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Skilled Unbelievers (Part C)

Cross Reference Radio / Pastor Rick Gaston
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December 25, 2023 6:00 am

Skilled Unbelievers (Part C)

Cross Reference Radio / Pastor Rick Gaston

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December 25, 2023 6:00 am

Pastor Rick teaches from the book of the Acts

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Athens attracted those considered intellectual, intelligentsia. And again, not a slight on smart people at all. But you can be smart and dumb at the very same time. Or you can be smart and smart. And the people that I like are the smart ones. Anyway, you can be considered intelligent and spiritually ignorant at the same time.

Today, Pastor Rick will conclude his message called Skilled Unbelievers, as he teaches through Acts Chapter 17. That's where Western thought was really systematically put together. And it is, you know, the Romans gobbled it up. The Romans came along and they were so impressed with the Grecian culture, they took Zeus and they made him Jupiter.

And they would just take the gods and give them Roman names. But it was, in their mind, they were showing honor and deference to the Greeks. Athens became the school of Greece, and Greece the school of the world.

And that is a fact. And to this day, their philosophers are often quoted and have an impact, and our law students would certainly be looking to how they conducted business in those days also. It was the city of Socrates and Plato. It was the adopted city of men like Aristotle. It's past its glory day here, and 400 years earlier it was really just humming along.

It's not so much now, but it is still a college town. It is still a big player in the world of academia, that ancient world. Epicurus, who we're going to come to in a moment, he also had made Athens his home. The Parthenon was there, that giant temple to Athena. The Mount Olympus, you know, there's a big mountain there and that's where the gods lived. It was this jambalaya of man-made gods. In fact, one philosopher of the ancient world said it is easier to find a god than it is a man in Athens. Paul's going to come across that. I think Hinduism has picked that up.

Everything is a god there too, so it's something that Satan can pull off in other parts of the world. Western philosophy begins and ends with the question. You get into Western philosophy, what is life?

And you've got all this guesswork about it. That's what philosophy is. Human philosophy is just guessing at answers.

Christianity comes along and it answers those questions. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. You want to know what life is? It's me, because there is no life without me. And wherever you go in life, I'm present.

Now, I can either be with you or I can be against you, or maybe you can say you can either be with me or you can be for me. No one comes to the Father except through me. I would say that begins to open up a lot of answers about life. When Paul says, for me to live is Christ, to die is gain. What's life all about?

What is my purpose here? Well, there's Paul saying, I'll tell you what my purpose is. It's Christ. It's Jesus Christ.

To serve Him. Athens attracted those considered intellectual, intelligentsia. Again, not a slight on smart people at all, but you can be smart and dumb at the very same time, or you can be smart and smart.

And the people that I like are the smart ones. Anyway, you can be considered intelligent and spiritually ignorant at the same time. There is something very suggestive about these two words, Greek ruins. You see, you know what? There's a connection there between the cradle of Western philosophy and the city, the ancient city where these philosophies come from are in ruins.

Athens attracted, you know, the people that wanted to be known as deep thinkers. And without ever coming to this conclusion, it seems that mere intellect is no guarantee of perfection, any more than simply knowing your Bible is a guarantee you're walking with Christ. You can know your scripture, you can know your Bible, and be out of communion with God. Jesus even said, you know, there'll be those that come to me and say, Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in your name? Which means, didn't we speak the word of God in your name?

Didn't we do miracles? Who's comfortable reading that verse? You read that and say, is it I? Let a man examine himself.

We as Christians, we do this because we know we have a loving examiner over our examinations, and we're not insecure. And insecure people, they become a problem because you can't, you know, they just, there's trouble all the time. You didn't like my new shirt.

Well, I didn't like the old one either, but I didn't say anything. You know, they got to have attention. They got to be validated. And to be able to say, you know, Christ, he is my judge. Is that not what the name Daniel means? God is my judge. It's not rude, like God's my judge, not you.

It's just, I'm comfortable with God being God over my life. And I want to take some of that and use it so that I'm not a person that's abrasive. There are times we have to be abrasive.

