When Stephen was accused and brought before the High Priest in Acts 6, he started his defense in Acts 7 with one of the best summaries of Old Testament history found anywhere in the New Testament. For the sake of space, I won’t go into detail here, but would encourage you to read it on your own (Acts 7:1-53). Yeah I know that’s a lot of reading, but I’d rather you read it for yourself than take my word for it.
When Stephen spoke to those people in front of him, he spoke from a point of view that they could understand. In fact, that’s what the majority of Acts 7 and Stephen’s defense is. The Jews certainly knew their Scriptures, (what we call the Old Testament) and took much pride in being descendants of Abraham, which is where Stephen began.
When Paul begins taking the Gospel to the Gentiles, he uses a different approach. He still speaks from a point of view they understand, but since they were Gentiles and not Jews, he couldn’t use the Jewish Scriptures to teach them. In Acts 17, when Paul is speaking before the Areopagus in Athens, he starts with an alter dedicated to “the unknown God” that he had seen in the city, and from there teaches them about the one true God.
In this same way, if I were going to teach an atheist, I could not use the Bible, because they of course would not believe in the authority of a book that we claim is authored by a God they do not believe in. I’d have to start somewhere else, using one of a number of tools from the field of Christian Apologetics to first lead them to understand that there is a God.
So the first way we can look to Stephen as an example for teaching the lost, is to start with a point of view that they understand. Otherwise, we may have considerable difficulty in reaching them and bring them to Christ.
In my next text post, we’ll continue this discussion with the topic, “Speaking the Truth.” Until next time. God bless.