evangelizing without Christ?06-05-2015 - Posted by Andre Piet
When Paul with his assistant Barnabas arrived in Lystra (Acts 14:8-20), the people, there, thought them to be gods in human form, and they even tried to make sacrifices to them. Baffled, Paul called them to order and said:
Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: -Acts 14:15 (KJV)-
It is unfortunate that a number of translations have Paul say that he and Barnabas preached to them something. That is far too meager and neutral. Paul uses the term ‘evangelizing’, i.e. he tells them a good news message. And what is that good news message? They were directed to turn away from ‘these vain activities” (lit. “these senseless things”) to “the living God.” Weak, limited gods was to give way to the One, who really is GOD and who creates and forms everything and “gives to everyone life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25). For the people of Lystra and later on in Athens was this God “the unknown God”. And for many, He still is.
The difference between one God or many gods is not quantitative but qualitative. God is GOD (Rom.1:21), because He is the only One and holds everything in His hand. “Out of Him, through Him and to Him are all things…” (Rom.11:36). Should He have to share His deity, then, by definition, He does not determine everything; because what the one god does, would again be undone by the other god. Then there is also no guarantee of a happy ending, “end good, all good”. Lacking this, is a pagan problem! Even Christianity, early in its church history, was derailed by deviating from the most important truth of Scripture, namely, there is but one GOD (Mark 12:28-32; 1Tim.2:5). The doctrine of the trinity is not only a “word of human wisdom”, it is polytheism in a disguised form. It is the denial of the truth that there is “one God, the Father” (1Cor.8:6). Besides, the doctrine of ‘free will’ is a construction which means to say that God does not determine everything.
It is striking that, although Paul in Lystra evangelizes, he does not speak about the Son of God. He does not refer to the Scriptures. He does not mention the name of Christ, nor speaks about the cross, or the grave, neither about the resurrection. How is that possible? Did not Paul, elsewhere, emphasize the facts of the death, the burial and the resurrection of Christ (“according to the Scriptures?”), as being the ABC of the Evangel (1Cor.15:3-4)? How then, can he be silent about them in Lystra and to some extent, also in Athens? The answer is: When Paul came into the synagogue, he did not have to tell them about the one God, because the people, there, already knew that, for ‘the Shema’ belongs to the heart of the Jewish faith. Therefore, Paul coming into the synagogue, opened the Scriptures and from out of them showed that Jesus is the Christ. But in Lystra and Athens, the situation was quite different. How could Paul, there, speak about the Son of God, when they did not even know who God is? Why should he invoke the Scriptures, which they did not know, either?
What Paul did in Lystra and later on in Athens, is very instructive for us to understand. For also in the so-called ‘Christian West’, in increasing measure, is missing even the most basic knowledge of Scripture. What to do then? Do as Paul. Before you begin to speak about the Son of God and about other Biblical truths, first make clear that there is only one GOD, who determines all and that with Him never anything goes wrong. That is the basis. Call it pre-evangelism, if you prefer, but it is the seedbed for the Good News Message concerning the resurrected Christ, who gave Himself a ransom for all.