to Acts Series
The Book of Acts Series
Acts, Chapter 17
Acts 17 (New American
Key events in Acts -
1 Ė Paul in Thessalonica
weeks teaching in the synagogue
Problems with the Jews
Jason and the Peace Bond
2 - Paul in Berea
3 - Paul at Athens
Sermon on Mars Hill
Paul at Thessalonica
1Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and
Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the
according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned
with them from the Scriptures, 3explaining
and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the
dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the
some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number
of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women.
Did Luke Stay in Philippi?
As quickly as the
"we" references to the missionary team begin (Acts 16:10), in Acts
17:1, they end and Luke goes back to his "they" references. There
is the possibility that Luke chose to stay (or Paul asked him to stay) in Philippi and minister to the new church there. He will
begin using the "we" references later in Acts, but for the moment,
he removes himself from the references to the team's activity.
The Team travels to Thessalonica
After leaving Philippi, the team travels westward through Amphipolis
and Apollonia. Amphipolis is about 33 miles (53 kilometers) southwest of Philippi on the Via Egnatia. Apollonia is 27 miles (43
kilometers) southwest of Amphipolis. After a journey of about 35 miles (56
kilometers) west of† Apollonia, the
group arrives in Thessalonica. Each of these cities is about a day and a half
to two day (walking) journey from the next. Thessalonica (the modern day city
of Salonika) is the capital of the province of Macedonia, and its largest and most
prosperous city. At that time, Thessalonica was a large city of perhaps
200,000 people. It was located on the Thermaic Gulf.
The Via Egnatia is the main street of Thessalonica, and it is still a major
thoroughfare of Salonika.
In Lukeís day,
Thessalonica was an important link between the rich Macedonian agricultural
interior and land and sea trade routes departing from the Balkan
Paul teaches in
the largest cities of the Roman worldóAntioch,
Thessalonica, Corinth, Ephesus
These cities are seaports and on the main roadways that cross the lands. The
churches established in these cities would provide a jumping-off place from
which nearby towns and villages across the countryside wouldl be evangelized.
Later, Paul will
write to the Church in Thessalonica, "The Lordís message rang out from
you not only in Macedonia
and Achaiaóyour faith in God has become known everywhere" (1
Paul goes to the Synagogue, as was his custom
When Paul comes
to Thessalonica, he goes into the synagogue "as his custom was" and
for "three Sabbath days (three weeks) he reasoned with them (the Jews)
from the Scriptures" (Acts 17:2). By this time, Paul has developed a
consistent strategy for spreading the gospel. When he arrives in a new city, he almost
always visits a local synagogue. As Luke reports, this becomes Paul's regular
practice (13:14, 44; 14:1; 16:13, 16; 18:4; 19:8).
provides a wonderful teaching opportunity for Paul. Here Jews and devout
Gentiles gather to read and interpret the Scriptures, or the Old Testament,
which they likely have in a Greek translation. In this place, Paul is able to
speak to people who already know the true God. They share Israelís hope for a Messiah and the kingdom of God.
Paul speaks in the synagogue over a three Sabbath period. Although Luke does
not say this in Acts, from 1 Thessalonians, Paul indicates that many of the
converts in Thessalonica were gentiles and likely from a pagan background.
9For they themselves report about us what
kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to
serve a living and true God, (1Thessalonians 1:9)
from 1 Thessalonians indicates that Paul was also teaching pagan Gentiles
directly. This instruction would have occurred outside of the synagogue. Most
likely, the three weeks teaching in the synagogue Luke mentions were only
part of Paulís work in Thessalonica, with other efforts during those three weeks
spent addressing the gentiles who did not attend synagogue.
Reasoning from the Scriptures
synagogue, Paul is "explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer
and rise from the dead". Luke tells us that Paul followed a methodical
presentation in his teaching. He "reasons," "explains,"
"proves," and "persuades" his hearers.
The preaching of
Paul in the Book of Acts generally and at Thessalonica particularly took the
form of one who proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ and that his suffering
and resurrection were in accord with the Scriptures. In doing this, Paul
explained to his listeners that through the earthly ministry and living
presence of Christ, men and women can experience the reign of God in their
This is the
gospel that Paul preaches from the Hebrew Scriptures. He writes later (to the
church in Corinth) of this "good news": "For what I received I
passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according
to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, that he was raised on the third
day according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:1, 3-4).
