Paul in Athens
Text: Acts 17:16-34
I. The number of idols in Athens provoked Paul to speak out
A. He spoke with Jews and God-fearing Gentiles in the synagogue on the Sabbath
B. On the other days of the week, you would find Paul in the marketplace reasoning with people.
C. His discussions caught the attention of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers who began to debate Paul
1. The city of Athens cultivated a large number of philosophers
2. Epicureans did not believe in gods being involved in the world. They believed the purpose to life was to gratify the senses.
3. Stoics believed that fate controlled the lives of men and gods. Men did not receive favors from the gods, but they could become godlike by their lives. Passion and affections were to be restrained. Happiness was achieved by the ability to tolerate pain.
4. Some viewed Paul as a idle babbler who picked up bits and pieces of ideas along the way.
5. Others thought he was teaching about new Gods because of his statements concerning Jesus and the resurrection
D. The philosophers wanted to hear more, not because they wanted to change, but as philosophers, they were always interested in new ideas.
1. They invited Paul to come to Areopagus, an outdoor auditorium, where all could hear Paul better then in the marketplace.
II. Paul’s sermon
A. Paul starts with common ground. He acknowledges that they are religious people.
1. They have objects of worship throughout the town
2. Paul even found one dedicated to the Unknown God, just incase they missed one.
B. It is the Unknown God whom Paul was going to explain.
1. They, in their ignorance, worshiped anything. But they missed the one true God.
2. He declared that God created the universe (something the Epicureans would have denied).
a. As creator, it was ridiculous to suppose God would dwell in things made by human hands or that he requires the service of humans.
3. God made all people from one.
a. There is really only one race, the human race.
b. He made the boundaries of nations and selected when they would exist
4. God wanted man to search for Him, though he was not difficult to find.
a. Since we exist in Him, he is close to each of us.
b. Paul proves they understood this point by quoting one of their poets.
c. If we are God’s children, then why would we represent God as an inanimate object formed by the thought of man?
d. God has put up with this in the past, but now demands that men change their ways.
C. A time for judgment has been appointed.
1. Men will be judged by their actions
2. We will be judged by a man (Jesus) whom God selected. Proof of that selection was made by raising this man from the dead
III. The mention of the resurrection got the philosophers stirred up.
A. A returning from the dead was not accepted in any of their philosophies.
B. Many ridiculed Paul.
C. Others said they would talk more about it later
D. However, a few in the audience followed after Paul and believed. It sounded like just a small handful.