As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on what made Jesus worthy to judge the world, I have something to say about how this should change us as apologists. Here’s a reminder of what I said we learn in Revelation 5:9:
Jesus is worthy of unleashing final judgment not because he’s righteous (though his righteousness made it possible), but because he died for our sins, purchasing people for God with his blood. His loving, self-sacrificial grace on the cross demonstrates the pinnacle of God’s glories, and all of God’s eternal judgment against evil must be seen in light of what Jesus first did for us—his suffering and death for his enemies. Though God’s actions as judge are praiseworthy, this is greater and more praiseworthy than even his actions as judge.
As we meditate on this truth, we can’t help but worship Jesus. We also need to consider its implications for us as apologists, letting it change us into people who are more like Jesus, knowing this: As is the case with Jesus, our grace and love towards those who don’t deserve it make us worthy of speaking the truth.
First and foremost, we must represent Christ in the way God considers to be his highest glory—his loving self-sacrifice given to reconcile others to God. It’s only by proceeding in that foundational context that we are then worthy of speaking hard truths to people.
What’s amazing about what we learn in Revelation 5:9—that it’s Jesus’ grace and love, not his righteousness, that is most highly praised as making him worthy to open the seals of judgment—is that we can all imitate this. We might not get very far in imitating his perfect righteousness in this life, but we can all demonstrate aspects of his grace and love—both by being open about our own sin and his grace towards us and by treating others as he treated us. I can’t help but think of Titus 3:1–7 here:
Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Here are practical instructions as to just how we should treat people in light of how Jesus treated us. Here is how we can show Jesus to others in the midst of our apologetics. First grace, love, and self-sacrifice for those we’re trying to reach, then truth. Note that the choice is not one or the other, nor am I saying we must first demonstrate graciousness for a time before speaking truth. They are both necessary, and they can occur simultaneously. But one is higher. And in whatever we say or do, we need to keep that highest goal of representing the character of Christ in its proper, higher place in our minds and actions.