APOLOGETIC EVANGELISM – Reaching the Heart of Our Listener

Explaining the Gospel
Young man explaining the Gospel to other young man

Acts 18:1-4 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

After these things he departed from Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

CONVERSATION EVANGELISMIf we were to read all four Gospel accounts, focusing on Jesus’ way of teaching, we would find that he was all about reaching the heart of his listeners. Looking at the Parable of the Sower, Jesus starts with simply telling them the parable. (Matt 13:1-9) He then tells them the purpose of his use of parables. (Matt. 13:10-17) He then closes with explaining the Parable of the Sowers. (Matt 13:18-23) The setting here was Jesus telling the parable to great crowds gathered about him by the sea. Almost all just thought he was sharing stories with principles behind them, nothing more. It is in this section that Jesus lets us know that his parables are deeper than that, and that is why his explanation of the parable to his disciples was as follows, “You, therefore, listen to the parable of the sower.” (Matt. 13:8, LEB) Others read, “Hear then the parable of the sower.” The seed was the message of the kingdom and for us, on a grander scale, it is the Word of God as a whole. This seed was being thrown on four different kinds of soil, i.e., differing conditions of the heart. The thing to keep in mind is this; all four different types of heart conditions heard the Word.

Hearing the Word

The first type of soil is hard, the second did not have much soil, and the third fell among the thorns. The fourth type of soil, nothing like the other three, the seeds fell on good soil. The seed was sown beside the road [first soil]. This is packed soil, meaning that this one was too much involved in Satan’s world and the fallen flesh for the seed of the Word to take root in his shallow heart. While the Word of God may sound attractive, he is sidetracked before, he can grow to love God’s Word, so “the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.” The seed “was sown on the rocky places [second soil], this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy.” This is referring to a person who likes what the Bible has to say, as they will listen to the Christian message and by all intent and purposes appear to be a Christian, but the Word in no way affects his heart. When he faces the difficulties of life or opposition to his faith or the Word, he fails to apply the Word of God because he had never actually taken it seriously. Jesus says of this one, “he has no firm root in himself but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.”

The seed “was sown among the thorns [third soil], this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” This refers to the one who hears the word but his anxieties over his love of money and love of the world cause him anxiety, and he is overcome and becomes unfruitful. “And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil [fourth soil], this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” This refers to the one who hears the Word with a receptive heart. James, Jesus’ half-brother in his letter, was very straightforward with the advice that fits with what Jesus is saying here about the good soil or the good heart. James wrote, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (Jam. 1:22) He also said, “Faith without works is dead.” (Jam. 2:14-26) Works do not save us. However, we cannot have a genuine faith without an evident demonstration of that faith in Christian works. Indeed, each of us wants to believe that the Word of God is falling on our heart of good soil. Nevertheless, in the end, it will be God, who makes that determination. (Pro. 17:3; 1 Cor. 4:4, 5) Notice that the man with the good soil, i.e., heart, produces fruit and brings forth different levels of yield depending on his circumstances. The yield is our Christian works that evidence our faith as being genuine and our soil (heart) as being good.

THE CHRISTIAN APOLOGISTAs we can see from the Parable of the Sower, Jesus was about sowing the Word of God on good soil. We want those to whom we speak to understand it and to act on it. Therefore, as we witness and teach, we need to focus on getting to the heart of our listeners. We want them to love the Word of God and its Author. Thus, we want to imitate Jesus in our evangelizing and teaching. This means that we will take the time out of the world to study, grow in a knowledge of God’s Word, to help others find the path to salvation. Certainly, the apostle Peter followed in the footsteps of Christ right at Pentecost 33 C.E., just after Jesus ascension back to heaven. Peter was able to reach the hearts of 3,000 who were then baptized. He explained the prophecy of Joel, helping his listeners to reason from the Scriptures as it related to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and how this was the will and purposes of the Father. (Acts 2:1-36) “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37) We learn in verse 41 that “Those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” As Christian teachers, we also want to reach people’s hearts and help them to grow to love the Word of God.

Buying Out the Time to Reach the Heart

APOLOGETICSThis next two heading sections will go beyond the conversation with someone and enter the realms of having a personal one-on-one Bible study. First, we need to study a book with him that will enable him to understand the basic Bible beliefs fully. I am recommending a book of mine that will be out by January 2016. THE EVANGELISM STUDY TOOL Basic Bible Doctrines of the Christian Faith by Edward D. Andrews[1] Once we begin our study with a Bible student, we must, of course, help them to acquire the knowledge that they need, but they also must feel something about this knowledge. Jesus said at John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” The clause “that they may know you,” indicates a relationship between the person knowing and God. It is so, in this respect, God is of value or importance to the one who knows, hence a relationship. This will take its course naturally, as we get the Bible student to reason on what they learn. – Acts 17:2-3.

