Monday, July 29, 2019
“Brethren and fathers, hear my defense which I now offer to you.”
Evangelism is sometimes a daunting task, especially when the recipient is a complete stranger. But Paul provides us a wonderful model to follow in Acts 22.
Keep in mind that Paul has just barely escaped death by the hands of an angry Jewish mob, and he is being held captive by Roman officers. After convincing the officers that he isn’t an Egyptian insurgent, he pleads for an opportunity to address the Jewish crowd. Surprisingly they agree.
As Paul begins his address, he opens with these tactful words: “Brethren and fathers, hear my defense which I now offer to you.” Don’t miss the significance of that introduction. Paul, still bloodied from abuse, addresses his assailants not as “enemies” but as “brothers and fathers.” This is a remarkable tribute to the gospel of grace. Before Paul says anything about Christ, He is already demonstrating Christ to this watching audience.
Paul moves on in verse 3 and says: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, just as you all are today.”
Paul’s graciousness is almost baffling here. He is doing far more than giving this mob the benefit of the doubt. He is modeling the attitude of our Savior, who prayed for His murderers in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
Is that your attitude toward people who don’t respect your faith? Is that how you respond to coworkers and family members who resent your stance on moral issues? Paul reminds us that evangelism is first and foremost gracious.
Paul continues in verses 4-5: “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished.”
Paul wisely finds common ground with these Israelites and uses it as a bridge for his testimony. He’s effectively saying, “Look, I was just like all of you. My zeal for the Law of God led me to persecute Christians as well. I understand where you are coming from.” Finding common ground with your audience is key to earning their ear. Evangelism must be empathetic.
Paul goes on in verses 6-8: “But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me, and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’”
Paul’s encounter with Jesus changed everything. It immediately turned him from a zealous persecutor of Christ to a zealous advocate for Him. And that is the point he drives home. He has earned their ear; now he simply tells them how Jesus changed his life.
Let this serve as your model today as you share your testimony with others. Find common ground. Be gracious. Be empathetic. Be compassionate. The Holy Spirit is responsible for winning peoples’ souls; but He uses us to win their ears.
How many people have you shared your testimony with in the past year? That may be a convicting thought. Pray for God to give you greater boldness and meekness so that you don’t miss out on the opportunities surrounding you today.