Paul’s Missional Preaching in Acts

I have been reading through Acts recently and found it quite amazing to note just how astute Paul was in contextualizing his message to his audience.

When Paul goes into Pisidian Antioch he is dealing with Jews.  Paul is invited to give a sermon to Jews in the local synagogue.  Therefore Paul meets them where they are at. Paul talks to the Jews about God’s promise to the Jews.  The speech addresses the history of Israel from its origin to David and then leaps over a thousand years to John the Baptist and Jesus.

We see Paul establish his Jewish connection with the audience by showing he is familiar with Israel’s history (vv.16-25).  Then he takes them to the next step and tells them that the Messiah they have been waiting for has come!  The promise of God has been realized in Jesus (vv.26-37).  Then Paul gives the application for them having heard that Jesus is the messiah the Jews have been waiting for (vv. 38-41).

Paul’s next sermon in Lystra is very different.  Paul is not dealing with Jews but pagans who worship false gods and ready to deify him and Barnabas.  Yet Paul once again meets them where they are at.  He sees that they worship the creation rather than the creator and like to make idols.  Paul appeals to natural theology and encourages them to realize that creation is not to be worshiped but instead point us to the creator.  From there he shares the gospel, after establishing that the creation has a creator and that creator has come in the flesh to die and reconcile humanity to himself.

It is stunning to think what a good missional example Paul was for us.  He could have easily just stuck to his script of the Jewish narrative as his only means of telling the gospel.  It was probably most comfortable for him, since it was part of his upbringing.  But Paul was cunning and versatile enough to key  in on what points of contact he could find with his audience and trace those veins back to the gospel.  This takes the ability to carefully listen and examine those who you are interacting with, and the knowledge of how to speak in a way they will understand.  Paul cares so much about his message not falling on deaf ears that he meets people where they are at.  This is still the challenge for us 2000 years later as we strive to find the best ways to convey the gospel to the multi-cultural world and society we live in.

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2 Responses

  1. Great post!

  2. thanks!

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