Chapter 17: Acts 17: 1-34, to an unknown god.
Heavenly Father, You are Jehovah Rapha, Jehovah Rohi, Jehovah Nissi, Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Tsidkenu, Jehovah Mkadesh, Jehovah Shamma, Jehovah Seboath, and Jehovah Shalom. You are all these and much more. Thank You for loving us and caring for us, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
VV 1-4, 1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
3 Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead, and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. 4 And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas, and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.
Paul and his team traveled to Amphipolis, Apollonian, and reached Thessalonica, another city in Macedonia, northern Greece. Paul preached the gospel and the resurrection of Christ in the local synagogue on three consecutive Sabbaths.
VV 5-9, 5 But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, these that have turned the world upside down are come hither also.
7 Whom Jason hath received, and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. 8 And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. 9 And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.
The Jews in Thessalonica were skeptical, furious, aggressive, jealous, and wanted to attack Paul. They started a mob in the city and attacked Jason. When they did not find Paul, they dragged Jason and some disciples to the rulers of the city, charging them for wilfully causing unrest in the city. They even invoked the name of Caesar. After collecting bond money from Jason, they released everyone.
VV 10-15, 10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea, who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. 13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people. 14 And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea, but Silas and Timotheus abode there still. 15 And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens, and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed.
The disciples sent Paul and Silas to Berea by night. At Berea, they preached the gospel in the local synagogues. The Bereans were more knowledgable than the Thessalonians. They counter-checked with scripture all the things that Paul said and many of them believed. The Jews from Thessalonica came to Berea and started another riot there. The disciples sent Paul away to Athens by sea leaving Silas and Timothy behind.
VV 16-18, 16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. 17 Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. 18 Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, what will this babbler say? other some, he seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods, because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.
Paul confronted the Epicureans and Stoic philosophers of Athens. Epicureans believed in random chance, an uncaring God, and did not believe in life after death. All things must be enjoyed in this present life. Stoics denied pleasure, endured pain and fear. They were keen to listen to Paul’s teaching.
VV 19-21, 19 And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, may we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? 20 For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears, we would know therefore what these things mean. 21 (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)
They took Paul to the Areopagus and allowed him to speak. The philosophers of Athens and foreigners liked to waste time and listen to new ideas and philosophies in the Areopagus.
VV 22-23, 22 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. 23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.
Paul was very polite to his audience. He commended them for their religiosity and ferventness in seeking God. Athen was famous for statues. When Paul was walking in the streets of Athens, he saw plenty of statues, and one particular statute was dedicated to an unknown god. Greek for unknown god is ‘’anosko theos’’. Paul used this unknown god statute as an ice breaker for his sermon.
VV 24-31, 24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands, 25 neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things. 26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation. 27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us. 28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being, as certain also of your own poets have said, for we are also his offspring. 29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. 30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at, but now commandeth all men every where to repent, 31 because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
Here was Paul’s evangelistic sermon. Paul quoted phrases from two Greek poets, “we live and move and have our being” and “we are were also his offspring”.
God is the creator. He does not dwell in temples made by men’s hands. He gave life and breath to all living things. He created the first human being Adam who populated the whole earth. He predetermined the times and places that people will live. Contrary to the teachings of the epicureans, God is a personal God who wants our relationship. We are God’s children. God is not an idol carved out by men’s hands using gold, silver, or stone. In the past, God overlooked people’s ignorance but now He commanded everyone to repent of their sins. God will judge the world in righteousness through the Lord Jesus Christ whom God resurrected from the dead to prove that He is God.
VV 32-34, 32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, and others said, we will hear thee again of this matter. 33 So Paul departed from among them. 34 Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed, among which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
When they heard about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, some of them were skeptical and mocked Paul, some wanted to hear more from Paul at another time, but some believed. Among those who believed were Dionysius, Damaris, and others.
The Bereans checked with scripture all the things that Paul said. Did you check with scriptures all the things that preachers and teachers said? Do not believe everything you hear. You should counter-check with scripture to see whether the teachings you hear or read are biblical or not.
When Paul preached the gospel in Athens, some mocked, some wanted to hear more, but some believed. You should evangelise for the sake of those who will believe. Do not worry about those who mock and do not believe. Your job is to sow the seed of the gospel. Conversion is the job of the Holy Spirit, not you.
Heavenly Father, help us to master the art of evangelistic preaching in the marketplace. Help us to imitate Paul just as he imitated Christ. We pray for the anointing and gifts of the Holy Spirit to equip us in ministry, in Jesus’ name, Amen.