We hear a lot today about how experts in crime detection and prevention make use of past cases, past experiences, and statistics to develop a “profile” for the type of person who is most likely to commit a particular crime. What about the profile of one who is a “likely candidate” to become a Christian?
The Lord wants His followers to preach the gospel to every person of every ethnic group under heaven (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15). As we go about the task of trying to reach the lost, are there certain physical characteristics or social backgrounds of people which help us profile them as prime candidates to submit to the gospel?
When we read the Bible, we see that people from a wide variety of religious backgrounds became followers of Jesus. Some Samaritans, who believed in the God of heaven but accepted only a small portion of the Old Testament scriptures, believed on Jesus (John 4:39-41). A great number of devout Jews, including some who were priests, gave up Judaism to become Christians (Acts 2:5,41; 4:4; 6:7). Crispus, who was the chief ruler of a synagogue, believed on the Lord, as did his family (Acts 18:8). Saul of Tarsus, the great persecutor of God’s people, surely shocked the saints when he obeyed the gospel (Acts 9,22,26).
Simon of Samaria, who had been a sorcerer/ magician, believed and was baptized (Acts 8:9-13). Some Gentiles who already believed in God, like Cornelius, received the gospel when they heard it (Acts 10,11). There also were Gentiles who formerly worshipped idols, but cast aside their man-made “gods” to serve the true God (1 Thessalonians 1:9). We also read of those who, though they previously had been immersed, were baptized again when they heard God’s truth (Acts 19:1-7). In addition, there were converts like Timothy who were blessed to be raised in a family in which some older family members possessed genuine faith (2 Timothy 1:5).
From the above considerations, it is obvious that those who became disciples of our Lord in the first century were not all from the same religious background. While we recognize that in many cases today those who have been “brought up” with vigorous training in false religions may be totally uninterested in God’s truth, it still is our duty to try and teach them the gospel.
Jesus’ first-century disciples certainly had a great variety of occupational backgrounds. Some of His earliest followers were fishermen (Mark 1:16-20). Some were tax collectors (Mark 2:14,15; Luke 19:1-10). Others were business people like Lydia (Acts 16:14,15), soldiers like Cornelius (Acts 10:1), or government officials like Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:7,12). One was a prison-keeper (Acts 16:25-33). Dionysius was one of the rulers of the Areopagus/ Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17:34), Luke was a doctor (Colossians 4:14), Zenas was a lawyer (Titus 3:13), and Onesimus was a runaway slave (Philemon 10-17). Brothers and sisters, regardless of our personal occupation, our co-workers/colleagues need the gospel and are prospects for conversion!
What about the educational background of members of the church in the days of the apostles? Some were highly-educated, like Luke the beloved physician and Zenas the lawyer. On the other hand, the Jewish leaders looked on Peter and John as being “uneducated and untrained” (Acts 4:13).
What about the financial background of those converted to the Christ? Some were wealthy (1 Timothy 6:17). Others were poor (James 2:5). Yet others lived in deep poverty (2 Corinthians 8:2).
Throughout history, not many folks who have been noble, wise, or mighty by worldly standards have humbled themselves and obeyed the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:25-31). Yet, some have, including some great Christians of our generation. We understand also that being less educated or less wealthy is no guarantee that one will be interested in doing God’s will.
So, what is the profile of the person who is most likely to obey the gospel? Sinners of all religious backgrounds, all educational backgrounds, all social backgrounds, and all financial backgrounds need the gospel. And, some sinners from all backgrounds obey it when they hear it. You and I, brothers and sisters, have been given the charge to teach them God’s truth. Let us be busy doing so, always seeking for those who have a noble and good heart (Luke 8:15).
— Roger D. Campbell