The gospel must be presented in a way that is easy for people in different cultures to understand!
Throughout the history of the church, we read about people who believed the world was so evil that they had to get away and separate themselves as much as possible. They separated themselves from the culture so as to protect themselves from the evil and the temptations by guarding themselves from the idolatry in the culture.
So my question is how do we handle the culture as Christians in how we relate to the surrounding culture? I don’t think we should completely separate ourselves from the culture, but we also have to be careful in how we associate with it as well. We can’t put ourselves in a situation that would expose us to a temptation that would overtake us and cause us to participate in the activities of the culture (sex, drinking, drugs, etc.). So what must we do because we are called to reach all people and all cultures?
Some have said to avoid it by isolating yourself and some have also wrongly suggested the opposite approach of completely immersing oneself within the culture. However, for Christians, the proper response should be one of engagement. We engage culture (we don’t immerse ourselves but we engage them with one intended purpose to share Christ and to point them to Christ) in hope of transforming others into the likeness of Christ. We aren’t meant to run from the culture or consume it entirely, but to live in it in such a way that we can be salt and light to those around us.
We also need to be aware of how certain cultures and even families within those cultures have unique beliefs and experiences. As Christians, it is important to recognize these beliefs and the ways these beliefs and experiences may affect the way others will hear or understand the gospel. It’s important for us as Christians to find common ground and build from there in an explanation of the gospel. The gospel must be presented in a way that is easy for people in different cultures to understand.
We will look at a thing called “evangelistic strategy.” The book of Acts contains several evangelistic encounters, in which the gospel message was preached and received, or rejected. However, this encounter takes place in a culture not too different from our own in many respects and so we should pay careful attention to how Paul interacted with the men and women of Athens since this has many parallels for us today.
Paul understood that the gospel must be presented in a way that is easy for people in different cultures to understand. As a result when Paul reasoned with those in Athens, he found points of contrast between the biblical view of the world and that of Greek culture. Then, Paul proclaimed that all nations came from the first Adam and that the second Adam – Jesus Christ the life-giving Spirit would judge all nations. Paul’s message also focused on Jesus rising from the dead and included a call to repentance.
We need to allow ourselves to be distressed by the idolatry of our culture like Paul was so we can boldly and sensitively proclaim the gospel into it. By the end of this session, we will discover what it means to be in the world but not of it. Unfortunately, we have a lot of people who profess to be Christians yet they are living like the rest of the world and there seems to be no distinction between a believer and a non-believer other than church attendance. We are going to see that after preaching and proclaiming the gospel in a Jewish synagogue in Thessalonica and Berea, Paul found himself in Athens, which was an intellectual and religious center filled with idols. Read Acts 17:16
Paul had experienced this in cities where people worshiped idols, but Athens was another level. And this troubled Paul deeply by the sight of a city so deep in idolatry, because of the amount of idols and level of lost-ness that Paul had not experienced before it caused him to stop waiting for Silas and the others to join him.
This provoked Paul to begin sharing the gospel in the synagogue and the marketplace. How did Paul know the city was full of idols in the first place?
He walked around and observed the culture and he became aware of his surroundings. Instead of running away, closing his eyes, or returning to a “safer” city, Paul allowed himself to grieve over the idolatry in Athens. The Holy Spirit moved in his heart, creating the foundation for what he did next. If we truly aren’t moved by the lost-ness in our own culture we won’t be motivated to engage instead we will sit back and be happy with where we are at and do nothing because we don’t have the kind of concern that will motivate us or move us.
What are some idols you see in our culture today? Self, wealth, sex, sports, popularity, social media, friends, drugs, alcohol, comfort, etc. and the list goes on. It’s anything we put before and above God – our hearts are set upon those things that take us away from God and they become the focus of our life.
Like the Athenians, we also have an idol issue in modern day culture. It may not look the same with physical sculptures we bow down to revere, but there are idols all around us nonetheless, many of these idols being hidden deep within our hearts. Until that god is dethroned, and the Lord takes his rightful place, you will not have victory. You need to step off that throne and put Christ on the throne as the Lord of your life – we need to do that daily because it is a daily choice.
Once the Lord grieved Paul’s heart and opened his eyes to see the idolatry and the lost in the city, Paul stopped waiting around for Silas and the others to join him. Instead, he got up and went to both the synagogue and the marketplace to reason with the Jewish and Greek Athenians.
In the Part 2 we will see how Paul taught the gospel to them in a way they would understand.