Emmaus Bible College’s “Christian MInistry Seminars” takes place on February 6-7 — and I get to be their speaker! I’ve chosen the theme, “Anti-Intellectualism Isn’t Spirituality” and will pursue several topics. Paul’s use of his mind in Acts 17 has always intrigued me. Acts 17:19-34 gives specific steps in reaching a diverse audience with the gospel. We learn that Paul was “greatly distressed” to see the city “full of idols” and that he used reasoning to debate with those five groups.
We have defined Epicurean and Stoic philosophy and must face the fact that the old-time gospel will be thought of today as “advocating foreign gods” and “strange ideas.” Some enjoyed a great luxury — spending their time “doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas” (v. 21).
As he begins his formal presentation to this court of opinion, astonishingly Paul begins with a compliment! He says, “I see that in every way you are very religious.” (v. 22).
I wouldn’t have started that way at all! I would have said, “I’ve seen your idols. Ya’ll are a bunch of IDOLATERS! Ya’ll are going to hell!” That’s how I would have started my speech.
Why are we often so reluctant to speak positive words to the lost? Do we think that we will be miscommunicating the gospel if we say something nice to them? Phyllis Theroux put it this way: “One of the commodities in life that most people can’t get enough of is compliments. The ego is never so intact that one can’t find a hole in which to plug a little praise. But compliments, by their nature, are highly biodegradable and tend to dissolve hours or days after we first receive them — which is why we can always use another.”
Say something nice to someone who is not yet a follower of Jesus today!