FEBRUARY 28, 2021
THE RESULTS OF PENTECOST XXVII THE AREOPAGUS I ACTS 17: 16-26
We last saw Paul and Silas in a town named Berea. The Berean’s were “fair-minded” people, and many believed. A new church was established, but some Jews from Thessalonica followed them to Berea and stirred up so much trouble that Paul and Silas had to flee to another city with a name a little more familiar to us called Athens. When we read history, we see it as a moment in time, passing quickly. I have about 30 minutes to give a message. When we have studied these stories of Paul and his establishing of Churches, he was there more than the 30 minutes we spend studying about it. He spent many days in each one of these places. There are many DYI shows today. These shows usually last 30 minutes to an hour. In that 30 minutes builders have many times completely remodeled a 3000 sq ft house. It may surprise you to know that it took more than 30 minutes. It took many months to do the job. Paul was not in each one of these towns 30 minutes, often he stayed many weeks. Still, establishing a new Church in a few short weeks then leaving it in the hands of “babes in Christ” took a lot of faith that it would last after he was gone. How did Paul have confidence that the doors of these new churches would stay open after he left. They did not have phones or email to contact Paul when they had a question. They did not have colleges and seminaries to go study and learn about how to run a church. They did not have google to help them prepare messages for the Sabbath worship. They did not have experienced pastors that they could rely on to help guide them. They were kind of out there on their own.
Though the new churches established by Paul did not have all the things we have today they did have a couple of things going for them. We are going to start with the most important one. They had the Holy Spirit. If you remember Jesus told the Disciples just before He ascended into Heaven to, “go to Jerusalem and wait for the baptism of the Holy Ghost” which would empower them to be witness about Him. Everywhere that Paul, Silas, and Timothy went there was another Person with them, the Person of the Holy Spirit. Now, not only did the Holy Spirit travel with them He also remained in the places where Churches were established. So, even though Paul and Silas were gone the new converts had the help and guidance of the Presence of the Holy Spirit that remained. The same Helper that Paul had all the new converts had as well. He is the same Helper that is with us today. When we come to know Christ as our Savior the same Holy Presence that was with Paul is with us. Because of the Power of the Holy Ghost even the powers of Hell will not prevail against it. The Church will not fail so long as it has the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The most important thing that these newly established churches had was the Holy Spirit, but a second thing they had going for them was they also understood religion and the hierarchy of it.
These were religious people which helped them in the establishing the organization of the church. They understood how the organization of a church should be. They had leaders and teachers. They probably met every Sabbath for worship, they probably started a Sunday School, they surely started a children’s church. I am sure they had social gatherings. They probably did the same things we do today at church. I am sure they had a system of church membership, with requirements especially of confession of belief in the Resurrection of Jesus. They knew how a religious organization should be established. These were deeply religious people, in fact, they were much more religious than we are today.
When Paul got to Athens, he was astounded at how religious the people were. (READ 17:22-23). They were so religious they had a god for almost everything they even had an alter “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD” just in case they had missed one. Who was the guy that came up with this idea? One day one of the Athenian philosoph-I-ers stood up and said, “we better build an alter for a god that we might have missed just in case he comes along some day”. Well, today would be that day.
Paul did as “was his custom” when he got to Athens. He went to the Synagogue and preached the message of the “Resurrected Christ” to the Jews and the Gentile worshipers that were there. But here the Bible tells us that he did something different. He may have done this in every town that he went into, but this is the first time I have noticed it mentioned. “He went daily to the marketplace and reasoned with whoever happened to be there”. It would be like me going to Walmart and striking up a conversation about Jesus with whoever happened to want to listen to me. Athens was full of philosoph-I-ers(not a real word). They liked to debate and reason the existence of life and gods. They even had an organized group of philosophers known as the Areopagus (A-REE-O-PA-GUS). Areopagus is a real place located northwest of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. It is still there. Paul got invited to come to the Areopagus and explain his doctrine to the philosophers there. These guys were really just a bunch of skeptics that liked to hear new things and then debate whether they were true. Verse 21 says this, “…all the Athenians and foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.” Before Covid-19 you would see areas of Areopagus in many places. If you went into Casey’s in the Highlands, there would be a bunch of guys sitting around discussing the things of the day. If you went into a breakfast restaurant there was usually a table full of guys sitting around discussing the things of the day. Now, I suppose we use Twitter and Face-Book as and Areopagus of our day. Here we can discuss all the new things that are going on (so long as it fits the criteria of the liberal agenda).
