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Revealing the Unknown

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Acts 17

Title
Acts 17:16–33 KJV 1900
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. 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.) 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. 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. 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.
Dah-ma-rhee
Dee-OH-knee-see-us
Air-ee-opo-gus - means “Hill of Ares” Greek God of war - Roman God MARS
Air-ee-opo-gites

Introduction

The story of Paul's life after his conversion is that of preaching the GOSPEL and facing opposition.

Show map from Thessalonica to Athens

Acts 17:16 KJV 1900
16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.
While Paul was waiting he looked around.
What did he see?
A whole town given over to idolatry. False God’s and beliefs!
What happened to Paul?
He was stirred up about it!
He was provoked! He was distressed about it!
The Acts of the Apostles (King James Version) I. Athens, the Great Intellectual and Philosophical City (Part I): The Preacher’s Urgency and His Audience—Who It Is that Needs the Gospel, 17:16–21

• over the abuse of God’s glory

• over the spiritual blindness of man’s mind and reason

• against the devil’s enslavement of lives

• with compassion for the souls of men

Why? They were believing and practicing false religion!

Allow God to stir you up about the Gospel!

The first lesson:
Allow what you see in this world stir you to do more with the Gospel!
It is the only hope!
It is for those who know to tell those who don’t!
Paul decide to do something about it ...
PREACH!
Romans 1:16 KJV 1900
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
1 Corinthians 1:18 KJV 1900
18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
Second lesson:

Share the Gospel with anyone, anywhere

Look at the different type of people Paul spoke with about the Gospel;

The Religious Jews

Acts 17:17 KJV 1900
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.
The first audience for the gospel was the religionists. The religionists were pictured in the Jews.
It says that he “Disputed” : has more of a negative tone today - REASONED or DISCOURSE
They …
• were the regular attenders of worship services
• were familiar with God
• were familiar with the Scripture and its teachings
• were the ones usually trying to live moral and just lives
• were the ones usually seeking truth
Therefore, they were the logical ones to try and reach first. They were the first ones for whom the preacher’s heart would ache, for they …
• had been seeking God and had been blinded by institutional religion, by its ceremony and ritual and form
• were resting in a false security and assurance
• had been holding the banner of morality and justice high in an evil world
• had been holding back the flood waters of evil
Very simply, the religionists were the persons who were more like the preacher than anyone else. The religionists, although lost and blinded to Christ, were concerned with morality and justice. The preacher’s heart was bound to ache for the blind religionists to know the truth.
“I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Ro. 9:2–3).
“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved” (Ro. 10:1).
“For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God” (1 Th. 2:9).

The Religious Gentiles

Acts 17:17 KJV 1900
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.
The second audience for the gospel was God-fearing men and women. The word “devout” (sebomenois) means those who worship or the God-fearing men and women who are not Jews. There were many of these in the ancient world, many who were just sick of the immorality and injustices of their pagan society and polytheistic religions. Therefore, they turned to the Jewish religion, being attracted by the emphasis upon one God and the laws demanding morality and justice for all
(see DEEPER STUDY # 2, Society Corrupt—Acts 16:14; note—17:11 for discussion).
“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” (Acts 17:27).
“But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Dt. 4:29).
“Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near” (Is. 55:6).
“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13).

The Materialistic Masses

Acts 17:17 KJV 1900
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.
The third audience for the gospel was the average person or citizen of the community. These were the people of the community who …
• gave little thought or notice to truth, to what lay behind the world and man, behind behavior and death
• just fit in and went along with the crowd and society and the world around them, whether just or unjust, moral or immoral
• were concerned with day to day affairs and practical living
They were the audience who moved about in the market places and shopping centers of the community, buying and selling, demonstrating concern over …
• appearance and looks
• clothes and the latest styles
• possessions and things
• body and development
• social acceptance and popularity
• position and recognition
• money and property
Note: these are the materialists of the world. Materialism always leaves the human heart empty and longing for something that will fill and satisfy one’s life. The heart of the honest materialist is a prime audience for the gospel.
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt. 6:24).
“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mt. 16:26).
“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2).
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20).
“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Is. 1:18).
“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Is. 55:1).

