Concerning apostolic evangelism, few chapters in Scripture provide as much important information as Acts 17 does. With great skillfulness, Luke presents the Apostle Paul’s evangelistic ministry in multiple settings. The chapter records Paul’s evangelizing in three cities (Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens) on at least five separate occasions. We learn of his gospel ministry to Jews and Gentiles, men and women, rich and poor people, devout people and philosophers, and people in synagogues, in the marketplace, and at the Areopagus.
Thorough attention to all that Acts 17 records shows emphasis on Pauline proclamation of “Jesus and the Resurrection” at the beginning, the middle, and the end of the chapter (17: 3, 18, 32). Despite this consistent element of his preaching, some scholars and not a few preachers have asserted, in effect, that Paul more or less “failed” in his gospel ministry at the Areopagus. Lack of explicit record to his testifying concerning faith in the name of Jesus, the Cross, and Jesus as Savior lead many to regard this passage as a record of his departing from his normal evangelistic strategy.
Through three messages that I preached in October 2010, I have addressed such assessments to show that that they are unwarranted. Acts 17:18-34 is not in any sense a monument to Pauline failure in evangelism. Rather, the entire chapter plainly declares that Pauline evangelism at its essence was to evangelize Jesus and the Resurrection.