“And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them. Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.” (Acts 17:32–34, AV)
I have little experience in sales, but much experience with sales-people in business. There is a vital principle of which every sales-person I know speaks. It is the ask. At the end of every sales pitch the successful sales-person asks the potential customer to close the deal. Now, while we are not peddling the gospel like a sales-person, we still must challenge the hearer to make a decision.
Paul, after painting a picture of God, presented the gospel challenge, “the ask.”
“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30–31, AV)
Here, when we look at Paul’s words, we see something. It is not Paul who is giving the challenge, “the ask.” It is God Almighty. He is the one who commands all people everywhere to faith and repentance. The challenge of repentance implies that all have sinned (Romans 3:23). Every person has transgressed the Law of God. All fall short of God’s glory. None has sought for God (v27) and therefore all have fallen short of fulfilling God’s purpose. To miss the mark of God’s purpose is sin.
Moreover, Paul presents the consequences for the non-repentant. The consequence is divine judgment. The penalty of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The righteous judge is God and Paul further explains that the judge is He whom God raised from the grave, Jesus Christ.
After presenting the facts of the resurrection, there is a variety of responses. Some want to hear more. Some, however, mock or jeer. Yet some, a few, do believe. We can expect a mixed bag of results when we evangelize. Some will believe, but many will not. Jesus said it, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14, AV). This should not surprise us.
Moreover, the response to Paul’s message by this intellectual group of people who represent our post-Christian culture was somewhat lackluster. Varied responses and the magnitude of responses to the message should not surprise us either. I know a Korean pastor who ministered in both in the United States and in the underground church in China. He testified that preaching in the U.S. that only one out of 100 responded to the gospel, while in China, 10 out of 100 would respond. Again, God is sovereign over the response to the gospel.
The American is much different from a person living in China. The post-Christian is quite different from those that have a Christian worldview. We will likely see fewer conversions from the post-Christian than those with a Christian worldview. However, this should not deter us from witnessing. There is much fallow ground that needs cultivation before the seed sown can take root. Our response is to continue to sow the seed. Some will fall on good soil, sprout and bear fruit, other seed will not. We are not so much to worry about the soil in this evangelistic work. We are to concern ourselves more with the sowing and trust God. Scatter enough and some will fall on the right soil. (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23)