For the philosoph-I-ers(emphasis on the I, not a real word) in Athens Paul was the new thing to discuss. “what is he talking about this resurrection from the dead and who is this new God he is talking about named Jesus”? If you look closely at the ministry of Paul up to this time and if you look at what is going on here, I think you can see a turning point in the spread of the Gospel by Paul. If he could convince these talkers of the Areopagus of the resurrection of Christ, it would be talked about and spread throughout all of Athens and for that matter all of Greece. All the hard work of the two missionary journeys were about to start paying off. If this keeps up one of these days all of Rome will be Christian. Because of the influence of Paul and the work that he put in, Christianity did eventually become the official religion of the Roman Empire. There could be a lot of debate as to whether this was a good thing or not, but this discussion is for a later time.
Paul accepts the invitation to address the Areopagus and let us look at what he said to them. For me this is one of the most beautiful sermons ever preached. (READ VS 17:22-31) In this message to the Areopagus Paul sums up the Gospel in such a way that there is no room left for argument that Jesus is the Christ and that He is the One and Only God.
There are a few things that I want to bring to our attention in Paul’s message. First in verse 24-26 Paul proclaims that our God is the God of creation. This had to blow their mind. To them if the God that Paul speaks about is the Creator then there is no need for any other God. As far as I know there is no other gods of mythology that claim to be the creator of all things. The Greeks believed in a big bang theory, that suddenly mother earth (Gaia) just appeared. All the Gods of mythology were born after the sudden appearance of mother earth. The God of Paul’s teaching has always been alive. All their gods had been created out of the minds of men; the God Paul preached created the mind of man. For the listeners of Paul, if Paul is right, there is no need for any other gods. Exactly! This is what Paul is trying to get across to them. There is only One God and He is Jesus the Christ. All these gods that they now worship are not real. And he makes a convincing argument as to why they are fake.
In our day idol worship is not such a big issue, or is it? In our day we narrowed down all the gods of the Greeks to basically one god, our self. Paul in writing to Timothy said this about the last days, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof:…” The idol of our day is ourselves, maybe it has always been. We believe we need no God we are our own god. Our “selves” is our idol.
Paul’s goal in his message was to convince his listeners that the God he proclaims is real. I believe that the reason that people have created idols is because they really do not believe that God is real. Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:23-24 this, “23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
Many people in our religious world today have “a form of godliness but denying the power thereof:” People seem to need some physical thing that they can touch and see so that they can believe there is a god. If they can touch it and feel it then they can believe. The Romans and the Greeks created statues made of gold and precious metals so that they could have something to touch and feel. This way they could see their god and feel their god. Down through the years we got smart or so we think. We think since we are a physical being that can think, reason, and feel, we must be gods.
When it comes down to it idolatry is basically love of self, more than love of God. Wait a minute am I supposed to love Jesus more than I love my job…, more than I love my money…, more than I love my prestige…, more than I love my spouse…, more than I love my children? The answer is yes. If Jesus is your God, then you must love Him more than any other thing. The wonderful thing about this is you will never know how deep your love can be for you family and especially your children and for others until you make Jesus your first love. You think you love your children now, put Jesus first in your life and you will experience a deeper love than you have ever known.
God is the creator of all things and His crowning creation is mankind, us, you, me. If you look at the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis, you will see that God created everything simply by speaking it into existence. How powerful He is! But in chapter 2 verse 7 man was not spoken into existence, God could have if He had wanted to. He by His own hands formed man out of the dust of the ground. And He did not speak man into life, He could have, He breathed into his nostrils His Breath of life. Our life and all that we are comes from Him. We are not God or even a lesser god, we are the children of God, created by his own hands, and given the His Breath so that we might have life.
God is not an idol made of stone, or silver, or gold, or even the flesh. We cannot create Him by making a sculpted image. This is what Paul expressed to the Athenians when he said in verse 24, “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.”