A couple of weeks ago, Christian blogger/speaker Brian Chilton expressed shock that a Christian leader told him, “It’s my experience that people are not brought to faith by arguments.” Then Chilton explained why that thinking, though common among evangelicals, is a persistent misconception. During the past year, several Christian writers have also expressed disappointment over the fact many pastors avoid hot topics and shy away from calling sins sin or that people need to repent of it.
Holding fast to God’s word
All of this avoidance goes against what is laid out in scripture for the qualities elders or bishops or pastors should have. The qualifications Paul lays out to Titus for such positions show us that God doesn’t call Christian leaders to be wimps, but to have some knowledgeable holy boldness about them. On Paul’s list of qualifications in Titus 1, we find the following:
Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. (v. 9)
They are called to “hold fast” to God’s word, meaning they cling to it as a soldier would to a sword in the midst of a heated battle, unwilling to let it go. Maybe the avoidance we’re seeing is because some leaders aren’t being taught the faithful word, so they capitulate. Nevertheless, holding fast to the word leads to sound doctrine that is good for exhorting (encouragement to do what’s godly) as well as “to convince the gainsayers.”
What does “convince the gainsayers” mean?
Using the law of first mention Job 32:12 and John 8:46 (the second mention) tell us that “convince” means to present evidence via persuasive argument that brings a person to the realization and admission of their wrongs or guilt. A “gainsayer” is one who gives adversarial resistance for the purpose of personal gain by what they say (Luke 21:15). So Titus 1:9 is a requirement that Christian leaders be apologists who present sound arguments for the gospel.
Why are apologetics & arguments important?
Paul tells us why in Titus 1:10-11:
For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.
When leaders have sound doctrine to stand on, they can silence anti-Christian critics. This does not literally mean their “mouths must be stopped” as if to violate their freedom of speech (unless it’s necessary when their intent is to cause devilish confusion in a gathering), but it speaks to using God’s word to provide sound evidence that exposes the weaknesses in the arguments of ungodly opposition whether it be atheist or agnostic or Hebrew Roots legalism promoting Mosaic laws like circumcision for works-based salvation.
Paul then reiterates this thinking in Titus 2:8–
Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.
When a leader learns sound, godly arguments, they cannot justifiably be condemned and the opposition will be ashamed in that they have no validity to any evil thing they can conjure up to say. This is why some opposers end up saved and why others have to lie and deceive when deep down inside they are afraid of Christians.
Church leaders must, therefore, embrace the idea of presenting arguments for their own sake, for the sake of the church, and for the sake of unbelievers.