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February 2, 2021 12:00 am
Listen as the greatest Christian apologist is in an intellectual argument with the Epicurean and the Stoics. These are the descendents of Socrates and Plato. They hang out of the payment for Paul's following them.
You know the proclaimer of these new strain deities stand before the Supreme Court of Athens.
Even though I think from Paul's perspective. He's probably saying this is the divine regarding Jesus holding walking to Athens with a picket sign. He didn't walk from statute to statute proclaiming the idolatries of the Greek pantheon. He didn't hide behind a corner and drop tracks into purses of onrushing tourists. He simply started discussions and reasoned with anyone who would listen. Truly, acts 17 provides a timeless model of evangelism that we need to follow. This is wisdom for the heart, and Stephen Davies message for you today is called divine appointments.
I was at the start of too long ago and saw a woman in one of the aisles wearing a sweatshirt message across saw it and then I stopped and did a double take to make sure read it right. And sure enough, I had said without any embarrassment at all. Words I want it all. I wanted all. She evidently had no idea that even if she had it all all things in her life could change, and everything she had would have its value refers every human being on the planet. There is a coming day when all of the values are going to change. In fact, in light of who God is, that reconstructs for us in our own minds and our own lives. What we place value upon right and the reverse is true, of course, things that the world considers worthless one day going to be very price. By the time the apostle Paul arrives in Athens.
It's a city that we could say have it all. They had had it all and they still had a lot of literally like 500 years before Paul arrived in Athens were back in acts chapter 17. Athens had birth democracy Athens had birth the concepts of Parliament and individual rights and freedoms and law that is still used today by much of the Western world. Athens was the home of the world's most famous University prior to the arrival of Paul were were Socrates and Plato had walk the hallways as faculty members. In fact, Plato's most famous student Aristotle also taught this university and in the city streets with his disciples tagging along Athens had been a one point the religious center of this region. With all of its white marble temples to the gods of the pantheon the streets were lined with statues of God 50 years before Paul arrives here in acts chapter 17 to the city of Athens Caesar Augustus had rebuilt many of the temples and public buildings that had been destroyed in battles in previous wars, sort of returning Athens to some of its golden day and now polarized in the timing of God and in the declaration of the gospel. It was time in the providence of God for Athens to hear this God who will have the attributes that they claim belong in some form or fashion to their God gives us an account here of this. The scene where Paul arrives and is Luke is writing it he describes Athens in at least two different ways. One of them is this what we're going to see that Athens was intuitively religious, intuitively religious. Look at what he records for us in verse 16 of acts chapter 17. Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, this is Timothy and Silas's spirit was being provoked within him as he was beholding the city full of idols. The word translated observing here in verse 16 is the word fear which gives us our word theater and I think Luke is probably writing a little tongue-in-cheek.
Using a play on words simply because Athens would have been absolutely famous in that world for her theaters.
Many of them were dedicated to many of their God's just to give you an idea. We know that the city state of Ephesus nearby had a theater and in the theater were 29 golden statues of Artemis, there were 60 statues of Nike got a victory and still in that one theater, there were 60 statues dedicated to Eros, the God of eroticism. So imagine one theater you have 150 statues, giving honor and glory to these three gods. Imagine what would've been like and in Athens with the truth is we don't have to imagine flying the Roman author who lived during the days of Paul wrote that Athens had not 150 statues, but 73,000 statues to their gods. Pausanias, a Greek geographer who visited Athens a few decades after Paul was the one who wrote that now rather famous statement that in Athens it was easier to meet a God than a man, they were literally everywhere.
They line the streets. They were in every public building temples filled the hills filled. The valleys in this region reminded me of my tour through India some time ago, the religious fervor is is literally everywhere. Everything revolves around their gods and goddesses.
The nation is given to it. They have by the way, 300,000 from which you can choose temples are everywhere.
Guru's are everywhere with their followers of any any particular God when they in fact I was walking down a street at night I heard a singing and I looked over and in a building that was several stories high, but the bottom floor was opened just support columns there on that cement slab were at least 100 people sitting singing.
They were singing and clapping and I can tell Elyse musically that they were singing the same thing and they were singing the same tone or notes over and over again. I asked my host. You know who they were, was actually very very beautiful music and he said well they are followers of that regular CME sort of sitting up in front of them facing them in. He's leading them and singing praise to their God and I sit which God and he said you know I really don't know. I can't tell which God the Athenians. Frankly, every nation on the planet is convinced that the world is filled with an unseemly spirit world and and in that respect they are absolutely correct. The correct right mankind knows intuitively that there's something more out there the world because my ass the universe were told in Scripture reveals that some of the attributes of God and his power and creative ability and then Romans two tells us that the conscience has been stamped imprinted with the law of God so that they know there's truth they know what they're doing something wrong. They know stealing a chicken is wrong.
