Monday, May 7, 2007

Athens Part 2 Acts 17:19-34

Greetings! It has been a long time since I posted a sermon blog. Out of the country and being ill has not helped the situation. Well, I'm BACK!!


Paul was a good preacher. This story in Athens continues.

Paul has started to address some issues that made some in Athens wonder if he had a clear head. Was he out of his mind? Such talk about Jesus and the Resurrection! They thought he was speaking about two different people because the two couldn't be one in their thinking.

This fact of the Hebrew faith had not entered their world at all. The Jews had a presence there but the messages found in Judaism had not penetrated the society. No knowledge of One God. No understanding of the God of the Old Testament. Nothing. Why?

Because the faith of those in the synagogue stayed there. This could be us! They lost the drive to share outside their own religious culture//OR they were afraid to or were told NOT to. Either way, Paul was speaking things the normal Greek male had no understanding of AT ALL.

Yet, they wanted to hear more so he was invited-not dragged this time-to a place where the chiefs of the city sat. Their job was to determine if Paul could continue to speak in public.

You got to know that Athens, at this time, was on it's way down and out. No longer was it the center of the world-that went to Rome. No longer were people traveling to its city to hear and learn knowledge. The Golden Age of Athens as over. Athens had given it's self over to 'a cultural paganism' that was fed by idolatry, novelty or uniqueness and philosophy. And in it's crumbling, people had a false hope they were still great. All they did, Luke writes in verse 21.

(All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

The world was moving past them and they cared not. Just want to understand. Want to study. Want to get knowledge. They were self-centered. That was their soft spot, and they were guarded…Paul was not on trial but he was on display as to see if his message could hold up under their understanding of authority. He shows them four Witnesses to consider. He starts by getting on their good side:

“"Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship.”

Even when his own heart was grieved and sickened by the grossness of their idol worship-it was everywhere, he did grant to them this one concession. They were religious. Not a healthy religious but nonetheless, religious. Empty of Truth.

The Epicureans and Stoics were a different lot. The first only dealt with the material, pleasure, free from pain and anxiety. They avoided extremes and sought to enjoy life in all its fullness by keeping things in balance. Paul was turning over their wagon. He was upsetting their WA!

The Stoics really were appalled by the idolatry but for different reasons than Paul. These people were pantheist-A One World God-all is god and god is all. Pain is not evil and pleasure was not good. Man could follow one's own reason and be self-sufficient. In truth, this brought vanity and pride to the front and that man did not have to need God for anything. Interesting to note that two of their founders killed themselves.

Their teachings were unable to change people's lives. With all this teaching and questioning, and all their culture and wisdom, the Greeks did not know the True God of the Bible. 1 Cor 1:18-25

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.

One group taught “Enjoy Life!” The other “Endure Life!” Paul's task was to offer them Real Life and a Life that was full.

Paul brought up something that is called “A cultural equivalent.” This would tell a great deal about the people. He spoke of one such altar.

“I even found an altar with this inscription”.

THE GIVEN WITNESS:This brought him into a three point sermon with even some poetry to end on.

#1. He aroused their interest…

#2. He explained who that God is…

#3. He told them what He was like.

He then ended with a personal application that caused each there to ponder what to do with this information. If they did not know this unknown god, how could he, this unknown god reveal himself to them.

Romans 10: 14 How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent?

He did all that! He sent His Own Son to us in the Person of Jesus. He took our place when it came to punishment for our sins. He bleed on the Cross for their sins as He bleed on that same cross for our sins. He sent Paul to them and thru the Holy Spirit of God, today, we hear that same message. We need to respond as well.

THE GREATNESS OF THE WITNESS Starting with verse 24, Paul explains how this GREAT WITNESS of God had begun life and supported life from the very beginning of time. So detailed is the God of Creation that He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.

The reason for this was 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.

That is the situation here right now. We all can reach out to Him, seek Him and you will find Him. No real need to wait much longer. He is not far from us-from each one of us RIGHT NOW. Won't you look To Him?

And for those who have already done that, maybe it is time to re-look into His face and find forgiveness. Maybe it has been far to long since you asked Him to forgive you. Too long has to been since you were in His Arms. In His embrace. Not getting weird here. He is longing for a freshness in our relationship with Him. He is close to you as well. Go to Him. Turn to Him. He is not far from you.

At this point in Paul's talk, it becomes painfully obvious once again, that the Jews that lived in Athens had no contact with the people of Athens. Some of the things Paul was saying was basic stuff for the Jew but really out in left field for the Greek.

