Wednesday: Paul, the “Street Preacher”
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The first-century Greco-Roman context experienced a proliferation of popular philosophers who, in public forums, sought to influence individuals and groups-similar to what street preachers might do today.

Image © Jeff Preston from GoodSalt.com

These philosophers believed that people had an inner capacity to change their lives (a form of conversion). Philosophers would use public speech and private conversation in order, they hoped, to produce change in their students. They sought to create in their listeners doubts regarding their current ideas and practices. By this means, the listeners would become open to new ideas and change. The ultimate goal increased self-reliance and moral growth.It was expected that such popular philosophers would earn the right to speak by first gaining moral freedom in their own inner lives.“Physician, heal thyself” was a well-known concept in the ancient world.

These philosophers were also aware of the need to vary the message in order to meet various minds, and of the importance of retaining integrity in both the character of the teacher and the message that was being taught.

Thus, there are numerous parallels between these popular teachers and the work of Paul, who also traveled around and worked in the public places (Acts 17:17;19:9, 10).

There were, however, two significant differences between Paul’s approach and that of these popular philosophers. First, Paul not only worked in the public places; he also sought to form a lasting community. This requires some separation from “the world,” along with the formation of emotional bonds and a deep commitment to the group. Second, Paul taught that conversion was not an inner decision, effected by wise speech; it was, instead, a supernatural work of God from outside a person (see Gal. 4:19; John 3:3-8; Phil. 1:6). Paul’s teaching was more than just a philosophy; it was a proclamation of the truth and a revelation of the powerful work of God in the salvation of humanity.

The dark side of the popular philosophers was that they found an easy way to make a living. Plenty were hucksters, nothing more. Some would sexually exploit their listeners. Though honest teachers were among them, a lot of cynicism regarding traveling speakers existed in the ancient world.

Paul sought to avoid some of that cynicism by generally refusing support from his listeners and, instead, doing hard manual labor to support himself. This, along with his sufferings, demonstrated that he truly believed what he preached and that he was not doing it for personal gain. In many ways, Paul’s life was the most powerful sermon he could preach.

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Wednesday: Paul, the “Street Preacher” — 7 Comments

  1. Even today, we see a lot of philosophers who bring modern teaching & sadly people follow whole-heartedly. God has given us the truth that should set us free & guide us into the everlasting life. I pray that the Holy Spirit helps us to seek & follow the Truth so as to be protected from the teachings of the modern world.

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  2. We may not have as many public philosophers as was the case during the time of Paul. But what we have are numerous preachers masquerading as true men and women of God although God has not sent them or called them. As prophesied by Jesus in Matthew 24, ......many false prophets shall arise and shall deceive many.............. What is striking is that many of these are jockeying for the very tittle of 'prophet' indeed fulfilling the prophecy to the letter. However, it is also written that ......you shall know them by their fruits............ Let no one who trully believes in the WORD be fooled, unlike Paul who worked hard and did not entirely depend on handouts from the flock, these prophets seldom preach the true gospel but are busy preaching prosperity, peace and decadent philosophies in addition to performing miracles that have no resemblance to the miracles of the master. Those who see let them enlighten those who do not with humility, meekness, fear of God and love. For those who are in darkness are many and the workers are few just as in the time of Paul.

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  3. Yes, Paul’s teaching was more than just a philosophy; it was a proclamation of the truth and a revelation of the powerful work of God in the salvation of humanity also a humble man trusting in God alone!

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  4. The most profound statement made in the lesson is the last sentence "Paul's life was the most powerful sermon he could preach". If only we could all learn to do the same.

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  5. This Phylosophy often times lead many to believe in their own works, through words of wisdom, as it may be called at times, penny saved is a penny earned. The early bird gets the worm. Early to bed early to rise, makes one healthy, wealthy, and wise. Words to live by doesn't always fulfill there desired effect. But seems to provide motive to live ones life in according to it's principle as if there is a greater reward. Thereby no need for God. I feel sometimes this also is creeping into our church, as the youth shall finish the work. So as I am old am I to do nothing? The Bible says to go, preach, teach, and heal, to the world. Prclaim the gospel. Making disciples, but seems to me we turn them into bench warmers.

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  6. History repeats itself no doubt. Much of today's self actualization concepts has much to do with self reliance in producing good behavior and interpersonal relations; while in fact blurring people's vision of their need of God and accepting what Jesus has accomplished for us by His death and resurrection. This is a great evil, it provides our consciousness with some kind of shock absorbers towards the out cry of human soul as it expresses its need of God. I don't know much of how sexual exploitation plays out in the whole subject, but what I know is that the human spirit devoid of the influence of Godliness is susceptible to all kinds of exploitation. In teaching freedom the world is being led towards free - doom.

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  7. The best philosophy that would astound the international world is preaching the word through who we are. We will not afford preaching numerous sermons in a week's time. We need to live only one life (Christlike life) and we will be better sermons. That is biblical philosophy at its best

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