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Sixth Sunday of Easter- Sermon- Acts 17:16-31- Paul in Athens- Kaiserslautern Ev. Lutheran Church, Germany, Pastor Joe Asher– *IN NOMINE JESU*
Paul in Athens
16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.
Paul Addresses the Areopagus
22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today our focus is on our first reading from Acts 17, where Paul is on his second missionary journey, and he is passing through the great city of Athens. God’s Word tells us, verse 16, that Paul’s…
…spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols…
In other words, as a devout Jew, he knew the First Commandment well, and knowing His heavenly Father, Paul was repulsed by the idolatry practiced throughout the city. So he was determined that He would address this false worship with those he met at every opportunity. And further, since the apostle had met the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, Paul had good news to tell! He would also proclaim
Christ’s death and resurrection, and announce salvation by faith for all who trusted Jesus as Lord. (Romans 10:9)
So in order to bring the Good News/ Gospel to the city of Athens, Paul did two things. He went to Athens’ synagogue first and, verse 17-
…reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and devout persons…
What this means is that Paul opened the Old Testament Scriptures and discussed the prophecies concerning Christ with all those who knew God’s Word and the promises about the coming Messiah. Paul’s hope was that the Jews of Athens would respond to the Gospel, for these believers knew the living God and the Hebrew ancient writings and they were waiting in expectation for God to send His Anointed One.
But also remember that Paul is on his second missionary journey, and since the Lord had called him to carry His name to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15), and because he is upset at all the idolatry of the Greeks, verse 17-
…(he also reasoned) in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.
Paul talked with everyone he could. In the marketplace, there would be farmers, merchants, shop keepers, soldiers and sailors… everyone had reason to go to the common city market, and Paul, dismayed by all the Greek idolatry, would talk to everyone about the truth-
- God had provided a Savior for the world
- That Savior is Jesus the Lord
- Jesus died on the cross, and rose again so believers may have forgiveness, peace, and eternal life
In verse 18, we are given Paul’s essential message.
…he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.
Now because Paul’s message was being received, and by the Holy Spirit’s power people were turning to Christ in repentance and faith, some of the Greek philosophers began to raise questions and oppose the apostle’s teachings. Again in verse 18-
What does this babbler wish to say?
And then came the charge against Paul-
He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities.
Their complaint was that in Greece, only Greek gods should be worshipped. And there was a whole array of gods to choose from. The city of Athens was named for the goddess Athena. And the worship of Zeus and Poseidon and many others were authorized there.
And so in our Acts 17 reading, the philosophers brought Paul to the Areopagus for a kind of trial, or review, of his preaching about Jesus Christ and the resurrection of the dead. And here is an important take away from our text- Today, when Christians talk about the forgiveness of sins, and hope, and the life we have in our Savior Jesus Christ, there is going to be opposition. When we share our faith with
our family, friends, and co-workers, In the power of God, some will trust Christ in faith and be saved from sin, death, and hell. But it is also true that others will reject the Gospel, and criticize us, and do all they can to prevent the good news of Jesus from being heard.
It has always been true that the Gospel is powerful. Paul wrote in Romans 1:16-
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
And then Paul declared in Romans 10:17- (please use the NIV translation here, it is clearer)
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
So it is important for all Christians, all of us, to get the good news of Jesus out into the world, for the power of God will do the rest of the work to bring to faith those who will believe. Because He loves all sinners, our heavenly Father will make sure the Gospel is heard so that everyone may know the living God, and come into a relationship with Him through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.
Now in Acts 17, from verse twenty-two on, we have Paul’s witness to the crucified and risen Jesus. While the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers wanted to censure the apostle by bringing him to trial, God used this situation so that everyone had a chance to hear the message of Jesus with the hope that they would turn from vain idols, and philosophies, and human wisdom, and worthless belief systems, to the living God.
The Areopagus (verse 22) literally means “the hill of Ares,” and it is a big four hundred and thirty foot rock just below the Acropolis. Here, the members of Athens’ high court convened Paul’s trial. And starting in verse 22, you can read Paul’s bold witness for the Savior.
He starts out by complimenting the Greeks on how religious they are. They want to know the truth, and they want to know God.
So Paul reminds the people that they have erected an altar to an “unknown god.” And this “unknown God,” the living God Who created all things and sent a Savior, is Who Paul wants to talk about!
Then standing up to speak, the missionary apostle addressed the people and disclosed the truth about our God Who sent His Son to save us. Paul declared:
- The Living God is the Creator of the world
- He does not live in temples made with hands (and Paul said this in sight of the Parthenon erected to the goddess Athena 500 years earlier)
- He created the entire human race and sustains all life
- He wants all humanity to seek Him, and He is not far from us
- Idols made of gold, silver, and stone do not represent God
And then at the very end of today’s reading, Paul told the people what is most important. Verses 31-32-
30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
When you break these two verses down, you can see that Paul skillfully presents the way to God. First, in the Holy Spirit’s power, we must humbly recognize that we are sinners and need to approach the Lord in repentance and faith. The truth remains, and it has always been true, that we have a God Who loves us and is always near to us.
And then Paul mentions that while God has been patient with the ignorance of sin and rebellion to Him, a day is now coming when Christ will appear and judge the world in righteousness. Idolatry and false worship of other gods and religions has always been evidence of humanity’s rebellion to God. It is now time for all to turn in repentance and faith to the God Who is near to us.
The Lord has given ample evidence of His existence and interaction with this world, through His Word, through His believers and teachers and prophets, through Old Testament Israel, through His Church since the first century A.D., and through the changed lives of Christians today. But the clearest revelation of God’s involvement in this world has been through His own Son, Jesus, Who is the world’s Savior.
This is the Man Whom God has appointed. And the proof that this is the Man is that He died on the cross for the sin of the world, and He also rose again for the salvation of all who trust Him in faith. Jesus is the Lord. It is in Him we have hope, and life, and salvation.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
+Sola Deo Gloria+
KELC Prayer- Sixth Sunday of Easter- 5/17/20
Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you that by your Holy Spirit’s power, you have drawn us away from all false worship to the adoration of Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. In true repentance and faith, create in us clean hearts that we may love and follow the One Who died on a cross and rose again so that we may live.
Lord in Your mercy…………………. Hear our prayer.