- Sermon Notes
Paul is on his second missionary journey. He is traveling with Silas and not Barnabas because they had a dispute about John Mark who had deserted them on their first journey. Joining Paul and Silas are also Timothy and Luke. Timothy was a young disciple living in Lystra who was well spoken of by the church, so Paul wanted Timothy to go with him. The New Testament books of 1 and 2 Timothy are written to this young man who later becomes a pastor and teacher.
Luke is also traveling with them now. He is a physician and comes to faith somewhere during this journey. He is the author of the book of Acts as well as the gospel of Luke.
At this point in their journey they are traveling through the region of Macedonia, in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula. He will also travel along the coast to the southern cities of Greece.
At some point he comes to Thessalonica where he spoke in the Jewish synagogues, reasoning with them from the scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Messiah had to suffer and rise again from the dead, saying, “This Jesus who I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah.” Some were persuaded along with a great many of the God-fearing Greeks.
But other Jews formed a mob and set the city in an uproar, saying, “These men who have upset the world have come here also.” That’s an accusation that’s actually quite a compliment. The gospel does upset the order of things. That’s because the world is upside down and needs to be set right.
Paul and Silas were sent away by night to Berea where they immediately began to teach that Jesus was the Messiah, the hope of the world.
But those in Berea were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, “for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.” Therefore, many of them believed also.
As Christians, we should be “good Bereans” and read the word of God for ourselves, because, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.”
When our kids were growing up there used to be a program called Reading Rainbow. Each episode centered on the theme from a book and each time the host, LeVar Burton, would end by saying, “But you don’t have to take my word for it…” In other words, read the book for yourself.
Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God was being proclaimed by Paul in Berea so they came there also agitating and stirring up the crowds. So they sent Paul out to go down to the sea and conducted him as far as Athens.
Everywhere Paul goes it seems he either creates a revival or a riot, and sometimes both at the same time. At this point you could imagine that Paul is getting used to troubles and severe difficulty; almost expecting it. You could say he has learned to roll with the punches. He’s getting stronger spiritually because his heart is not bitter, he give thanks and praise to God through it all.
When Paul arrives in Athens, he does what any visitor would do, he went sightseeing. What a striking city this would have been. The great temples of the Acropolis were there, crowned by the Parthenon, sitting on a plateau with 500 foot cliffs in the center of the city. When Paul visited, Athens was no longer the commercial and power center of Greece. But it was still the university center of the world. It was heir to the great Greek philosophers, of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, and Euripides; men who established patterns of thought and have affected human learning for centuries.
Almost all philosophies can trace their roots to the teaching of these men. The word ‘philosophy’ literally means ‘the love of wisdom.’ Everyone has a philosophy of some kind that guides their lives. It may come from parents, from the culture we live in, from books we have read, or even movies we have watched.
The principles that guide your life are extremely important. They will either bring that which is good and godly or disaster, destruction and death. A few years ago a survey was taken amongst youth with startling results. 30% admitted stealing something from a store within the last year. 83% admitted lying to parents about something significant. 64% admitted to cheating on tests. Amazingly, however, 93% approved of their own character and ethics and 77% believed they had better character than those around them.
These young people are then sent off to American universities where they can sign up for such classes as, “What if Harry Potter is Real?” – Appalachian State University; “God, Sex, and Chocolate: Desire and the Spiritual Path” – UC San Diego; “Elvis as Anthology” – University of Iowa; “Philosophy and Star Trek” – Georgetown University.
When Paul arrives in Athens he finds a city of more than 3,000 altars and temples all representing different gods and different philosophies and his spirit is disturbed within him.
We live in a time and in a culture very much like that today. There may not be altars and temples, but we are saturated by that which is wrong and empty. Paul wrote, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8.
I. God Expects You to Seek Him
- Paul is reasoning with Jews and God-fearing Gentiles, and anyone in the marketplace that happens to be there. He’s just engaging in conversation, talking to them about God.
- Then some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. And they brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know this new teaching you are proclaiming?”
- The Athenians and strangers visiting there would spend all their time doing nothing other than telling or hearing something new.
- That’s interesting because as philosophers they ought to have known that it’s a logical fallacy to claim something to be superior or better solely because it’s new or modern.
