We have several detailed accounts of Paul preaching the Gospel. It is very interesting to see how different his message is when he is preaching to pagan Gentiles as compared with his message to Jews.
The two occasions are:
- Acts 14:8-20 at Lystra
- Acts 17:16-34 at Athens
It is quite remarkable how similar these two sermons are. I have laid the two passages out in parallel here: Paul preaching to pagan Gentiles--Acts 14 and 17 laid out in parallel.
Here are some observations:
- Both contexts describe an idolatry that is excessive to the point of being ridiculous
- There is no reference to the Old Testament Scriptures at all
- Paul particularly addresses their context and meets them where they are
- Both the Lystrans and the Athenians mis-interpreted Paul’s statements by interpreting them within their own framework
- To quote Cornelius Van-Til:
We must surely do what Paul did, tear our garment when men would weave our message into the systems of thought which men have themselves devised. We must set the message of the cross into the framework into which Paul set it... the doctrines of creation, providence and the consummation of history in the final judgement.
- One of Paul’s main concerns is to distinguish himself radically from this conception and to show that the God he proclaims is utterly outside their own framework.
- In both cases it was the idolatry that provided a point of contact for Paul.
- In both cases, Paul appeals to two witnesses to substantiate his preaching. They are the same in each case and are:
- the creative work of God,
- his providential care.
- How does Paul’s example help us in our own efforts to preach the Gospel to a largely pagan society? I believe Paul is very helpful to us.
Full notes and audio are here: The Gospel Pt3--Presenting the Gospel to Pagans