In the front line of spiritual warfare, while Paul was setting the example for his team by preaching “Faith, Hope and Love,” the group had to learn how to exemplify that teaching when it met “Unbelief, Despair and Hatred” in its most vitriolic form. How does one publicly wrestle against poisonous attacks with the purity of Christ?
When certain attendees of the Synagogue had decided that they did not believe in Paul’s message of Christ, they gradually hardened week by week. The universal principle of Christ rejecters is that they first of all listen; then decide against the message; then when they hear the message yet again, they either soften or get even harder against the Spirit of God. When hardness is at home with them, they begin to get more agitated and speak against the principles of the gospel. When they get harder still they descend into name calling and even blasphemous expletives against God. Once they started declaring their anti Christian propaganda into the fellowship of the Synagogue at Ephesus, Paul left with his “about twelve” disciples.
Choosing what time to leave the Jewish worshippers, as well as the manner of how to effect the leaving, and the dialogue with the Jews concerning the leaving was something that was studied and noted by the disciples around the apostle.
If we all were more armed with a Christ-like strategy to debate and reason our faith with atheists and agnostics, we Christians would not be so comfortable in retreating into our conclaves of “believers only.” If we knew how to graciously, in the power of the Spirit, debate the faith with malignantly purposed unbelieving Christ haters we would be quicker and better equipped to stand up and be counted when the Master is defamed or blasphemed in our circles. From the very first days after Paul’s conversion and baptism with the Holy Spirit, Luke tells us that Paul increased the more in strength, confounding the Jews that lived in Damascus proving that Jesus was the Christ.
It is a Jewish thing to discuss and debate. Western Christianity prefers preaching and addresses that teach. Discussion does not have the authoritative ring to westerners as “the preached word” does in a monologue. When Paul moved into the school of Tyrranus and held his five hour services there seven days a week (See Amplified Bible Acts 19:9) it does not say that he held evangelistic services as we do today with singing, preaching and teaching, followed by an altar call. It says that he was disputing, holding and conducting discussions, reasoning and arguing with the people daily. Has the church in the twenty-first century lost its way in this? Please don’t get me wrong! I am not suggesting that we throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are a couple of English translations that translate the verse as “addressing the people” or “talking to them.”
The verb used is the Greek Dialegomai (Noun: Dialogismos, where we get the word “dialogue” from in English). Logismos in Greek means to reason with substance and thought. Dia means to go through something separating whatever is the suffix to the prefix. The word means, as it does in English, a two way exchange of views. The word therefore means that in a two way dialogue, in a frank exchange of views, truths were itemised, separated and reasoned with. That sounds like debate and discussion to this writer.
I am sure that every single Christian in the days of Paul was not fully able to debate their faith with unbelievers on an intellectual western university style debate, simply because university debates are academically and solely intellectually based. Paul debated and argued and discussed in the Holy Spirit. That’s a different thing altogether. He was, in debating, pulling down strongholds as per 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. He won people to Christ by changing their thoughts and beliefs on a one to one basis.
I personally find this breathtakingly challenging. We call all preach. But can we dialogue the faith?
Other blogs by Keith Lannon:
http://lannononsamuel.wordpress.com The Last Judge-The First Prophet: Samuel.
http://keithlannon.wordpress.com Management of the Miraculous -expanded version.
http://thelonghaulwithisaiah.wordpress.com A long trawl through the book of Isaiah.