May 28, 2012


Acts 17:27 “God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”

The reason Paul’s “Mars Hill Sermon” is significant is that it shows his approach to people who had absolutely no knowledge of Jewish Scripture and tradition. That description certainly fits the Japanese! I have heard preachers put this message down because of the sparse results, mentioned in verse 34. They say that 1 Corinthians 2:2 is Paul’s response to what he experienced in Athens. There may be an element of truth in that, but how many preachers today really start with miracles and then explain them with the Gospel? Reinhard Bonnke comes to mind, and a few others, but they are few indeed, that we know of. Probably there are more in places like rural China, but that is missing the point of why Luke chose to include this whole sermon in his record. What we need to get from this is that Paul started from where these people were. He quoted their own writings to them, rather than the OT. (Anyone doing that had better be firmly grounded in the Bible and filled with the Holy Spirit themselves, or they risk getting pulled into all sorts of error. I have known missionaries in Japan to whom that happened.) Once he gained a point of common understanding, he then moved to the subject of repentance. Preachers today tend to leave that out completely! Any religious presentation that leaves out repentance cannot be called the Gospel.

I’m certainly in the middle of this issue myself, because the Japanese in general have a nearly complete ignorance of all things Biblical. Buddhism has borrowed a number of Biblical concepts, (though they would deny that’s where they got them) which makes it all the more dangerous to stray from the foundation of repentance and faith. If I present Christianity as “good teaching,” they just feel, “We already have that.” Buddhism does have the concept of repentance, and Japanese has a particularly good term for it, (regret and start over) but they have no Savior and no doctrine of salvation, other than “emptying yourself.” I need to let the Lord show me the hooks to make contact, and also how to build the foundation of understanding that they need. With my personal background, I tend to assume entirely too much prior knowledge!

Father, You know that I have desired “signs and wonders” to validate the truth You allow me to speak, but I’ve not seen much. I pray that I would communicate Your Gospel effectively, whatever that means. May the current believers, who have far more points in common with those around them than I do, grasp the vision of being Christ’s witnesses indeed, so that many may be brought into Your kingdom, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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