It would be marvelous if everyone who hears the Gospel turns to Jesus through faith and repentance. I am almost finished reading a book called “Glory Road” which was compiled and edited by Anthony J. Carter. It is about the journey of 10 “African-Americans” into Reformed Christianity. Each of the 10 writes a chapter explaining their journey from outright pagan or part of what they called the Black African-American Christian movement. We have seen movies set in such contexts where the singing is largely the choir, the preaching is filled with cliques and style, with loud repetition and congregational responses of hearty “amens” or “praise the Lord” or “hallelujah” rather often. One would think that such Churches had many true believers within.
Just about every one of them lives at Church. They attend all the functions, gatherings, meals, practices, youth and children’s ministries … yet, the confession of these men journeying from there into the Reformed Faith say the “gospel” preached in those Churches is not the Gospel at all. Of the 10 men, I have met one personally (some years ago), yet each one’s story strikes of the same similarity when speaking about what was preached in their previous Church, irrespective of the denomination. One or two of them wrote that their thoughts about the Reformed Church was “whites only” … and they were more than skeptical about what happened there. Interestingly, once grabbed by Reformed Doctrine and Theology, they realized that the Church ought to be a place where God was central and not man; where every sermon pointed to Jesus and where each service was to be for the glory of God. They came to see the Reformed Faith (Calvinism) as totally Biblical where Arminianism was decidedly not Biblical.
(Calvinism teaches that God chose a people before creation [see Ephesians] to be His holy and blameless people and that in the history of this world, they in their time zone would heard the Gospel, the Holy Spirit will convince them of its truth, give them new birth and they shall remain saved, from conversion, through death and forever. Once the Spirit gives the new birth, there are no spiritual abortions taking place. Arminianism teaches that man can decide for Jesus or reject Jesus … and if he decides to follow Jesus he can lose his salvation. I am proudly a Calvinist, as this persuasion is Biblical).
Maybe we could take a few lessons from these men in our Churches. The reason for this lengthy introduction is because, although the Reformed Faith is huge, with many different denominations, it is small in comparison to all the other “Christian Options” out there. We even see this after Paul’s defense of the Christian God and faith in Acts 17, before the Meeting of the Areopagus.:
Ac 17:32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.
There are four things that happened …
1) Mocking the Gospel Message.
Ac 17:32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered.
Everything went well until Paul said:
Ac 17:31 He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.
As soon as Jesus’ resurrection was mentioned they started to jeer at him, mocking what he said. Remember who these people were. They were:
Ac 17:18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers.
The Epicureans might have believed in the immortality of the soul … but the resurrection was another matter. You see, both the Epicureans and the Stoics knew what their god Apollo is credited as denying the resurrection on the occasion when the Areopagus was founded by the so called patron goddess, Athene. He is supposed to have said … “Once a man dies and the earth drinks up his blood, there is no resurrection (anastasis – resurrection)”. Naturally we don’t believe in such mythology, but these philosophers were steeped in it. Further, to hear of a judgment was another full frontal attack because it would call for holy living and their morals at best were debauched. This response is so similar to the age we live in. People have been groomed by various religions and their beliefs, by various Christian Churches and their beliefs [like those rejecting the Calvinistic teaching which is fully Biblical] and others being taught through their school career into tertiary education that evolution is truth and fact … it is no wonder why so many reject the Gospel Message. Reformed Churches need to teach doctrine to children and adults alike because when we don’t, the secular world will convince them of things that are anti-Biblical.
2) Interest in the Gospel.
Ac 17:32 but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.”
Before we get excited about their interest we need to remember these were men who spent their time listening to and debating the latest ideas. Their interest was not the Gospel Message, it was all about philosophy. As a new Christian I visited a man who was ill in bed for a lengthy period of time. His wife came to Church but he never did. He loved to talk about the Bible and the Christian Faith … and he would debate me … and at first I thought he was interested and seeking to know more about Jesus until I realized this engagement was nothing more than entertainment to him. We need to be aware of such people and limit our engagements because the time given to them could well be the devil keeping us away from those who will respond to the Gospel.
3) Departing the meeting.
Ac 17:33 At that, Paul left the Council.
Unlike other cities, Paul was able to walk away freely from this meeting even though some jeered at him and his message. Think backwards … he treated them with decency and respect, even using poems from their culture. He never trampled on their religion. He only preached the Gospel. This is a lesson we need to learn. We reject other religions and their gods but we don’t condemn the people or their religious beliefs … rather we just proclaim the risen Jesus Christ.
4) Some converts. As I started off I mentioned that few seem to follow the Biblical Gospel and Faith. Although the majority Paul spoke to rejected the Gospel, some believed!
Ac 17:34 A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.
Some men and possibly a few women followed Paul’s teaching and were converted to Jesus. We only hear of Dionysius and Damaris here. They are not mentioned again, but that does not mean they were not true converts. No Church seems to have been planted, possibly because the numbers were too few. That been said … Paul’s efforts in apologetics … the defense of the Christian Faith harvested a few souls for the Lord Jesus. We must never be disappointed when our Gospel efforts yield little fruit. If we seek to win one soul at a time and integrate them into a solid, Bible-believing Church, God will be pleased with us. Did Jesus not say … go after the one?
Father, give us courage to pray for and work with one soul to win them for Jesus and see them discipled in the Word of God. Amen.