GOD ESTABLISHES HIS CHURCH IN THE WORLD
Reasoning, Persuading & Giving Evidence
Jerry A Collins
As we go about our lives we will encounter all kinds of people in all kinds of different relationships whom we can share the Word of God with. Sometimes we will need to make a rational defense of the Christian faith where reasoning, persuading and giving of evidence will be necessary. 1 Peter 3:15 says, But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. This verse tells us to be ready. Being ready is not just a matter of having the right information available, it is also an attitude of readiness and eagerness to share the truth of what we believe. We are to give a reason to those who ask the questions. At other times we will need to explain the Scriptures to people who are ready and eager to learn it from us. In some cases we will encounter people who are closed, obstinate and not wanting to seek the truth of Scripture; in other cases people who are open, eager, and seekers of the truth of Godís Word. (On one hand, I have had Hans and Daveís, skeptics, unbelievers and have had to learn a defense of the faith. On other hand, God has given you, Indians, Jamaicans, Thai, Bengaliís, Kosavars, Albanians, and others and have had to learn to study, and teach Godís Word). So, Acts 17 reveals both of these groups we will encounter in our own sphere of influence and relationships. What is to be our role and responsibility in the matter of giving the Word of God to others?
1. WE WILL NEED TO REASON, PERSUADE AND GIVE EVIDENCE FROM THE BIBLE 1-9
(1) You need to be able to think your way thru the Scriptures. In your travels, similar to Paulís in Amphipolis, Appllonia, and Thessalonica, you will have encounters with people that will require reasoning with them about the Christian faith taught in the Word of God.
(2) It seems that communicating the Word should be done in socially appropriate, publicly acceptable places 2-3. In places and circumstances like this (from coffee shops to mega churches) where people come to talk and think about life-and-God issues. The question is, Where are seeking people going in our culture? We have already seen that Paul has taught in synagogues (17:3), showed up at a place of prayer 16:13), private homes where invited (16:32-34, 40; 18:7; 20:20), his own house (28:23, 30-31, in places in city designated for speaking (17:17-19) (speakers corner, London), when he was on trial and asked to defend himself (chps 23-26), and in school of tyrannus (19:9-10).
(3) Reasoning is from the scriptures vs 3. That is the basis for the only authority there is. This is where the witness of Godís mind and will has itís source. I am not going to teach my opinion. The Word of God is the focal point. What God said is the main point. Communicating that is our priority. So learn it, Study it. Ponder it. Live it. Teach it.
(4) Use an orderly and logical appeal about your message from Godís Word vs 3. The scriptures we are told are open for a number of weeks in that city. The stress as in vs 11 is on the Scriptures as the source of any witness we may be giving. The argument is that from the OT the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can be shown. The logical conclusion revealed that Jesus Christ filled that OT picture with His own death and resurrection (Psa 22 & Isa 53 proving His death; Psa 16 showing he was resurrected). We do not browbeat people with the Bible nor do we leave their questions unanswered. We can and must make a logical and evidential appeal for the truth of Godís Word.
(5) Some resistance can be persuaded to believe vs 4. Compare this with the response in vs 12 from a different kind of crowd. Here some were persuaded. There many believed. The HS was obviously at work here and had sent Paul to be the vehicle of the message. Notice that some of the Jews believe yet we are led to infer that the response from Gentiles was much greater vs 4. You would think that after all of the hassle Paul had received from the Jews that he would have abandoned his witness to them. While he is the apostle to the Gentiles, he still lingers over his Jewish people reluctant to give up on them even though fewer are believing. Gradually God is cutting loose His nation and the moorings of the gospel are being gradually cut loose from its Jewish origins. (6) God will use resistance to move us on to others 5-8. Here we observe jealousy, uproar, dragging, shouting, false accusation, stirred up, all used in attempt to stop these messengers and this message. This is not new. It has been their track-record. (6:12 throw into commotion; 13:45 to contradict; 13:50, aroused and incited; 14:2 excited and irritated; 17:5 jealousy, envy; 17:8 to trouble; 17:13 to shake and agitate; 19:29 to seize and drag; 21:27 to cause confusion, stir up, all different words) The persecution, as so often is only a signal for a new movement of the gospel.
2. WE WILL NEED TO TEACH AND EXPLAIN THE SCRIPTURES 10-15
(1) Stick to an effective strategy of communicating the Word of God. In this new place Paul once again enters a synagogue. Our plan is not only to persuade those not seeking but also to teach those who are. I meet with a lot of people at Barnes and Noblesóboth those eager to learn and those who must be persuaded. (I had an older couple complain behind me that teaching the Bible should not be done in a public place like that. They got up and left). But I have also had people I never intended to meet come to me asking questions about Christ and how the Bible can help them raise their kids, handle business ethic issues, compare Christian belief with Hindu.
(2) The results are in direct proportion to the willingness to search the Scriptures and ascertain the truth 11-12. Here Ďmanyí not Ďsomeí who believe. An open mind leads to an open heart. Think about the difference there may have been in Jewish history if the synagogue at Berea had been a typical one and Thessalonica the exception! Their character was such, more noble, honest-hearted, contributed to their openness. This kind of character prepares them for reception of this truth while the others were filled only with jealous opposition. The point here is to be such a student of the Word of God that you can teach it and explain it not just defend it. A double-edged purpose but all focus is on the Word of God.
(3) Look at opposition to Godís Word as an opportunity to spread it 13-15. They left Thessalonica to Berea, left Berea to Athens and always reasoned and taught the Scriptures. Always have a ministry that keeps you reasoning and explaining the Word of God to others. Create one by:
(1) Preparing yourself to learn how to defend and explain the Bible. This is time spent well. You cannot communicate out of a vacuum.
(2) Find places where you can discover people you can communicate Godís Word too.
(3) Anticipate opposition from some and open hearts from others.