Some of the Jews
in Thessalonica believe this gospel. So do a number of God-fearing Gentiles
who attend the synagogue and a few "prominent women" (17:4). These
all become disciples as probably do a number of pagan Gentiles. Others surely
rejected Paulís teaching. The Ďgood newsí concerning a messiah who died of
crucifixion would have been a difficult concept for most Jews to accept. As
with other cities, Paulís message of deliverance through Christ Jesus quickly
led to problems with the Jews in Thessalonica.
5But the Jews, becoming
jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob
and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were
seeking to bring them out to the people. 6When they did not find them, they began dragging Jason
and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, "These men who
have upset the world have come here also; 7and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to
the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus."
stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. 9And when they had received a
pledge from Jason and the others, they released them.
Some of the Jews accuse Paul and Silas
at presenting the gospel in Thessalonica brings on jealousy from the Jews.
Not only is Paul stealing converts from among the Jews who attend synagogue,
he is also making proselytes from the Gentile (pagan) community. And so they
take measures to stop Paulís evangelizing activities. To accomplish this,
they "rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace (perhaps
through bribes), formed a mob and started a riot in the city" (17:5).
From Luke's report, their intent was to implicate Paul and Silas in a civil
disturbance and then to bring charges against them for civil disturbance.
are unable to locate Paul and Silas. The Jews assume the missionaries are in
the home of a convert named Jason and they invade his home (which, as with Lydia
in Chapter 16, may be the site of the local house church) but find only Jason
and some other believers there. When they do not find Paul and Silas there, the
crowd drags Jason and some other believers before the city authorities with
false claims intended to cause them legal problems. As with the disturbance
in Philippi, their intent is to have Paul
and Silas thrown into prison. Until that happens, they are content to pursue
similar legal problems against Jason and the other believers.†
The Jews intent
is to bring a charge of disturbing the Pax Romana (Peace of Rome) against
Paul and Silas. They claim, "These men who have caused trouble all over
the world have now come here" (17:6). The Jews have failed to locate
Paul and Silas, but it does not stop them from accusing Jason of being part
of the conspiracy when he allows Paul and Silas to operate out of his home or
to use it as a home-church for worship gatherings. The Jews also bring a
second charge, accusing the missionary team of "defying Caesarís
decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus" (17:7).
Both of these are serious charges. If proven true, they are sufficient to
result in a sentence of death for Paul and Silas.
in Thessalonica are "thrown into turmoil" when the Jews make these
accusations (17:8). As those who are assigned the job of keeping the peace,
they do not want riots in their city, especially knowing that they will be
held responsible for any civil unrest, or if any imperial Roman decrees are
But it seems
that the authorities see through the Jewsí plot and recognize the accusations
as without merit.
Perhaps as a
compromise, the authorities force Jason and those arrested with him to post a
bond (what we would know as a 'peace bond'), assuring them that there would
be no more disturbances. This probably meant that Paul and Silas had to leave
Thessalonica and not come back, lest their friends be forced to forfeit their
Paul at Berea
10The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they
arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.
these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received
the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether
these things were so.
many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.
when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been
proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there as well, agitating and
stirring up the crowds.
immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea; and Silas and
Timothy remained there.
those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas
and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they left.
Evidently, the Jews
in Thessalonica are still looking for Paul and Silas, so as soon as night
comes, the disciples arrange his escape from the city and send them to Berea. Once again, Paul
is forced to make a hasty and humiliating departure, as he did from Damascus (9:23-25), Jerusalem (9:30), Antioch of Pisidia
(13:50-51) and Lystra (14:20).
Berea (the modern day city of Verria) is about 50
miles (81 kilometers) southwest of Thessalonica. This would be a three walk. Berea is considered an
out-of-the-way place, of little historical or political importance. Paul
again goes into the synagogue to preach and is given an unusually warm
reception by the Jews. Luke presents the Jews in Berea as open-minded individuals, writing:
these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received
the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether
these things were so.
apparently meet with Paul every day (not just on the Sabbath) to examine the
Scriptures. Luke implies that they are zealous to understand the truth. Luke
writes that many of them believe the gospel, as do some prominent Gentile men
that the converted Gentiles are "prominent," perhaps in social
standing. However, the antagonistic Jews of Thessalonica learn that Paul is
teaching in Berea.
