Summary: Today, even in our sophisticated, highly technological culture, men, women, boys and girls worship idols...
Background: Acts 17:1-15
(Acts 17:16 NKJV) Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.
Athens was home to the most renowned philosophers in history, including Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, who was arguably the most influential philosopher of all. Athens was also the religious center of Greece—virtually every deity known to man could be worshiped there. Paul viewed Athens as a city of lost humanity, all doomed to a Christless eternity because of rampant pagan idolatry.
Today, even in our sophisticated, highly technological culture, men, women, boys and girls worship idols—one most of us knows about sits in our living rooms and we bow before it several hours each day.
Some of our idols sit parked outside of our homes and others of our idols are paid homage to some forty to sixty hours each week.
As Paul waited in Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Is your spirit provoked within you when you look around and see that Baltimore is given over to idols?
(Acts 17:17 NKJV) Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there.
What did Paul do when his spirit was provoked within him concerning the sin of the city? Well, what do some Christians do?
Some Christians gossip about it.
“Did you know that so-and-so is shacking up with so-and-so?”
“You know, I saw so-and-so in the liquor store.”
“She’s pregnant and is only 15 years old! Oh my.”
Some Christians envy it.
Some Christians try to run and hide from it.
But Paul met the idolatry head on:
Verse 17 tells us He went into the synagogue—to reason with the religious community.
Verse 18 tells us He went into the marketplace—to reason with the unbelievers.
(Acts 17:18 NKJV) Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, "What does this babbler want to say?" Others said, "He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods," because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.
In verse 18 we find Paul encountering two groups of philosophers prominent in the culture of that day: Epicurean philosophers and Stoic philosophers.
Epicurean philosophers were those who followed Epicurus (341-270 B.C.). Epicurus believed that happiness or the avoidance of pain was the chief end of life.
We live in a culture with a similar mindset. “Go for all the gusto you can get,” they say. “You only go around once in life,” is our culture’s motto.
Christians seem to be caught up with this way of thinking—happiness, wealth and prosperity is the mantra of many preachers. However, happiness is based on conditions being right but the Lord calls the Christian to be content in whatever state he or she finds himself or herself in. “Joy” is the fruit of the Spirit that the Christian should be desiring and manifesting, not happiness.
Our culture like the Epicurean’s avoids pain. We have hundreds of medications that have been developed to get rid of pain. We have pills for physical pain, pills for emotional pain and pills for spiritual pain. We have pills for depression and pills for aggression. We have pills for when your head hurts, ears hurt, throat hurts, eyes hurt, stomach hurts, joints hurt and pills for when your back hurts. Ours is a culture that hates pain!
Epicureans were materialists—they did not deny the existence of God, but they believed He did not become involved with the affairs of men. When a person died, they believed his body and soul disintegrated.
The Stoic philosophers, on the other hand, regarded Zeno (340-265 B.C.) as their founder and whose name came from Stoa Poikile which means, “Painted Porch” or “Painted Promenade” the place from which Zeno taught in Athens. Zeno emphasized the rational over the emotional. Stoic philosophy taught self-mastery—that the goal in life was to reach a place of indifference to pleasure or pain. The Stoics were pantheists that believed that God was in everything. Their ethics were characterized by moral earnestness and a high sense of duty. Stoics advocated conducting themselves "according to nature."
In our culture one might call these people, “New Agers” because they are part of what is called “The New Age Movement.” These are the people who worship nature by the very fact that they put more importance on saving an endangered species than an endangered fetus. They believe that God is not only in you and me, but He is also in the tree and in a rock. Some New Ages claim that if “god” is in you, then you are god.
Solomon said, “there is nothing new under the sun.” (Eccl 1:9-10)