As we go through chapter 17:16-34 I would like to put it to you that there are effective and ineffective ways to share the gospel. So often we have examples in the Old Testament of how not to do things…could this part of chapter 17 reveal to us a New Testament example of how not to do something??
v16: Paul’s primary goal in Athens was to wait for Silas and Timothy (important clue🤔) Athens was a city given over to idols. All of this idolatry came out of a pursuit of humanistic reasoning.
v17: Paul didn’t sit idly by and wait for the synagogue to open every Sabbath. He took the opportunity to speak to the people he met in the marketplace everyday.
v18: Both groups of philosophers did not really believe in the supernatural. They believed that knowledge led to satisfaction.
- A babbler is someone who is either difficult to understand or you disagree with what he says.
v19: Another name for the Areopagus is “Mars Hill”. It was the headquarters of all the illustrious philosophers and wannabes.
- New doctrine/teaching – the intent of this verse is to show us how far away they were from the truth of Scripture. The basics of the Word of G-d were foreign to them.
v21: We believe that this verse (in parenthesis in some translations) was written by Luke himself and was not inserted into the text at a later date. Luke wrote it in parenthesis as an explanation to help those of us who are from different cultures and backgrounds to better understand the context.
v22: Paul’s presentation to these intellectual individuals is not a typical/classical Paul response. He did proclaim some of the main points, vital in sharing the gospel, but he arrived at them very differently from his usual way.
v23: Paul’s approach here was to find common ground between him and these philosophers and start with that as his foundation. The common element here was that of sacrifice – an altar.
- An unknown G-d – these people didn’t want any G-d that they might have missed to be angry with them so they covered all their bases.
Note: We must never present the acceptance of Yeshua as “to be on the safe side”, a “just in case He is the only way”. We do not accept the truth of Him as a “cover all my bases” theology. We need to present the gospel spelling out the fact that He is the ONLY truth, the ONLY way and is from the ONLY G-d.
- Here Paul begins with something they are familiar with (the concept of an unknown G-d) in order to move them to truth.
v24: The definite article (“The”) is very important – omitted in the NKJV. Paul emphatically declared to them that there is only one G-d. Paul moved very quickly to the concept of “L-rd”. Yeshua is the foundational truth of the gospel and Paul never wanted to move far away from that truth.
v25: The only true G-d has no limitations. This is in stark contrast to the philosophy of idolatry where the idols have very limited power (this one for rain, that one for fertility etc)
v26: Just as there was one source of blood (DNA) for mankind (Adam) so is there only ONE source of eternal life – Messiah Yeshua.
- G-d has set limits for mankind. These limitations cause us to seek G-d (see v27)
v27: G-d is not far from us – He is intrinsically involved in every aspect of creation – and that includes you and me.
v28: We are all dependent on G-d.
- Paul is again trying to establish common ground with these people by quoting their poets.
v29: We are G-d’s offspring means Biblically that we are His creation.
- We do not find G-d through the imaginations of men (gold silver etc)
Paul is emphasizing here that we find G-d through revelation. There is no relationship between the materialistic things and divinity.
v30: The past time of ignorance was the time before Yeshua was revealed. G-d overlooked (kind of ignored) this ignorance in the past but now that Yeshua has been revealed men have no excuse and need to turn away from the things of this world (philosophies, idolatrous practices etc)
v31: “Appointed a day” – judgement is coming.
- Yeshua Is coming to judge the world with justice and righteousness. We need to teach people about righteousness – as defined by G-d. In teaching righteousness, we need to point out to people what unrighteous also is in order for people to be convicted. It may not be what people want to hear, but it is what they need to hear.
- Resurrection points us to the fact that Yeshua died for our sins and that His sacrifice was an acceptable offering – G-d affirming this by raising Him from the dead.
v32: These leaders understood their own limitations and didn’t like to hear of the supernatural – which they neither understood or had any control over.
v34: This is a very telling verse. In all the previous places where Paul has shared the gospel MANY people responded. Here, after trying to find common foundations and building on those, only a FEW people responded (so few that they are actually named)
How do we preach and teach the gospel today? Do we try to “tickle the ears” of the congregation and make it comfortable “common ground” for them so that they stay around for longer and up our weekly head counts? How effective is this for our churches today? 🤔 If we are teaching the Word of G-d we are promised that it will never return void, but are we preaching it in such a way that few rather than many respond??