The Jews had keep the Truth to themselves and left their neighbors in the dark. No witness to them. Certainly not verbal but not even by their lifestyle. Don't be like them, my friends. Let the World know! Tell a friend! Pass it on! Share a Life! Save a Soul. Seek your family's salvation!

In many ways, Paul was sharing from the Scriptures without them knowing it.

1 Kings 8: 27 "But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain You. How much less this temple I have built!”

Isa 66: 1 This is what the LORD says: "Heaven is My throne,and the earth is My footstool. Where is the house you will build for Me?Where will My resting place be? 2 Has not My hand made all these things, and so they came into being?" declares the LORD. "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at My word.”

THE GOODNESS OF THE WITNESS Men in Athens took great pride in believing that they could serve the gods, but Paul made it clear that it was God who was to serve man. (Vs 25). With this said, Paul wiped out their whole claim to fame in the temples all around them. The entire system that the Greeks had set up which was built on human reason and faulty gods who were more human that man, fell at this point.

When it all comes down to it, it is God who is the author of all that there is. He gives us life, and breath and all things. It is God who is the source of everything as … James 1:17 says:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.


He is the one who gives life: Matt 5: 45

that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.


And it is His goodness and Grace that leaves the door open to salvation:

Romans 2: 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?

Turn to Rom 1. We know from Romans 1:18-25 that man knew about God but made a choice not to give Him glory.

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-His eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator-who is forever praised. Amen.

THE RULING OF THE WITNESS Paul was hitting the center of the religious Greek with all these idols around him. He also attacked their feeling that they were a special race. They felt that they were a special race of men. Paul spoke to the contrary. Even their country, the land that they loved and, I would imagine, worship, was a gift from God. Whenever a people group gets to the point in their cultural development where they feel they are superior (like the White Aryan Race, Po Pot) the people lose perspective or outlook on reality and it becomes the downfall of their government. Warfare has a way of making reality really stick. No one is made better than another. The sooner the world realizes that the better. Get use to it; we are all the same.

When I was in language school. We were not only learning: Haizara wa doko desuka? But also prayer language. I found it really hard to hear or even use the honorific word forms that the religious study offered us. The teachers loved it when we prayed in Japanese because we would think western and say the same thing in Japanese. One teacher told us that she loved hearing missionaries pray because she could hear of a God who was close and dear. I asked, could you not pray that way? No! He is far off!

Not the way it is in Scripture! He is close and He is real!

As I said, Paul did not use Scripture as it would not have been affective at all. He used two of their own Greek religious authors. “For in Him we live and have our being” by Epimenides and … from Arthus and Cleanthes- “For we are also His offspring.” This must have hit home for these guys: from their own writings. This teaching then, was not new; it was found in their own culture-hidden until the Lord reveled it.

Paul told them AND us via the Holy Spirit, that we are made in God's image. Not that He has red hair but in His Spiritual Image. Paul calls it foolishness to make idols in our image as though we are anything big. Here Paul agrees with the Stoics.

Idolatry is folly.

Proverbs 14:18 The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge. Psalm 85: 8 I will listen to what God the LORD will say; He promises peace to His people, His saints- but let them not return to folly.

It is folly NOT to trust in God!


God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His Blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-

And again,

Romans 1: 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-His eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

When we speak of the Grace of God, that could last our life time to complete. Philip Yancey wrote about Amazing Grace, we sing about it, movies are titled after it, diamond and even beef CM play it. Grace has become one of the must known word of the Christian ere but even Believers don't understand what it really means.

Grace: the condition of being free of sin, through repentance to God.

Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

Not really. The undeserved favor bestowed upon sinners, a gift from God giving us Christ's riches which we do not deserve nor can we earn. Closer…

Eph. 2: 8 For it is by Grace you have been saved, through Faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

But it was the teaching on the Resurrection that really caused a problem…as it does today. They believed that once the body died, he would be happier. Why raise it from the dead to be alive again? They believed in immortality but not the Resurrection. How does the Resurrection affect you today?

If He did not rise from the Dead, we are lost! But He did! And before He went to the Cross…Please prepare for the Lord's Table and remember His sacrifice on the Cross to take our place and receive our due punishment. Remember Him and thank Him.

The outline came from Warren W. Wiersbe. Much thanks to him!

For those in the Higashi Kurume area, this Friday will be another Wheelchairs Of Hope cleaning day--from 10AM~4PM on Friday, May 11. Come when you can and leave when you must! We have about 25 chairs that need some special attention.