They send some agents to stir up the crowds there. The Berean disciples take
immediate action and take Paul away to Athens,
leaving Silas and Timothy behind until he sends for them.
commentators speculate that Paul has not really planned to teach in Athens,
saying that he would have preferred to follow the Via Egnatia across the
Balkan peninsula to Dyrrhachium on the Adriatic, and then cross the sea to
Italy, toward Rome. Whatever his intentions, itís clear that Paul comes to Athens mainly to escape
while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked
within him as he was observing the city full of idols.
he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles,
and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present.
Paul in Athens
arrived in Athens,
he found a city with a thousand year history. Although no longer a shining
was known to be the foundation of democracy and a literary, artistic and
philosophical center. Aeschylus, Epicurus, Euripides, Plato, Socrates,
Sophocles, Thucydides and Zeno were part of its heritage.
in 146 B.C., but the city was so notable as a center of learning and thought
that it continued to function as a free city, even under Roman rule. However,
the city had lost its great wealth and pre-eminent position long before
Paul's arrival. Athens,
while still a great university town, was living off its history, reputation
and ancient glory. Its population during Paulís days was only 10,000.
In Athens, Paul found
himself in an intellectual city that was proud of its pagan heritage. Luke
writes that while Paul is waiting for Silas and Timothy, "he was greatly
distressed to see that the city was full of idols". Paul was troubled by
the peopleís ignorance of the true God. In fact, the Athens of Paulís day was
a city of many gods.
(The Acts of the Apostles, revised edition, The Daily Study Bible
Series) wrote, "It was said that there were more statues of the gods in Athens than in all the rest of Greece put together and that in Athens it was easier to
meet a god than a man."
In Athens, Paul continued
his usual practice of teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath day, where he
reasoned with Jews and God-fearing Greeks, but he also pursues a parallel
strategy of going to the Gentiles in the marketplace on weekdays.
The Agora Marketplace
Athens' marketplace is the Agora, which is located west of the
Acropolis. It is the center of Athenian social life and serves as its forum
and a place where goods are bought and sold. In the Agora, Paul challenges
the crowds with the gospel message.
also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him.
Some were saying, "What would this idle babbler wish to say?"
Others, "He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities," because
he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.
Paul soon finds
himself challenged by Epicurean and Stoic philosophers who apparently teach
in the agora marketplace as
well. We would expect to see these philosophers at the agora each day, since Athens was a home base
for these rival schools of philosophy and it would have been customary for
them to do the same as Paul was doing. The people were at the agora and they
would have been there, too.
Epicurean philosophy, Epicurus (341-270 B.C.) said that pleasure is the chief
goal of life. "Pleasure," in his view, is the enjoyment of life
that comes with freedom from pain, distressing emotions, superstitions,
fears, and anxiety about death. To him the greatest pleasure would be the
absence of pain, suffering and fear.
Epicureanism is sometimes confused with hedonism, which is indulging in physical
pleasures without restraint. But that is not what the Epicureans taught in
Paulís day. While they considered pleasure the highest good, it was more of
an intellectual detachment from the cares of this life than attachment to
those who followed him did not deny the existence of the gods, but they said
the notions held by the multitudes were wrong. The Epicureans argued that
their gods were "far off," with little or no interest in the
ordinary lives of people. Epicureans had little motivation to seek after God
or to fear his judgments.
The Stoic school
of philosophy was founded by Zeno (340-265 B.C.), who was from Citium in Cyprus.
Stoics emphasized human rational abilities, individual self-sufficiency, moral
worth and duty. They stressed reason and logic as principles that should
govern the lives of people. The gods of popular mythology were said to be
expressions of this Ďuniversal reasoní. The Stoics were pantheists in that
they thought of the divine as a kind of "world-soul."
Paul, the babbler:
There is little
difficulty understanding why the Epicureans and Stoics disagreed with the
gospel of salvation Paul was teaching in the marketplace. The
philosophers of those two schools relied on their reasoning to help explain
the nature of human existence to help them cope with a world of suffering.
