Acts 17:1-4 (NIV)
1 When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,” he said. 4 Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.
Theologians call this the kerygma – the “proclamation” of the church. Everywhere Paul and the Apostles went, their message was essentially the same: Jesus died for our sins and was raised victoriously on Easter. But there’s a reason why young preachers study Paul…and Luke shows us why here.
He was relevant. Paul was preaching in the Jewish synagogue in Thessalonica – so he preached from the Hebrew Scriptures about the promised Messiah. When he was on Mars Hill with the Greeks, he preached about their gods in their search for meaning, showing that HIS God was the real one. Elsewhere he quotes pagan philosophers. But he would always bring the message back to the kerygma: not prosperity, not pet theologies, not self-help mumbo jumbo.
He reasoned and proved. Many of us preachers today couldn’t reason our way out of a paper sack! We emphasize style because we lack substance. We’re not stretching ourselves, so naturally we don’t stretch our parishioners.
He persuaded. His arguments were not only convincing, but emotionally alluring. He was offering answers to long-held questions and he was able to connect with his hearers on an emotional level.
I don’t know if Paul studied Aristotle’s teaching on persuasion or not [Aristotle taught a speaker needs ethos (character), pathos (emotional connection) and logos (logic, reasoning)]. My guess is he did. We need these same things in our lives if we, too, want to persuade our friends and neighbors to follow Jesus:
- The character and credibility that comes from a happy, holy life
- The care and concern for our friends and neighbors
- The biblical foundation for sharing our faith
When we have these, I believe we can persuade many to join us as we follow Jesus.