Focal Passage: Acts 17:22-34
Of all the cities on Paul’s itinerary, there was none more
and the western world today than Athens, Greece.
The citizens of Athens
were, for the most part, quite educated and very religious (17:22).
Athens was the
intellectual cradle of the Greco-Roman world. Philosophers abounded. And while
there was the synagogue, it was really out in the marketplace that people spoke
and listened to the ideas that changed minds and hearts. As to religious
beliefs, most Athenians were polytheistic and/or pantheistic.
A popular teaching was that the world and the gods were in
union — the heavenly bodies and the forces of nature were part of the
personality and actions of the gods, their heroes.
Moreover, they were guilty of worshiping at altars conceived
more by superstition than reality.
To such a world Paul sought to bring the message of Jesus
Christ. But how?
How do modern day missionaries tell the biblical story of
God’s plan to people who have a totally different world view?
Here was Paul’s six-part message:
(1) There is one God, not many. As such, God is the Lord of
creation. Creation was ordered and planned by God.
(2) God does not live in shrines or altars. Humans did not,
nor can they, create or alter who God is.
(3) God does not need anything from us to be God. All life
proceeds from God. Our life (human life) is a gift from God.
(4) God’s purpose is that we seek and find Him. He is not
far from any of us.
(5) God is Judge. God is justice, and God is righteous. As
holy God, there is a definite right and a definite wrong. Righteousness is
rewarded and wrong is punished.
Our proper response to God’s righteousness and our sin is
(6) There is a resurrection from the dead. The resurrection
is not a myth or a theory; the resurrection was proved when Jesus Christ rose
from the dead.
One of the lessons we must understand is this: our
obligation is to tell the story, and to tell it with compassion and grace.
Our obligation is faithfulness; the result is God’s job. I
know we don’t like rejection. I doubt Paul did either. The outcome of Paul’s
work in Athens was mixed.
Some of the intellectuals of Athens
They called him a babbler, one who “peddled religion.”
He wasn’t a great hit at the Jewish synagogue either.
Further, as far as we know, no church was founded by Paul.
But there was Dionysius. There was Damaris. There was a start.