The two philosophies tried to explain the plight of humanity apart from any
revelation of Godís purpose. In that sense, the gospel message that Paul
presented was a great challenge to them. It brought truth and light (Godís
truth and light) regarding humanityís purpose, and called into question the
usefulness of the philosophies these two groups followed.
To believers in
Epicureanism and Stoicism, Paulís "philosophy" sounded alien,
foolish and perhaps even dangerous. Itís not strange, then, that upon hearing
Paul speak, some of these philosophers would counter with, "What is this
babbler trying to say?". The Greek word for "babbler" is spermologos.
The word originally described the action of birds picking up grain. It was
then applied to scrap collectors searching for junk. Finally, it came to
refer to people who sold the ideas of other people without understanding
them. The word spermologos described teachers who had only bits and
pieces of learning, but who were trying to sound learned.
contemptuously dismissed by the Stoics and Epicureans of the marketplace as
ignorant (1 Corinthians 2:23). Others were less hurtful but more perplexed,
saying, "He seems to be advocating foreign gods". They said this
because Paul was "preaching the good news about Jesus and the
resurrection". The philosophers seemed to misunderstand what he was
talking about. In their minds, Paul was referring to a new (foreign) god
(Jesus) and a goddess (Resurrection, or anastasis in Greek). Perhaps
the philosophers thought that Paul wanted to have these "new"
deities added to the Athenian pantheon. In that respect, they listened to his
message, although perhaps not in agreement with it.
they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know
what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? 20For you are bringing some
strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean."
all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time
in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)
Paul attends the Areopagus
philosophers now decide to take Paul to a session of the Areopagus. It is the
city council of Athens,
and in Roman times it is still the chief judicial body of the city. The court
of the Areopagus has perhaps 30 members, and is considered to be a select
body. Interestingly, the word "Areopagus" survives today as the
title of the Greek Supreme Court.
In those days,
the council probably met on the 377-foot hill called the Areopagus, or the
Hill of Ares, or Mars Hill. (Ares was the Greek god of war, and was equated
with the Roman god Mars.) Mars Hill is just northwest of the Acropolis.
was the town council responsible for culture, education and religion. It also
dealt with cases of homicide and had oversight of public morals. The
Areopagus also evaluated the competence of visiting lecturers to speak in Athens.
Itís not altogether
clear whether the philosophers simply ask Paul to go before the Areopagus or
whether they made a citizenís arrest and force him to go. The way Luke
presents the proceeding it appears to be more of a curious inquiry rather
than a formal hearing, and much less a trial. Since Luke doesnít imply the
existence of a legal proceeding, it appears that Paul is asked to present his
views before a normal session of the Areopagus. However, the appearance might
have been something of a command performance, not to be refused.
would have listened to reports from citizens regarding issues of vital
interest to the community in a manner similar to city council meetings today.
It would have been the responsibility of the Areopagus to hear and evaluate Paulís
"new ideas," even if they seemed strange and far-fetched.
several examples of Athenians being punished for offending the gods of Athens (Against Apion
2.262-269). Among those recently executed, says Josephus, was "a certain
priestess, because she was accused by somebody that she initiated people into
the worship of strange gods" (2.267). Even under the best of
circumstances, an offer to present oneís views about "strange gods"
before the council is not to be taken lightly.
It may have been
that Paulís defense before the Areopagus was a kind of preliminary hearing to
determine whether charges against him for promoting new gods should be filed.
If that is true, how he fared before this city court might have determined
22So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men
of Athens, I
observe that you are very religious in all respects.
while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also
found an altar with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD ' Therefore what you
worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.
God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and
earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands;
is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself
gives to all people life and breath and all things;
He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the
earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their
they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though
He is not far from each one of us; 28for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of
your own poets have said, 'For we also are His children.'
Paulís Sermon on Mars Hill
Paul now stands
before the Areopagus and the council asks him to speak. "May we know
what this new teaching is that you are presenting?" the Areopagus asks,
"You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know
what they mean" (17:20).
In his statement
before the Areopagus, Paul tells the court that some pagans and philosophers
have an understanding of God that contradicts idolatry. Paul then points out
that the philosophers donít go far enough in their understanding of God. Then
Paul introduces a new understanding of God and his purpose, and calls on his
listeners to abandon their ignorance, and to repent.
