Introduction: Listen carefully and choose your battles wisely. There is a tendency to try to answer everything someone says. That is not necessary. To decisively answer some of their questions will establish confidence and provoke interest. Someone says, “But if I don’t answer everything, won’t they think I agree.” Listening is not agreement, unless one remains totally silent in the face of error. Then silence is not golden, it is just merely yellow (Rev. 21:8). But it is better to adequately address one issue, than ten inadequately.
I “The Bible has changed as it was passed down through the centuries.”
That is not so. We have over 4,500 ancient Greek manuscripts, partial or whole, to check with. This is greater attestation than for any ancient writings. Then there are early writings quoting the Bible to compare with, as people write articles today and quote the Bible. There are ancient commentaries quoting the ancient text and many commentaries from as early as the 2nd century such as the Syriac, Old Latin, Coptic, besides the Peshita in the 4th century, and others. The Dead Sea Scrolls have validated the Old Testament.
II “If there is a God why is there so much suffering?”
God did not make a suffering world. He made it all good (Gen. 1:31). All suffering came after man’s sin (Gen. 3:16-17). God could stop much suffering by destroying our free will, but we would be an entirely different kind of creature. Do you want that? By allowing suffering, God helps us to look and hope for something better, and we find him and eternal life (Rom. 8:18-21).
III “What makes you follow Jesus instead of Mohammad or Buddha?”
The empty tomb. The resurrection was prophesied (Psm. 16:8ff) and proves Jesus to be the Son of God (Rom. 1:4). And consider his witnesses. Before his resurrection they ran away and denied him. After it, they boldly preached him in the same city. They all died holding to the claim that he was raised from the dead. Eleven of them died martyrs’ deaths holding to the claim. If men make up a lie, and know it is a lie, how many will hold to it if you put a gun to their heads and assure them you will shoot unless they renounce the lie. In effect this is what happened, and they all died saying it was so. Mohammed died and people go to his tomb. Buddah died and remains dead.. The tomb of Jesus is empty.
IV “What about reincarnation?” (Heb. 9:27)
V “I was told to accept Christ to be saved, and I have done that.”
Just say, “Praise the Lord.. Now I hope you will do what that gives you the right to do.” When they ask, show them that did not save them but gave them the right to become children of God (Jn. 1:12). Then show them how their faith makes them that (Gal. 3:26-27). There, people were children of God through faith, for they had been baptized into Christ.
VI “But isn’t that spiritual baptism?”
This is a new thing made up to get away from water baptism. Note that the baptism in Gal. 3:27 is into Christ. And what puts us into Christ gives us the forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7). And the baptism that gives us forgiveness or remission of sins is the baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). That baptism is followed by, followed by, the gift of the Holy Spirit. Thus that baptism is in water (Acts 10:48). Thus the baptism that puts us into Christ where we have forgiveness is water baptism, which saves us (I Pet. 3:20-21).
VII “But that is doing something, and salvation is not of works.”
People did ask, “What shall I do.” And no one told them, “Nothing.” They were all told something to do (Acts 2:26-38; Acts 16:30-31; Acts 9:6 & 22:16). Believing is doing something (Acts 16:31) and Jesus called it a work (Jn. 6:28-29). People on the one hand confuse keeping the law perfectly and thus being justified by their works, having never sinned, which no one but Jesus has done, and the idea that salvation is conditional. There are things to do. Confession is doing something and they quote Rom. 10:9-10. Repenting is doing something. If there is nothing a person can do, then he doesn’t have to believe, confess, or repent. And after all Jesus said, “Not everyone who says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Mt. 7:21).
VIII “I do not know anyone who is a better person than my friend, not even Christians, and he has not been baptized. Do you mean to tell me he is lost?”
A person is not lost because he has not been baptized, he is lost because he has sinned. I am sure your friend is a very noble person. But like all of us, at some time he has sinned (Rom. 3:23). He is not perfect. And that is why we all are lost. Look at Cornelius (Acts 10:1-2). He certainly was a good man but he had to listen to Peter who would tell him words “whereby you shall be saved” (Acts 11:13-14). And Peter commanded him to be baptized (Acts 10:48).
IX “There are contradictions about the life of Christ in ‘the gospels’.”
There are not contradictions. There are different details. Consider the sign put on Jesus’ cross. Matthew: “This is Jesus the King of the Jews.” Mark: “The King of the Jews.” Luke: “This is the king of the Jews.” John: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Is there contradiction here? No, the sign said all of those thing. Putting them together, the sign said, “This is Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews.” The 4 writers wrote from 4 different perspectives. Some emphasize on thing, some another. If they were all going to say the same thing why use 4? And if they had all told all the same facts in the exact same detail, people would accuse them of copying an original. Four different people today will tell different parts of the same event. This is not contradiction.
X Be ready to give an answer (I Pet. 3:15).
I am only one, but I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But I can do something.
What I can do, I ought to do,
And what I ought to do,
By the grace of God I will do.