Be Like Paul
As according to Paul’s custom he went to them (Acts 17:26).
On his second missionary journey, after heeding the Macedonian call to go into Europe and preach the gospel, Paul made his way from Philippi through Amphipolis and Apollonia to Thessalonica. Luke tells us that according to Paul’s custom he went directly to the Jews, spending three consecutive Sabbath days, reasoning with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer, and rise again from the dead.
This idea of Messiah dying such a shameful death on a cross was scandalous to the Jews. ‘How could Messiah, who was to reclaim the glory of the Davidic reign, be executed as a common criminal? Impossible! The Greek word for reason is dialegeto which means to appeal to the mind with the intention of changing the will. In other words, this was not a mere intellectual exercise. This is made more clear when Luke quotes Paul as saying, ‘This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.’
The Jews were interested and many of the prominent women and God-fearing Gentiles believed Jesus to be the Christ. Their leaders became jealous and turned the crowd into a mob, seeking to kill Paul. He then took the gospel to those who would listen – the Gentiles, the unclean, wretched idolatrous sinners of the region. Many believed the gospel.
Two things are clear from Paul’s second missionary journey – wherever he went he faced severe persecution in the form of beatings and imprisonment, and many believed the gospel, calling on the name of the Lord to save them. Paul did not ‘survey the situation’ for several weeks in order to know his audience. He did not soft peddle the message. He later reminded them that his gospel did not come in word only but in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and with full conviction (1 Thess. 1:5). He also said that after he had been mistreated in Philippi he had the boldness in God to proclaim to them the gospel of God amidst much opposition, that he had a fond affection to impart to the Thessalonians, not only the gospel but also his very life because they had become dear to him (1 Thess. 2:1-8). He loved them and willingly offered up his life so that they might hear the gospel, turn from the their idols, and serve the true and living God. Consequently they willingly and eagerly took the gospel to the rest of the people around them. They were so successful that Paul told them he no longer needed to preach in that area because all had heard the Word of God through their efforts (1 Thess. 1:8-9).
Hubert Lindsay was born in 1914 in Georgia and moved to Birmingham, Alabama as a young man. He was converted to Christ at the age of fifteen and began preaching the gospel of grace. He became a powerful evangelistic, holiness preacher and preached alongside men like Billy Graham, Billy Sunday, Gypsy Smith, Bob Jones, Sr., Donald Grey Barnhouse, and Mordecai Ham. He memorized the entire New Testament and two-thirds of the Old Testament. A Jewish rabbi was converted through Lindsay’s ministry and spent fifteen years with him, teaching him the Old Testament with profound depth. His preaching resulted in at least thirteen Baptist churches being planted over the years. He wrote five books, preached for sixty years in fifty nations, and reports 3.5 million people called on the name of the Lord through his preaching. He was a bold, hell-fire preacher who called people out of their sin, warning them to flee the wrath of God and run to Jesus as the only means of deliverance. Many loved him. Others hated him. He was beaten numerous times by those who opposed him. Twice he became blind from the beatings, but God gave him back his sight. Another time he was shot and survived that too. A gang attacked him with a knife as he preached. His music leader was beheaded and a note was left saying, ‘You are next.’ By the mid 1960’s he was hearing of the radicals at the University of California at Berkeley and determined that he must preach to them. By then he was fifty years old. He stood amongst the radical Marxists, Hell’s Angels, Black Panthers, Hare Krishnas, Maoists, fornicators, homosexuals, and drug addicts and warned them to run to Jesus lest they end up in hell. He was beaten at least thirteen times by the radicals at Berkley. A Black Panther broke his jaw and while blood was flowing from his body, Lindsay said, ‘I will love you to the end.’1
If people are truly lost and on the road to destruction, if Jesus is the only way to the Father, if God’s appointed means of salvation is the preaching of the gospel, if we are debtors to God’s grace, and if you believe all this is true, then should we not take the gospel to the lost of our communities? Isn’t that what Paul did? Isn’t that what Hubert Lindsay did? Very few of us are evangelistic street preachers, and very few of us would have the courage and boldness to serve like these men, but can we at least learn from them? Shall we not ask ourselves the question – do I have that kind of zeal? Am I willing to be a fool for Jesus? If not, why not?
I am for all kinds of evangelistic outreach. There are times when more lengthy conversations need to take place, especially with those far away from God in various forms of scepticism, atheism, and agnosticism. But even then, when filled with the Spirit, we can speak powerfully and effectually into the lives of the sceptic. We ought to go right at them with the gospel – warning them, admonishing them, proclaiming to them that Jesus is the Christ, being so filled up with Jesus that he oozes from our pores. People typically criticize this kind of evangelism, but shouldn’t these critics encourage their brothers to go on with the work, even if they think it is foolish or unproductive? Shouldn’t we encourage all people who preach Jesus, in whatever way they do it?
What is missing in most of our evangelistic efforts today is an awareness that people are dead in their sins, unwilling and unable to hear the gospel. The gospel alone is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes. When our preaching comes in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with full conviction then something happens to the hearers. There is conviction of sin. Some bow before the preaching in humility, asking, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ while others hate it and seek to kill the propagator. Many in the Reformed community, while espousing the total inability of man to believe the gospel, nonetheless sound like Arminians. They seem to believe the lost person holds the ‘ace card’, the final say; that he has the ability to repent and believe. He clearly, however, has no such ability (Rom. 3:10ff). The only way for a sinner to be saved is for a profound conviction of his need to overwhelm him and this only comes through the Holy Spirit applying the law and gospel to the sinner’s conscience, bringing about regeneration which enables him to repent and believe the gospel. He must see his need or he will never truly come to Jesus. Paul knew this. So did Hubert Lindsay.
This truth, the total inability of man to believe the gospel, ought to inspire, not hinder evangelistic work. The doctrine of unconditional election, instead of thwarting evangelistic outreach, ought to motivate us more and more to engage in it, knowing that we are to keep on preaching, for God has many people in this city (Acts 18:9-10). Be like Paul.
- For more detail on Lindsay’s life go to www.stonethepreacher.com.
Rev. Allen M Baker is an evangelist with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Director of the Alabama Church Planting Network. His weekly devotional, ‘Forget None of His Benefits’, can be found here.
If you would like to respond to Pastor Baker, please contact him directly at email@example.com.
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