Paul seeks out
common ground with the court by saying, "Men of Athens! I see that in
every way you are very religious" (17:22). He doesnít accuse the
Athenians of idolatry or any sin, but acknowledges their interest in the
divine. Paul builds on their piety and doesnít condemn it. Privately, of
course, he is very distressed by the fact that their worship is directed
toward idols (17:16).
"The recognition of an unknown god"
Paul next refers
to an ignorance of the divine that the Athenians themselves admit. He says,
"As I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I
even found an altar with this inscriptions: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you
worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you".
In his defense,
Paul (first of all) does not directly challenge the idolatry practiced in Athens. Since the
Athenians admit that they donít know who or what this God is (since he is
"unknown"), they are in no position to deny his nature as Paul
explains it. Also, Paul is not attacking their gods and leaving himself open
to a charge of atheism. The God he is speaking of is a "new" one.
does not use anything from the Jewish Scriptures in his speech. Paul is not
trying to prove that Jesus is the Messiahóthat would be meaningless for a
council whose members were probably followers of the major philosophies of
the day and were not seeking a messiah as were the Jews. In light of this,
Paul does not begin his address by referring to Jewish history or by quoting
Jewish Scriptures because it would make little sense to refer to the history
of a nation no one knew or argue the fulfillment of prophecy no one was interested
in, or quote from a book no one had read or accepted as authoritative.
address to the Athenians is an excellent example of Paulís willingness to
"become all things to all people" in order to preach the gospel (1
Corinthians 9:22). To those like the pagan Athenian council members, or
"those not having the law", Paul "became like one not having
the law" to win them over to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21).
shows his approach to preaching to pagan Gentiles.
God made the world
point is to establish that "the God who made the world and everything in
it is the Lord of heaven and earth" (verse 24). Here, Paul tells the
Athenians that God is Creator, the maker of all things, not one who can be
created by hands. God is not detached from his creation, and the world did
not come to exist by chance, but by design. Paul points out that God guides
human history. This statement contradicts the beliefs of some philosophers
who insist on a god who has no dealings with or interest in everyday
occurrence. He appeals to the Atheniansí experience of the creation around
them as something that reveals God.
Someone has said
that there are two books about God - the Bible and nature itself. The latter
is said to be the basis of a "natural theology," and our
observation of nature (the natural world) as a forerunner to faith in God is
the way Paul begins to explain who God is to these pagans.
The Jews already
believed in the one true God, and in Scripture, so when Paul spoke to Jews,
he began his message with "revealed theology" - the statements of
Moses, David and the prophets and then moved on to arguments that in Jesus
the world saw a fulfillment of the Scriptural requirements of the
What Paul says
to the Athenians about God as Creator is also a major focus of Scripture as
well (Isaiah 40:28; 42:5; 45:12) but he does not state it in that way since
they would have no background with Isaiah. To persuade this audience in Athens, Paul cites
examples and writings that are accepted by Greek philosophers. Evidently Paul
understood when the gospel is presented to pagans it is necessary to first
establish who the one true God is and so in his Mars Hill presentation, Paul
claims that Godís existence can be glimpsed by rightly understanding the
would first have to turn away from idols to God before they would be able to
see and appreciate his saving work in Christ. That (knowing who God is) is
what Paul was pushing toward in his message.
God does not live in temples built by hands:
Paul then said
the true God "does not live in temples built by hands". This is the
statement Stephen made in a Jewish context (Acts 7:48-50). Neither in Jerusalemís holy place -
nor in any other holy place - will people truly find and worship God.
Even here, Paul
is not in conflict with the philosophers of the Areopagus. Stoic philosophers
accept the premise that the gods are (and God is) bigger than the temple.
his address by saying that "God is not served by human hands, as if he
needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and
everything else" (verse 25). God needs nothing from us. It is we who
need everything from God - even life and breath. This is something that even
many pagans understand, so Paul is still on common ground with the Athenians
that God is self-sufficient is also basic Hebrew biblical theology (Psalm
50:7-15; 1 Chronicles 29:14). It is interesting that as Paul speaks, he
continues to present a parallel message, between the Scriptures and the
thoughts of the philosophers.
