More about the Pagan Mind
The Jews in Thessalonica and Berea managed to have the apostles, particularly Paul as he was the chief speaker, run out of town by stirring up trouble through false accusation of sedition, a serious charge in the Roman world. (Please bear in mind that “the Jews,” means only, “the Jews who opposed the gospel,” since some Jews embraced the faith.) We don’t know how long Paul stayed in each city, but he certainly stayed long enough to establish churches, for we read that the “brethren” of the Berean church conducted him as far as Athens, well over two-hundred miles south.
We read here that Paul’s “spirit was provoked within him as he saw the city was full of idols.” Nothing provoked a Jew such as Paul more than idolatry, which might elicit the question how contemporary Christians can walk through such ruins and admire the art rather than be provoked in their spirits. At any rate, Paul responded the way he always did when surrounded by such sinful distortions by man of God’s world; he “reasoned” with Jews and devout persons (i.e., Gentile God-fearers) in the synagogue and pagans in the marketplace. He apparently made enough of an impact that he could not go unnoticed as some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers caught up with him and arranged a hearing for him at the Areopagus, the place where such important discussions concerning religion and morals took place in Athens.
At this point I wish to highlight a few verses which elucidate the pagan mind yet further for us (understand that “pagan” means without knowledge of the true God, or just plain ole lost man). They say of Paul, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities,” and then to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears,” and then Luke tells us plainly, “Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.” Later on Paul will describe imposters in the churches as people “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). This is a characteristic of the pagan mindset that even Christians will often develop. It seems harmless; after all, Paul “reasoned” with people, didn’t he? But that’s not what we have here. Paul reasoned with the intention of arriving at the truth, not for the purpose of hearing another new idea to tickle the imagination, which invariably leads to skepticism and a cynicism. The hidden purpose of such a mindset is to put truth off, not to discover it, and to make one feel that he is above the common herd. Why, I almost sound as if I speak from experience, don’t I?