They know killing someone is wrong whenever the citizens of Athens, though, are just like that, they can't really frankly they can't get enough gods to satisfy their religious hunger and you read here in verse 16 that Paul spirit was provoked that typically you hear that sort of translated or expounded is negative, it may not be negative. It doesn't mean he was angry doesn't mean he's ready for a fight.
You can actually take that word and and and turn it positively to speak of being absolutely filled with anticipation and excitement. I think that's probably more how he was feeling then angry is like that proverbial shoe salesman memory arrived in a city where no one owned any shoes, he packed up and the next day went home telling his employer. No one in the city. Where's she is another salesman arrived the next day and immediately wired his employer, saying, send all of the shoes you can. Nobody here wears any yet that's the attitude Paul has I think Paul is the kind of person who would say not. I can't believe it.
I got a get out a sledgehammer to do whatever I can do and and and this I think he's saying what they worship God. I can't wait until about the true God.
Athens was intuitively religious. At first, second, Athens was intellectually curious notice for 17 so use reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, that word reasoning we've already encountered that dialogue alive means the dialogue that is he's he's not preaching a sermon like I am uninterruptedly sets the plan.
He's he's asking and answering questions is dialoguing with. He's bringing up texts and asking them questions about what you think about that. We think that means. Well, that means that we think about this text over here that was the kind of approach that he was using in the synagogue.
Any any other daily Data because we read nothing of unrest.
We read nothing of them kicking him out will read anything of Mariah is in the previous cities we've studied so far in this series. Not in Athens. They want to know more. These Gentiles who are pandering toward Judaism and the Jewish community there deeply, intellectually curious think it's tragic. However, the implication here from Luke's silence indicates that there wasn't any response to the Q&A.
There isn't a riot.
But there is in the revival lever, so to speak. There just curious, was on the plane a few days ago and I asked the man sitting next to me. Eventually, as we chatted away what he would say to God.
If God asked him why he ought to be allowed to have. And he gave me a brief answer.
That was all about himself at all about his works and all about what he'd given to the community and what he was doing in his church and then he said, but you know you said earlier in the conversation Pastor church I'm really interested in what you have to say. So I took 45 minutes of the two part series intervention and and when I have finished, he wasn't really in first curious, but after hearing really interest. That's this crowd here intellectually curious you see one thing to be curious. It's another thing to be converted to Christ. Now Paul here isn't satisfied with staying in the synagogue where he's no doubt experienced and and I would think probably very comfortable in that kind of environment reasoning intellectually with these Jews and gentle process so I want I want to point out verse 17 notice.
Further Paul were told went into the marketplace every day with those who happened to be present. Those who happened to be there in the marketplace that here's what's happening. Paul has decided as he is waiting for Timothy and Silas to go into the obligor, the marketplace AG it's spelled O RA. Today we might call it downtown. That's the picture I want you to have in your mind what we might call it the mall.
Another accurate picture. Oh, you might even call it the central plaza.
If you're South America, it's literally acres and acres of shops all lined up and temples and fountains and parks and some buildings and people streaming in and out of their temples dedicated there at the Agoura. The remains reveal what this temples where we have temples there dedicated to Zeus and Aphrodite and Apollo in areas and Nike and even one to Caesar Augustus for being such a great guy to rebuild all these other building so picture Paul, he's right here in the middle of all of this of the starting conversations with people is introducing some babies, even calling out as people leave one of the temples. Hey, I love I'd love to hear about your God if you like to hear about my this is what we would call today open air evangelism. We might refer to it as cold calling those you have an appointment you never met that person. But you can start a conversation; confrontational evangelism as if evangelism isn't eventually confrontational right he's involved in all and Luke writes hear what Paul is doing EE sort of indicates that it's random.
You notice he's talking to those who happened to be there who who just so happened to be there that day will know me for living.
Luke obviously understood is that the apostle Paul, the every conversation was anything but random right. Paul is depending on God's Spirit to lead his steps and bring people to that mall bring people to sit by that fountain bring people to shop bring people to walk out of that temple. At just that very moment for this encounter are evangelism explosion teams go out weekly and they call it divine appointments.
I love the terminology because it isn't random. Every conversation you have with with someone about the gospel that it might seem random or they just so happen to be here, but it is divinely ordained on the north side of the Agoura. This downtown Plaza was an old building in English it would be translated. The painted porch selling to be psychedelic and strange music and light.
It wasn't but that was what it meant the painted. It was a large gathering place, especially for philosophers that evidently Paul made his way over there because of what we read in verse 18.
Notice and some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him, you could translate that verb, arguing I would've love to listen to him as the greatest Christian apologist, apart from Christ, the greatest of philosophically minded theologian is in an intellectual argument with the Epicurean and the Stoics. These are the descendents of Socrates and Plato and they hang out at the painted porch. This this open area and their debating and discussing and talking about the latest philosophies of the day.
