Rational Preaching
Acts 17:2-4
And Paul, as his manner was, went in to them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,…

I. PAUL USUALLY PROVED THE TRUTH OF THE DOCTRINES WHICH HE TAUGHT. He did not desire his hearers to believe without evidence. He commended the Bereans, for searching the Scriptures, to see whether his doctrines were agreeable to that standard. In order to reason clearly upon the truth of a proposition, it is often necessary to explain it, to produce arguments in support of it, to answer objections against it. By Paul's proving the doctrines which he taught, we are to understand his reasoning upon them in this manner. This will appear in respect to a variety of subjects upon which he preached. He reasoned plainly and forcibly upon —

1. The existence of God (vers. 23-29; Romans 1:20).

2. The Divine sovereignty (Romans 9).

3. Total depravity (Romans 2:3).

4. Here it was Christ's sufferings, death, and resurrection.

5. The resurrection and future state (1 Corinthians 15).When Paul preached before Felix, "he reasoned" so that "Felix trembled." Immediately after he was converted he preached Christ, and reasoned so that he confounded the Jews. After he came to Corinth he "reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks." At length he came to Ephesus, where he reasoned with the Jews, "disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God."


1. Because he meant to preach the gospel intelligibly to persons of all characters and capacities, and he knew that in order to do this it was necessary to explain its doctrines, to prove them to be true, that they might be believed; and to answer objections, that the mouths of gainsayers might be stopped.

2. Because he meant to preach profitably, as well as plainly. It is only through the medium of the understanding and the conscience that preachers can affect the hearts of the hearers.IMPROVEMENT:

1. It appears from Paul's usual mode of preaching that he was a metaphysical preacher. For, in the first place, he usually preached upon metaphysical subjects, which required the exercise of the highest reasoning powers of man — the existence, the perfections, the sovereignty of God, the free agency of man under a Divine agency, the divinity and atonement of Christ, the nature of holiness, etc., etc.; and he preached upon them metaphysically, that is, he reasoned upon them. He did not merely declaim upon them; but he explained them, proved them, and refuted the most plausible objections ever made against them. Let any minister, at this day, commonly preach upon the same subjects, and in the same manner that Paul did, and he will be called a metaphysical preacher, by those who are pleased with such a different mode of preaching. And we must allow that they are perfectly correct.

2. If Paul preached in such a manner, then none have any good reason to speak reproachfully of his manner of preaching.

(1) Some may say that Christ did not preach metaphysically, but only taught plain, practical doctrines, without reasoning upon them; and therefore ministers should follow his example. Answer: There is reason to think that Paul felt his obligation to follow the example of Christ, as much as any preacher ever did. And so far as he deviated from Christ's example in preaching, he acted from pure and proper motives. And it is easy to see a good reason why Christ did not undertake to prove the doctrines He taught, for He taught as one having authority that none ought to dispute. But neither Paul nor any other human preacher is clothed with such authority.

(2) Some may say that those who preach upon the same subjects in the same manner that Paul did, do not preach plainly and practically; and therefore are unprofitable preachers. But if Paul was a plain and profitable preacher, why should not those be? And who indeed, generally preach the most plainly and successfully? No man ever preached like metaphysical Paul.

3. If Paul, for good reasons, adopted the very best mode, then no other reason can be assigned for disliking it, but a dislike to the doctrines, which his mode of preaching exhibits in the clearest and strongest light.

4. If Paul preached plainly, in order to preach profitably, then other ministers ought to preach plainly, for the same purpose. Paul's plain preaching offended and disaffected many of his hearers. But this did not prevent his preaching plainly; for his design in preaching was not to please men, but to profit them, and please God (Galatians 1:6-10).

5. If ministers ought to preach plainly and profitably, as Paul did, then people ought to approve of their preaching in such a manner, though it be not pleasing to their natural hearts. People have no right to desire preachers to seek to please them simply, but they ought to desire them to seek to save them.

(N. Emmons, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,

WEB: Paul, as was his custom, went in to them, and for three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the Scriptures,

Paul's Treatment of the Old Testament
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