In Acts 17, when the Apostle Paul addressed the Stoics, Epicureans, and Greek philosophers on Mars Hill, where did he begin?
Notice how carefully he builds his argument, step by step. First, he identifies God as the ultimate origin of the world: “The God who made the world and everything in it is the LORD of heaven and earth” (v. 24). He then identifies this God as the source of our own humanity: “He made from one man every nation of mankind” (v. 26). Finally, he draws the logical conclusion: “Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone” (v. 29). That is, God cannot be akin to material things like idols. Since He made us, He must have at least the qualities we have as personal, moral, rational, creative beings. As water cannot rise above its source, so a non-personal objective or force could not have produced personal beings like ourselves. It is logical to conclude that God too is a personal being. This logic is representative in the universal scientific Law of Causality. This law states that no object can be greater than it’s cause.
Because of this, we stand before a personal God to whom we owe allegiance, just as a child owes honor and allegiance to her parents who brought her into the world. In fact, failure to acknowledge God is a moral fault and calls for repentance: “Now He commands all people everywhere to repent” (v. 30). Notice that it is only after having built a case based on Creation that Paul introduces the concepts of sin and repentance. He called for repentance, appealing to the moral law resident in each person’s conscience: “Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. 15 They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.” – Romans 2:14-15 NLT
He then concludes by informing them that a sure judgment is coming when Jesus Christ appears, which is the essence of the gospel (Good News).
“For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” – Act 17:31 NIV
This is a great model to instruct us in the post-modern world in which we live! Generally speaking, people are biblically illiterate in our American society, and so this line of reasoning can be very effective.
To summarize the basic ingredients they are:
1. The external creation
2. The internal source of our humanity
3. We are reflecting His image and are accountable to Him
4. Because of our sin, (moral failure to meet the law of God), we will all be judged.
5. The source of our hope for forgiveness is Jesus Christ who rose from the dead.
Of the five above, which is the easiest and which is the hardest for you to talk about with your not-yet-Christian friends?
In the next month begin conversations with people using some of the five ingredients.
When you have a conversation with someone, tell your story with other fellow Christians. I have discovered the best way to encourage others is to share your experience. The repetition of doing this will encourage and empower others to initiate conversations!
Much Joy in Christ,