Develop Skill in Reasoning With Others
1. What Bible account are we going to examine, and why?
1 The apostle Paul’s discourse at a synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, as recorded at Acts 13:16-41, offers a fine example of how to reason with others. Paul took into consideration the background and thinking of his listeners and adapted his presentation of the good news accordingly. As we examine this account, let us consider how we can do the same in our ministry.
2. What do we learn from the way Paul began his discourse?
2 Seek Common Ground: Although Paul’s message centered on the key role of Jesus in the outworking of God’s purpose, Paul did not begin his discourse by stating that point. Rather, he spoke about something that he shared in common with his predominantly Jewish audience—the history of the Jewish people. (Acts 13:16-22) In like manner, we will be more effective in reaching others if we seek to find common ground with them. This may require that we draw them out with tactful questions and listen carefully in order to discern what is truly important to them.
3. What made it difficult for Paul’s listeners to accept that Jesus was the promised Messiah?
3 In discussing the history of the Jews, Paul reminded his listeners of God’s promise to raise up a Savior from the line of David. Many Jews, however, were awaiting a military hero who would throw off the yoke of Roman domination and elevate the Jewish nation above all others. They were no doubt aware that Jesus had been rejected by the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem, handed over to the Roman authorities, and put to death. How could Paul convince them that this One was the promised Messiah?
4. How did Paul skillfully reason with his Jewish audience?
4 Adapt Your Approach: Knowing the thinking of his listeners, Paul used the Scriptures to reason with them on the basis of things they had already accepted. For example, he introduced Jesus as the offspring of David and as the one identified by John the Baptizer, who was widely viewed as a prophet of God. (Acts 13:23-25) Paul pointed out that in rejecting Jesus and condemning him to death, the religious leaders had “fulfilled the things voiced by the Prophets.” (Acts 13:26-28) Further, he explained that there were eyewitnesses that Jesus had been raised from the dead, and he drew attention to familiar Scriptural passages that had been fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus.—Acts 13:29-37.
5. (a) How did Paul adapt his approach when speaking to a Greek audience? (b) How can we imitate Paul’s example when witnessing in the local territory?
5 On the other hand, when addressing a Greek audience at the Areopagus in Athens, Paul used a different approach. (Acts 17:22-31) Yet, he presented the same basic message, and in both instances his efforts brought good results. (Acts 13:42, 43; 17:34) Similarly today, we will be more effective in our ministry if we seek to find common ground with our listeners and if we adapt our approach according to their background and thinking.