From one man made nations
appeals to the idea that our common humanity has a single source, by which he
means the one true God. "From one man he [God] made every nation of
men," said Paul, "...and he determined the times set for them and
the exact places where they should live" (verse 26).
He is not far from us; for in him we live and
that God has a purpose in allowing the rise and fall of nations, and their
geographical placement. "God did this so that men would seek him,"
says Paul, "and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not
far from each one of us" (17:27). What Paul means is that people should
respond to the longing in their inner being and search for the one true God
(Psalm 14:2; Proverbs 8:17; Isaiah 55:6-7; Jeremiah 29:13). The Hebrew
Scriptures promise that, "The Lord is near to all who call on him, to
all who call on him in truth" (Psalm 144:18). Paul is saying, with the
prophets, that God is nearby, not far away (Jeremiah 23:23)óand he wants to
be discovered. Paul pushes his point that there is a relationship between
humanity and Godóthat God wants to be sought and found in a particular way.
interesting that although not necessarily stated in scriptural or gospel
terms, Paulís speech is thoroughly gospel-oriented and biblical in content.
He makes reference to pagan authorities in the same way he cites the giants
of Scripture, such as Moses or David, to prove his point about Godís purpose
condemn the Athenians for seeking understanding of God. He recognizes the
common longing of humanity to connect with God. What Paul does in this speech
is begin with the knowledge the Athenian philosophers have and then use it to
help his hearers leap over their ignorance, and into the truth of Godís
purpose in Christ.
then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is
like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.
having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that
all people everywhere should repent,
He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through
a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him
from the dead."
God is not like the idol
As he moves to
the end of his address, Paul makes his concluding remarks about idolatry:
"Since we are Godís offspring, we should not think that the divine being
is like gold or silver or stone". Paul will not avoid the obvious
forever. Now is the time to address Idolatry and so he does.
past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere
to repent" (verse 30). Paul is telling the Athenians that from whatever
their condition is, they are being called by God to repentance.
"overlooks" sin, there is also retribution for people who suppress
the truth about his eternal power and divine natureóhe lets sin have its
natural results (Romans 1:18-32).
Paul now warns
the Areopagus that his speech is not idle philosophical speculation. His call
to repentance is serious because God "has set a day when he will judge
the world with justice" (verse 31, quoting Psalm 96:13.)
clear in many places that a "day of judgment" is indeed coming. The
offer of salvation in Christ is counterpoised with the threat of judgment for
those who reject him. (Luke 10:12-15; 12:42-48; Romans 2:5-11, 16; 1
Corinthians 1:7-8; 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10; 2 Peter
Proof of resurrection
At the end of
his speech, Paul focuses on Christ, him crucified and resurrected. Paul
insists that God will judge the world by "the man he has appointed"
(verse 31), referring to Jesus, but not mentioning his name. Jesus has been
given all power in heaven and earth. This reality is proven, insists Paul, in
the fact that God raised him from the dead (verse 31).
Up to this
point, Paul has been attempting to demonstrate Godís existence, sovereignty
and purpose by things that can be seen. The philosophers might argue about
the meaning of nature, but they certainly cannot argue against the fact of
asserts that a human being Ė Jesus - has been raised from the dead. He is
insisting on something contrary to the philosophersí observation of the way
the world works. It is also contrary to the views of the popular philosophies
of the day.
when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but
others said, "We shall hear you again concerning this."
Paul went out of their midst.
some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the
Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.
Some are not willing to accept the Resurrection:
describes the generally negative reaction to Paulís teaching: "When they
heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others
said, ĎWe want to hear you again on this subjectí" (verse 32). The
Greeks accepted the immortality of the soul, but the idea of a person being bodily
resurrected from death was more than they were willing to consider.
Some of the
Athenian leaders rejected Paulís teaching completely, with open ridicule.
Others asked to hear his theories (again) at a later date. In any event, no
charges are brought against him and ďhe went out of their midst.Ē
Only a few
believe Paulís message and the gospel. Luke says "a few men became
followers of Paul" (verse 34). Luke mentions Dionysius by name, a member
of the Areopagus, and a woman, Damaris.
And so, Paulís
work in Athens
ends on less than a splendid note. The New Testament does not mention any
church in the city.
Copyright © 2009, by ToBeLikeHim
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