A brief thought experiment, if you will indulge me.
Suppose Paul had been accompanied by a modern evangelical protestant Christian when Paul gave his speech to the Areopagus in Athens (Acts 17:22-31). Do you think he would have taken Paul aside afterwards and chastened him for not giving a clear cross-centred message? Paul talks about the one true God, the maker of heaven and earth and relates it to an “unknown god” worshipped in Athens. He even quotes two Greek poets to make his point. He mentions “the Man whom He has ordained” (ie. Jesus Christ) and says that he has been raised from the dead but there is no talk of how he died, or why he died, or what he accomplished with his death, etc.
I’m not saying that Paul did not talk of these things while in Athens, of course he did. In fact, it says in verse 18 that “he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.” In fact, I think the speech for the Areopagus was to whet the appetites of those who had ears to hear. This idea is supported by verse 32:
And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” (Acts 17:32, NKJV)
So, I’m not saying Paul preached a cut-down version of the gospel in Athens. My thought experiment is this: would our hypothetical modern evangelical have given out to him for not using the opportunity before the Areopagus to expound a ‘fuller’ gospel? Would he have felt that an opportunity to talk of Christ’s work on the cross had been wasted? Would he have felt that every time you preach a sermon you should mention the cross in a clear and unambiguous way? Would he have felt you are not preaching the gospel at all if you are not doing so? I imagine that many modern evangelicals would have been very annoyed with Paul and with his wasting of a golden opportunity to proclaim the gospel. They might have felt he kowtowed to Greek cultural pressure and watered down his message accordingly.
I think it is the case that Paul had a quite nuanced way of evangelising, taking into account the culture of those who were listening (cf. the fact that these people were Greeks, not Jews, and the fact that he quoted Greek poetry and reference Greek monuments in Athens) and taking into account the extent of their current understanding. He began by telling them of the one true God, and throwing the contentious bone of a resurrection. Only later would he have talked in greater detail about our relationship with this one true God, the problem of sin, the nature of “the Man whom He has ordained”, His death on the cross, the possibility of renewed relationship with the one true God, etc.
Paul interacted with the Greeks at the level of their own culture and understanding, working to bring them to a place where they could understand and accept the gospel of Christ in its fullness.
Just a thought, again to be expanded over the coming time (possibly).