The Evangelistic Zeal of Paul: Acts 17:16-31
From the outset of Paul’s life, he preached about Christ and Him being crucified. He was on fire for Christ from the first missionary journey to his last. One could say that Paul never lost his zeal and conviction for the lost. In this article, we will examine Paul’s zeal and approach to sharing the Gospel.
He was confident. Paul was confident in the Gospel message. He knew about the saving power of the Gospel. He believed with all his heart that the Gospel had the power to convert any soul (Romans 1:16). As the apostle journeyed around Asia preaching and teaching, he never once put confidence in himself or his abilities; instead, his confidence and conviction were in the Gospel. In Acts 17:13 – 15, Paul finds himself in Athens. Acts 17:16 – 21 As Paul stood waiting for Silas and Timothy to arrive, his spirit was stirred, seeing how idols governed Athens.
The city of Athens loved idols and philosophy. When it came to idols, one ancient writer during this time mentioned that there were 30,000 gods in Athens. These weren’t Greek samples of art. Men and women worshiped these idols daily. Petronius, one of the ancient historians, said it was easier to find a god in Athens than a man! So here you have Paul surrounded by individuals proud of their Greek philosophies and idols.
In the midst of all this, Paul stood tall in Athens. He stood in the center of the council of Areopagus, known as “Ares’ Rock.” Notice the confidence Paul had in the Gospel in Athens. In verse 17, he was reasoning in the synagogue with the people daily– preaching about Jesus and the resurrection. Yet, he went on to deliver a powerful message to those on Mars Hill with the hope of someone believing in the Gospel.
In verses 32 – 34, Luke records that when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, while others said, “we shall hear you again concerning this.” In other words, tell us more about Jesus. Tell us more about the Gospel. Finally, with Paul putting his confidence in the Gospel message, a few men and women believed (v.34). The word “believed” in verse 34 means to have a conviction, full of joyful trust, that Jesus is the Messiah. The divinely appointed author of eternal salvation in the Kingdom of God – conjoined with obedience to Christ.
When looking at Acts 17:16 – 31, we can easily conclude that Paul had confidence in the Gospel. The reason Paul stood tall in Athens is that he had the Power of God for salvation. Therefore, he could confidently preach about Jesus and Him being crucified, and a few people believed and obeyed because of his boldness. They turned from idols to the True and Living God. Only the Gospel can do that. Where is our confidence today? If we desire to share Christ, we must be confident in the message of Jesus Christ.
He was concerned. When you examine Paul’s life it can be determined that the driving force behind his evangelism was love for the unbelieving world. After Ananias restored Saul’s sight and baptized him, Paul immediately shared the Gospel. In Acts 9:1 – 2, Paul entered Damascus with a mandate issued by the High Priest to seek out and arrest any followers of Jesus; but that didn’t happen; instead of arresting followers of Christ, he became one.
The hate that resided in Paul’s heart toward Christians turned into love. You see His heart for the lost in every missionary journey. Paul’s heart and mind were set on helping the lost see Christ. He was focused on helping the lost find freedom in Christ. So, he traveled miles to share the good news. It has been said that throughout his ministry, he traveled more than 10,000 miles to share the Gospel. He went on three missionary journeys to convert people to Christ.
Paul had something essential for evangelism: He carried a burden for those who did not know Jesus Christ. He had a deep concern for the lost. Go back to Acts 17:16 – 34. When Paul entered Athens, he didn’t look at the lost and say, “I’m sure they aren’t interested.” No! He saw their idols, recognized their need for Jesus, and was convicted to share with them, Christ.
How do you feel when you come across people who are lost? Is there a sense of compassion? Are you compelled to share Christ? Paul’s heart for the lost was evident in his actions. To cultivate a genuine heart for the lost, we must do two things: pray and share. Pray for the lost and share with them, Jesus Christ.
Lastly, Paul was committed. His commitment and determination should be in the hearts of every Christian. Paul had great zeal for sharing the Gospel. He extensively engaged in all kinds of evangelistic endeavors. He was committed to teaching Christ in synagogues, with individuals, in public halls, homes, and through letters. Paul made evangelism a priority in his life. It was so much of a priority that nothing or no one could discourage him from taking the Gospel to the world.
At the end of Paul’s first missionary journey, he experienced opposition from the Jews. In Acts 14:19 – 22, “the next day he went away to Derbe and preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples.” Being severely injured did not stop Paul from making disciples. Paul’s commitment to Christ drove him to set the world on fire with the Gospel. His commitment to Christ motivated him to speak boldly before those in Athens. His commitment to Christ led him to proclaim the truth about Jesus and His resurrection while on trial in Acts 24 & 26.
Paul had a profound commitment to Christ. His entire evangelistic ministry flowed from the depths of a servant spirit. He was a bondslave for Jesus Christ and bondservant to his agenda for the world. Paul poured his heart and soul into sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Where is our commitment today? Are we truly committed to helping the lost?
“But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:8 – 9).