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How Paul Witnessed

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As a Christian, do you know how to communicate the message of Christ to the different audiences you encounter? Or do you use the same old formula time after time, no matter who is listening? For that matter, do you remain silent when you have the opportunity to speak up for Christ, because you simply don't know what to say?

Paul had no prepackaged gospel message. He varied his approach with the situation. He was as aware of the differences between his audiences as he was of the content of his faith. Acts records numerous encounters, among them:

(1) Jews in the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:14-43). Paul reviewed the history of the Jewish faith, summarizing it from the Old Testament (vv. 17-22). He told how that history led to Jesus (vv. 23-37). He pointed out his audience's need to accept Jesus as their Messiah (vv. 38-41). He responded to their resistance by clearly explaining the alternative (vv. 46-48).

Result: Many chose to follow the way of Christ (v. 43). Others reacted negatively and opposed Paul (v. 45). Troublemakers incited city leaders to persecute Paul and his companions (v. 50).

(2) Intellectuals at Athens (17:16-33). Paul prepared by observing and reflecting on their culture (v. 16). He addressed them on their own turf, the Areopagus (vv. 19, 22). He established common ground, beginning with what was familiar and meaningful to them (vv. 22-23a, 28). He bridged to a description of God as the Creator and sustainer of life, distinguishing Him from the pagan idols that the Athenians worshiped (vv. 23b-29). He challenged them to repentance and appealed to the resurrection of Christ as proof that what he was telling them was true (vv. 30-31).

Result: Some mocked (v. 32). Some wanted to hear more (v. 32). Some believed (vv. 34-35).

(3) An angry mob in Jerusalem (21:27-22:21). Paul built a bridge by reminding them of his own Jewish heritage (21:30). He reminded them that he, too, had once detested Jesus' followers; in fact, he had persecuted them (22:4-5). He explained the process by which he had changed his mind and joined a movement that he once opposed (vv. 6-17).

Result: Already at fever pitch (21:27-30), the crowd erupted violently, demanding Paul's death (22:22-23).

(4) High officials in a Roman court (26:1-32). Paul described his religious heritage (vv. 4-5). He related his view of his opponents' charges against him (vv. 6-8). He recalled his previous opposition to Jesus' followers (vv. 9-11). He recounted his own life-changing encounter with Christ (vv. 12-19). He explained the fundamentals of Jesus' message and the implications for his non-Jewish listeners (vv. 20-23).

Result: The rulers listened carefully (vv. 24, 31-32). They challenged his application of the gospel to them (vv. 24, 28). They passed him on in the Roman judicial process, thereby foiling a Jewish plot against him (vv. 31-21).

The gospel itself is forever the same, but as Christ's followers we are called to shape our message to fit our various audiences. How do your coworkers and friends differ from each other? What effect should that have on your life and message for them? What aspects of the good news would they most likely respond to? Do you know how they view faith? Why not ask them&md;before you speak?