The Worldly Agnostics

Acts 17:18 KJV 1900
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.
17:18 Epicurean Epicureanism was a system of thought that asserted there was no connection between people and the divine. This belief was expressed in a desire to seek contentment and satisfaction and to avoid pain and discomfort. (hedonism)
Epicureanism began with Epicurus (341–270 BC), who argued that the world was made of atoms and that the world was purely material. Epicureans attempted to free people from the idea of the gods, the afterlife, and the fear of death. The only value that remained was the physical reality of the individual, and thus the individual was freed from fear to pursue what truly gave pleasure; Epicurus stressed that contentment and nobility produced the best, most enjoyable life.
5 (17:18) Epicureans—Worldliness: the fourth audience for the gospel was the Epicureans or pleasure-seekers. The Epicurean philosophy has been in the world since Adam. However, the basic principles were spelled out by the Greek philosopher Epicurus (B.C. 342–270). The basic beliefs are:
⇒ The world happened by chance, by accident.
⇒ If there are gods, they are remote and disinterested in the affairs of men.
⇒ Man is left on his own to discover the truth and pleasure of life.
⇒ There is nothing after death, no heaven or hell, no reward or punishment. Man simply returns to become part of the dust of the earth.
Note how this philosophy centers upon man and his pleasure. It is both humanistic and materialistic, leaving God completely out of the picture. Note also the practical outcome of the Epicurean philosophy. Man is left on his own to discover the truth and his own pleasure. Whatever pleases him, gives him and his society pleasure and happiness, he is free to do. Such a low view of man leads man …
• to do his own thing
• to indulge self
• to eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow he dies and is no more
• to take license against others
• to please self over others
• to behave for self-interest, selfishly
• to ignore and deny the rights of others in order to have and build, and to secure one’s own happiness and pleasure
Pleasure-seekers are often left empty and dissatisfied, craving for something to fill and satisfy their lives. They are, therefore, prime prospects for the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection” (Lk. 8:14).
“And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares” (Lk. 21:34).
“But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth” (1 Tim. 5:6).
“For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another” (Tit. 3:3).
“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (Jas. 4:4).

The Logical Thinkers

Acts 17:18 KJV 1900
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.
Stoic Stoicism was an essentially pantheistic system of thought that prioritized logic over all other faculties. (similiar to budism)
Contrary to Epicureanism, Stoicism contended that the physical universe is empowered by a reasoning force known as logos, which connects the divine with the material. Ethically, stoics attempted to live in accordance with the natural laws they observed and systematized.
6 (17:18) Stoics: the fifth audience for the gospel was the Stoics or the rationalists, the self-controlled and disciplined. The stoic philosophy was formulated by Zeno (B.C. 336–264). The basic beliefs are …
• Pantheism: god exists in everything and in everyone. The fiery spirit, the energy of everything and everyone, is god.
• Fatalism: whatever happened occurred because it was supposed to happen. There is no good or evil in the world. Things are the way they are and happen the way they do because they are destined. There is nothing anyone can do about anything.
Note the practical outcome of this philosophy. People—those who believe in a god and believe that whatever happens is of god and that events cannot be affected by man—slip into one of two responses.
First, some people try to control their destiny. They discipline and control themselves, using all the reasoning powers and energy at their disposal. They try to control their destiny and fate, attempting to make only good things happen. They even deny themselves the simple pleasures and joys of life. They repress all feelings, for emotions and feelings are only signs of weakness. A person tries to be self-sufficient, indifferent to pain and pleasure, guided by reason alone.
Second, some people reason they can do nothing about their fate; therefore, they just live doing little if anything. They take whatever comes as their destiny and the life they are supposed to live. They make few, if any, significant contributions to life. Of course, this often leads to complacency and lethargy, laziness and worthlessness.
The disciplined, the self-controlled, and the legalist often ache for release, for a spirit of joy and rejoicing. And they, along with the lethargic, complacent, and fatalist, often ache for the care and interest of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are often a prime audience for the gospel.
“Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain” (Gal. 4:10–11).
“For bodily exercise [discipline] profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Tim. 4:8).
*************
7 (17:18–21) Philosophers: the sixth audience of the gospel was the philosophical questioners of Christ. Note several points.
1. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers confronted Paul. Some mocked him to his face, calling him a “babbler.” Others took him more seriously, saying that he was presenting a new and strange god to the people.
Thought 1. Paul endured the mockery, stood his ground and refused to be dismissed. He wanted the chance to preach the gospel so that some might be saved. What a dynamic example for us—willing to bear mockery in order to try and reach some of the mockers for Christ!
2. It was Jesus and the resurrection that confounded the philosophers. Note: Paul was proclaiming Jesus as the personal God …
• the God who is vitally interested in our lives, interested enough to come to earth and live and die for us.
• the God who is so interested in us that He has ordained a day when He will resurrect all of us to face Him and give an account of our lives.
3. The philosophers brought Paul to the Areopagus, which is the Greek for Mars Hill. It is not known whether Paul was asked to share his god with a congregation of all the interested philosophers of the city or before the official court of the city. Whatever the case, he would be surrounded by a throng of people who had followed him to Mars Hill. Paul was anxious to preach Christ.
4. The great need of the philosophers is clearly stated by Scripture. They were …
• aimless
• meaningless
• empty
• without profitable purpose
They had searched every philosophy and thought, belief and position in the known world at that time, and they had come short in finding the truth—the one true and living God. They had searched and ended up empty for so long that they found meaning in life only by listening to new and novel ideas. They were hopeless in discovering the one all-embracing Being of truth.
“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Ro. 1:22).
“For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:19–21).
“Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought” (1 Cor. 2:6).
“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain” (1 Cor. 3:19–20).
“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:14).
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8).
“This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish” (Jas. 3:15).

