How To Explain The Gospel

Series - Something New: A Study Through The Book of Acts
Scriptures - Acts 17
Presenter - Pastor Matt Surber
Date - November 14, 2021

Pastor Matt Surber looks at Acts 17 as he unpacks how we, as witnesses, can effectively contextualize the gospel to those around us.


Sermon Notes

  • We are identified as witnesses – someone who has seen, heard, experienced something – a witness talks about what happened to them.  What Acts tells us to do!
  • “Followers of the Way” – Jesus is the Way!

Acts 1:8

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses…”

Today:  Show you how to communicate the gospel in a way your friends will understand – you sharing your faith!

  • First you have to be convinced you are a witness – a missionary – If you are saved you are a missionary!

The question is not, “Am I a missionary? but “Am I a good or bad missionary”

  • Good missionaries are able to translate the gospel in a way people can understand 

In Acts, God uses normal, everyday, broken, but redeemed people…

  • When God gave us His Word, He gave it to us in a way we could embrace it and understand it.  (GOD WAS CLEAR)

God’s character – Who He is

God’s Will – What He wants    

God’s Ways – How He works  – CLEAR

In light of His self-disclosure – God says I want you now to take who I Am and what I have said – to other people!  – Tell them and show them in a clear way!


1 Corinthians 9:22

“To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.”

  • Contextualization is adapting my communication of the gospel without altering the truth of the gospel
  • Contextualization means that we communicate with the culture’s terms but not on the culture’s terms

Contextualization: WHAT IT DOES

…It attracts people to the gospel

  • When the gospel is made clear to a person, they are able to see Jesus and embrace Him as their own

Acts 17:4

And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.

Contextualization:  WHAT IT DOES

  • …It repels people from the gospel

Acts 17:5

But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd.

Contextualization is not giving people the answers that they want. It’s giving them God’s answers (which they may not want) in forms and language they can understand. 

Tim Keller

  • The Church – I’m not just talking about Mission City Church, but you – you are the church!

Over-Contextualization:  Water down the truth of the gospel to be relevant to the culture.  Culture is at the top.

  • Culture is where you take your direction. It governs our approach to the gospel. Bible truth is pushed down or altered to fit culture. (mainline churches dying)                       


  • Hyper-fundamentalist churches – dying, HF people ineffective with the gospel.

Right Way To Contextualize:

  • The Church is informed by the gospel, we take it to the culture, they are impacted by the gospel and become part of the church!


  • If we don’t believe people are really lost it doesn’t… but if we believe that the gospel is the hope of the world – it matters big time!                         

How To Explain The Gospel…

  • You must enter and challenge your friend’s gods

Acts 17:16

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.  (darkness and idolatry)

Acts 17:21

Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new…  

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship…

I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.

  • You must clearly explain the character of God

Acts 17:24-27

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything…

26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,

-Speak about certain aspects of God’s character that they need to hear at the moment.

-Sometimes as simple as Jesus loves you!

  • You must communicate in your friend’s language

Acts 17:28

28 for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.”

-Connect with people

-Their background and life is important to you!  (race, religion, family, education, culture)

Ask for a response… many people stop short because this seems hard!

  • You must call them to repentance

Acts 17:29

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.

Acts 17:30-31

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

  • Your false gods will not fulfill – everything else will leave you empty and searching!
  • Who is your friend you are thinking about right now that needs Jesus?
  • What did you do with your sin?
  • What did you do with your life?

It’s up to you! You are the missionary

  • Enter in and challenge their gods
  • Clearly explain the character of God
  • Communicate in a way they can understand
  • Call them to repentance

Holy Spirit

Pastor Matt Surber answers the question of why we need the Holy Spirit and the role the Holy Spirit plays in our lives.

Read More /

The Gospel is Better Than Legalism

Pastor Matt Surber, of Mission City Church in San Antonio, looks at Acts 15 as he unpacks the difference between legalism and the freedom we have in the Gospel.

Read More /