Sermons

Summary: Paul's message before the Areopagus forms the basis for a study of how to approach an intellectual audience. This knowledge is necessary if we are to succeed in presenting the Faith in the midst of our world today. This is the substance of a radio message at Easter.

“Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: “To the unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

‘“In him we live and move and have our being;”

as even some of your own poets have said,

‘“For we are indeed his offspring.”

“‘Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’

“Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, ‘We will hear you again about this.’” [1]

Easter won’t be quite the same this year; things are different because of an unseen, silent killer stalking our land. Traditionally, Christians gather in record numbers in their church buildings on Easter Sunday. Our own congregation would enjoy an early breakfast—a love feast if you will. We would celebrate the Lord’s Table after a light breakfast; then, we would welcome guests together with those members who had slept in before providing a special service of worship at which we would sing some of the great hymns of the Faith and again hear the message of Christ’s victory over death.

Some have bemoaned the fact that we will not gather in large assembly this year, we will not meet in our comfortable church building. While I wouldn’t wish to be crass, what I hear is a complaint based upon worship of a building. How large was the crowd that witnessed Christ conquer death? How many people were present on that first Easter morning? And in the years that followed the Master’s conquest of death, didn’t His disciples meet wherever they had opportunity? And didn’t they come together early on the first day of the week, celebrating the fact that Jesus rose victoriously from the grave?

Our spiritual forebears worshipped the Risen Lord of Glory, and they did so without the convenience of a permanent building they could call their own! He was alive, and He was with them as they met to worship. Wherever they met and each time they met, they focused on the Risen Lord of Glory, the Saviour who had conquered death and brought life and immortality to light. Worship was a continual celebration of victory. Tragically, contemporary Christians seem to have forgotten that truth. Here’s an example of the message those earlier saints delivered to a world that had become jaded and uncaring about the reality of the Living God. Though they knew there was a God, few people knew Him, and our forebears spoke often of His claim on life.

Scholars have long debated whether the sermon was effective or not. Chased out of Thessalonica by an angry mob of religious zealots, driven from Berea when that same mob followed the missionaries there, the great missionary, Paul, was forced to travel to Athens alone. The Word of God informs us that Paul’s “spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols” [ACTS 17:16].

The Apostle did what he always did when he was provoked—he preached. In the synagogue, he “reasoned with the Jews and the devout persons” [see ACTS 17:17a]. However, he didn’t restrict himself to speaking with only Jews who worshipped in the synagogue, he actively spoke “in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there” [ACTS 17:17b]. While speaking in the marketplace, “Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him.” Paul’s message stimulated a discussion. Some of the philosophers said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others attempted to understand what he was saying; they said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities,” because the Apostle was preaching Jesus and the resurrection [see ACTS 17:18].

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