by Dr. Leighton Flowers
As I have studied apologetics over the years I have noticed that the word “persuasion” comes up much more regularly than what I have been use to throughout my church and educational experience. I have been to countless evangelism events, conferences and training sessions over the years, but I cannot recall a single sermon, lesson or resource on the biblical concept of persuasion.
The English word “persuasion” (in all its various forms) is used twice as many times as the word “predestination,” yet it seems the latter receives a thousand times more attention. Persuasion is at the very heart of apologetics, and I dare say, it is at the heart of evangelism itself. I have to wonder if the lack of emphasis on this biblical doctrine has lead to the decline in baptisms and evangelistic efforts among evangelicals over the last few decades? <link>
What does the Bible say about persuasion?
Let’s take a look at some of it’s most relevant uses:
“The chief priests and the scribes persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.” (Matthew 27:20)
“(the people) were persuaded that John (the Baptist) was a prophet.” (Luke 20:6)
“Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas.” (Acts 17:4)
“Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 18:4)
“This man is persuading the people to worship God.” (Acts 18:13)
“(Paul was) arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 19:8)
“Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to become a Christian?” (Acts 26:28)
“Since then we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.” (2 Corinthians 5:11)
Too often we speak only of the need to proclaim and explain the good news to the lost, but clearly the Bible teaches us that we should be trying to persuade people of its truthfulness. Is that not what Christian apologetics is all about?
Notice in Acts 17, when Paul “dialogued” (Greek: dialegomai, meaning ‘reasoned’) in the synagogue that it resulted in people being “persuaded” (Greek: peitho). Paul explained the Old Testament scriptures and answered their questions so as to convince them of the truth. This was typical in his approach with his fellow Jews (“his custom” v. 2) , because he knew the Jews considered their scriptures to be authoritative. However, Paul’s approach with the Gentiles shifted to speaking about their culture first rather than the Scriptures (see vs. 22-31). Paul is using his God given gift of persuasion by connecting with his audience on their level. He has “become all things to all people so that by all possible means [he] might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22).
What does it mean to persuade?
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