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Paul in Athens, Part 1 (Acts 17:16-23)

March 4, 2015

Reflecting on the Passage:

Here at East Point Church, we have begun a new sermon series entitled “Acts: The Spirit and the Church in the World“. This week’s sermon uncovers the subtly of idolatry. Pastor Carter explains why idolatry is so offensive to God. The focus of this sermon is on the discovery idolatry in Athens and the dexterity of the Gospel in Athens.

The Discovery of Idolatry

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. 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. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him (Acts 17:16-18a;ESV).

Pastor Carter describes the city of Athens as a seductive place. In other words, there was something for everyone. However, as Paul realized, when the first impression wore off you began to see by God’s grace the wickedness of worshipping anything other than Jesus. In fact, Paul was provoked within his spirit as he saw the Athenians worshipping idols because he had learned to love what God loved and despise what God despised. Therefore, in response, Paul seeks to turn these men and women from idols to serving the true and living God (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9).

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The Dexterity of the Gospel

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. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean. Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new. So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said:Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 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 (Acts 17:12-15; ESV).”

When God provided Paul with an opportunity to preach Jesus and His resurrection, Paul demonstrated the dexterity of the Gospel. He showed how Gospel is fitting for the synagogue, but he also displayed how the Gospel is just as important in reaching those outside of the synagogue. Surprisingly, Paul explains in the Areopagus that everyone was religious, meaning seeking after truth and life, but he also realized that the way they went about searching was not the True Way (John 14). Thus, Paul understood what it meant to be religious but lost, and he proclaims the Truth to them concerning Jesus the Christ, who is the One they are looking for and the One they need.

Do you know the Resurrected Christ?

Being religious is not enough. We have to know the Living God. He has made Himself known in creation, in the Scriptures, and ultimately, in the Person of Jesus Christ. The faithful Christian is not the one who does not have any idols, but the one who is seeking to replace them with the cross of Christ and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free and check out the sermon note below.

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