The gospel will always challenge people. Whether the challenge is received, heard or believed is another matter.
The gospel challenge
I have heard countless sermons where Paul’s speech in Athens (Acts 17:16-34) is used to say our gospel proclamation must build bridges to our hearers world. In this sermon, it is claimed that Paul is seeking a point of contact between the Athenians and Christian truth, and having found it in ‘the unknown God’ he gently leads the Athenians to truth.
As appealing as this may be, this is not what Acts 17 says. The Athens event opens with Paul greatly distressed, or to be in paroxysms, to be exasperated at the centre of his being. The apostle then goes on to reprimand them because God has made himself known so they have no excuse for worshipping an unknown God.
As in Athens, that the gospel challenges every person’s position and belief is universally true - whether the person is a believer or not. It challenges the unbeliever to accept the Lordship of Jesus, and challenges the believer to greater slavery of Christ. But in either case it challenges.
So I want to ask why is the challenge not clearly heard?
The fundamental answer is that it takes the sovereign, merciful work of the Holy Spirit to open a persons ears, mind, and heart. This is why we constantly pray for others. But there are still things we can learn about communicating this truth.
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