I continue some thoughts today on Paul’s missionary strategy. Make sure you go back to read part 1!
When Paul began his ministry in a city, whether with Jews or Gentiles, he worked hard to find common ground. In the synagogue, marketplace, and homes that welcomed him, Paul preached Christ after connecting with his audiences. Generally speaking, when Paul stood with the Jews, he found common ground in the Scriptures, their common heritage, and shared history. As he read and reread his Bible, Paul saw the story of Jesus in the characters, plots, hopes, and warnings of the scrolls. Today, the entire Bible, both Old and New Testaments, forms a vital backdrop to our culture and lives. In our Western culture, there is a residue of the Christian story. Who hasn’t met a “Good Samaritan” or heard “the Golden Rule”? This residue offers us a location where we can move deeper with our friends and fellow citizens into the Scriptures. If we are open to these kinds of conversations, we will find ample opportunities to share our unique stories. Too often, Christians today avoid music, movies, and literature that are not immersed in obvious Christian themes. When we isolate ourselves in this way, we cut ourselves off from a great source of inspiration and truth. Art, music, literature, and movies are all created by people made in the image of God. Even if the divine image has suffered under the domination of sin, “secular” art betrays what it means to be human. We see in secular forms the beauty of creation, the ugliness of sin, and the need for redemption, meaning, and life. We should recognize secular art for what it is: attempts to capture and express truth in a world longing for reconciliation. When we study a culture respectfully, we will find in every expression an opportunity to bear witness to the broader, deeper truth recognized by the church, that part of the world already reconciled to God through Christ.
Preached the Kerygma
Paul laid a foundation with a simple message, the kerygma. Kerygma is a Greek term, meaning “preaching” or “proclamation.” It does not refer to the style (how) or location (where) of the preaching. It refers to the content of the gospel. In short, Paul’s kerygma consisted of these essential points:
- Jesus inaugurated the fulfillment of messianic prophecy.
- He did good and performed miracles.
- He was crucified according to God’s plan.
- He was resurrected and exalted to the right hand of God the Father.
- He will come again in glory, honor, and judgment.
- Therefore, repent, believe, and be baptized.
When he was permitted, Paul declared this gospel message among Jews and Gentiles. The message was simple, but powerful. God has acted decisively in and through Jesus, who is the long-awaited Messiah or Liberating King. In Jesus God has come to us and acted in history for all to see. At the heart of the message is a crucified Messiah, vindicated in the resurrection. For Paul, Christ had changed everything; a new creation had begun. The parousia (second coming) of Jesus would complete what He started. Because all this is true, the only proper response is for men and women, Jew and Gentile, slave and free, to change how they think and act, put faith in Christ, and undergo baptism (ceremonial washing) in His name.