2 above. Look at the “Conclusion” section below for additional comments.

Conclusion

Christians do not belong to the world (John 15:19). At the same time, Jesus calls believers to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Because of who we are and what we believe, we will come into contact with people in the world who will challenge our beliefs. As defenders of the truth and witnesses for Christ, keep these thoughts in mind:

1. God calls all Christians to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves” (Proverbs 31:8). This command includes the unborn and the dying.

2. Our faith may be put on trial by people who do not share our faith. God tells us to stand firm, and he promises that the Holy Spirit will give us the words to speak (Mark 13:11).

3. The sinful mind is hostile to God (Romans 8:7). Unbelievers cannot understand spiritual truths because the Spirit of God does not live in their hearts (1 Corinthians 2:14). As a result, it may be necessary to “meet them on their level,” to use logical arguments that support your beliefs.

4. Christians don’t believe that life is sacred because it agrees with human reason. God has revealed the truth to us in the Bible. Whenever we testify to the truth, we know that God’s Word is powerful and effective (Isaiah 55:10,11). Therefore, we can speak with boldness and confidence, and leave the results up to the Lord.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you did not back down when your enemies brought their threats and accusations against you. Give us the strength to stand firm when the world challenges our faith in you. Make us shining lights in this world darkened by sin. Use us to defend your gift of life in the world and to share our hope of eternal life in heaven. Amen.

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