Paul loved his kinsmen, the Jews, so much so that he could wish himself accursed that they might be saved (Romans 9:3). And now in Acts 22:1f he finally had his opportunity to address the heart of the nation on the Temple stairway. There he stood beaten by the mob he was trying to save. He probably had bruised ribbs, a lacerated forehead, a black eye, and a bloody lip.
He would have been within the bounds of truth to begin his sermon with, “Liars, hypocrites, white washed tombs, hear my defense.” But that’s not how he began. Instead, he shouted, “Brothers and fathers, hear my defense.”
He didn’t seek to denigrate and humiliate his audience, but to woo and win them. Then he quit his Greek, and began speaking in their Aramaic, to soothe the savage mob, to win their favor, and to get on their wavelength. He even gave his Pharisaic credentials: “I studied under Gamaliel and was zealous for the law . . . as you are today. . . I also persecuted the Way, binding and putting men and women in prison.” He was saying in essence: “Hey, I feel your pain. I too hated Christians. They were like cockroaches to me, and I was the chief terminator in Jerusalem. You grind your teeth against Christians? I have the wear marks on my incisors to prove my past hatred for them.”
Notice in this Paul’s sensitivity and tact in witnessing for Christ.
Gordon Keddie writes in his commentary on Acts (p. 278): “Too many Christians seem to think you can shout people into the kingdom. They stand up, blast away about sin for a while, ‘present Jesus’ as Savior, and call for a decision. It’s as if merely badgering people with biblical truths is a means of grace! Paul could have after all, just as well rebuked the mob loudly for trying to kill him. He could have told them he counted their Pharisaism as “rubbish” (Phil3:8) in comparison to knowing Christ Jesus . . . Paul didn’t just throw the gospel into their faces, but sought to woo them.”
A man in our church reported talking with a fellow businessman on an airplane. He wanted to get to Christ, but he began with the NHL. He found a common enthusiasm for hockey, so he warmed the man up by discussing the Red Wings and the Maple Leafs. They were bonded. He eventually got to Christ. They exchanged emails and cell phone numbers. He sought to become all things to this man to save him.
Paul’s speech teaches us to seek to find out what we have in common with our hearers, to enlist their sympathies by showing the marks of our common humanity, to show sympathy and kinship.
Play in a softball league with them.
“Oh really? I too was raised Roman Catholic!”
“Aw man, my parents also divorced at an early age, and it tore out my heart.”
“You just lost your dad to a heart attack? I still remember when my dad died, and how I used to for weeks wake up in the middle of the night weeping uncontrollably.”
In these kinds of ways, we can wisely woo in our witnessing.