Help Others to Accept the Kingdom Message
“Agrippa said to Paul: ‘In a short time you would persuade me to become a Christian.’”—ACTS 26:28.
1, 2. How did the apostle Paul come to appear before Governor Festus and King Herod Agrippa II?
AT CAESAREA in 58 C.E., Roman Governor Porcius Festus was visited by King Herod Agrippa II and his sister Bernice. At the invitation of Governor Festus, they came from Jerusalem. The next day, “with much pompous show,” they “entered into the audience chamber together with military commanders as well as men of eminence in the city.” At the command of Festus, the Christian apostle Paul was brought into their presence. How did it come about that this follower of Jesus Christ stood before the judgment seat of Governor Festus?—Acts 25:13-23.
2 What Festus told his guests provides an answer to that question. He said: “King Agrippa and all you men who are present with us, you are beholding this man concerning whom all the multitude of the Jews together have applied to me both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. But I perceived he had committed nothing deserving of death. So when this man himself appealed to the August One, I decided to send him. But concerning him I have nothing certain to write to my Lord. Therefore I brought him forth before you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, in order that, after the judicial examination has taken place, I might get something to write. For it seems unreasonable to me to send a prisoner and not also to signify the charges against him.”—Acts 25:24-27.
3. Why did religious leaders bring charges against Paul?
3 The words of Festus indicate that Paul faced trumped-up charges of sedition—a crime that carried the death penalty. (Acts 25:11) However, Paul was innocent. The charges stemmed from the jealousy of religious leaders in Jerusalem. They opposed Paul’s work as a Kingdom proclaimer and deeply resented that he helped others to become followers of Jesus Christ. Under heavy guard, Paul was brought from Jerusalem to the seaport city of Caesarea, where he appealed to Caesar. From there he would be taken to Rome.
4. What surprising statement did King Agrippa utter?
4 Imagine Paul in the governor’s palace before a group that includes the ruler of an important part of the Roman Empire. King Agrippa turns to Paul and says: “You are permitted to speak.” As words flow from Paul’s mouth, an extraordinary thing happens. What Paul says begins to affect the king. Indeed, King Agrippa says: “In a short time you would persuade me to become a Christian.”—Acts 26:1-28.
5. Why were Paul’s words to Agrippa so effective?
5 Just think! As a result of Paul’s skillful defense, a ruler was affected by the penetrating power of God’s Word. (Hebrews 4:12) What was it about Paul’s defense that was so effective? And what can we learn from Paul that can help us in our disciple-making work? If we analyze his defense, two main elements clearly stand out: (1) Paul was persuasive in his presentation. (2) He employed his knowledge of God’s Word skillfully, even as an artisan uses a tool effectively.
Use the Art of Persuasion
6, 7. (a) As used in the Bible, what does “persuasion” mean? (b) What role does persuasion play in helping others to accept a Bible teaching?
6 In the book of Acts, Greek terms for persuasion are repeatedly used in association with Paul. What meaning does this have as far as our disciple-making work is concerned?
7 In the original language of the Christian Greek Scriptures, “persuade” means to “win over” or bring about “a change of mind by the influence of reason or moral considerations,” states Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Examining the root meaning provides further enlightenment. It conveys the idea of trust. Therefore if you persuade a person to accept a Bible teaching, you have won over his trust, so that he puts faith in the truthfulness of that teaching. Obviously, it is not enough to tell a person what the Bible says in order for him to believe it and act upon it. Your listener must be convinced that what you say is true, whether that individual is a child, a neighbor, a work associate, a schoolmate, or a relative.—2 Timothy 3:14, 15.
