Sharing Our Faith With Skeptics

Written by Peter Armstrong
March 13, 2023

One of the most difficult groups to reach today are educated young adults. Let’s look at how Paul interacted with a skeptic named Dionysius in Acts 17.

Part of any renewal movement is working to see new people come to faith. In our post-Christian context, one of the most difficult groups to reach today are educated young adults, who are often skeptical of the Church and Christianity.

  • We can learn a lot about reaching this kind of person by studying how Paul shared the gospel in his pre-Christian context. Let’s look at how he interacted with a skeptic named Dionysius in Acts 17.
Paul Recognized the God-shaped hole in every heart.
  • Dionysius lived in Athens, a place where intellectual giants like Plato, Socrates and Aristotle came to study, to learn and to teach. He was bright, powerful, and well off, but he was also unsettled. When Paul came to town, he noticed this. He took note of an idol to an unknown God.
  • Apparently, Dionysius was not alone in his intuition that there must be more to life. Paul used this observation as a bridge to boldly proclaim that the God-shaped hole in every person’s heart can only be filled by Jesus.
Paul Spoke Into Culture.
  • In this context, Paul didn’t rely on Messianic prophecies that required a knowledge of the Old Testament. No, he met the residents of Athens where they were. He had studied their culture enough to know their deepest desires and longings. He even quoted their own poets — Epimenides and Aratus, a Stoic from Paul’s own hometown.
  • He used their own art to show them that they were “were very religious” (Acts 17:22). They were seeking something, although they didn’t know what. That’s why Paul began at the beginning, with the God who made everything — the earth, the skies, the seas, and all of us.
Paul Knew and shared the Gospel.
  • After establishing a connection with his audience, Paul boldly proclaimed the Gospel. This message is offensive to our modern ears, and it was no less offensive to ancient ears as well! However, because Paul knew that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16), he could not keep it a secret.
  • Because Paul knew the Gospel well, he was able to share it clearly. He also knew that the Gospel demands a response, so he passionately called his audience not just to listen and learn but to repent.
Dionysius Believed.
  • For Dionysius and a few others, Paul’s preaching changed everything. He felt as though he had always been dead, and now he had been brought to life!
  • From that point forward, Dionysius (a man many know today as Saint Dionysius) set out on a different path. The book of Acts only mentions him once, but church history tells us more about his amazing journey. There’s even a plaque on Mars Hill today that tells us he became the first bishop in Athens.
  • He followed Paul around for three years, visited Mary, the mother of Jesus, in Jerusalem and shared the gospel in what is now Germany, Italy and Spain. Eventually, he was arrested for his faith. The truths Paul had communicated to him were so precious that he died for them. He was martyred in Athens when he was around 75 years old.

As those who long for renewal in a post-Christian culture, the situation can often look grim. But the Gospel is still the power of God unto salvation of everyone who believes! And it is still reaching all kinds of people in all kinds of places. Through the simple act of reaching across cultural lines and proclaiming the Gospel, we have hope for revival and renewal.

Leave a Reply

ten − 5 =

What others have said...