"GOSPEL PREACHING IN THE FIRST CENTURY" Paul At The Areopagus In Athens INTRODUCTION 1. We have looked at six examples of gospel preaching in the first century... a. Three by the apostle Peter b. Two by the evangelist Philip c. One by the apostle Paul 2. We now consider a sermon remarkable in that it was preached... a. Not to Jews or even Gentile God-fearers (like Cornelius) b. But to pagan philosophers and polytheists [It was during Paul’s second missionary journey, in the city of Athens, Greece...] I. THE SETTING A. PAUL HAD JUST ARRIVED IN ATHENS... 1. Known as a center of learning and artistry, but also for its idols 2. Petronius said that it was easier to find a god than a man in Athens 3. Provoked by the idolatry, Paul began preaching at every opportunity - Ac 17:16-17 a. Reasoning in the synagogues with the Jews and Gentile worshipers b. Reasoning daily with any who happened to be in marketplace B. HE ATTRACTED ATTENTION OF PHILOSOPHERS... 1. In particular, Epicurean and Stoic philosophers - Ac 17:18 a. Some of whom viewed him as a proclaimer of foreign gods b. Because Paul was preaching of Jesus and the resurrection 2. They brought him to the Areopagus (Mar’s Hill) and invited him to speak - Ac 17:19-21 a. A rocky hill about 370 feet high, not far from the Acropolis and the Agora (marketplace) in Athens - Holman Bible Dictionary b. A place where Athenians and visitors spent their time discussing new ideas c. Not having heard of the doctrine of Christ, they wanted to know more [With such an invitation, you can imagine Paul’s delight to accommodate them...] II. THE SERMON A. THEME: THE GOD THEY DID NOT KNOW... 1. Acknowledging their devotion, he makes mention of one altar in particular - Ac 17:22-23 a. An altar with the inscription: "To The Unknown God" b. So devout, they sought to worship a god they did not know 2. He uses the opportunity to preach concerning the True God they did not know! - Ac 17:23 B. MAIN POINTS... 1. God is the creator of the universe - Ac 17:24 a. He made the world, He is Lord of heaven and earth b. As such, He does not dwell in temples made with hands - cf. 1Ki 8:22-30 2. God is the sustainer of life - Ac 17:25 a. He gives to all life their breath and what they need - cf. Jm 1:17 b. Therefore God is not worshipped as though He needs it 3. God is the ruler of all the nations - Ac 17:26-27 a. He has created every nation and determined their rise and fall - Dan 2:20-21; 4:17 b. Everything is designed to prompt men to seek God, who is not far from any of us 4. God is the Father of mankind - Ac 17:28-29 a. From God we come; and in Him we live, move, and have our very being b. Therefore we should not think that God is like any idol of gold, silver or stone 5. God is the Judge of the world - Ac 17:30-31 a. What ignorance He may have overlooked in the past, such is no longer the case b. He now commands all men everywhere to repent c. Why? Because of the coming Judgment, in which... a. God will judge the world in righteousness b. God will judge the world through Jesus Christ - Jn 5:22,26-27; 12:48 d. As proof such will occur, God has raised Jesus from the dead -- These five points are from "The Spirit, The Church, And The World", by John Stott C. RESPONSE... 1. Mentioning the resurrection provoked a response - Ac 17:32 a. Some mocked (to many at that time, the idea of a bodily resurrection was foolishness) b. Others were more cordial, offering to listen again at another time 2. As Paul left, some joined him and believed - Ac 17:33-34 a. Specifically mentioned are Dionysius the Areopagite, and Damaris, a woman b. Others also joined Paul and believed [Having considered the setting and the sermon, allow me to make some...] III. OBSERVATIONS A. REGARDING THE SERMON... 1. Paul used tact - Ac 17:22-23 a. He acknowledges their spirituality, though misdirected b. We should not hesitate to acknowledge the devotion one might have; if in error, our task is to explain "the way of God more accurately" - e.g., Ac 18:24-26 2. Paul began with the present spiritual condition of his audience - Ac 17:23-27 a. They believed in supreme beings, but didn’t know the True God b. With the Jews he began with the Law, with the Gentiles he began with the nature of God; we too should take into consideration where one is spiritually 3. Paul made use of an accepted authority - Ac 17:28-29 a. He quotes from one of their own prophets to make his point b. When appropriate, we can appeal to an uninspired authority accepted by others 4. Paul led his audience to the main themes of the gospel - Ac 17:30-31 a. Such as the need to repent, the coming Judgment - cf. Ac 2:38; 3:19 b. So our ultimate goal in preaching should be the gospel message 5. Paul used the resurrection of Jesus as the ultimate proof - Ac 17:31 a. God has given assurance of the coming Judgment by raising Jesus b. Indeed, if Jesus truly did rise from the dead, it is proof of: 1) The existence of God 2) The truthfulness of all of Jesus’ claims 3) The reality of sin, judgment, and the need to repent c. This is why we need to develop a strong apologetic for the resurrection of Jesus B. REGARDING THE RESPONSE... 1. People responded in three different ways - Ac 17:32-34 a. Rejection - "some mocked" b. Reluctance - "others said, 'we will hear you again on this matter'" c. Reception - "some men joined him and believed" 2. Of those who responded favorably, it is only said that they "believed" - Ac 17:34 a. Are we to conclude from this that was all they did? b. Did they not also "repent", as commanded in Ac 17:30? c. The term "believed" encompassed more than simply an acceptance of the facts that had been proclaimed 1) It involved a complete reception of the message preached 2) It included an obedience to whatever conditions had been proclaimed by the apostles (such as repentance, baptism) d. Just as faith was not explicitly mentioned in Acts 2, or repentance in Acts 16, but is fairly inferred from what we know in other passages, so also with baptism here 1) "There is, indeed, much to be said for the contention, independently advocated by theologians of varied schools, that in the New Testament faith and baptism are viewed as inseparables whenever the subject of Christian initiation is under discussion, so that if one is referred to, the other is presupposed, even if not mentioned." - G. R. Beasley-Murray, Baptism In The New Testament, p. 272 2) "Baptism and faith are but the outside and inside of the same thing" - James Denny (as quoted by Beasley-Murray, ibid.) 3) "Where baptism is spoken of faith is presumed, and where faith is spoken of baptism is included in the thought" - N. J. Engelsen (as quoted by Beasley-Murray, ibid.) CONCLUSION 1. Whether Jew or Gentile, philosopher or simpleton, the gospel of Christ is for all... a. Where we begin may vary with the spiritual condition of our audience b. Where we end must always be the same: Jesus is the only way to salvation! 2. When one becomes convicted of their sinful condition and their need for Jesus, the proper response should also be the same no matter who we are... a. Faith in Jesus as the Son of God, who died for our sins and was raised from the dead b. Repentance from sin c. Baptism into Christ for the forgiveness of sins through His blood One’s reaction to the gospel will always be one of three ways: rejection, reluctance, or reception. In Athens, people such as Dionysius and Damaris exemplified the proper response.
Are you willing to imitate their example...?