This is from my friend Kerry S. Doyal of Grace Bible Church in Kingsport, TN.
It’s one of our fantasies: someone asking us to share the gospel with them! The Jailer in Philippi asked Paul “what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16). Jealous? Who doesn’t want such an opening to tell the good news? We’re drooling. I wonder: do we in fact get occasional invitations like that but miss them? Another “please tell me” occasion happened in a Synagogue one Sabbath. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers asked their guests to bring a message. “Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak” (Acts 13:15). And Paul did.
On the second stage of their first missionary journey, Paul, Barnabas and company traveled to Pisidian Antioch. As had already become their custom, they went to the Jewish community and on the Sabbath went to Synagogue. True to the custom of the day, they were asked to bring a greeting or teaching for their fellow countrymen and the God-fearers who had gathered for worship that day. Thus the bodacious opportunity: “if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” Paul had been prayerfully selected and sent off by the church to share the gospel (Acts 13:1-4). Much like we have been called in our “going” to tell others and make disciples (Acts 1:8, 9; Matthew 28:16-20).
With such an important commissioning, they prayerfully and carefully positioned themselves to talk about Jesus. Where? In a Synagogue on the Sabbath. Who? They were respected Jews, Paul was a trained Rabbi. They honored their Jewish customs. Do you behave strategically or spasmodically in your work for God? Do you realize you are and act like a person on a mission? “As the Father sent Me”, Jesus said, “so send I you” (John 20:21).
Connecting with his target audience – “Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen” (vs. 16) – Paul steps up and speaks up. Nice! His message builds off their shared Jewish history found in the Biblical texts. Paraphrasing Acts 13:17-41:
“Jesus, God’s sent Savior, was the next, final step in our history, Israel. God chose us, rescued us from Egypt, and gave us the land. He then appointed Judges, Prophets and Kings. From King David, He brought us the promised savior – Jesus! Believe in Him, God’s message of good news to us. In Him we can be forgiven – something the Law could never provide. We can be justified. Don’t make the same mistake our leaders in Jerusalem did by having Him crucified. God raised Him, now bow before Him.” That’s not bad for Paul’s first recorded sermon. His methods and message are instructive and inspiring.
Do you ever strategically position yourself to witness (see John 4; Acts 8)? Do you hang out in places and with people so that you can earn the privilege of being heard? Pay your dues, dish out genuine love, engage and be ready (see 1 Peter 2:9-12; 3:13-16). When you are asked what you think about a moral matter, a social situation, a religious question, do you find a way to weave in Jesus? It is Jesus that saves, not having a proper political or social position.
Are you so outspoken about secondary matters (politics, social agendas, minor doctrines) that you lose your chance to be heard concerning eternal matters (read Colossians 4:5-6)? Don’t lose your voice!
Do you have a word of encouragement – the gospel? Is Romans 1:16-17 your testimony too? “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”
“For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (NIV). Charles Spurgeon wrote: “Never lose heart in the power of the gospel. Do not believe that there exists any man, much less any race of men, for whom the gospel is not fitted.” “Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak.” They did. Do we?