Acts of the Apostles
Part 2: Strategies for Evangelization
Chapter 7 • Learning to Articulate the Faith (Acts 17)
When is the last time you had a discussion about the faith with someone who disagreed with you? How did it go?
In Acts 17, St. Paul faces three very different situations where he uses three different styles of evangelistic conversations. In this chapter, we are going to look at what strategies he uses and how they can help us in our own evangelization.
1 When they took the road through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they reached Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 Following his usual custom, Paul joined them, and for three sabbaths he entered into discussions with them from the scriptures, 3 expounding and demonstrating that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead, and that “This is the Messiah, Jesus, whom I proclaim to you.” 4 Some of them were convinced and joined Paul and Silas; so, too, a great number of Greeks who were worshipers, and not a few of the prominent women. 5 But the Jews became jealous and recruited some worthless men loitering in the public square, formed a mob, and set the city in turmoil. They marched on the house of Jason, intending to bring them before the people’s assembly. 6 When they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city magistrates, shouting, “These people who have been creating a disturbance all over the world have now come here, 7 and Jason has welcomed them. They all act in opposition to the decrees of Caesar and claim instead that there is another king, Jesus.” 8 They stirred up the crowd and the city magistrates who, upon hearing these charges, 9 took a surety payment from Jason and the others before releasing them.
10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas to Beroea during the night. Upon arrival they went to the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These Jews were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with all willingness and examined the scriptures daily to determine whether these things were so. 12 Many of them became believers, as did not a few of the influential Greek women and men. 13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica learned that the word of God had now been proclaimed by Paul in Beroea also, they came there too to cause a commotion and stir up the crowds. 14 So the brothers at once sent Paul on his way to the seacoast, while Silas and Timothy remained behind. 15 After Paul’s escorts had taken him to Athens, they came away with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.
16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he grew exasperated at the sight of the city full of idols. 17 So he debated in the synagogue with the Jews and with the worshipers, and daily in the public square with whoever happened to be there. 18 Even some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers engaged him in discussion. Some asked, “What is this scavenger trying to say?” Others said, “He sounds like a promoter of foreign deities,” because he was preaching about ‘Jesus’ and ‘Resurrection.’ 19 They took him and led him to the Areopagus and said, “May we learn what this new teaching is that you speak of? 20 For you bring some strange notions to our ears; we should like to know what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians as well as the foreigners residing there used their time for nothing else but telling or hearing something new.
22 Then Paul stood up at the Areopagus and said:
“You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To an Unknown God.’ What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, 25 nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything. Rather it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything. 26 He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, 27 so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us. 28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being,’ as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’ 29 Since therefore we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the divinity is like an image fashioned from gold, silver, or stone by human art and imagination. 30 God has overlooked the times of ignorance, but now he demands that all people everywhere repent 31 because he has established a day on which he will ‘judge the world with justice’ through a man he has appointed, and he has provided confirmation for all by raising him from the dead.”
32 When they heard about resurrection of the dead, some began to scoff, but others said, “We should like to hear you on this some other time.” 33 And so Paul left them. 34 But some did join him, and became believers. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the Court of the Areopagus, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
- What would it take for you to be accused of turning your workplace/sphere of influence upside down?
- What is the reaction today when we claim Jesus as Lord or stand by one of the Church’s controversial teachings?
- When people become hostile and emotional when talking about the faith, what is the best way to talk to them and act towards them?
- What are some ways we can foster rational discussion about our faith rather than emotional arguments?
- In verse 18 of Acts 17, St. Paul is disturbed to see that the city is full of idols. What are the idols in our culture today? What idols disturb you the most?
- St. Paul does a great job of building a bridge to their pre-established beliefs to show them that they are already seeking the God that he is speaking about. What are people seeking today?
- St. Paul appeals to the religion of those in the Aeropagus. Do you think people are religious today? Why or why not?
- G. K. Chesterton once said, "Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God." How can we proclaim God in such a way that relates to what people are seeking?
*Adapted from FOCUS