In the latter part of the book of Acts, Paul has to defend himself from accusations of sedition and rebellion before a variety of people (crowds, Felix, Festus, Agrippa) and as a result we hear the story of his conversion at least three times. The Greek word for defence (apologia) is where the word ‘apologetics’ comes from. This has nothing to do with apologising (saying sorry), but means ‘reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine.’ We find it in several places:
“Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defence.” (Acts 22:1)
(to Felix) ‘When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: “I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defence.”’ (Acts 24:10)
(to Festus) ‘Then Paul made his defence.’ (Acts 25:8)
(to Agrippa) ‘So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defence.’ (Acts 26:1)
Apologetics is a vital part of faith, for our faith is not simply ‘pie-in-the-sky’, but is based on the historical fact of Jesus’s birth, life, death and resurrection and all believers should strive to be able to ‘give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.’ (1 Pet 3:15) This is not as terrifying as it may sound, for Jesus taught that ‘when you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” (Luke 12:11-12) God is able to help us, through the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s defence was mainly to bear witness to his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus; we too are called to bear witness to what God has done in our lives. Whether people believe us or not is beyond the scope of our responsibility; what God wants from us is our honest testimony and we can be assured that the reality of our faith will stand the scrutiny of any probing or questioning because it is based on the solid foundation of God’s word.