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In Athens October 7, 2016

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Acts 17:16-34.

Summary: In this passage, a group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers brought Paul to a meeting of the Areopagus, as they were intrigued by his presentation of the Gospel message. Paul then delivered a lengthy address where he asserted that God:

  • created the heavens and the earth
  • sustained and directed human history

contrary to the tenets of the Epicureans and the Stoics. He called his audience to renounce their misguided worldviews and worship God – through His Son, Jesus Christ. While some of those in attendance rejected his appeal, others accepted it – including Dionysius and a woman named Damaris.

Thoughts: In verse 16, we see that Paul was troubled at the rampant idolatry in Athens. Calvin offers some insights on this point:

Paul was distressed when he saw the name of God profaned and his worship corrupted, and this shows that nothing was more precious to him than the glory of God. Such zeal ought to be ours too, as it is in Psalm 69:9. It is a common rule of all godly people to be troubled whenever their Heavenly Father is blasphemed – just as Peter teaches that Lot “was tormented in his righteous soul” because he could do nothing about the “lawless deeds” being done around him (2 Peter 2:8).

Calvin’s thoughts should challenge believers in First World countries. It is evident that we live in an era where relativism is a prominent worldview; moreover, the Christian worldview, which includes claims of absolute truth, is often marginalized and even openly attacked. Now one could question the application of Paul’s actions in Athens to our present situation, stating, “Paul entered a city where the Gospel had not been preached; in contrast, we live in cities where people have heard the Gospel and have consciously rejected it.” Yet we know that God calls us to glorify His name in every situation. How can we be obedient in this regard when God’s name is blasphemed in our society? One thought is that we should not hide our faith from nonbelievers; if they still choose to insult us as Christians, then we can be thankful that we bear these insults for His sake.

In verse 32, we see that some of the members of the Areopagus rejected the Gospel message when Paul mentioned the resurrection of Jesus. This is a controversial issue, and countless people through the ages have rejected the Gospel message due to their inability to accept the historicity of this event. In fairness, I occasionally struggle with doubts regarding this point; at those times, I envy those believers who were direct eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ. Yet I must not forget that the Christian worldview does not rest on a flimsy foundation. In particular, skeptics should consider N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God; many readers have indicated that it contains a cogent argument for the historicity of this central tenet of the Christian worldview, which is encouraging to say the least.

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