Illus - Somebody once said, “There is nothing new, only old things that happen to new people.” That could also be said of fashions that come back in style after 30 years.
Ecclesiastes 1:9, That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.
- The gospel itself was planned before the foundation of the world. And God gave Adam clothes made of leather to replace the fig leaves he wore because of his sin, it was a picture of Jesus paying the penalty of our sin by setting his blood on the cross.
- Athens was a city of universities, but they all taught empty philosophy. It’s actually similar to what is happening in universities across the nation today.
2 Timothy 3:4-5, 7, … lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these… always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
- The Epicurean philosophy was based on the material world. Epicurus believed that the gods existed, but that they showed no interest in human affairs. They believed the universe is a swirl of atoms drifting around, and everything is ‘riddled with nothingness’ as one of their poets put it.
- They taught that the highest good was pleasure and the avoidance of pain. They believed people shouldn’t try to follow the ‘will of a god’ they should follow their own will and try to find happiness and pleasure before they die.
- The problem with this philosophy is that it ignores the fact that God made the world and all things in it, that He is Lord of heaven and earth and that He made every nation of mankind to live on the earth, having determined their appointed times, that they should seek God. (Verses 24-27)
- Stoicism was founded in Athens by Zeno. This philosophy became the foremost popular philosophy among the educated elite in the Roman Empire.
- Stoics taught that one has no direct control over the events of life so one must live in agreement or harmony with the universe by amending one’s will to suit the world, thus denying destructive emotions.
- They believed the universe was a reasoning substance called Fate and everything is subject to its laws and actions and therefore the goal of life is to live in agreement with Fate by having no negative emotions.
- The problem with this philosophy is that it’s wrong. The end result was that many Stoics accepted their “fate of death” and took their own lives. Zeno himself took his own life when he stubbed his toe in his old age, believing it was a sign summoning him to death.
B. God makes Himself known
- Paul begins his message very respectfully. He is building bridges. This is a great example for us in reaching those around us. Build bridges.
- But don’t sacrifice biblical truth just to be relevant. Don’t let go of the Bible to be cool. Some people are so desperate to ‘crossover’ that they never get the cross… over. You watch, before this message is through, Paul will bring them to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the judgment seat of God.
- Paul said, “I see you are very reverent toward deities. You even have an altar ‘to an unknown God.’ What you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.
- In other words, “Let me tell you about this God you do not know. He’s not like your gods, He does not dwell in temples made with hands; He made the world and is Lord of heaven and earth.”
- In other words, it’s important to understand the difference. Jehovah and Allah are not the same God. Jehovah and Buddha are not the same God. Jehovah
and Krishna are not the same God.
Illus - There is an agenda today not only for a one world economic system and a one world political system, but for a one world religious system. In fact, the antichrist will be the master of a one world religion.
But in order to be part of a universal religious system we would have to surrender those things we believe which conflict with universal faith… We will not do that. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father but through Me.”
II. In Him We Live
- Paul said that we were made by God so that we should seek Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist.
- We are the ‘offspring of God’ Paul said, we were made in His image. Therefore we owe him our heart.
Illus - On a recent Wednesday I mentioned a conversation I had with a man in Russia who asked over breakfast, “Why doesn’t God just leave me alone?” Answer; because in Him you live and move and exist.
A. Everyone should repent
- God has overlooked times of ignorance, but is now declaring that all, everywhere, should repent.
- Why? Because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness
- The word ‘repent’ means to ‘think again.’
- In other words, Paul is saying, “You thought you could follow a god of your own choosing – think again. You thought there would be no judgment – think again.”
Illus - Notice that God commands all men to repent. God isn’t suggesting, “You tried everything else; sex, drugs, parties, well here’s an idea, maybe you could try repentance. It’s just a thought.”
- God has fixed a day in which He will judge the world… in righteousness… through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.
- Yes, God has fixed a day in which He will judge the world, but God has made a way for your sins to be forgiven so you can stand on that day with confidence.
- That’s because God loves you so much that He gave His only Son so that you might have life…
Luke 15:10, “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Acts 3:19, “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;”
- Some mocked; some delayed; and some responded.
- God loves you as His little child and wants you to respond by believing in His Son.
Illus – “Take care of my little bear”
Acts 17:16-34 NASB