The latest speculations or whatever they may be. This is no coincidence that Paul makes his way over there who are well. In short, the Epicureans believed that life is short and death, is your existence. So you need to do is live and get out of life as much pleasure and enjoy as possible as much excitement as you can. You can stand and as far as the gods are concerned and their gods out there, but as far as they're concerned they really don't care because actually the gods are trying to get all the pleasure they can get out of there exists get all you can, because the person in the end, with the most toys wins some familiar to the Epicurean philosophy. The Stoics argued that all gods were really saying they all reflected this God principle. This God principle, any need you to need to get all worked up about any one God. In fact, all the gods were basically saying the same thing to live your life and you don't have to worry about all this.
You want to get dogmatic, you have to make your decision you not to make up your mind about really anything because in the end you will become part of this God principle you will be one with the cosmos and live forever. Athens and America are very very similar, and every other country. By the way, these are predominant philosophies in life either. The universe is an accident out of nowhere there. Teaching children now that that's all The Big Bang Theory and have no generation when life is all over. That's all there is. So get as much enjoyment that you cannot alive because the guy with the toys or don't get too dogmatic about any religion because all religions effectively say name they just God principle you got divinity in you and one day you can live forever with everyone to live where we think be nice to live.
Don't get all worked up at Athens and that's our world today. Notice with the Epicureans and Stoics are saying. Verse 18 to get a little later on there that verse says what would this article say what what this idle babbler wish to say I'm very kind. Other others are saying. He seems to be a proclaimer of strain deities because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. I cannot become a chuckle at that statement. These people are surrounded by some really strange gods and goddesses, to bring some more this to your attention in our next discussion and it it's interesting to me that they think Paul was the one proclaiming something strange Jesus is a strange dealing really with the truth is, Paul to talk to them about God the son dying to redeem humanity that would have been strange if you understand that the gods to them didn't care about people and the gods definitely wouldn't die to save people. People die in their view, the gods didn't care. But this God. Paul is describing and will not only die to redeem sinners because he love, but he came back to life. That's really strange. It was shocking to them. In fact, it was entirely different than all of the other gods combine and by the way, wherever you go in the world. The God we believe that according to Scripture, is different from any other God on the planet or in the universe still to this day.
Paul seems to have gained some credibility because what they did next. Look at verse 19 and they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, may we know what this new teaching is what you are proclaiming. We want to know more you're bringing some strange things to our ears. We want to know therefore what these things mean and look at this commentary now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new. And that gives you the idea that this is perhaps some kind of trivial conversation, but it was far from trivial, is actually a trial the Areopagus was both a title for a hill also known as Mars Hill after the Roman god Mars was on trial for murder in the Areopagus was also the formal name of the high court on Athens and met on that hill.
According to Athenian law, no religious system. No new religious system can operate no new deity could be officially followed or recognized no new temple could be built, and they assume that Paul is probably going to want to build one without the permission of the Athenian counsel any need to get in your mind that you have 50 men in this Council and it's really the Supreme Court, the Oval Office and Congress all rolled up in the wild fact, to this very day.
The Supreme Court of Greece is called the Areopagus the hill, and we in America borrow that we talked about capital. What will hill the decisions are made on the hill. All this goes back to Athens will in the days of Paul, the Athenian counsel was meeting on this hill and it jutted 500 feet in the air next lords they were going. I'm going to show you some pictures of this it was the perfect outdoor meeting place and it had a panoramic view of Athens and the reason I wanted to the to visualize it is because when Paul delivers this message he's probably going to be pointing at different things that they can see from the hill so so here they come up this hill and and and Paul was following them. You know the proclaimer of these news strain deities is going to stand before the Supreme Court of Athens which even though I think from Paul's perspective. He's probably saying this is the ultimate divide point is this great or what he will begin introduce to them the unknown God and as he does is going to introduce one stunning attribute after another. Each phrase is going to be freighted with so much truth about God as he introduces them to this new living true God, and when he he is going to change the valve he's going to change their of every when we come back tomorrow. That's where will pick up will look at what Paul teaches as he introduces God to people who know virtually nothing about the true and living God.
Be sure and join us. You've been listening to wisdom for the hearts with Stephen Davey we have a website that you can visit to learn more about us or to access our resources have books, commentaries, Bible study guides available. We also have CDs of all the lessons but if you prefer we have digital files of the audio and written transcripts that you can access free of charge. You'll find us email@example.com. One of the things that encourages us is to know that you're listening to learn how this ministry is encouraging you please introduce yourself by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to us at wisdom for the heart PO Box 37297 Raleigh, NC 27627 and of course join us again next time more with