Well, the other side's going to say you're abrasive because you just can't do anything right for them, but that's not our intention. So it's not enough to be intelligent. It's not enough to know the Bible. It's not enough to have oxygen. It's not enough to have food and water and shelter. There are other things.

There's a lot of things we need to function properly. So one can be knowledgeable about God's creation without knowing the God that created everything. The secular scientists are this way. They study God's creation.

They refuse to say it's his. So let's go to 1 Corinthians chapter 2. Now verse 13 is what I'm going to quote. Verse 14 is the popular one. The natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God because they are foolishness to him. But that's not the verse we're going to look at. Verse 13, the preceding verse, Paul says, These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual things.

Boy, what a mouthful. He's saying we've got God in us. And when he is active, things get done. He is inactive when we're not cooperating with him. But he is active even if we're enduring pain and suffering and confusion. Whatever troubles we're facing and we're submitting to God in the midst of them, God is active, very active in that. So back to the city that he is in, he's ministering to people who are know-it-alls.

They would put that on their resume, know-it-all. So again, just to clarify, the essence of human philosophy is human opinion based on human observation. That's philosophy. By itself, that's not enough to be right with God. The essence of faith in Christ is revelation, is God showing man how he is supposed to do. It's not in man to govern himself, the Bible says.

He just can't do it. And even when God is doing it, it's still a problem because of that thing called the curse, the fall of man. And to this day, the essence of true faith is the revelation of God through the Scriptures on the life. And the world hates this.

And we're supposed to help them understand so that they can make a fair choice. Verse 16, now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. And this is why I chose to read this reading over verse 12, which is again a kingpin verse, more noble-minded than those of Thessalonica because they searched the Scriptures. And here, while he's waiting, his spirit is provoked within him.

His heart is breaking. Over what? Places infested with idols. How many cities can you say this about on the planet? How many can you say this about in America? And the number is increasing. It's like a meter of how many places that are given to idols.

They're just totally owned by Satan. It's his territory. Well, he could not sit idle in the presence of all of these idols. What a statement. The city was given over to idols.

Well, so are our cities. It has no reason to go run and hide. What did Paul do about it? Well, he was provoked. He had to do something he felt. Now, I think he learned a lesson here in Athens because he doesn't repeat this again. He goes back to his old-school method of the synagogues.

He goes to the synagogues here too, but he goes outside. So, with all these brilliant minds, these renowned philosophers, they had the wrong gods. They couldn't figure God out.

You can't. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. The best they could do was make up gods and fail to answer life's great questions. Why am I here?

Where did I come from? Well, we know because we have the book of Genesis. Jeremiah writing to Jewish people who were behaving this way. Now, these Athenians knew nothing about Jeremiah. They may have had some knowledge.

He would have been mixed into the pot with other book writers. But Jeremiah says about the Jews, they have turned to me the back. In other words, they turned their back to God and not the face. Though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not listened to receive instruction. These are the kind of verses you write down.

And if you can't remember them, you take them. And if you get into a conversation with an unbeliever, you can say, let me just read you something from the Bible because you ain't going to read the Bible. So, I'm going to read something to you.

And you could talk about just that verse in its New Testament context. Aristotle, one of their heroes, he claimed philosophy was the science of truth. Well, that's a lie. How do you claim whatever you want to claim?

How are you going to back it up? Human philosophy is the science of human guessing at answers about people, about life. And the intelligentsia that Paul was facing, they may insist that they are the custodians and there's no knowledge unless they approve of it. They're going to insist on that all they want.

It doesn't make it true. And they were insisting on it. When he was called to the Aragapagus, they were saying, hey, tell us what you're doing, you little seed picker.

Yeah, they got a little snarky with him. Secular science, it asks this question, where did man come from? Well, it depends. Philosophy asks the question, why am I here? Science says, where did man come from? Philosophy says, why am I here?

Psychology says, what's wrong with me? Only the Bible answers. By answering the last one, what's wrong with you, the Bible begins to answer the others, too. It tells you why you messed up, where you came from, and where you can go, your call. I hope this is not boring to you.

