Last week, as we continued our look at what honest evangelism is, I set forth the first four of eight discoveries we make out of Acts 17:16-34 on how to do evangelism honestly. In this post I want to cover the remaining four.
5. Though God has given to mankind every opportunity to see he is there, nevertheless, because of man’s ignorance for which he is fully responsible(cf. Acts 17:23, 27a), mankind, left to his own devices, only gropes in the dark trying to find God (Acts 17:27b). This accounts for the reason why mankind all over the world worships, but does so in a way that is twisted and ignorant (cf. Acts 17:22-23; 27), and this even though God has made himself known to mankind through creation (Romans 1:19ff.). What this means is that one of the goals we should have in evangelism is to show to the lost how their view of God is not true and does not fit truly with the way life really is. Yet, the truth of Scripture, the core of which is the gospel, does.
6. Part of the shift in God’s history of salvation that has taken place with the coming of Jesus Christ is that the times of ignorance (i.e. the times in which God did not make greater or special movement to take the message of salvation to peoples that they might know him) have now come to a close. As such, God is moving through his people (the Church) to take the announcement, i.e. the command for mankind to repent and believe in Jesus Christ, to all peoples. Because of this, we should also note that not only is all mankind under obligation to worship the true God based on God’s revelation of himself in creation, but all mankind has failed and are under obligation before God to repent and believe (Acts 17:30). One of the things Paul is demonstrating to us in this passages is that we should not be afraid to tell others about Jesus Christ and to call them to trust in him!
7. Note that Paul, even in a somewhat hostile environment in which he is dealing with academia, nevertheless preaches the gospel, speaks of judgment (and so the need for salvation), speaks of the way of salvation (need for Christ’s righteousness), and calls people to respond in repentance and faith. What is more, he also proclaims the resurrection, an important part of the gospel (cf. 1 Cor. 15:1-4). We see this all in Acts 17:30-31. We should never conclude that the gospel does not need to be communicated.
8. We should also notice that the resurrection provides verification of the truthfulness of future judgment, as well as the truthfulness of the way of salvation that one might avoid that judgment (Acts 17:31). So, as we teach others the gospel, we should not leave out the resurrection.
In addition to these eight discoveries we have made in Acts 17 about honest evangelism, we should also see there are four different responses (most likely) to Paul’s evangelism, which sets forth a pattern of what we can expect as we do gospel work—especially gospel work among the unsaved. These responses fit with what we see of responses to Jesus and other Jesus followers in the early church, as well as what Jesus teaches in the parable of the seed, sower, and soils (Mt. 13).
a. Some will mock us (perhaps, as we see elsewhere, even going as far as to persecute). Acts 17:32a reads: “Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked.”
b. Some will be open to hearing more and so we can continue to teach and dialogue with them. Acts 17:32b-33 read: “But others said, ‘We will hear you again about this.’ 33 So Paul went out from their midst.”
c. Some, though not mocking, may say they want to hear more, but perhaps simply are not interested (this may be part of the implication as seen in 32b-33).
d. Some will truly believe with saving faith in Jesus Christ. Verse 34 reads: “But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.”
I pray that these discussions about honest evangelism will spur us on to the love and good work of doing gospel work among others. I pray that we will at least begin to pray and look for opportunities to tell others about Jesus!
Joyfully Heralding The Gospel With You!