Bearing Witness to the Risen Christ (Part 8)
This week we offer some concluding principles from Acts 24 regarding how Christians can share Christ with their neighbors and friends.
In Acts 24, we read about Paul’s trial before Felix, the governor of Caesarea. After Paul’s trial, Felix kept him in jail for two years (for political reasons), and he would often send for Paul and have conversations with him. In the first of those conversations, Paul evidently rebuked Felix and his wife for sexual immorality, and we learned this principle: When sharing the good news about Jesus, it is entirely appropriate and necessary to talk about sin.
We can learn other things from this passage. For example, Acts 24:25 says that Paul “reasoned” with Felix when he talked with him. This word “reasoned” implies a back-and-forth kind of exchange—not a monologue, but a dialogue. And this suggests another principle to us: When talking with people whom you have real relationships with, who have real questions and real barriers to faith in Christ, the “dialogue” model of evangelism is usually most effective. Think gospel conversations, not gospel presentations.
Next, in Acts 24:26, we are given a little bit of insight into Felix’s motives for talking with Paul: apparently he thought Paul had access to large sums of money and might try to buy his way out of jail. Of course, he did nothing of the sort—but this didn’t stop Paul from talking with him whenever Felix called for him. And here we have yet another principle to guide us: Sometimes people have mixed motives for attending a worship service (or coming to a small group, or attending a Bible study, or talking with you about Jesus)—but God is not limited by their impure motives. I have a friend who attended a Christian conference simply because a girl he liked was going, and during the sermon he gave his life to Jesus. So don’t worry about people’s mixed motives for coming to hear about Jesus. Just rejoice that they are hearing!
Finally, as Acts 24 ends we learn that Felix’s occasional conversations with Paul were stretched out over two years. Two years! Think about how much patience this would have required on Paul’s part. This leads us to our final principle from Acts 24: Take the long-term approach with people, and assume that God will give you multiple opportunities with those you witness to. A person’s journey to faith in Christ is usually long and complex, punctuated by significant conversations and realizations along the way. Most people require multiple exposures to the gospel before they understand it, let alone believe in it. Be patient and commit to people for the long haul. You don’t have to let loose with a full gospel presentation within the first five minutes of meeting someone. Commit to the relationship, and trust that God will give you opportunities to talk about Jesus.