It's not to me, and I'm a little selfish and talk about what I want to talk about. Greek civilization, spiritually bankrupt. Having no knowledge of salvation, and we covered this, salvation was a foreign concept as we know it, and as the Romans and Greeks practiced it, it was foreign. So you say, okay, pastor, that's kind of boring to me, that's ancient history. No, it's not.

It's the same way today. You find people that have no concept of salvation, and if they did, they wouldn't be vainly using the Lord Jesus' name. They would understand that to use the name of Jesus in vain is to use the name of God in vain, and this is a violation of the Ten Commandments. It is a sin, and that's, again, if man could figure it out, who needs us? As beat up as we are, God says, I need you, and I want you. I've set it up this way, and if you can stop thinking about yourself so much and think more about me, we can get more done, and we can't stop thinking about ourselves entirely.

That would be foolish, but we can, we can dim it down some. They had no knowledge of salvation. They discovered many truths, but they did not discover the truth. They had 800 years of Greek mythology, and then they had another 500 years of philosophy with that. God gave human wisdom ample time to demonstrate that it could answer life.

It did not. They were skilled unbelievers. His spirit, it says here in verse 16, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw the city was given to idols. Again, his heart was moved for the people. These are Gentiles, incidentally. His heart is moved over the Gentiles.

If you've been tracking the story of the Jews in those days, you understand that's a big deal. Only the Holy Spirit of God can bring that about. How do you feel when you see or hear others falling in love with lies about God?

How does that make you feel as a believer in Jesus Christ? See, now you can put yourself in Paul's place, because that's what was happening with him. These people were in love with these lies out of hell.

They wanted to do something about it. They were spiritually blind and lost, supposing that they owned knowledge and the pursuits of knowledge, and they were wrong. Paul knew this fundamental, to worship anything is to worship nothing.

You cannot show deference to the only true God while worshiping fake gods. Paul saw the powers of darkness prevailing amongst the thinkers of academia, and instead of organizing a march on Athens, he goes to work on individuals. That's where he gets his work done, either from the pulpit in the synagogues, or when he was face-to-face dealing with people one at a time. In Corinth, he will come across this experience again.

But Corinth was not a university town, not like Athens, of course, not that there was not formal education going on there also. Well, they were tricked by the devil. We come to verse 17. Therefore, he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. Well, we don't really hear about many converts coming out of that synagogue, Jew or Gentile.

There's a comment at the end of this chapter, well, it's actually verse 34 is actually where it is, and this is how it ends. However, some men joined him and believed, and he names among them Diocenes, a woman named Damaris, and others with them. So it wasn't a lot of fruit in Athens. He's going to get a lot of fruit in Corinth, and a lot of headaches to go with it.

It comes with the territory. And so he reasons in the scripture, then he moves out to the public area outside the synagogue, daily with those, verse 17, who happened to be there. Now this, as I mentioned, in my opinion, is basically failed street evangelism in this case. I think in America, successful street evangelism is very difficult. I think a better way is to get to know them, then show them. I think that when you make friends in wherever you are, school, neighborhood, and they see, okay, you're not a troublemaker, or the lazy one in the job, they see that you're decent, then you can get their ear. That's been my experience. I know there are a lot of Christians that are into street evangelism, but in almost 40 years of Christianity, I haven't seen anybody in America come to Christ.

Yeah, this guy spoke to me walking down the street, and I came to Christ. It might exist. I haven't seen it.

And I look to the Bible, so, well, Lord, how do you want to reach lost souls? And I don't see that one as one of the leading methods. Again, some of you may not like it. Don't be insecure about that.

If you think you're a successful way, then do it. It's not forbidding it. But we don't see it again, and the New Testament acted out this way. Anyway, verse 18, then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, what does this babbler want to say?

Others said, he seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. Well, the Epicureans, their name from Epicurus was their leader, he taught in Athens, and essentially they said, enjoy life. And their philosophy worked if you had money. It wouldn't work if you were a handicap. It would not work if you were poor. It would not work if you were a slave, which there were many, many slaves in the ancient world.

