Exodus 4-6 / Matthew 14-22-36
“But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the market-place, formed a mob and started a riot in the city.” Acts 17:5
There are three appeals in Greek rhetoric: ethos, logos, and pathos. Ethos refers to ethical arguments about whether an idea is right or wrong. Logos refers to rational arguments that attempt to prove whether something is true and factual, which we call apologetics when rationally defending the truths of Scripture. Pathos is argumentation of the passions, appealing to people’s emotions to convince them to believe an idea. As a Pharisee trained in the Greek world, Paul would have been familiar with these three appeals and often used one or more in his reasoning when preaching the Gospel.
The appeals we use will not necessarily prompt a similar response in those we are trying to convince. For example, when Paul preached to the Jews in the synagogue of Thessalonica, “he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead” (Acts 17:2-3). Paul used logos, the intellectual appeal, hoping to rationally convince his hearers of why Jesus had to die, but some of the Jews reacted emotionally to this claim. Jesus did not fit their concept of the Messiah, and their resulting anger led them to stir up a riot amongst Paul’s listeners.
The danger of pathos appeals and responses is that people do not think clearly when they are emotionally aroused. When a close friend or a spouse makes us angry and defensive, some of us may lash back at them emotionally, often regretting it later. The same thing happens when people consider truth through an emotional lens. The rational arguments for Christianity are strong, but some will refuse to believe because their emotions have blinded them to the truth. Disappointment with the church or anger with God for not intervening in a troubling situation can make us unwilling to accept the truth about Jesus, no matter how strongly the facts support Him.
We are emotional beings, but sometimes we need to put our emotions aside to discover truth. The evening after the riot, Paul moved on to Berea, where Acts 17:11 tells us, “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those of Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” The Berean Jews were nobler because they took emotion out of the equation. They were willing to rationally consider the arguments about Jesus, and as a result, “many of them believed” (Acts 17:12). This demonstrates that holding too strongly to negative emotions can keep us from the kingdom, but when we put aside our emotions and study the facts, we will discover the undeniable case for believing in the risen Christ.
PRAYER: Father, thank You for giving me rational reason in Scripture to believe. I pray for those not yet saved to be enlightened by the Holy Spirit and become believers. Thank you, Lord.