Term 3 – Week 9
Big Idea – We know the one true God of the Bible who will judge through Jesus!
Understand that we have the privilege of knowing who God is – so we can turn to him in repentance!
- Belief – God is the creator, sustainer, ruler, father and judge who we can know!
- Behaviour – Repent and believe in the true God who will judge through the risen Jesus!
Paul is well into his second missionary journey (15:36-18:22) by the time he reaches Athens. The city-state was world-famous for its sculptures, literature, oratory and philosophy. She was the leading centre of learning and political thought, and culturally was very influential in the wider Greek world. Also intrinsic to the culture of Athens was its religiosity: the city was awash with gods of all varieties worshipped through statues, temples, monuments and ceremony. It was a city of quite exceptional idolatry, as Paul was to experience.
Paul’s visit to Athens was not planned, but the result of his sudden exclusion from Berea, Macedonia (vv.13-15). Upon his arrival in the city, he took the opportunity to walk around the city (v.23), much like we would as a tourist taking in the sights. Yet his reaction was profound, as his zeal for the honour of the Lord caused him to be moved, to be greatly distressed (v.16). The idolatry he witnessed was abhorrent to Paul – he was jealous for the name of the Lord and disgusted by the blatant rejection of him found in idolatrous worship. People were giving idols the glory and honour due to the true and living God. Paul’s reaction to these atrocities were not to fall into despair but to bear witness to the gospel. He begins in the synagogue, as was his custom, then moves to the market place and eventually is brought before the Areopagus (an intellectual discussion forum that carried judicial functions), after a dispute broke out with a group of Epicureans and Stoic philosophers.
Paul’s Areopagus speech is one that has been picked up by commentators specifically, for its difference in approach and cultural engagement. Paul begins by picking up on the Athenians wanting to ‘know’ in verses 19&20. He makes a bridge into their culture by pointing out a local shrine, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD’ – exposing their desire to know yet fundamental ignorance to who God is. Paul then follows this by showing them the truth they are searching for, what they need to know, the true and living God. Paul interestingly quotes two non-Christian sources to show where philosophical thought points to the logic of the one true God.
In Paul’s speech he makes it clear that God is creator (v24), sustainer v25), ruler (v26), father (v28), and judge (v29-31). The true God can be known and he will judge their ignorance through the man who was raised from the dead (we assume Paul explained the cross, although Luke didn’t record it).
Paul concludes his speech with a call to repentance. Judgement is real and this is evident through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. There are three distinct responses to the gospel: those who dismissed, those who deferred and those who decided to believe. In a city of gods, who do they chose? In a city of idolatry, who shall they worship? The doctrine of God is a powerful evangelistic tool – so we want to teach how the one true God of the Bible will judge through Jesus.
There may be question about the different philosophies mentioned:
Epicurean philosophy: known for the pursuit of happiness & contentment. God was remote and separate, life is chance and ends at death – there is no resurrection or judgement. Stoic philosophy: known for belief in cold fatalism from some supreme god/point of origin. Life is to be in harmony with natural order – i.e. logic and discipline. Pantheistic, i.e. ‘god is in everything’, that is, the world is god. God is not loving nor involved.
43… everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his nameActs 10v43
This has been put together using purchased external material and therefore this resource may only be used by Dundonald Church. For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org