Paul the missionary-church planter came to Thessalonica in the Roman province of Macedonia on his second missionary journey eager to tell those he met the good news. Luke’s account in Acts gives us some information:
Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” (Acts 17:2-3).
When he came to a city Paul’s custom was to start with the synagogues to preach the gospel (see Acts 13:5, 14; 14:1; 17:10, 17; 18:4, 19; 19:8). When you study Paul’s evangelism you find he consistently found common ground with his hearers to proclaim the truth. Being trained in Judaism and himself a Jew, it only made sense for Paul to start in a city where such faith was found and branch out from there.
How did Paul proclaim the gospel to the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles? He started where they were, using the Old Testament Scriptures to show how Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ they sought (Acts 17:3).
What Old Testament passages did Paul use in his efforts to reason and persuade them? Luke doesn’t give us that, but he might have used:
- Genesis 22:13, showing Jesus was the ram caught in the thicket
- Leviticus 16, revealing Jesus as both the slaughtered sacrifice and the scapegoat that paid once and for all for the sin of the world
- Numbers 21, explaining that Jesus is the Bronze Serpent for those who’ve been bitten by the serpent of sin
- Isaiah 53, where Jesus is the suffering servant who…
He could have used any of these passages and more as the Old Testament is filled with the truth of Jesus as the once-for-all sacrifice for sin.
In speaking to Jews in Thessalonica in the first century, Paul started with the common ground of the Scriptures as he proclaimed Jesus. But Paul’s experience in many of these cities is not the same experience of Christians in a post-Christian and postmodern culture. Thus, the question I want to answer in this post is how do we reason with those in a post-Christian and postmodern culture who do not hold the Bible as authoritative or believe that Jesus is the One who has come to save them from their sin and make all things new?
Here are four principles for how we can “reason, explain, and prove” to a post-Christian, postmodern world how Jesus is the Christ.
1. Although people might not know God’s word in their heads or hold God’s word in their hands, his law is written on the hearts of unbelievers (Romans 2:15).
We live in a culture that has declared war on truth. The reality is humanity, since the Fall, has declared war on truth. The war is waged through acts of suppression (Romans 1:18). But how does culture suppress truth today? I’ve found people in our contemporary culture attempt to suppress truth in at least the following two ways.