Faithlife Sermons

Preaching, Persuasion, and Response

Acts 17  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  44:34
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Today we are going to see and hear Paul respond to the request of the Athenians. Their request was this, tell us about these ideas that you keep speaking of. Or better yet we could say it this way, tell us if the gospel is going to disrupt our lives. Paul addresses their question with preaching, and persuading, and in turn they respond with mixed responses to one part of the gospel in particular.

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1. Preaching with a _critical reminder_

1. Preaching with a critical reminder (22-23)
From a preaching standpoint this section of our passage intrigues me greatly. When I was taught to write my sermons I was taught that you begin with a greeting followed with an introduction. After you draw their attention to you, you present the crux of the message, three or four main points that intertwine the scripture with current life, and then end it with a solid conclusion, something to respond to.
This is exactly what Paul is doing in this section of scripture and in this first part we see a greeting and introduction. In his greeting it seems that Paul is commending that Athenians for being very religious.
Now if you look at the word you will find that it could be translated both in a positive light or negative light. I am going to lean on the side of this being positive because the last thing you want to do is tick off the people before you get in to deep, but it won't be long before that changes.
Acts 17:22–23 NIV84
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 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. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.
Acts 17:22–34 NIV84
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 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. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. “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. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ “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 man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 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 all men by raising him from the dead.” 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.” At that, Paul left the Council. A few men 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.
But as Paul continued on he addressed the fact that their superstitious thoughts and lack of understanding who God is was the true reality of their current situation.
He immediately addresses that they worship far too many things including an alter that they had built off to the side with an inscription of the words, "To An Unknown God." He turns that table on them in that instant ready to share with them the very idea of that statement. He was getting ready to share with them the one true God.
Acts 17:
Now this took place before Paul had written the book of Romans in which he clearly states that God manifests Himself to every human being as to leave no one with an excuse to say, I do not know Him. ()
In my dealing with people in their unbelief, it is not that they don't know God exists, it's that they simply cannot stand the idea of serving Him. This is what religion is, the shaping of God in the image people make up and therefore distort the view of who He is. Who wants to believe in a distorted view of God? Too many. A distorted view allows for the stretching of truth and morals. It distorts the reality before us.

1. Preaching with a critical reminder

Illus:
What the Athenians wanted to believe in was a deity that they created with their hands, minds, or ideas. They worshiped things, and not the Creator of all things. Let's be honest, Even Christianity can become religion when we substitute the very nature of God that we find in scripture and forge our beliefs around a god that we try and contain in a little box that we can get out and put away at our convenience, just a god of our own making.
This is the very nature of what the Greeks were doing in Athens. They had no idea of this unknown god but they were securing an alter just in case. Paul did not believe for an instant that they did not know who God was, they just chose to ignore Him and he was about to call them out on it.
FF Bruce said, "Since they acknowledged their ignorance of the divine nature (God), he would tell them about it. Pau, did that by ...

2. Persuading _with truth_

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.”
So where would Paul start? He begins with the most important part. He starts off by telling them about the one and only true God. He does not leave them to guess who He is either. He is God and He created all things, both the heavens and the earth.
He was very clear and concise so that there was no confusion. God of the world (kosmos) was a term that they would be able to understand, but the idea of God being the maker and creator of all things would be a hard concept for them to grasp.
For the Greeks divinity would be found in many things. You might fine it in the heavens, but also in nature, and humanity. They would have had the hardest time with the idea of one single supreme God that created all things and saw over the whole world, talk about an Unknown God.
Paul also dives right in pointing out that this God does not live in a temple built by human hands. This would probably resonated with them in the sense that they would ascribe the ability to worship God within ones self, but God was speaking of one true God and they were always about pantheism, the worship of many gods. This was what Paul was trying to break.
Every statement that Paul made was a direct root of the OT. God being the God of life and breath and the creator of all things is rooted in and .
Acts 17:24–31 NIV84
“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. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ “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 man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 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 all men by raising him from the dead.”
This is what God the Lord says—the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it:
I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens,10 for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills 11 I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine.
12 If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.
Acts 17:2
This is not a God that could be encapsulated by any temple, and he was very clear that there could only be one God Who is the creator of all things. If they were going to be able to know Him and the fullness of His glory, they were going to have to abandon all other gods that they worshipped.
Paul made it clear that God was never far away and desired foe mankind to seek Him. He is a relational God. But he was very clear that we are to have no other before him. 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.
Paul once again is making it clear that their forms of artificial worship of things was not something that God was going to tolerate. He reminded them that as offspring of God we are a representation of the image of God.

2. Persuading with truth

If it is that we are the image of God then there is nothing outside the hands of God, that can be created to by human hands that can offer a true homage to God. There is no silver or gold that can render who God is. And then Paul ends this section with this ...
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.”
Paul was quite blunt. God has given every opportunity to know Him and in ignorance they had been able to not see him in the past, but now Paul made it very clear, "Now you know the truth and your ignorance can no longer save you. God overlooked that in the past but now you know better and you must respond."
The only course available was to repent and make Jesus the savior of their lives or continue in false worship as they had been doing, but no longer out of ignorance but out of sheer defiance.
Illus: Austin (My Nephew) just could not understand that I was making his food for him and kept going back into the cupboard for his cereal. We went through this almost every day until the last couple. Once he understood that I was getting him food he had a choice ... wait or be defiant ...
The Athenians now had a choice to make ... respond in ignorance or respond in repentance and we see how they responded in their ...

3. Response to _The Resurrection_

Acts 17:32–34 NIV84
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.” At that, Paul left the Council. A few men 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.
Acts 17:3
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.

3. Response to The Resurrection

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