Summary: This morning we’re going to look into God’s Word in order to find out how the Apostle Paul did evangelism.
Making an Impact:
Telling Others the Gospel
Thank you, Kids Choir for that excellent reminder. God will use our feet, our hands, and our mouths to tell others the gospel.
Our former co-workers in Mexico City are missionaries today because of Ken Hanna’s direct influence in their lives. Just recently they sent me an email about how their 4-year-old daughter has been involved in evangelism.
Like our girls, their daughter Geneva is really into Barbies. Apparently she engages in long conversations with them as she walks around the house. Searching for common ground with his little girl, her dad suggested that she teach her Barbies about Jesus. Geneva then went back to her room for a few minutes, gathered all her Barbies in a circle around her and told them that they needed to believe in Jesus in order to go to heaven.
A few minutes later, she came out of her room and proudly announced that all of her Barbies were now believers. Mike then asked her how it happened that they all become Christians so quickly. With a big grin on her face, Geneva said, “It was easy. I just sat on each of them until they said yes!”
While this method sure sounds effective, it’s probably much better to communicate the gospel in other ways. This morning we’re going to look into God’s Word in order to find out how the Apostle Paul did evangelism. If you have your Bibles, turn to Acts 17, beginning in verse 16.
Athens has been in the news lately because of the recent earthquake in Greece. Both the Acropolis and the Parthenon sustained some damage. When Paul was there, as part of his Second Missionary Journey, he did what most people do when they go to a beautiful city he went sightseeing. But instead of being impressed with what he saw, verse 16 says that he was distressed to see that the city was full of idols.
One ancient writer tells us that at the time there were 30,000 gods in Athens! In fact, one historian has said that it was easier to find a god than a man in the downtown area. Paul’s spirit was moved when he saw all these idols. The Greek helps us here because it shows how strongly Paul was distressed it literally means that he was provoked by a storm of protest within his inner being.
Instead of leaving the city or complaining to the officials, verse 17 shows us that he went to work. He spent time both in the religious centers and in the marketplace. The text says that he did it every day. We see in verse 18 that some philosophers wanted to debate with him.
The Epicureans were atheists; they denied God’s existence. They didn’t believe in the afterlife. They were content to just live for today we might call them materialists. Their motto was, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” There are still plenty of Epicureans around today right here in Livingston County.
The Stoics were pantheists they believed that everything is God, and that He does not exist as a separate entity, but is in the rocks and trees and every material thing. Their attitude toward life was one of ultimate resignation they prided themselves on their ability to take whatever came their way. Their motto was, “Grin and bear it.” Apathy was regarded as the highest virtue in life. Do you know anyone like that today?
Now, look at the last part of verse 18 through verse 21: “Some of them asked, ‘What is this babbler trying to say?’ [Those were the Epicureans.] Others remarked, ‘He seems to be advocating foreign gods.’ [These were the Stoics.] They said this because Paul was preaching about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, ‘May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean. (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)”
The Epicureans, who were atheists, treated Paul with utter disdain. The word babbler is literally a “seed-picker.” They saw Paul as one of the little birds in the marketplace going around pecking at seeds here and there. In their minds, Paul was little more than a collector of fragments of truth and they dismissed him.
But the Stoics were interested. In their theology, they had some room for additional gods. They were intrigued. I love Luke’s commentary the people spent their time doing nothing but talking and listening to the latest ideas sounds like Talk Radio today, doesn’t it?