So it was just wrong. And, you know, Paul talks about this in Romans chapter 1. That they have these systems that they know don't work, but they do it anyway because they're sinning. The Stoics, on the other hand, they said, endure life. Face the hardships of life. The character in the Star Trek series, Mr. Spock, he was a Stoic.

Both systems fail. How is God blessed by people who just live to satisfy themselves in an insatiable world? How is God blessed by people who want to just face everything like a man without God? What's in it for your Creator? Do you care if He is sovereign and so powerful over your soul?

Wouldn't you be interested in what offends Him and what does not? Isn't that logic? How come your philosophers haven't come up with that? Because their own gods were trivial to them. They just gave them some deference and moved on.

Now, we're running out of time. There's much to say about the Stoics and Epicureans. There's much to read.

There's plenty of information about them. I just gave it to you in a nutshell. He says, and some said, what does this babbler want to say? Well, the word babbler in the Greek is a seed picker.

It's not a compliment. You know, surrounded by their man-made gods who taught them nothing. What did Zeus teach anyone?

Mercury, what did they learn from him? I mean, these gods were brawlers. I mean, they were just mean, vindictive, petty, insecure, violent. What did they learn from any of these things? Well, they just took human characteristics and applied them to these gods.

So you had humans on steroids. And what they're saying by calling him a seed picker is that he just gathered scraps of knowledge from other people. He didn't have any original thoughts. It was a rude way of welcoming a new newcomer. They were trying to say, we're smart. Let's see what this dum-dum has to say.

Others said, in verse 18, he seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. Well, he's talking religion. They figure, OK, this is not philosophy. This is religion. For the Christian, philosophy is religion. The right religion, the right philosophy. There's no separation. Christ is life.

And that is our approach to life. The word gods here, incidentally, is translated everywhere else in the New Testament as devils. So what they're saying is he seems to be speaking some spiritual thing, coming from unbelievers. If it was coming from an apostle, it would be devils.

So that's the usage of the language, how they used it. Paul went straight to the resurrection with them. These are, again, Gentiles.

He's not going to go to Isaiah or Ezekiel. He goes, here's the fact. There was a man that was born of a virgin, lived a virtuous life, died in my place on a cross in your place, was buried and rose again. That's what he preached, verse 19. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, may we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? Now, I'm sure Paul was delighted, yes, but he's going to find out, these guys don't care. Luke will tell us that.

I already read it once, verse 20. For you are bringing some strange thing to our ears. Therefore, we want to know what these things mean.

Well, I can tell you what Areopagus means. It means the hill of Ares, which was the god of war for the Greeks. To the Romans, when the Romans borrow their god or acquire them, it's Mars. So this paganism is written all over it. The Latin is Mars, and here in the Greek it's Ares. This hill, the Areopagus, that they're taking him up to overlooks the city of Athens and is within Athens. This is a rugged plateau.

This is like 10 acres up there, so you do have some space to have structures, but it's pretty rough. They wanted to examine his claims. They were more curious kittens than anything else. Verse 21, for all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing. And that's Luke saying, you know, bottom line, these guys were fake. They really didn't want the gospel. Again, they wanted to put that on their resume.

I like to always hear new things and see how far that would get them. So I'll close with this verse, 2 Corinthians chapter 10, because maybe Paul had these types in mind. They lived in Corinth, too.

They were in the church at Corinth. That's why he writes about them. He says, we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves, but they, measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. How much is baked into that? How many people do you come across that are Christians, that are arrogant? And that's precisely what he's talking about.

People who just have promoted themselves over others, instead of just concentrating on the Lord. You've been listening to Cross Reference Radio, the daily radio ministry of Pastor Rick Gaston of Calvary Chapel in Mechanicsville, Virginia. As we mentioned at the beginning of today's broadcast, today's teaching is available free of charge at our website. Simply visit That's We'd also like to encourage you to subscribe to the Cross Reference Radio podcast. Subscribing ensures that you stay current with all the latest teachings from Pastor Rick. You can subscribe at or simply search for Cross Reference Radio in your favorite podcast app. Tune in next time as Pastor Rick continues teaching through the book of Acts, right here on Cross Reference Radio.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-25 08:22:14 / 2023-12-25 08:31:46 / 10

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