Thursday in the Ninth Week of Ordinary Time

Acts 17:22-28

Paul Preaches to Pagan Athenians

This sermon of Paul is very important as it shows how he approached Gentiles, very intelligent but idolatrous Gentiles, with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He starts out in what we might call a “friendly” sort of way (“I see you’re very religious”), not wanting to offend but instead gain their trust as he speaks.  (This shows us that Paul understood the dynamics of rhetoric or public speaking.  Contemporary Christians should do likewise.)  But though he wants to be friendly, Paul refuses to compromise the truth of the gospel.  He knows these men have no knowledge of the law and the prophets, so he will have to speak of the God revealed by those Scriptures and make contacts where he can with some of their own pagan authors.  In doing so, Paul preaches some good basic theology that all Christians can use if and when in a similar situation, that is, speaking to unbelievers who know nothing of Scripture, which is quite common in America nowadays.

Athens had altars to every god the human imagination can afford; indeed, even pagans joked that one could find more gods than men in Athens.  So as not to offend any god they might have missed, they even raised an altar “to the unknown god.”  Paul then said he would proclaim this god to them, that is, the true God whom they did not know.

Paul makes several claims over which we should rejoice.  First, God is maker of heaven and earth and Lord of the same.  This speaks to God’s greatness, sovereignty, and ownership over all things.  He reigns supreme and no one or anything is His equal.  Many pagans would have agreed with this as common sense leads one to this conclusion upon mere observation of the world.  Second, such a God can hardly be contained by manmade buildings, another rational deduction.  Third, this God needs nothing from us.  He was never lonely, never needy.  He is the giver, we are the receivers, and it can be no other way.  Fourth, He made all of mankind from one original pair (giving apostolic sanction to the historicity of the creation account in Genesis 1-2) which condemns all racism as an unequivocal evil.  Fifth, that He has determined the times and places of kingdoms and empires throughout world history.  And finally, that He did all of this so that man might seek Him, the true God, and give him praise and glory.  Paul even quotes approvingly one of their own pagan authors who said, “In him we live and move and have our being.”  But even so, men did not seek him but became darkened in mind and heart, choosing the creature over the Creator (Romans 1:18-23).  But now Paul will preach Christ to them—God’s answer to man’s rebellion.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

Leave a Reply