In Part One, I lamented about how in 2020, thinking in the American evangelical church is a dying, if not a dead, practice. In Part Two, I looked at what Mark 12:29-31 (Two Greatest Commandments) teaches about a believer developing an intellect to become a thinker with a focus on evangelism in light of 1 Timothy 2:3-4 and Matthew 28:18-20. In Part Three, I look at Acts 17:1-4 to see how Paul used five intellect-based actions to preach the saving gospel of Jesus Christ to lost people.
Acts 17:1–4 (ESV) reads:
1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.
Before looking at these five actions, please note that Paul intentionally went to “a synagogue of the Jews.” The Jewish synagogue was a place where he could find lost people to whom he could preach the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul’s practice ought to instruct the 21st Century evangelical church to go to the lost because the lost will not come to the church.
Let’s look at Paul’s five intellect-based actions to reach the lost with the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.
First, Paul used his intellect when “he reasoned” with the Jews. The ESV translates the Greek verb dialegomai as “he reasoned” and it has the sense of to consider or examine a topic in speech with others. Exegetical Guide, Logos 8. Implicit in the action “he reasoned” is a dialog between Paul and the Jews in which each advocated their respective positions about Jesus Christ and possibly other theological topics. To engage in such a dialog requires a fine-tuned developed intellect. As we will see, Paul’s underlying goal when “he reasoned” was to persuade the Jesus of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Along this line, in writing Acts, Luke used dialegomai ten times. Luke twice used dialegomai in the context of persuasion :
Acts 18:4 (ESV) – 4 And he reasoned [dialegomai] in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade [peithō] Jews and Greeks.
Acts 19:8 (ESV) – 8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning [dialegomai]and persuading [peithō] them about the kingdom of God.
Note that Paul “reasoned … from the Scriptures.” It is critical to understand that the source for Paul’s reasoning was God’s Word. Paul needed to think, i.e., use and develop his intellect, to competently carry out dialegomai. We cannot forget that eternal destinies are at stake.
Second and third, in the course, or as a component, of his reasoning, Paul engaged in “explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead.” The ESV translates the Greek verb dianoigō as “explaining” and it means to explain something which has been previously hidden or obscure such as, for example, to explain, to open up, to make evident. See Louw et al. (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 404).
The New Testament writers used dianoigō eight times with Luke using it seven of those eight times. The ESV translates the following four of those usages as “opened”:
Luke 24:31–32 (ESV) – 31 And their eyes were opened [dianoigō], and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened [dianoigō] to us the Scriptures?”
Luke 24:45 (ESV) – 45 Then he opened [dianoigō] their minds to understand the Scriptures,
Acts 16:14 (ESV) – 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened [dianoigō] her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.
These usages help us gain a better understanding of what God was doing through Paul when he was “explaining” the essentials of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul had to develop his intellect to be able to adequately explain or open up the gospel to his audience.
The ESV translates the Greek verb paratithēmi as “proving” and it means to establish evidence to show that something is true so as to show to be true, to present evidence of truth, to prove. See Louw et al. (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 672). By using paratithēmi, it seems that Luke intended to convey the logical nature of Paul when he presented his evidence about the gospel. Like with dianoigō, Paul had to develop his intellect to marshal the evidence as to the authenticity and truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ including the Person of Jesus Christ.
Fourth, Paul said that “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” The ESV translates the Greek verb katangellō as “proclaim” and it means to announce or to speak out about. See Louw et al. (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 410). No doubt, Paul was not hesitant to walk into the midst of hostile unbelievers and proclaim the gospel. To carry this out, Paul had to have developed his intellect to the point where he knew the gospel and had ultimate confidence in the reality thereof.
Fifth, the outcome of Paul’s dialog was that “some of them were persuaded.” The ESV translates the Greek verb peithō as “were persuaded” and it means to convince someone to believe something and to act on the basis of what is recommended so as to persuade or to convince. See Louw et al. (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 422). As mentioned above, Luke combined reasoning [dialegomai]and persuading [peithō] in Acts 18:4 and Acts 19:8.
To try to better comprehend Paul’s approach to evangelism via Acts 17:1-4, I used the visual representation feature of the approach described in the Graphōble Bible Study Journal. Here are my takeaways from this exercise:
(1) Paul had a plan to reach the lost with the saving gospel of Jesus Christ wherein he intentionally and consistently carried out the plan. For the 21st Century, believers should be intentional to discover where the lost people are and go to them because they will not come to you in church.
(2) Paul developed his intellect with the Scriptures as the foundation. For the 21st Century, believers need to read, study, meditate and listen to God’s Word because it is the only source of truth.
(3) Paul developed his intellect so he competently engaged lost people in intellectual discussion or argument whereby he advocated the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. For the 21st Century, believers should become better thinkers and better students of God’s Word.
(4) Paul developed his intellect about the gospel so he could put together a persuasive and orderly (logical) argument that God used to open up the minds of his audience to the truth of the gospel. For the 21st Century, believers should spend time on better understanding the substance of the gospel and better articulating their own testimony about their conversion experience.
(5) Paul was bold in his presentation since he did not hesitate to engage people hostile to the gospel in his efforts to proclaim the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. For the 21st Century, believers should ask God for boldness to seek out the lost that God brings into their life even if it is a one-time encounter.
Hopefully, these takeaways are useful to you as you develop your intellect to better proclaim the saving gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.
If you are reading this post and are not a Christian, unless God intervenes, your eternal destination is hell. But, your destiny can change. Today can be the day of your salvation! Please see my blog (https://stevebelsheim.com/2020/04/20/for-god-so-loves-you-2/) for a description of how you can be saved. You can also go to another article at my blog (https://stevebelsheim.com/2020/10/20/there-is-hope-even-when-there-seems-to-be-no-hope-2/ ).
If you have comments, questions, observations or the like, please leave a comment in the comments section or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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