We learn several things about evangelism in this chapter. Paul gives us an example, and it’s worthwhile to follow his lead.
Paul spoke about his conversion to King Agrippa in three sections – before, during, and after. Before becoming a Christian, Paul was a staunch Pharisee. In fact, he persecuted Christians. “I punished them often in all the synagogues,” he said. That is, the earliest Christians stuck to their Jewish roots and attended synagogue meetings on the Sabbath. That’s where Paul found them. And that’s where he persecuted them.
And then Paul, as we have come to say, “saw the light.” This is the “during” part of his conversion testimony. Jesus told him, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” That is, it’s hard to push back against the church, which cannot be stopped. Jesus worked pretty much single-handedly in the conversion of the apostle Paul. But Jesus also gave Paul a mission. Jesus would work through Paul to turn people “from darkness to light.”
And then came the “after” part of Paul’s conversion testimony. Paul “was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” He began to tell Jews and Gentiles they should repent of their sins and turn to God. Paul testified to God’s sustaining presence in his life – “I have had the help that comes from God,” he said.
You might have noticed how the “before” and “after” of Paul’s conversion testimony had common link. Paul was a zealous Pharisee. Pharisee were believers in the resurrection of the dead. They also were strict students of the Old Testament prophets and careful protectors of the Law.
After Paul was converted to Christianity, he continued to teach about the Law and the Prophets – but by then he was teaching about how Jesus was spoken about in the Old Testament. The prophets pointed to Jesus. And, of course, Paul testified to Jesus’ rising from the dead.
As we think about our own testimony, we might want to think about things the way Paul thought about things. What is it that ties the “before” and “after” together? What was I like before I came to faith in Christ, and what am I like after? A better question may be, what question was I trying to answer before I met Jesus, and how did he answer it for me – or change the question?
If I were to give you my own testimony today, I might say I “always” have been a Christian. My “before” was fairly brief. I grew up in a Christian home and was baptized at age 11. I never did drugs, and I barely drank. I didn’t really swim in the deep end of the pool. I wasn’t from the sect of the Pharisees, but I was a so-called good Christian kid.
Except I wasn’t. I didn’t care much for the church while growing up. For me, I was committed to the idea of rugged individualism in my life. I wanted to be self-sufficient – to be on my own. And I was like this for years after my baptism. I didn’t want to need anyone else in my life – not my parents, certainly not a wife, and definitely not anyone else.
And then I found my way to a church. Actually, Mary dragged me to a church. And once there, we were swept into the arms of some loving mentors – Christians a generation older than us – who showed me how wrong I was. Self-sufficiency and rugged individualism will take a man a certain distance. But we weren’t mean to walk through this life on our own. We need a family.
And that’s what the church is. I’m still learning more about this concept today – 20 years after I committed myself fully to Christ and more than 30 years after my baptism. The question I tried to answer was how can I live a full life on my own? The answer Jesus provided to me was: “You can’t. You need me, and you need my church. Now join it.”
Ever since then, I’ve found myself with a restless longing for Christ and his church. I’ve seen my needs met by the body of Christ. I’ve seen great joys and, yes, sorrow – but I’ve never been alone. I’ve always had brothers and sisters next to me. Some of them I’ve liked. Some of them I’ve had difference of opinions with. But I would have been at a loss without them. And I’m slowly being drawn toward the fullness of the church that will exist in heaven – eternity in communion with Christ and my brothers and sisters in Him.
So that’s my conversion testimony – or a taste of it. It only takes a few minutes. There’s a “before, during, and after” if you care to look at it that way.
So what’s yours? What question were you trying to ask before you were baptized or before you made your firm commitment to Christ?
For Paul, he was trying to answer the question of shoring up the way of the Pharisees, of protecting the Jewish nation from impurity. Jesus answered that question by showing himself to be the fulfillment of the words of the prophets. There was no need to protect Israel. Jesus was bringing Israel to completion. For me, I was seeking self-actualization. Jesus answered that question by showing I can only be full in Him.
Some people may be asking other questions – how to find meaning in life, how to find truth, how to feel loved, how to find satisfaction. What question was driving you? Or, if you have not yet accepted Christ as your Savior, what is driving you?
A prayer for your day: Spend some time praying over this. What has Christ brought to completion in your life? How has he answered your driving life question?