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Friday, December 30 2011

Introduction

Last week's bible study amongst other things highlighted the importance of unity even in suffering among believers. In verse 6, Jason and some of the brethren were dragged before the city authorities when they failed to find Paul and his team. They stood their ground and paid bail without betraying Paul. In our study today, we shall be looking at the approach of Paul when he was challenged by the Philosophers of Athens to present the message of the gospel to them. This was no easy task, since the city of Athens had literally hundreds of gods, which Don Richard called "god capital of the world," in his book, Eternity in Their Hearts. It is a place so full of gods and it was popularly said that "there are more gods than Men in Athens".

1)      A stirred Spirit: vs 16-17

"Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. 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."

Paul saw the idolatry of the Athenians as damnable. He was deeply struck by the lostness of this city, and of the judgment of God which each person would someday face. He knew these people needed a Savior, and He knew that the Savior had come for sinners such as these, and thus Paul could do nothing but preach Christ to them. Just the way Jesus was moved with compassion when He saw the multitude because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd (Matt.9:36). He got down to business by engaging them with his message both in the synagogue with the Jews and in the market place with the Religious gentiles.

Lessons: We must constantly allow the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to see and touch our hearts to know the hopeless condition of the unsaved around us. Our spirits must be stirred to reach out to the dying around us.

2)      Preaching to Philosophers:  vs 18-21

"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. And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. (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.)"

Paul seldom passed up an invitation to speak, when it gave him the opportunity to preach the gospel to lost men and women. The opportunity to speak in the synagogue was apparently a matter of custom, but the invitation to preach to pagan philosophers was more rare. He is given that opportunity in Athens. As Paul spoke with those who would listen in the market place, he got the attention of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. The Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were actually rivals. It is enough to say that the Epicureans were atheists. They held to no future life, and that our present life was to be lived in all sorts of pleasures. The Stoics were just the opposite. They were rigid in their philosophy. They believed that the world was governed by fate, that happiness could only be found in virtue, and that a good man had complete rule over all his passions. But their belief in one god is sometimes likened to pantheism, or, God is everything. Both groups were eager to tare Paul apart. They took him and brought him to the Areopagus." 'Epi ton Areion Pagon' means 'unto the Hill of Mars.' This was where the court met to determine if any new teaching was to be held lawful. This was not a court of judgment but rather of examination. The Athenians were a refined people. They prided themselves in the 'wisdoms' and 'arts.'

Lessons: It was not just the new teaching that attracted the Philosophers to Paul but his ability to present his teaching with clarity of mind as a result of his educated background.

3)      Paul's Sermon on Mar's Hill: vs 22-31

"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. 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. 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; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; 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; 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: 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. 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. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: 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."

Vs 22: The term "very religious", can be used in a good or in a bad sense. Here Paul is using the term in a conciliatory manner. He is acknowledging their deep religious feelings. (A wise man knows how to make words acceptable.).

Vs 23: Unknown God is 'Agnosto Theo.' (Where we get our word agnostic, or, 'I don't know', or, 'without knowledge.') The Athenians were afraid of offending one of the gods so they had more than one altar to an unknown god. It was also illegal to introduce a new God that was not on their list of gods. The 'unknown god' could serve as a point of discussion. Notice how Paul disarms any accusation of heresy or promoting a new god. He is simply saying, "I want to talk to you about the God you already worship, but of whom you don't know much about." The word 'ignorance' is 'agoneo.' It speaks of unawareness. Paul is not calling them ignorant. At this point he has their full attention. 

Vs 24-28; Paul strikes at the very root of idolatry; the peoples thought that the gods had to be appeased with 'food' offerings and such like. But one of God's names is El Shaddai; He is sufficient in all things.(Gen.17:1, Exo.6:3). Some of the ancient philosophers had an understanding that there was only one true Supreme God. Actually this understanding is embedded in most every culture. This God cannot be known directly. This truth was even presented in the tabernacle plan of Moses.

Paul quotes from the poet Aratus, who made this statement almost 300 years before Christ. Aratus as well as other poet-philosophers spoke of the Supreme God as 'Father.' But here Paul applies this quote to the God of the Hebrews.

Lessons: We can see the wisdom that Paul used to relate the subject of the supreme God to these religious Philosophers in Athens. He even quoted from their scholars to preach the gospel to them. Paul also quotes the Epicureans in 1 Cor. 15:32 and Menander, Thais, in 1 Cor. 15:33. Paul was trained in Greek literature and rhetoric, probably at Tarsus, which was a major university town.

CONCLUSION: There were three responses to the gospel of Paul; Vs 32-34

1. Rejection, "some began to sneer" (v. 32)

2. Delayed decision, "we shall hear you again concerning this (v. 32)

3. Belief, "some joined Paul and believed" (v. 34; I Thess. 1:9-10).

These parallel the parable of the sower (cf. Matthew 13).                                   

 

Contributor: Alex Alajiki

Posted by: Isekhua Evborokhai AT 04:53 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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