8. What is involved in convincing a person of a Scriptural truth?
8 How can you convince a person that what you proclaim from God’s Word is the truth? By means of logical reasoning, sound argument, and earnest entreaty, Paul endeavored to bring about a change of mind in individuals to whom he spoke.* Rather than merely declaring that something is true, therefore, you need to supply satisfying evidence to support your statement. How may this be done? Be sure that your statement is based squarely on God’s Word and not on personal opinion. Also, use corroborative evidence to back up your heartfelt Scriptural statements. (Proverbs 16:23) If you point out that obedient mankind will enjoy life in a paradise earth, for instance, back that statement up with a Scriptural reference, such as Luke 23:43 or Isaiah 65:21-25. How can you corroborate your Scriptural point? You may use examples from your listener’s experience. You might remind him of the simple and cost-free pleasures derived from the beauty of a sunset, the sweet smell of a flower, the savory taste of a fruit, or the joy of watching a mother bird feed her young. Help him to see that such pleasures are evidence that the Creator wants us to enjoy life on earth.—Ecclesiastes 3:11, 12.
9. How can we show reasonableness in our preaching work?
9 When trying to persuade a person to accept a certain Bible teaching, be careful that your enthusiasm does not cause you to sound unreasonable, thus closing your listener’s mind and heart. The Ministry School book gives this word of caution: “A blunt statement of truth that exposes as false a cherished belief of another person, even when buttressed with the recitation of a long list of Scripture texts, is generally not well received. For example, if popular celebrations are simply denounced as being of pagan origin, this may not change how other people feel about them. A reasoning approach is usually more successful.” Why make a concerted effort to be reasonable? The textbook says: “A reasoning manner encourages discussion, gives people something to think about later, and leaves the way open for future conversations. It can be powerfully persuasive.”—Colossians 4:6.
Persuasion That Appeals to the Heart
10. In what manner did Paul introduce his defense before Agrippa?
10 Let us now take a closer look at Paul’s words of defense in Acts chapter 26. Notice how he began his discourse. To introduce his subject, Paul found a legitimate basis on which to commend Agrippa, even though the king was in a scandalous relationship with his sister Bernice. Paul said: “Concerning all the things of which I am accused by Jews, King Agrippa, I count myself happy that it is before you I am to make my defense this day, especially as you are expert on all the customs as well as the controversies among Jews. Therefore I beg you to hear me patiently.”—Acts 26:2, 3.
11. How did Paul’s words to Agrippa demonstrate respect, and what benefit resulted?
11 Did you notice that Paul acknowledged Agrippa’s high office by addressing him by his title, King? This showed respect, and by his wise choice of words, Paul accorded Agrippa honor. (1 Peter 2:17) The apostle recognized Agrippa as an expert on the complex customs and laws of his Jewish subjects and said that he was happy that he could make his defense before such a well-informed ruler. Paul, a Christian, did not act as if he felt superior to Agrippa, who was not a Christian. (Philippians 2:3) Rather, Paul begged the king to hear him patiently. Thus, Paul created an atmosphere in which Agrippa, as well as the other listeners, would be more likely to accept what he was about to present. He was laying a foundation, a common ground on which to build his arguments.
12. In the Kingdom proclamation work, how can we appeal to the heart of our listeners?
12 Like Paul before Agrippa, from the introduction to the conclusion of our presentation of the Kingdom message, let us make an appeal to the heart. We can do this by displaying sincere respect for the person to whom we are preaching and by showing genuine interest in his or her particular background and thinking.—1 Corinthians 9:20-23.
Use God’s Word Skillfully
13. How can you, like Paul, motivate your listeners?
13 Paul desired to motivate his listeners to act upon the good news. (1 Thessalonians 1:5-7) To that end, he appealed to their figurative heart, the seat of motivation. Returning to Paul’s defense before Agrippa, notice how Paul ‘handled God’s word aright’ by referring to things stated by Moses and the prophets.—2 Timothy 2:15.
14. Explain how Paul used persuasion when before Agrippa.
14 Paul knew that Agrippa was nominally a Jew. Appealing to Agrippa’s knowledge of Judaism, Paul reasoned that his preaching really involved “saying nothing except things the Prophets as well as Moses stated were going to take place” regarding the Messiah’s death and resurrection. (Acts 26:22, 23) Addressing Agrippa directly, Paul asked: “Do you, King Agrippa, believe the Prophets?” Agrippa faced a dilemma. If he said that he rejected the prophets, his reputation as a Jewish believer would be ruined. But if he concurred with Paul’s reasoning, he would be taking a position of public agreement with the apostle and would risk being called a Christian. Paul wisely answered his own question, saying: “I know you believe.” How did Agrippa’s heart move him to answer? He responded: “In a short time you would persuade me to become a Christian.” (Acts 26:27, 28) Although Agrippa did not become a Christian, Paul evidently affected his heart to some extent with his message.—Hebrews 4:12.
