Taking every opportunity
Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.
Acts 17:34 (NIV)
I have read various reports regarding the apostle Paul’s preaching in Athens. Some say that it is wonderful to see how he used what he saw around him, and the interests of his audience, to preach about Jesus. Others will look to the conclusion found in Acts 17:34 and say that not many people became believers of Jesus as a result of this preaching, so it can’t be the correct way to do things. However, the Biblical text does not indicate whether Paul’s approach was right or wrong, as Luke, the author of Acts, is writing factually to tell us about the growth of the early church, not to give his opinion about what happened.
What can we learn from Paul’s Athenian message? Perhaps the biggest thing for me is that Paul saw where there was an opportunity to talk about Jesus and he took it. Just
as he took opportunities for talking about Jesus in synagogues, at marketplaces, in personal conversations, and so on. It’s not that sharing your faith is a requirement, but that Jesus’ love for us leads us to want to talk about him. As Paul himself wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:14: ‘For Christ’s love compels us…’. What God then does with the words we say is his prerogative.
And who are we to analyse Paul’s approach? I think most of us would be happy if we gave a sermon and a couple of prominent people responded, as well as ‘a number of others’. While there may not have been thousands converted in one day, that was how God chose to do things that time. In the previous chapter (Acts 16), a jailer and his family came to believe in Jesus through the work of Paul and Silas, and I don’t think that is considered a failure.
When I was pastoring in Croydon, the pastor of a local church told me a phrase which I have often applied in my life:
‘Knock on lots of doors and see which one God opens.’
We can see Paul applying this philosophy in the book of Acts. He takes every opportunity to tell people about Jesus. God sometimes uses these occasions to call large numbers of people to believe in himself, while other times it might be a handful of people. The Bible tells us there is ‘…rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents…’ (Luke 15:7), so it’s not about the numbers we see. Why not try following Paul’s example and tell others about Jesus? Take the opportunities and leave the rest to God.
Father, thank you for Paul’s willingness and eagerness to share the message of Jesus with others. Please help us to have that same desire and enthusiasm. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Study by Anthony Dady
About the writer:
Anthony Dady is a Minister in Grace Communion International and is the Regional Pastor for Wales, the Midlands, and Northern England.
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