Two More Cities

Tuesday: Presenting the Scripture

Acts 17:1-15 In this week’s studies we see how to establish an effective and faithful ministry.
Presenting the Scripture

In addition to establishing social services to city residents, we have learned to stress the need for Christians living in the cities, thereby establishing a Christian presence in them. This does not mean that Christians are not to establish a Christian presence elsewhere. We are to go into all the world with the Gospel. But if most people in America live in cities and we are trying to reach these people, then obviously the majority of us should live in the cities where the people are. 

Our model in this respect is E. V. Hill of Los Angeles. When he became pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church, he made it a goal to establish a Christian presence in every block of Los Angeles. He had been a ward leader for the Democratic party in Texas before he went to Los Angeles. As ward leader his job was to have a block captain for every block of his ward so that, when election day came, his block captains could get out the vote. When he became a Christian and went to Los Angeles, he began to establish Christian block captains for every block of that great city. That sounds like an overwhelming task, but it is not as impossible as it sounds. There are about 9,000 blocks in Los Angeles. The last I heard, and that was quite a few years ago, Hill had block captains in 1,900 blocks of Los Angeles. If he can do it there, it can be done in other large cities. 

2. Present the Scripture. The second thing I notice about Paul’s method is that, having made contact with people through the synagogue, he then began to reason with them from the Scriptures. That is what it says in the case of Thessalonica: “He reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead” (v. 3). Philippians 4:16 says that Paul received more than one gift from them while he was in Thessalonica. So he must have taught the Scriptures in Thessalonica for some time. He must have done the same thing in Berea, too, although it does not say so explicitly, because the Bereans followed up on his teaching by examining “the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (v. 11). Think about what Paul did. 

First, Paul began with the Scriptures. The Scriptures are the Word of God, and God has promised to bless His Word. He has said that He will not allow it to return to Him empty (Isa. 55:11). So for theological as well as very practical reasons Paul began with the Word, knowing theologically that God would bless it and judging that, if that is what God had promised to bless, he would be more effective preaching the Scriptures than doing anything else. So he began to teach the Jews and those Gentiles who were with them in the synagogues that Jesus is the Christ. 

Second, he “reasoned… from the Scriptures” (v. 2). That is something the evangelical church needs especially to hear today since we have a tendency to denigrate reason. We say, sometimes on supposedly theological grounds, “If the Holy Spirit is the one who has to bring men and women to faith, then it doesn’t matter whether we give them reasons for what they are supposed to believe or not. The only thing we have to do is proclaim the Scriptures,” that is, just quote Bible verses to them. Well, it is better to quote Bible verses than do nothing at all, and it is better to quote Bible verses than the sayings of mere men, however valuable they may be. But that is not all Paul did. He cited the Scriptures, but he also reasoned from the Scriptures, saying, “Think about that verse. Think about what it says. Think about what it implies. Think what it says about Jesus.” 

Third, we read that in addition to starting with the Bible and reasoning from it, Paul also explained the Scriptures, proving from them that “Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead” (v. 3). Paul helped them understand the Gospel by explaining the Bible to them.

Study Questions
  1. Why should a majority of Christians live in cities?
  2. What did Paul do after making contact with people through the synagogue?
  3. Explain what Isa. 55:11 means when God says that “my word that goes out from my mouth … will not return to me empty.” Have you seen this demonstrated?
  4. Why is it incorrect to maintain that witnessing means simply proclaiming Scripture?

Reflection: How were you reached by the Gospel? Did someone present the Word to you, reason from Scripture, and explain it? How can you prepare yourself to follow these steps in witnessing to others?

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “The Purpose of the Scriptures.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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