Acts 15:36-18:22 Athens : Facing Questions

        ATHENS: FACING QUESTIONS
     Acts 15:36-18:22             August 3 2008

    Paul suggested to Barnabas that they revisit churches
they had established on their missionary journey. They
disagreed about taking Mark. so Barnabas took him and
went to Cyprus. Paul chose Silas and Journeyed through
Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:36-41).
    The missionaries had a successful ministry in
Thessalonica; but jealous Jews forced them to go to Beroea,
where many people became believers. Again Jews from
Thessalonica caused trouble, so Paul went to Athens (Acts
17:1-15). There he talked to Jews and Gentiles (Acts 17:
16-21). He presented Christianity’s uniqueness and won
converts (Acts 17:22-34).
    Later Paul departed for Syria. He left Priscilla and
Aquila in Ephesus and promised to return (Acts 18:18-21).
He landed in Caesarea, visited Jerusalem , and went to
Antioch (Acts 18:22).

    1. Who God Isn’t (Acts 17:16-18)

Acts 17:16   While Paul was waiting for them in Athens,
he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of
idols. 17:17   So he reasoned in the synagogue with the
Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the
marketplace day by day with those who happened to be
there. 17:18   A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers
began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, “What is
this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems
to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because
Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the
resurrection.

 Synagogue. (Acts 17:13:14). God-Fearing Greeks . (Acts
10:2). Epicurean . . . Philosophers . Originally they taught
that the supreme good is happiness —but not mere
 momentary pleasure or temporary gratification. By Paul’s
time, however, this philosophy had degenerated into a
more sensual system of thought. Stoic Philosophers . They
taught that people should live in accord with nature,
recognize their own self-sufficiency and independence,
and suppress their desires. At its best, Stoicism had some
admirable qualities, but, like Epicureanism, by Paul’s time
it had degenerated into a system of pride. Babbler . The
Greek word meant “seed picker,” a bird picking up seeds
here and there. Then it came to refer to the loafer in the
marketplace who picked up whatever scraps of learning
he could find and paraded them without digesting them
himself.

    2. Who God is (Acts 17:19,22-29)

Acts 17:19   Then they took him and brought him to a
meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May
we know what this new teaching is that you are
presenting? 17:22   Paul then stood up in the meeting of
the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in
every way you are very religious. 17:23   For as I walked
around and looked carefully at your objects of worship,
I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN
UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something
unknown I am going to proclaim to you. 17:24   “The God
who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of
heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by
hands. 17:25   And he is not served by human hands, as
if he needed anything, because he himself gives all
men life and breath and everything else. 17:26   From
one man he made every nation of men, that they should
inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times
set for them and the exact places where they should
live. 17:27   God did this so that men would seek him
and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he
is not far from each one of us. 17:28   ‘For in him we
live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own
poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 17:29  
“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not
think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone
—an image made by man’s design and skill.

Areopagus . Means “hill of Ares.” Ares was the Greek
god of thunder and war (the Roman equivalent was Mars).
The Areopagus was located just west of the acropolis
and south of the Agora and had once been the site of the
meeting of the Court or Council of the Areopagus. Earlier
the Council governed a Greek city-state, but by NT times
the Areopagus retained authority only in the areas of
religion and morals and met in the Royal Portico at the
northwest corner of the Agora. They considered themselves
the custodians of teachings that introduced new religions
and foreign gods. Religous . Or “superstitious.” The Greek
for this word could be used to congratulate a person or to
criticize him, depending on whether the person using it
included himself in the circle of individuals he was
describing. The Athenians would not know which meaning
to take until Paul continued. In this context it is clear
that Paul wanted to be complimentary in order to gain a
hearing. To an unknown God . The Greeks were fearful of
offending any god by failing to give him attention; so they
felt they could cover any omissions by the label “unknown
god.” Other Greek writers confirm that such altars could
be seen in Athens —a striking point of contact for Paul.
The God who made the world . Thus a personal Creator, in
contrast with the views of pantheistic Stoicism. From one
man made every nation . All people are of one family
(whether Athenians or Romans, Greeks or barbarians,
Jews or Gentiles). DETERMINED THE TIMES. He planned
the exact times when nations should emerge and decline.
Places where they should live . He also planned the specific
area to be occupied by each nation. He is God, the Designer
(things were not left to Chance, as the Epicureans thought).
Some of your own poets . There are two quotations here:
(1) “In him we live and move and have our being,” from the
Cretan poet Epimenides ( 600 B.C.) in his Cretica , and (2)
“We are his offspring,” from the Cilician poet Aratus (315
-240 B.C.) in his Phaenomena , as well as from Cleanthes
(331-233 B.C.) in his Hymn to Zeus . Paul quotes Greek
poets elsewhere as well (1Co 15:33; Tit 1:12 ).

    3.  How God is Unique (Acts 17:30-31)

Acts 17:30   In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but
now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 17:31  
For he has set a day when he will judge the world with
justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of
this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

Overlooked such Ignorance . God had not judged them for
worshiping false gods in their ignorance (Acts 17: 31).
The man he has appointed . Jesus, the Son of Man (Daniel
7:13;  Matt 25:31-46; Acts 10:42).

        Summary:

            Christianity is supremely unique because of
God’s   unique act through Jesus’ death and resurrection .
God alone makes possible our salvation from the final
judgment.

    Questions :

    1. Who would you say God is ? What is he like?

    2. What has God done through Jesus’ death and
resurrection ?

    3. How does Jesus ‘ resurrection separate
Christianity from all other religions?