Mission to the Unreached: Part1

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(Acts17, Galatians 3, 1 Corinthians 2)
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 10

Mission to the Unreached: Part 1

(Acts 17, Galatians 3, 1 Corinthians 2)

Copr. 2023, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: http://www.GoBible.org. Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.

Introduction: Are you “provoked” by the sinful attitudes of others? Acts 17:16 tells us that Paul’s spirit was “provoked” by a “city full of idols.” Historically, an idol is something that you rely upon to give you special favors, help you with problems, or defend you from enemies. What would that be in our modern world? How about the government? What about religious beliefs that are not based on Jesus? What about philosophies of life that some rely on to live? If we have a heart for those who are missing the joy of belief in Jesus, what is the best way to give them the good news of the gospel? Let’s plunge into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn!

  1. Athens’Gods
    1. Read Acts 17:16-17. Paul discovered that Athens was full of idols. How did he respond? (He shared the gospel in the synagogue with the Jews and he shared in the marketplace.)
      1. If you wanted to follow Paul’s example, what would be a modern equivalent to the synagogue? (Sharing with religious people who believe some of the truth of the Bible, but not the truth about Jesus.)
        1. Should the Jews have been part of idol worship? (Read Exodus 20:1-5. The Jews were absolutely prohibited from worshiping idols. It was part of the Ten Commandments.)
        2. Does this help us to understand the modern equivalent to Paul’s sharing in the synagogue? (Yes. Just because a church is supposed to believe in Jesus does not mean the members have a proper understanding.)
    2. Read Galatians 3:10-11. Let’s consider your church. How many say that their salvation turns on faith in Jesus only and not their obedience to the law? (Probably they will all say that.)
      1. How many actually believe that?
      2. How many believe that their obedience to the law makes them more likely to be saved than other members?
      3. How many of them argue against “cheap grace” and claim that obedience to the law is necessary to be saved?
      4. If your salvation depends to any degree on obedience to God (to His law), are you an idol worshiper? (Yes! This is how we have idol worshipers in our congregation who have no idea of their danger. Just the opposite, they believe they are better Christians than the rest.)
    3. Let’s get back to Paul, Athens, and the Areopagus. Read Acts 17:21. Do you know someone like this? Someone who spends all their time hearing or telling something new?
      1. How much time do you spend looking at your smart phone to read (or tell about) something new?
  2. Evangelism in Athens
    1. Read Acts 17:22-23. What two important steps has Paul taken to begin talking with pagans about the gospel? (First, he shows up where people are looking for something new. Second, he uses their system of gods to explain the true God.)
      1. Compare this with how you have traditionally done evangelism. Is this like going door-to-door offering Bible studies? (It is nothing like that. First, the people in their homes have not indicated an interest in hearing what you have to say. Second, you are at their home, this is not where they want to meet strangers.)
      2. How does what Paul is doing compare with mailing cards inviting people to a meeting? (Mail is the traditional way people receive notices about things in which they might be interested. If they come to your meeting, then they have agreed to hear something new.)
        1. How is a mailer about your meeting different? (How many people are looking for new ideas in their mail box? The Athenians at the Areopagus were looking for new ideas. That was the point of being there.)
      3. What do we have today that most closely matches what Paul was doing at the Areopagus? (The Internet! People surf the Internet to learn new things. They do not feel that their privacy has been invaded and they are not pressured to do something.)
        1. You are likely reading this lesson on the Internet. What could you or your church do to more closely replicate what Paul is doing? (Consider whether there is an Internet web site that hosts new religious ideas?)
        2. How does the Internet fail in replicating what Paul is doing? (Paul was face to face with his listeners.)
          1. Would Zoom meetings fix that problem?
          2. Have you ever heard of an evangelistic meeting over Zoom (or something similar) in which those in the meeting could ask questions or challenge your statements?
    2. In Acts 17:24-31 Paul presents the gospel to the Athenians. We will get back to his message later. Read Acts 17:32-34. What was the reaction of the crowd? (Some mocked, some considered it, and some believed.)
      1. Would you be ready for such a reaction if you held an Internet Zoom evangelistic meeting?
  3. Athens Regrets?
    1. Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-4. Some argue that Paul is confessing that his evangelistic approach in Athens was not the best. They base this on his statement that he decided against using “lofty speech or wisdom,” and instead determined to know nothing “except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” What do you think?
    2. Let’s do what I promised and go back and consider Paul’s Athens’ arguments. Read Acts 17:22. Paul begins by complimenting his pagan listeners. Should we do that too?
    3. Read Acts 17:23. What is Paul’s strategy here? (He fits the gospel into their current system of religious beliefs.)
      1. How would you do that today with pagans - especially young pagans? (The religious belief of young people is to refrain from discrimination on any basis. Or at least that is what they claim. The Bible’s view on individual freedom forms the basis for Western culture. We could start there.)
    4. Read Acts 17:24-25. How has Paul changed gears in his presentation? (He now argues that his God is greater than their views on gods.)
    5. Read Acts 17:26-29. Is Paul now condemning the views of his listeners? (He quotes their poets, but he says all of these idols cannot begin to help us to correctly view the great God of Heaven.)
      1. Look again at verses 26-29 and tell me what foundational truth is most in contest by modern pagans? (Creation. Paul says God created humans. We were made in His image. How could we reasonably believe that we descended from rock, gold, or silver?)
    6. Read Acts 17:30-31. What has happened to the opening compliment? (Paul now tells them because of their limited view of God they need to repent. They need to change their views.)
      1. What is the motive to accept Paul’s argument? (Judgment is coming. There is a reason to take this seriously.)
    7. Look again at Acts 17:31. What is Paul asking his listeners to believe? (In Jesus, and that he rose from the dead.)
      1. Does this sound like Paul is arguing Jesus Christ and Him crucified? (I think so! That is why I think the Bible scholars who argue that Paul reconsidered his Athens’ approach are wrong.)
      2. If Paul argued for Jesus and “Him crucified” in Athens, but tailored his message to his audience, what does that teach us about our evangelistic efforts? (Our gospel message should remain the same. What should change is the method for sharing the gospel with those around us.)
    8. Friend, will you take Paul’s outreach to heart? Will you do your best to share the gospel in the most effective way? Why not ask the Holy Spirit to further guide your mind to that goal?
  4. Next week: Mission to the Unreached Part II.