Luke spends a good deal of time telling us about Paul’s ministry in Athens, Corinth and Ephesus (Acts 18-19), and throughout these chapters we find that Paul reasoned and persuaded people in his presentation of the gospel (Acts 18:4, 13; Acts 19:8, 9). From this, we can see that his preaching engaged the minds of his hearers and marshalled arguments to support and demonstrate his case. John Stott comments that ‘he was seeking to convince in order to convert.’ (John Stott, ‘Acts’, P 313)
Paul’s experience meant he knew he needed to rely on the wisdom of God rather than on the wisdom of the world (1 Cor 1 & 2), but we must never feel that apologetics (reasoned arguments) should be abandoned in our presentation of the gospel. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth (John 14:17) and brings people to faith in Jesus ‘not in spite of the evidence but because of the evidence.’ (ibid., P 313) The Holy Spirit works to bring conviction and to teach us about sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8-11), but we must, like Paul, spend time engaging with people so that they can see that the gospel is trustworthy and reliable. Many were persuaded by Paul in Corinth and Ephesus; this led to their conversion, to a complete turnaround from a pagan way of life to a life of faith and trust in Jesus. Apologetics should not be used simply to score points or to win arguments; the ultimate purpose of reason and argument is to lead people to a place of decision; as Josh McDowell’s key book declares, the evidence ‘demands a verdict.’ (‘Evidence That Demands A Verdict.’) This book is highly useful in defending Christianity’s core truths and giving responses to the Bible’s most difficult passages and is another tool in equipping us, like Paul, to share the gospel with those who might not appear to have any interest in it whatsoever!