Category Archives: Acts of the Apostles

The Three Places Paul Reaches Out to in Athens and What We Can Learn From It

In Acts 17 Paul has gone to Athens to tell people about Jesus. In verse 17 we get this fantastic verse for formulating a good ole 3 point sermon,

So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.”

Here we find three groups of people:

  1. The synagogue: insiders
  2. The God fearing Greeks: seekers
  3. The marketplace (agora): outsiders

Paul usually started with the synagogue. It was a natural first step to reach out to those who already knew and respected the scriptures and who were monotheisists…worshiping the one, true God. These are the people he could probably most be himself with. He could probably converse in Hebrew with some of them…you know, insider language like “guide, guard and direct.”

But he didn’t stop there. Paul was also very well aware of the “in between” group…those who were not yet Jewish but who were also interested in God. They were usually called “God fearers.” Cornelius was called that in Acts 10:2. This group had ties inside and out. Convincing them of Jesus as the Messiah was one more link closer to the third group.

These first two groups had one thing in common…they were on “Paul’s turf.” What I mean by that is that in a sense Paul didn’t have to go to them because they were already present in the synagogue. Now Paul certainly had to travel to them and Paul had to go to the synagogue to teach them but both of these groups were already “bought in.” They didn’t need invited to be there on the Sabbath or any other time of worship. These first two groups are who most ministers spend quite a bit of their time with…the people who show up on Sunday. These are the people we are most comfortable with and converse most easily with.

Then there is the third group…those in the agora or marketplace. Paul was born and bred for the Gentile mission. God had readied him for this long again. Paul was from Tarsus and Tarsus was a city well acquainted with Greek philosophy, in particular the Stoics and Epicureans who Paul converses with in Acts 17. It is important for us to realize that hanging out with the insiders and the seekers will only take us so far. At some point we have to go from “our turf” to “their turf.” We have to go to the place where our perspective doesn’t give us any perceived advantage on the part of the people there. We have to go where the people are who need Jesus the most and that is going to require us to step out, to learn some things we might not have studied otherwise and to learn to converse with people who think differently than we do.

As with Paul, if we are willing to do this and work at this, we can be certain there is a harvest among those who are not already Christians and who haven’t already showed up at church but who haven’t even considered a relationship with Jesus yet at this point in their lives. That is very exciting to think about!

Why Did They Cast Lots to Replace Judas?

“So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he wasContinue Reading

Bio Sketch of James the Brother of Jesus

In studying for a class on the book of James I ran down some information on the author, James the half-brother of Jesus that I found extremely helpful in understanding the letter itself.   James is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Jacob. His mother was Mary (Mark 6:3), his half brother was JesusContinue Reading

Exploring the First Century Church: Mission (Part 2)

In spite of the persecution and in spite of their lack of technology…the early church experienced explosive growth. A quick glance at the book of Acts reveals just how much the church was growing in its early years. Acts 2:41 – “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added toContinue Reading

Exploring the First Century Church: Mission (Part 1)

Jesus began his ministry with his baptism by John and calling disciples. Jesus ended his ministry telling those disciples to make more disciples by teaching and baptizing others. Jesus’ ministry didn’t just start and stop his ministry with mission. Jesus was constantly on mission and he wanted his disciples to do the same things theyContinue Reading

Exploring the First Century Church: Gathering Places

It is universally agreed on that the early church primarily met in homes. The first church building that we know of, which was a house converted solely for the use of the assembled church, didn’t come along for 200 years (see Dura-Europos below). Here are some of the verses we have as evidence of theirContinue Reading

Parallels Between Jonah and Paul

Both were heading to Spain Jonah 1:3 – heading to Tarshish (in Spain) Rom 15:24, 28 – Paul wants to go to Spain Both sailed on the Mediterranean Jonah 1:3 – boarded a ship on the Mediterranean to get away from the Lord’s calling Acts 27:1 – It is decided Paul would sail for Italy…theyContinue Reading

In Jesus’ Name – More Than Words

God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They wouldContinue Reading

Paul Answers the Five Most Basic Worldview Questions in Athens (Acts 17)

If you are unfamiliar with what worldview is…it is the underlying assumptions that we have formed that drive what we believe about the world. Some have called worldview the glasses we see the world through. Another way to look at it is our meta-narrative…the story that runs under all the other stories that we tellContinue Reading

The Earliest Gentile Missionaries (Pre-Peter/Cornelius)

Peter is often given credit as the first to reach out to the Gentiles but that is not the case. You might find this interesting: Jesus’ outreach to Gentiles The Syrophoenician woman in Tyre (Mark 7:24-30) The deaf and mute man in Sidon (Mark 7:31-37) Feeding the 4000 (Mark 8:1-13) The formerly-demon-possessed man (Mark 5:1-20) AfterContinue Reading

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