Author: Paul A. Bartz
Note: Creation Moments exists to provide Biblically sound materials to the Church in the area of Bible and science relationships. This Bible study may be reproduced for group use.
How do you witness to someone about Christ? Especially if that person is well educated and really committed to evolution? Your first response is “I believe in creation but I cannot argue science with this person.”
1. Let’s start by looking at a very important distinction that St. Paul makes in I Corinthians 1:23. What two groups does Paul make a distinction between here? What was Christ crucified to the Jew? How about to the Greek (meaning “gentile”)?
2. Why was Christ crucified a stumbling block to the Jews? They didn’t believe that Jesus Christ was God’s Son – He was too human-appearing. God is with us and He gets dirty, and hungry and tired? That’s altogether too human. They were looking for a political ruler. One who could come, split the heavens and become a political ruler and make Jerusalem the center of a world empire. The Jews knew that there is a God. Most of them saw Him at least in somewhat personal terms; that yes, God sees me, God knows about me, God has contact in our world. But the Gentiles here, this Greek and Roman world, did not see God that way. If they saw God at all, they saw Him as an invention – Jewish mythology. In fact, they had been writing about the naturalistic explanation for the universe before the birth of Christ, in order to explain it without God. Now how does this distinction translate into strategy when bringing the gospel to these two different attitudes?
3. Let’s look at Acts 17: 14. Were these people Jews or non-Jews? So what question were they asking? Note especially verse 3. What did Paul stress? (“That the Christ had to suffer…”) Considering the question these people were asking, why was it important to stress that the Christ had to suffer? What was Paul’s answer to the question of whether the Messiah had come?
4. Then St. Paul goes to the Greeks. Were they asking whether the Messiah had come? What were they asking? Read Acts 17: 16-34 to find out.
5. Who were the two groups listed in verse 18? We still have the writings of these two groups around today. The Stoics and the Epicureans were both convinced that the universe could be accounted for without God by natural law. They differed only on one point: what does that mean for my life? The Epicureans said that this meant that we are not morally accountable to anybody, so let’s eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. We’ve heard that phrase: this is where it comes from. The Stoics, on the other hand, said, “Yes, we are a product of natural laws, and chance, working through the many, many years to develop us. If natural laws and chance are good enough to create us, out of non-living material, then those natural laws must be pretty good. We should trust those laws because they’re going to take us some place great.” But you see, they were both what? Naturalists, weren’t they? Evolutionists. They explained every created thing without God. Were they asking the question, “What does God think of Me?” Were they concerned about their sin?
6. What does Paul do? Note verse 22. What does Paul tell these educated, sophisticated people they are? Remember, they thought that they were above religion. Their philosophers had said, “Religion is dead, man has progressed past the need for religion.” What is that belief called today? Does Paul seem to be familiar with their philosophy? Does this give us a hint for more effective witnessing?
7. How, in verse 23 does Paul show them how a stranger to their town would get the idea they are religious? Is anyone not religious? Paul knew this secret and used it. How does their altar to the unknown god indicate the question they were asking? Were they asking about how to get into a relationship with God, or what His nature is? How do Paul’s words in verse 24 show that Paul knew what the answer to this question was?
8. What detail does Paul add about God in verse 25? How does this refute the Greek and Roman idea that gods are an invention of man? In verse 26 Paul adds even more detail. How many claims can you find in these two verses which establish God as a personal being, concerned about the affairs of men? Does Paul seem to be aware that the stoics saw God as an impersonal and largely unknowable “force”? You see the point. Paul is not starting with the answer of Savior from sin because that’s not the question they’re asking. They’re asking about the nature of God, so he’s establishing the nature of God. Paul knows that this will serve his purpose because the Gospel is built upon the nature of God.
9. In verse 27 Paul tells them why God is intimately involved in the affairs of men. What is the reason he gives? How does Paul, in verse 28, strengthen this point? How do we see, here again, that Paul knows his audience? Paul’s goal is to get his listeners to ask the question, “How do I start getting right with this God?” How does this question naturally lead to the preaching of Christ crucified? What does this say about the relationship between creation and the gospel?
10. How does Paul answer, again, the charge that men made up gods in verse 29? What lesson is there here for us in terms of knowing the belief of the people to whom we are witnessing?
11. In verse 30 Paul introduces another attribute of God. What is it? How do Paul’s words indicate that this God has the right to have a claim on us?
12. At this point in the message his hearers are beginning to think, “If that is true, I could be in a lot of trouble.” Note that only once this is established does Paul preach repentance – and he does so in verse 31 with force. How does verse 32 reveal their bias against supernaturalism? But notice that, despite this reaction, verse 34 tells us that some were interested enough to hear more, and some believed! Could you imagine a tougher audience? Yet look at the result!
13. You don’t need to be a scientist to do this. You don’t need to be able to read technical literature to do this. Look at what Paul has said here. Are these words filled with any thoughts you cannot already express? How can the average Christian hope to witness his faith to the unbeliever – especially one who is really committed to evolution? The answer is clear: Don’t allow yourself to be distracted from the main topic which is religion. That’s what Paul did. Remember that your task doesn’t depend on your talents and abilities. It does depend on your willingness to let the Lord use you. He will give you what you need for the task at hand.
In summary, your first step must be to find out what your “audience” believes about God. If your hearer(s) believe in no God, or in a God Who is not intimately involved in the world (and will hold them accountable for their actions), you must begin to establish this as Paul did with the Greeks. Is the listener filled with a sense of moral responsibility for his sin against God? Then you are dealing with someone asking, “Is there a Savior – ‘has the Messiah come?'” Find out where your hearer is so that you can answer the question he or she is asking, and you will find a much more effective way of allowing the Holy Spirit to convince them of the true answer to the question that they’re asking!
1987 Bible Science Newsletter.
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