Mars’ Hill

Areopagus

mars hill video

The Areopagus is a very peculiar formation of rock on top of which the Parthenon and the buildings connected with it stand. Frankly

WHAT DID PAUL PREACH? He had so many different people?

God is the Creator

(vv. 24–25). (Epicurions)
Acts 17:24–25 KJV 1900
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;
The Greeks believed different theories about creation, and even held to a form of evolution. Paul clearly stated that God created everything and did not live in temples made by men. God gives life to all; man can really give nothing to Him.

God is in Control

(vv. 26–29). (Stoics)
Acts 17:26–29 KJV 1900
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.
ARATUS [AR-uh-tuhs] (PERSON). A Stoic poet of Soli in Cilicia (315–240 B.C.E.). A portion of the opening invocation to Zeus from his astronomical poem Phaenomena is quoted in the speech of Paul at the Areopagus (Acts 17:28): “For we are indeed his [God’s] offspring.” Phaenomena, Aratus’ only completely extant poem, was widely known and liked in the Roman world; it was translated into Latin by Cicero, Caesar Germanicus, and Avienus. The latter two of these translations survive, along with fragments of Cicero’s.
He appoints the boundaries of the nations. Through His government of the nations, He seeks to make men seek Him and find Him. Paul even quoted a Greek writer (v. 28) to show that God is the sustainer of life. This does not mean the Greek poet was inspired, but rather that his statement agreed with divine truth. Again Paul diplomatically pointed out that their temples and images were foolish and ignorant. We need this reminder today!

God is the Savior

(v. 30). (Greeks)
Acts 17:30 KJV 1900
30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Paul wipes away the great Greek culture by calling it “times of ignorance”! With all their wisdom and culture, the Greeks failed to find God (see 1 Cor. 1:18ff). God has commanded men everywhere to repent; and if they repent and believe, He will forgive.
He will overlook that and they have the opportunity to change their mind the see him!

God is the Judge

(v. 31).(Jews - Resurrection)
Acts 17:31 KJV 1900
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.
God has appointed a day of judgment, and the Judge will be His Son, Jesus Christ. God proved this by raising Him from the dead. If we trust Christ today, He will save us; if we reject Him, tomorrow He will judge us.

Summary

The WHOLE GOSPEL will address anyone and everyone!
Not matter what you believe it will challenge you to turn to him!
What happened?
Some believed!

Call to action

Allow you heart to be stirred by the world around you!
Realize you can help influence some!
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