How to Respond to Faith Critics
Do you think there are people today who are critical of Christianity and hostile toward Christ-Followers? Do you think that there are some people who would love to see Christianity handicapped, even stopped? This was happening in the early church and it’s happening today.
In Acts 3, Peter and John healed a man who had been lame since birth, “in Jesus’ name.” That miraculous healing, which attracted a huge crowd, opened the door for Peter and John to proclaim the gospel and, in Acts 4, to lead thousands to follow Christ.
Needless to say, this really “disturbed” the religious leadership in Jerusalem; they wanted to stop the Apostles from proclaiming Christ. So they threw Peter and John in jail overnight then called them in for questioning and a strong warning.
How did Peter and John respond to their critics and what can we learn from them about how we can respond to faith critics in our lives? We have options. We can get angry, we can stand down, we can cower, we can give up, we can pout or we can follow the example modeled for us by Peter and John.
How can I respond to people who are critical of Christianity or my faith in Christ?
1) I can be filled with anger or I can be filled with the Spirit. (Acts 4:8a)
Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit! Notice what Peter wasn’t filled with… anger. And if he was angry, he didn’t express it in a negative or sinful way. Sometimes we can get really angry when people challenge our faith or have something negative to say about Christ, and rightly so! Anger is not a sin; it’s what we do with anger that can be a sin.
Peter knew how important it was to depend on the Spirit and not anger, or anything else, to inspire his response to critics. (1 Peter 3:15). Count on the Holy Spirit to guide your response!
2) I can stand down or stand up for Christ! (Acts 4:8-12)
No doubt Peter is very bold and inspired in his response. He doesn’t pull any punches. He leaves no doubt where to find salvation… 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12.
This week, I read an alarming statistic from Pew Research…. 58% of professing Christians say that there are multiple religions that can lead to heaven. Why would any Believer make that claim? That is not what the bible teaches. In fact, it completely contradicts what Peter says here in Acts 4:12 and what Jesus says in John 14:6.
There may be two major influences…
The influence of false preaching and teaching. Some pastors may be more concerned with making people “feel good” than telling them the truth, which can make them uncomfortable. (2 Peter 2:1).
The influence of the world instead of the Word. There is a difference between what the world teaches and what the Word teaches. There will be some conflicts; in fact, we may even be “hated” for our beliefs. (John 15:18-19). The world wants to confuse and confound believers. But God’s Word is truth and for believers, it is our only source of truth…. not government, not pop culture, not social media influencers, not Hollywood; and the Word will make the world very uncomfortable. (Hebrews 4:12)
3) I can cower or I can be courageous! (Acts 4:13)
The religious leaders couldn’t decide what to do with Peter and John. There didn’t seem to be anything amazing or spectacular about them, with one exception… “they had been with Jesus.” In fact, they had been intensely discipled by Jesus. The Sanhedrin realized that the courage and confidence they were exhibiting must have come from Christ! That shows us how important it is to study God’s Word, to attend worship to hear it taught, and to gather with other Believers to discuss it. Our courage comes from our relationship with Christ, the power of the Spirit and the knowledge of God’s Word.
4) I can give up or I can double down! (Acts 4:17-22)
When they faced strong warnings, Peter and John had a decision to make. They could give up or double down. What would you do? I like their approach here. They put the ball in the critic’s court: 19 … “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! Acts 4:19. Is it ever right to not listen to God? Of course not.
The Sanhedrin had a hard time arguing with the life change this lame man had experienced. It is hard to argue with with authentic transformation. This man, who had been crippled since birth, was now walking. But equally amazing, this lame man’s physical healing lead to the spiritual healing of 2000 more people!
5) I can pout or I can pray for boldness! (Acts 4:23-24;29-30)
When Peter and John were released, do you know what they did? They could have pouted, given in to the pressures and quit; but they didn’t. They prayed for God’s power and they invited others to pray with them. What a great example for us! Don’t be overwhelmed by critics who want to discourage and dissuade you…. Pray! 31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. Acts 4:31
For much more, click here to listen to: Multiply - Part 4 - How to Respond to Faith Critics.