Athens and Idols
NOVEMBER 4 - Nº 308 Acts 17:16-34
Paul’s traveling companions expected him to stay quietly out of sight until they joined him in Athens. Instead, he ended up in the synagogue and the marketplace teaching both Jews and Greeks about Jesus (see #307 - November 3). Many people thought that he was trying to introduce one more god to the huge pantheon of gods that were already worshiped in the Greek world. However, some of the well-known philosophers realized there was something special about Paul’s message. He spoke so eloquently about Jesus’ life and resurrection that they invited him to address a meeting at the Areopagus on Mars Hill. This was the sacred meeting place of the Prime Council of Athens where all the great philosophers came to share their newest ideas and theories. There, on Mars Hill in front of the elite thinkers of his day, Paul presented the gospel message. He started by applauding the Athenians for their comprehensive search to find God. He talked about all the idols they had made. He even mentioned the one he had just seen that was dedicated ‘To An Unknown God.’ Obviously, they were trying to cover all their bases and didn’t want to upset any god they might not have encountered. So, Paul spent the rest of his time boldly introducing them to the one God they had not yet met—the one, true God of the universe! He explained that this God could not be confined to a temple built by human beings or defined by a man-made image, like their gods were. He did not need to be served or receive sacrifices like their gods did. He ruled the whole universe! Paul continued his message by saying, “This God is the God Who made both heaven and earth. He is the One who gave us life and breath and everything we have. In the beginning He created one man, and from that man came all the nations on the earth. Although He is in charge of all history and controls all geographical boundaries, He is not far from anyone. We can reach out to Him and know Him. As a matter of fact, we are created in His image and designed to be His children. Your own poets refer to us as ‘His offspring.’” Paul continued, “Since this is true, how can we think of Him as something that we can make out of gold or silver or stone? God used to excuse this kind of ignorance, but now that He sent Jesus and raised him from the dead, He wants us to repent and accept him. One day Jesus will judge all of us based on what we believe.” When the philosophers heard Paul say that Jesus had been raised from the dead, some laughed and mocked him. Although they believed their souls were immortal, they thought Paul was a fool for believing anyone could be physically resurrected. Others said they would like to hear more about these things at some other time. Only a few believed what Paul said. One of them was a man named Dionysius, who frequently attended meetings at the Areopagus. Another was a woman named Damaris.
Paul took the time to notice what was important to the people of Athens. He looked for an area of common interest. He found it when he discovered an idol dedicated ‘To An Unknown God.’ Paul explained that he had personally met the God they were searching for, and he was not afraid to share how they could know Him too! If we are willing to find areas of common interest with our unbelieving friends, they will be more likely to trust us and accept what we share with them about Jesus.