Summary: Just because someone doesn't believe in the Bible doesn't mean we can't witness to them.
Dealing With Unbelievers
Text: Acts 17:16-34
1. A recent study by the George Barna Group showed how Americans feel about the Bible. While many Americans still believe in the authority of the Bible, the survey showed "the biggest jump of any group are those American adults who are antagonistic to the Bible, meaning they believe the Bible to just be a book of stories and teachings written by men, and they rarely or never read the Bible. That group stood at one in ten adults (10%) in 2011. In 2013, their ranks have grown to 17% of all U.S. adults."
2. Lack of regard for the Holy Bible is growing in the U.S. So what do we do when we talk to someone about Jesus and they don't believe that the Bible is the Word of God?
3. When someone doesn't believe in the Bible we use what we have...
A. Everybody believes is something.
B. Use What They Believe To Your Advantage.
C. Be Bold In Proclaiming The Truth.
4. Let's stand together as we read Acts 17:16-34.
Proposition: Just because someone doesn't believe in the Bible doesn't mean we can't witness to them.
Transition: First, it helps to understand...
I. Everybody Believes In Something (16-21).
A. Discussing The Latest Ideas
1. Paul had left Berea, where he had a different experience than the one he was about to have in Athens (read vv. 10-15).
A. In Berea, they had a high regard for Scripture and so Paul used it to tell them about Jesus.
B. However, now that he was in Athens the story was very different because they didn't believe in the Scriptures so Paul had to develop a plan B.
2. Our narrative begins with, "While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in the city. 17 He went to the synagogue to reason with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and he spoke daily in the public square to all who happened to be there."
A. Athens was famous for its Acropolis and all its temples.
B. About six hundred years before Paul's time it was a world leader in art and philosophy. By this time, however, it had lost its glory. No longer politically or commercially important, its leadership in culture and education had been overtaken by Alexandria in Egypt.
C. Nevertheless, Athens still nurtured the memory of its past, and its temples were still beautiful examples of the best in Greek architecture.
D. Even so, everywhere Paul looked he saw a city that was "full of idols," and this caused his own spirit to be "deeply troubled" (almost "angered" or "outraged") within him.
E. Luke uses a strong, though different, word (paroxynomai) for Paul's reaction to seeing the city so full of idols. This word has been defined as "to be provoked or upset at someone or something involving severe emotional concern" (Fernando, NIV Application Commentary, The – Acts, 473).
F. As always, Paul first went to the synagogue on the Sabbath and preached to the Jews and the godly Gentiles there.
G. But he was concerned about the rest of the Gentiles too. Every day he talked to whoever "happened to be" in the "marketplace" (Gk. agora, not only a marketplace but also a center of public political and cultural life) (Horton, 296).
3. In addition to those he encountered in the synagogue, "He also had a debate with some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. When he told them about Jesus and his resurrection, they said, “What’s this babbler trying to say with these strange ideas he’s picked up?” Others said, “He seems to be preaching about some foreign gods.”
A. Paul debated with "a group of Epicurian and Stoic philosophers" (v. 18).
B. The Epicurians were "a philosophical school that valued pleasure (the absence of pain and disturbance) and disbelieved in the gods of ancient myths."
C. "They were influential only in the educated upper classes, and their views about God were similar to deism (he was uninvolved in the universe and irrelevant)."
D. Stoicism was "the most popular form of Greek philosophy in Paul's day.
E. Although most people were not Stoics, many Stoic ideas were widely publicized."
F. Though they believed in a supreme God, it was in a pantheistic way. (spirits in nature, i.e. Native American religion).
G. The Stoics saw the world as determined by fate and advocated that "human beings must pursue their duty, resigning themselves to live in harmony with nature and reason, however painful this might be, and develop their own self-sufficiency" (Fernando, 474).
4. So, "Then they took him to the high council of the city. “Come and tell us about this new teaching,” they said.
20 “You are saying some rather strange things, and we want to know what it’s all about.”