Dated around 155 A.D., the “First Apology of Justin” was not an “apology” like we would think of an apology today. A useful way of making sense of this is by turning to the etymology of the word apology.
Our English word for apology was derived from the Greek word apologia and means roughly to “make a defense of” or “speaking in defense of.” So, Justin’s apology is just that — a defense of the Christian faith.
In this “first apology,” Justin writes on many issues that were contempory to his ministry, but one section of his work I believe is particularly timely for the issues we face today. In this section, Justin sketches in beautiful contrast how the transformative power of God’s salvation causes us to see the things of the world in an otherworldly way.
He writes, “We who hated and killed one another and would not associate with men of different tribes because of [their different] customs, now after the manifestation of Christ live together and pray for our enemies…”
He goes on to write that these once earthly enemies, after experiencing a common salvation, even go on to labor together so that others may also know the freedom of a life in Jesus.
That is a word we need to remember today. I say remember because we already have this remedy — the remedy to the deepest problems of our society. Hear this Christian: true peace, justice and equity between peoples will not be accomplished by our human ingenuity or by crafty rhetoric. Nor will it be achieved by novel philosophies, programs and politics. The true remedy to our depravity will not be marshaled in by any vain labors of man; for the vanity of man is the problem.
No, deliverance will be accomplished by recalling our Lord’s words, that whoever calls on his name will be saved. Saved to what? Prosperity? Power? Influence?
No. Saved to an otherworldly nature, to follow an otherworldly way of life. Saved to relinquish vanity and count others more important than oneself. Saved to bless and not curse, even to pray for one’s enemies.
Saved to forgive offenders and seek the welfare of all.
Saved to love in the truth and rejoice in the truth.
Saved to first reserve the finger of accusation not for the evil of the world, but instead to first of all, point it at their own hearts and declare, “It is not the outside that defiles but the inside.
‘Wretched man that I am! Who can set me free from the body of this death?’” (Rom 7:24).
Justin writes of the otherworldliness of Christians in the second century, who though they lived in this world did not act like this world.
Why was this true for them?
Because they beheld the marvelous truth of Christianity.
Because they believed the promises of Jesus and repented of their sins.
Because from the moment they first believed, they no longer belonged to this world and its divisive ways.
Instead, they then belonged to another, who is not of this world; and it showed.
They forgot the divisions of the flesh and became brothers and sisters of a common family in him, who both created them and saved them.
Do you see, Christian? The otherworldliness of the Savior and His salvation caused them to take off the old, the worldliness of their past, and to put on the new — the otherworldliness of Jesus.
Look at Justin’s apology. We of Christ need to remember this and all of the lifesaving beauty therein. This is Christianity.
(Jeremy Breland is a farmer in Ruffin and a M.Div. student at Southern Seminary. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)