  • How does the account of Abraham offering up his son Isaac help us to appreciate the sacrifice the Father made with the Son? ((John 3:16; Gen. 22:1-18) Note how Isaac is described in Genesis 22:2.
  • How does this help us with the hope that we hold? Rom. 8:32, 38-39)
  • Is there anything required on our part, if so, what? (Gen. 22:18; John 3:36)
  • When Peter at Pentecost identifies Jesus as a prophet like Moses, what accountability and responsibility come with it? (Acts 3:22, 23; Deut. 18:15-19)
  • What is the greatest thing that Jesus has spoken to us, and why are they very appropriate at present? (Matt. 24:14; 28:18-20; Acts 1:8)
  • The author of Hebrews explains what the priesthood of Aaron foreshadowed. How does this help us draw closer to Jesus in know his qualities, which are? (Heb. 4:15–5:3; 7:26-28)
  • How should we feel about going to the Father in prayer in the name of Jesus, so we can overcome our human weaknesses?
  • Jesus ransom Sacrifice was far superior to anything under the Mosaic Law, yet why is it important that we pay special attention to our sinning in a willful ongoing way? (Hebrews 10:26-27)
  • If we are moved by a love, an appreciation, for an opportunity at eternal life and the hope of such, what things will we be thorough in doing? (Heb. 10:19-25)

Be Prepared to Study – Student and Teacher

If we are studying with a Bible student, say one day a week for an hour, both the student and the teacher should prepare for each study. Before the study, both should know how much material is going to be covered in the following session. Both teacher and student should have read the material, looked up and researched any cited texts, and answered any questions within the material. The answer should be highlighted, with any extra thoughts written in the margins of the book. The teacher should prepare with the student’s needs in mind. As we grow to know our students, we can spend extra time on areas that they may need help.

Overcoming Objections

We now return to conversation evangelism (i.e., preevangelism), which seeks to persuade other people to become Christian, especially by sharing the basics of the Gospel, but also the deeper message of biblical truths. Each time we speak with anyone, we need to make the most of our opportunity to share God’s Word in the best, most efficient, way possible. Even in the difficult times of these last days, we are reminded, “… let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” (Heb. 13:15, ESV) We need to ‘always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks us for a reason for the hope that is in us.’ (1 Pet. 3:15) This is true even to the point of being able to overcome what may seem like legitimate objections by those with a sincere interest in an answer.

Objections can come about for any number of reasons. There will be people who honestly believe that they have a legitimate reason for not accepting God or his Word. We simply have to be prepared without even knowing what the objection may be. Over time, we will begin to have ready responses because objections will be the same for many people. They may say, “I reject Christianity because of the blood spilled by Christianity throughout the medieval times and the Reformation.” Many individuals are well aware of the religious record of hypocrisy, oppression, and inquisitions.

THE EVANGELISM HANDBOOKMoreover, televangelist, living a lifestyle of luxury off the back of their flock, manipulating their people in a cultish way is very prevalent today. Some struggle with the concept of hellfire, while others struggle with a loving God, who is all-powerful, yet fails to prevent pain, suffering, and death. As these objections come our way, the best thing is to answer them if we can.

However, not with some weak solution where we are stammering to make sense of things, as this will only make things worse. If we do not have a reasonable response, we say, “You have raised an excellent point, while I cannot give you an answer today, I can come back with a reasonable, logical response later.” Then, we spend a week researching the issue and return with the response that will be well received by a person with an open mind.

If a person tries to dismiss us out of hand with “I am not interested,” we can ask them some tactful questions. We might say, “if I may respectfully ask, why you are not interested?’ You could go on, “there is always the possibility that I may have an answer to something that might have been troubling you.” You could even be frank by saying, “I mean there are things that have troubled me in the past.” Yes, there are times when we are being cut short; we can take one last opportunity by asking some tactful, direct, and thought-provoking questions. The most important piece of advice here comes from the last part of Peter’s words at 3:15, that is, we are to “do it with gentleness and respect.”


Someone said to you, “I do not believe the Bible is the Word of God. Yes, it offers good advice but so did many ancient books. Moreover, there is no such thing as absolute truth anyway.” How would you respond?

Review Questions

  • Why do Christians need to reach the heart of their listeners?
  • Explain Jesus’ Parable of the Sower. How does it apply to us today?
  • How might we reach the heart of a Bible student that we are studying with one-on-one?
  • How should the teacher and the student prepare for their study?
  • How can we overcome objections?

[1] http://www.christianpublishers.org/apps/webstore/products/show/6102323






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