July 30: Acts 17
July 30, 2010
We find that Paul has made his way to Athens, the great center of classical learning as well as pagan idolatry. What we discover is that rather than railing at the Greeks or separating from them, Paul engages them and boldly proclaims the Gospel of Jesus, the resurrected judged and savior.
Not only this, but Paul engaged with a wide-range of people about the claims of the Gospel. We get so focused on the speech at the Areopagus (Acts 17:22-34), we miss that Paul "reasoned in the synagogue of the Jews" and that he was "in the marketplace everyday with those who happened to be there" (17:17). That was how the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers first noticed Paul; he was aggressively preaching the Gospel everywhere he could.
That is important--all too often we still believe that people should give Christians a seat at the table simply because we are Christians. Paul didn't assume that; rather, he was aggressive making his argument, casting the net of the Gospel widely, preaching the Gospel to all who would hear. That was how he came to the notice of the philosophers and was invited to the Areopagus.
Once he got there, his address was a magnificent example of how to move from contact point to Gospel truth.
1. Paul recognized that the Athenians were incurably religious people and appealed to this common reality (17:22).
2. He moved from their religiosity and their admission that they worship unknown gods to biblical truth (17:23).
3. He started with God as the Creator, who was self-sufficient and independent of his creation (17:24-25).
4. He pointed up that we are created to seek this God and yet, because of sin, we inevitably worship him wrongly and idolatrously (17:26-29).
5. He then declared that this is a day of repentance from our sin of idolatry because God has fixed a day of judgment and entrusted that day to a Man (17:30-31).
6. He moved to Jesus as the Mediator and Judge, who was the Son of God attested as such by his resurrection from the dead (17:31).
This same presentation was followed by Calvin; those familiar with the Institutes of the Christian Religion will recognize these six points as a basic outline of books one and two. That is not only because this was sound theological and apologetic argumentation, but because this is the heart of the Gospel. God takes sinful, idolatrous humans and grants grace to find him in Jesus through faith and repentance. Thanks be to God!