In the great Book of Acts, we have an orderly account of how the Church and its Gospel message of a Savior spread from Jerusalem (Acts 1-7) all the way to Rome (Acts 28). Luke doesn’t give a detailed account of the first 20 years of Church history, but he does give us a good idea of who the key characters and the key events were and how key churches were planted.
We also learn how the Apostle Paul was able to adapt the Gospel depending whether he was preaching to Jews or Gentiles. Whenever Paul was preaching to Jews , his focus was to use the Jewish Scriptures to prove that the Christ (the Anointed One of God) had to suffer and that this Christ or Messiah was Jesus (for example see Paul at Thessalonica in Acts 17:1-4). Paul’s Jewish hearers were well-versed in the Jewish Scriptures and were waiting for the Messiah. So Paul started with something they understood to try convince his fellow Hebrews that Christ was the Promised One.
In some of these synagogues where Paul preached to the Jews, there were also God-fearing Gentiles present (Acts 13:16) who were familiar with the Jewish Scriptures through their synagogue attendance. So when Paul used the Scriptures to prove that Jesus is the Christ and that He had to suffer before entering His glory, these God-fearing Gentiles would be familiar with what Paul was trying to do.
But when Paul was proclaiming the Gospel to a mainly Gentile (i.e. pagan) crowd, like in Lystra (Acts 13:8-18) or in Athens (Acts 17:16-34), he never began with the Jewish Scriptures. Paul was wise. If he did begin with the Jewish Scriptures with them, it would have been like talking Chinese to an English-speaking crowd. Instead, Paul begins with God as Creator and with his audience’s idolatry. He is not afraid to point out the futility of such idol worship and the inevitable divine judgment on their false worship (see Acts 13:8-18 & 17:16-34). Paul also went as far as declaring that it is the resurrected Christ who would judge the world (Acts 17:31).
Paul was sensitive to where people were at in order to establish common ground with them. Once he did that, he proclaimed the Good News of the Savior Jesus. Let us ask God for the wisdom and the opportunities to make Jesus known to a world that desperately needs Him. Let us be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Let us try to put ourselves in the shoes of those who don’t know Christ and ask God how we can effectively communicate the Gospel to them. In Christ’s love and service, Pastor John