2451.) Acts 17:16-33

The Parthenon, on the Acropolis, was already over 400 years old when Paul arrived in Athens. This view is from the Areopagus hill.

Acts 17:16-33 (NLT)

13 But when some Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God in Berea, they went there and stirred up trouble. 14 The believers acted at once, sending Paul on to the coast, while Silas and Timothy remained behind. 15 Those escorting Paul went with him all the way to Athens; then they returned to Berea with instructions for Silas and Timothy to hurry and join him.

Paul Preaches in Athens

The Areopagus sermon refers to a sermon delivered by Apostle Paul in Athens, at the Areopagus, and recounted in Acts 17:16-34. The Areopagus sermon is the most dramatic and fullest reported speech of the missionary career of Saint Paul.

–Wikipedia

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in the city.

I have read that ancient writers say there were some 30,000 gods in Athens!

17 He went to the synagogue to reason with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and he spoke daily in the public square to all who happened to be there.

At the time of Paul’s visit to Athens, that city was no longer important as a political seat; Corinth was the commercial and political center of Greece under the Roman Caesars. But Athens was still the university center of the world. It was the heir of the great philosophers, the city of Pericles and Demosthenes, of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, and Euripides — these men who established patterns of thought that have affected human learning for centuries. Almost all philosophies follow, in some degree, the teachings of these men. But Athens was long past its zenith when Paul visited it. It was now four hundred years after the golden age of Greece, and, though Athens was still a center of art, beauty, culture, and knowledge, the city had lost all political importance.

–Ray Stedman

18 He also had a debate with some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. When he told them about Jesus and his resurrection, they said, “What’s this babbler trying to say with these strange ideas he’s picked up?” Others said, “He seems to be preaching about some foreign gods.”

To over-simplify:  Epicureans, believing in chance and indifferent to the gods, lived for pleasure (“Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die”), which was best produced by virtue which brought pleasure. Stoics, on the other hand, were pantheists who fostered an indifference to pain and pleasure (“Grin and bear it”), since each came from the gods. Both philosophies were popular in the Roman era. Today we might call them existentialists and fatalists.

19 Then they took him to the high council of the city. “Come and tell us about this new teaching,” they said. 20 “You are saying some rather strange things, and we want to know what it’s all about.” 21 (It should be explained that all the Athenians as well as the foreigners in Athens seemed to spend all their time discussing the latest ideas.)

Wanting to hear and talk about the newest thing. Oh, how modern is that!

22 So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows:

“St. Paul Preaching in Athens,” by Raphael, 1515 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

“Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, 23 for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.

24 “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25 and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. 26 From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.

Paul starts not with an overview of Hebrew history, as he often did in Jewish synagogues. Instead, he begins with God as Creator, distinct from His creation, and mindful of the people He had created. This is a very different philosophy from the Epicureans, who believed the gods had little to do with people, and from the Stoics, who saw gods in everything.

27 “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 29 And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone.

This altar is located on Palatine Hill, Rome, where once stood the palaces of the Caesars. It dates from about 100 B.C. and has the inscription, ´To the unknown God.´

First Paul uses “the unknown god” as a bridge to his audience. Then he takes a similarly sympathetic approach by quoting from Aratus, a Stoic poet:

Zeus fills the streets, the marts,
Zeus fills the seas, the shores, the rivers!
Everywhere our need is Zeus!
We also are his offspring!

30 “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. 31 For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”

The sermon ends with God as the main actor:  God overlooks, commands, sets the day, judges the world, and provides proof through the resurrection.

–Mikeal C. Parsons 

32 When they heard Paul speak about the resurrection of the dead, some laughed in contempt, but others said, “We want to hear more about this later.”

Greeks believed in the immortality of the soul. But they believed the body was material and inherently evil; the idea of a glorified, resurrected body made no sense to them.

33 That ended Paul’s discussion with them, 34 but some joined him and became believers. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the council, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

Prayer

Our Father, we pray for our own age, our own generation, our own world. We know how men have pursued the emptiness of pagan philosophies in our day and how men are trying to satisfy the emptiness within with some lesser concept than you. They can never do so and are therefore rendered restless and unhappy, never finding what they are looking for. Others are resistant to this message, Lord, preening themselves in their intellectual pride, trying to find their own way by the power of reason. Father, we pray that everywhere this great message may have its effect as it did on Athens, and that our age, our darkened society will be set free from its bondage to materialism and made to be what you intended us to be:  warm, whole, balanced, happy, excited, and alive as Jesus Christ intends men and women to be today. We ask it in his name, Amen.

–Ray Stedman

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is an old Greek hymn! Evidence suggests that the Greek text of “Let All Mortal Flesh” may date back to the fourth century.

_________________________

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Acropolis.    https://www.wefindyougo.com/best-tourist-places-in-greece/
Raphael.    http://www.abcgallery.com/R/raphael/raphael52.html
altar to an unknown god.     http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_hKPbvbwYcqE/SBOXaZB-2uI/AAAAAAAABTQ/ki

One Response to 2451.) Acts 17:16-33

  1. hibeekay11 says:

    Tanks for all the messages

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