I am continuing my sermon series on Acts and this Sunday I am in Acts 8 and Paul’s sermon to the philosophers in Athens. In researching on the speeches in Acts, I found an article by Wm. Barclay very helpful. (Thanks Colin Adams!)
I was unaware that we only have three evangelistic sermons from Paul. We have sermons to churches, but only the summary of three sermons to non-believers by Paul.
But the most cursory look at those three sermons show how very, very differently Paul crafted the sermons. Listen (in the words of William Barclay) as to the most basic of those differences.
- Pisidian Antioch– preaching in a synagogue to Jews, to proselytes and to God-fearers. He therefore began in Jewish history, and used the Old Testament as an arsenal of prooftexts to prove his case.
- Athens-In Athens he began from local religious worship, and he quoted from the Greek poets (Acts 17:28).
- Lystra-In Lystra he was out in the wilds. Certainly no one there would know anything about Jewish history or Jewish scriptures. Lystra had not the widely disseminated culture of Athens, and there was no point in quoting the Greek poets. He therefore started straight from nature, from the sun and the wind and the rain and the growing things. In his missionary approach Paul had no set scheme and formula; his approach was completely flexible. He began where his audience was.
Again, all that this really does is reinforce the importance of exegeting the culture where one is preaching.