- Know Your Audience: Paul wasn’t naive, and neither should we be. He was thoughtful about how he addressed people. In 1Cor 9:19-23, He wrote,
“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”
In Acts 17, Paul addressed three basic audiences: In Thessalonica, Paul found people who rejected the gospel even though they were familiar of the truth in the Old Testament; In Berea, he found people who accepted the truth of the gospel as it was explained from the Old Testament; and in Berea, Paul addressed those who had no biblical background, but were spiritual and philosophical.
- Reason From Scripture: I want to put the accent on reason. I’m writing to conservative Christians. I know you will use the Bible but we need to reason from the Scripture. Notice the pattern of Paul: In Thessalonica (17:2); in Berea (vv. 10-11); in the Athenian synagogue (v. 17); and we see it in detail before the Areopagus (v. 22-31). This was Paul’s pattern, his custom (v. 2). Paul didn’t just rattle off a set of verses or read a tract. He wasn’t a vacuum cleaner salesman and neither are we. Dialegomai is the word used in v 2. It means more than dialogue. It means to reason so as to persuade. Dialogue today, as used by some evangelicals means to banter around ideas as if there was no truth to be found but to Paul, the point was to come to a specific conclusion. Add to this “explanation” and “proving” (v. 3), we have the makings of a man who was focused on converting a soul! Literally, “proving” (paratithemi) means to lay or place along side. Paul was laying down the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah next to the fulfillment in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. This took time (minimally three Sundays in the case of Thessalonica) and effort on his part. Paul first needed to explain and prove the necessity of the suffering, death and resurrection of the Messiah from the Old Testament, a thought that the Jews absolutely rejected.
- Bridge the Known and Unknown: In Acts 17:1-2, Paul did this in the synagogues, taking the Jews from the familiar Old Testament texts to the less familiar, and then to Jesus. And in Athens (vv. 22-23), Paul took the pagan spirituality, and without accepting it, used it as a springboard for the gospel of Christ
- We Must Correct Error with Truth: In Thessalonica, v. 3 tells us that Paul corrected the erroneous ideas they had about the Messiah. They did not see the Christ as a Suffering Servant. They struggled to grasp that he would be a curse for them on that cross. They could not see that his Kingdom was not to be an earthly Kingdom at first. But Paul’s aim was to teach them these things as he reasoned from the Scriptures.
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