The book of Acts is full of powerful stories that detail how the gospel spread to different regions during the formative years of the church. Threats and persecution did not stop the apostles from telling others about the risen Christ. After Paul’s encounter with Jesus, his passion was evidenced through his actions. He journeyed from town to town giving the gospel to everyone who would listen, telling them how Jesus changed his life and could change theirs.
One example of this can be found in Acts 17. While Paul was waiting for Silas and Timothy to join him in Athens, he spent time having theological discussions with prominent Jews in the synagogue, people in the marketplace, and philosophers. Acts 17:21 says, “For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.” The Athenians thought they would hear something new that would be interesting, but Paul was ready to deliver a message that was life changing. Paul used the situation and surroundings to give the gospel. He stood in Mars Hill with the attention of many and said, “For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” (Acts 17:23) Paul then presented this “unknown God” to these men and described his works and salvation. The people let Paul speak, but when he came to the doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus, the Bible says “And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.” (Acts 17:32) Many people today have the same reaction when the topic of the resurrection is brought up, but it is a doctrine that is vital to salvation. “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” (I Corinthians 15:14) Acts 17 ends with describing several individuals who did believe Paul’s message of salvation and were born again!
There are a few lessons we can learn from Paul’s passion for the gospel in this particular passage of Scripture. First, Paul still spread the gospel while he was waiting for his help to arrive. We must make the Great Commission personal by taking ownership of those God has placed in our circle of influence. With or without help, believers are called to share this good news. Second, Paul had gospel conversations with the religious Jews, the prestigious philosophers, and the common people in the marketplace. Whether we are at work, enjoying our hobbies, or in the community, we should be ready and willing to “give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you…” (I Peter 3:15) Lastly, Paul used culture to reach people. Obviously Paul was aware of what would peak the interest of the Athenian philosophers, and he used “THE UNKNOWN GOD” to describe what he knew to be the true God. Genius! We should also be aware of our surroundings and culture to effectively spread the message of the gospel.
During this busy Christmas season, pray for God to spark a renewed passion in your heart to spread the gospel to those around you!