15. How was Paul able to start a congregation in Thessalonica?
15 Have you noticed that Paul’s presentation of the good news consisted of both proclamation and persuasion? Because Paul used that approach as he ‘handled the word of God aright,’ some who heard him turned from being mere listeners to becoming believers. This was the case in Thessalonica, where Paul sought out Jews and God-fearing Gentiles at the synagogue. The account at Acts 17:2-4 says: “According to Paul’s custom he went inside to them, and for three sabbaths he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving by references that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead . . . As a result some of them became believers.” Paul was persuasive. He reasoned, explained, and proved by means of the Scriptures that Jesus was the long-promised Messiah. The result? A congregation of believers was established.
16. How can you find greater enjoyment in proclaiming the Kingdom?
16 Can you become more adept in the art of persuasion when explaining God’s Word? If so, you will find more personal fulfillment and enjoyment in your work of preaching and teaching people about God’s Kingdom. This has been the experience of publishers of the good news who have applied suggestions to use the Bible more in the preaching work.
17. To show how using the Bible in our ministry is beneficial, relate a personal experience or give the essence of the one in this paragraph.
17 For example, a traveling overseer of Jehovah’s Witnesses wrote: “Quite a number of brothers and sisters are now carrying a Bible in their hand when they witness from door to door. This has helped the publishers to read a scripture to many of the people with whom they come in contact. It has helped both the householder and the publisher to associate the Bible, not just magazines and books, with our ministry.” Of course, whether we have the Bible visible when we engage in the preaching activity depends on various factors, including local customs. Nevertheless, we should want to have a reputation for skillful use of God’s Word to persuade others to accept the Kingdom message.
Have God’s View of the Ministry
18, 19. (a) How does God regard our ministry, and why should we cultivate his viewpoint? (b) What will help us to make successful return visits? (See the box entitled “How to Be Successful in Making Return Visits,” on page 16.)
18 Another way to reach the heart of our listeners involves seeing the ministry from God’s standpoint and being patient. God’s will is that all sorts of men “come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3, 4) Is that not our desire? Jehovah is also patient, and his patience affords opportunities for many to attain to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) Thus, when we find someone who is willing to lend a hearing ear to the Kingdom message, it may be necessary to call again and again in order to cultivate that interest. It takes time and patience to watch the seeds of truth grow. (1 Corinthians 3:6) The accompanying box entitled “How to Be Successful in Making Return Visits” offers suggestions for developing such interest. Remember, people’s lives—their problems and situations—are constantly changing. It may take many attempts to find them at home, but it is worth the effort. We want to give them an opportunity to hear God’s message of salvation. Therefore, pray to Jehovah God for the wisdom to develop your skills of persuasion in your work of helping others to accept the Kingdom message.
19 Once a person is found who desires to hear more of the Kingdom message, what else can we as Christian workers do? Our next article offers help.
For more information on persuasion, see studies 48 and 49 of the book Benefit From Theocratic Ministry School Education, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Do You Recall?
• What made Paul’s defense before King Agrippa effective?
• How can our message appeal to the heart?
• What will help us to use God’s Word effectively in reaching the heart?
• How can we view the ministry from God’s standpoint?
[Box/Pictures on page 16]
How to Be Successful in Making Return Visits
• Show a sincere personal interest in people.
• Select an appealing Bible subject to discuss.
• Lay the groundwork for each successive visit.
• Keep thinking about the person after you leave.
• Return soon, perhaps in a day or two, in order to follow up the interest.
• Keep in mind that your objective is to start a home Bible study.
• Pray that Jehovah will make the interest grow.
[Picture on page 15]
Paul used persuasion when he was before Governor Festus and King Agrippa