Friday, July 11, 2008

A Brief Observation On Acts 17

Few would doubt that Paul took God's revelation as his starting point when witnessing to Jews, but many suggest he followed a different method when dealing with Gentiles or those who made no profession of faith in the Scriptures. However, it should be observed that no such distinction is made or intimated when it says, "he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the Godfearing Gentiles, and in the market place everyday with those who happened to be present." (vs. 17).

Although there certainly would be differences of a sort between the way Paul spoke to Jew and Greek, no indication exists that would suggest that these differences were of a methodological sort.

As an example of the sort of differences that did obtain, consider that the apostle named names when he spoke to a Jewish audience about Jewish figures and events, but refrained from doing so when speaking to a Greek audience about those same things (e.g., the apostle does not explicitly mention by name Adam or even Jesus in Acts 17 even though he does refer to them). The manner or form of speaking was different, but the matter or content was not.

Similarly, and to the point, Paul did not formally or directly quote the Scriptures or cite chapter and verse when speaking to a Gentile audience, but he nevertheless did reason with them from God's revealed truth, whether that which is found in the Old Testament, and there are many allusions to key O.T. passages in Acts 17, or the deposit of truth that belonged to him as an apostle of Christ: "That which you worship in ignorance, I proclaim to you."

Accordingly, the apostle's method as seen in Acts 17, is to boldly proclaim the truth of God, the fact that God is the self-existent creator of heaven and earth, and that God raised Jesus from the dead, proving thereby that the final judgment will come through a man, "the man of God's own choosing". Paul does this in such a way as to indicate that there is an antithesis between the truth that he is proclaiming and the view espoused by his hearers. Paul knows the truth but his hearers are culpably ignorant, groping after God even though He is near at hand, the very atmosphere of their lives. Though unbelievers vociferously deny that this is so, it is tacitly assumed in all that they do, from erecting an altar to an unknown God (thereby displaying their ignorance) to making certain unwitting remarks, as their own poets illustrate (thereby displaying that they know better and are without excuse).

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