Summary: When the Apostle Paul preached on Mars Hill in Athens he cemonstrated how to be positive in a negative world.
“Being Positive in a Negative World”
-A bridge builder not a builder of walls-
When the Apostle Paul preached on Mars Hill in Athens Greece he demonstrated how to be positive in a negative world. When we look at all that is happening around the world, in our cities and neighborhoods what are we to do? For many years a wall stood between East and West Berlin. Finally the wall came down. Today there are commentators and politicians saying that the only answer to the crisis in Israel is to build a wall between Israel and Palestine. Some families are building higher and higher walls to keep their families safe.
Paul’s goal in life should also be our goal. Not to build walls between people but to build bridges to people of all cultures.
Acts 17 Paul finds himself in Athens, Greece waiting for Silas and Timothy. What Paul saw in Athens stirred his heart. He saw a city without faith in God the creator of heaven and earth. The city was given over to the worship of idols and statues of Greek gods. Paul didn’t hole up in a hotel for private prayer and meditation. He practiced what he did all his life, when faced with challenges he would take a situation like a sour lemon and turn it into lemonade.
Paul made it clear that he wasn’t impressed with what the world could offer. His citizenship was in heaven. Everything this world could offer was nothing compared to life with Christ in the Kingdom of God. In the hardest and darkest of situations Paul would try to build a bridge and not a wall.
If anyone had reason to complain or ask for people to join in a pity party, surely Paul had reason. Paul could stand up and declare his problems that would qualify him.
· After his conversion on the Damascus road the Jerusalem Church continued to fear and shun him. Saul renamed Paul was a terrorist and not a Christian. They believed that God is merciful but to a well know terrorist, no way.
· Paul was put in prison in Philippi for preaching and casting out an evil spirit in a young girl that Satan had given the gift of prophecy and fortune telling. Acts 16
· In Jerusalem Paul was falsely accused of desecrating the temped and was arrested and put on trial and eventually ended up in Rome under house arrest.
· 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 Paul give a litany of hardships he faced during his short life:
o in prison many times
o beaten severely with whips and rods
o exposed to death time and time again
o stoned with rocks
o shipwrecked spent a night and day in the open sea
o in danger from Jews and Gentiles
o gone without sleep
o gone without food and water
o everyday lived with his life in danger
· Yet with all his hardships the theme of Paul’s writing was “JOY”. Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again: Rejoice.” Paul’s life mission was to preach the good news of the Gospel and build up people.
When Paul arrived in Athens he found himself in one of the most famous centers of philosophy, religion, art and architecture the ancient world had ever known.
In Athens Paul preached and taught in two places, in the synagogue and in the marketplace. (17:16-17) Paul spoke to the Jews in the synagogue and to Gentiles in the marketplace. We can learn a lot from the way Paul spoke to the people in Athens. Paul understood their culture and spoke to their needs.
Paul observed that the city was given to idolatry. The Greek historian Pausanias says that there were more idols in Athens than in all the rest of Greece combined. Paul would see them wherever he turned his eyes. He tried to reason and teach to Jews in the synagogue and Gentiles in the market place. There was in Athens one great "market place," or public square. The porches around it were favorite places for discussion.
In former years Athens had been famous for four schools of philosophy.
· The Academy of Plato
· The Lyceum of Aristotle
· The Porch of Zeno and
· The Garden of Epicures
In the time of Paul only two schools survived: Epicureans and Stoics. The Epicureans held that the gods were careless about human affairs, and that a man’s best course was to get as much pleasure out of life as possible. With them pleasure was the chief good. They held an anti-god outlook on life. Since there was no life after death your goal in life is to indulge in all the please you can get in what life you do have. The Stoics were fatalists, believers in a sort of pantheism, and insisted on self-righteousness. They goal was to talk and debate about natural law and the things of life. Epicurus was the founder of the first sect; Zeno, of the second. To the Epicureans the individual was supreme. To the Stoics universal law was supreme.