Monday, February 14, 2011



I want to return to the message that Paul gave to the very religious, without-the- Bible group in Athens in Acts 17. This was the first time Paul has spoken to a group that was without Old Testament Scriptural knowledge. His approach is masterful and teaches us a lot for our communication today.

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, "What is this babbler trying to say?" Others remarked, "He seems to be advocating foreign gods." They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean." 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship-and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'

29 "Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone-an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead."

32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, "We want to hear you again on this subject." 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

So, NOTE the response. Some sneered, others said we want to pursue this further and some became followers and believed. How did they come to the point of belief in this case? I want to consider a few things:

FIRST-Paul didn't reject their religiosity, but affirmed them for being so religious. I don't know many Christians who would feel comfortable doing it this way. Can you see how this applies to our present world today with Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and the new age spirituality?

SECOND-He didn't quote any Scripture at all. The Bible meant nothing to this audience. To use the Bible as a source of authority or credibility would have been futile. Yet, today we think we must tag everything we say or do with a Bible verse. I know some who believe that you must use a certain kind of Bible in order to be most effective-the King James version! Their thinking is that if it was good enough for Jesus then it should be good enough for us today! Never mind that the King James version is a 16th Century document and not in the time of Jesus!

THIRD-He quoted a well-known poet. He used their credible sources to unpack the truth about this UNKNOWN GOD. In fact, this poet was known for his writing of the worship of Zeus.

FOURTH-He didn't even mention Jesus' name explicitly. He had been speaking of Jesus in the synagogues, but in this speech he doesn't use His name.

FIFTH-Paul seems bent on using their symbols, their authorities, and their cultural traditions to teach the Athenians about the God of gods. He skillfully used the little bit of light that they had-a monument to the UNKNOWN GOD-and shared his thinking on who this unknown God might be and that He can be known to some extent.

THE RESULT? Some believed! NOTE that they didn't have a litany of doctrines to believe; they exercised a simple belief-all that they knew that they were, trusting in all that they knew about this God of gods who created the universe.

This brings me to a very critical principle. UNLESS YOU RELATE TO YOUR WORLD, THEN YOUR WORLD WILL NEVER RELATE TO YOUR GOD. We are so hung up on our little spiritual check-lists that we continually miss the opportunity to share the person of Jesus to the world.

We have become content in talking to ourselves. We judge the world and talk to ourselves, when we ought to be judging ourselves and talking to the world.