Summary: Witnessing the message of the Gospel to a sinful world requires that we use wisdom in order to win them to Christ. Let’s follow Paul’s example at Mars Hill.
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Pastor James May
THE UNKNOWN GOD!
Acts 17:18-23, "Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing) Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you."
Epicureans - followers of Epicurus (who died at Athens B.C. 270), or adherents of the Epicurean philosophy (Acts 17:18). This philosophy was a system of atheism, and taught men to seek as their highest aim a pleasant and smooth life. They have been called the "Sadducees" of Greek paganism.
Stoics - a sect of Greek philosophers at Athens, so called from the Greek word stoa i.e., a "porch" or "portico," where they have been called "the Pharisees of Greek paganism." The founder of the Stoics was Zeno, who flourished about B.C. 300. He taught his disciples that a man’s happiness consisted in bringing himself into harmony with the course of the universe. They were trained to bear evils with indifference, and so to be independent of externals. Materialism, pantheism, fatalism, and pride were the leading features of this philosophy.
Areopagus - the Latin form of the Greek word rendered "Mars’ hill." But it denotes also the council or court of justice which met in the open air on the hill. It was a rocky height to the west of the Acropolis at Athens, on the south-east summit of which the council was held which was constituted by Solon, and consisted of nine archons or chief magistrates who were then in office, and the ex-archons of blameless life.
Paul’s message and preaching to the Athenians aroused their curiosity. That should give us some insight into how we can people to listen to the message that we have for them concerning Jesus.
Paul didn’t go screaming into their face that they were sinners bound for hell. He didn’t join in their idol worship to gain their trust. He didn’t water down his message to get them to listen.
Paul spoke with the wisdom that God had given him. I believe that God will give us the words to say and the way to say them when we are ministering for Him and trying to reach out the lost. It is God’s desire to see all men saved and it is grievous to the Holy Spirit to see how often we drive people further from God by “in your face” methods of witnessing.
Paul began by appealing to their nature that was ever searching for new things and curiosity.
The Athenians on Mar’s Hill were the religious judges and education elite of Athens who sat in judgment and ruled on matters that were discussed in their schools of learning. To these men, Paul seemed nothing more than a “babbler” who taught of things that were not acceptable in the Athenian school of thought. It was no legal for Athenians to worship demons or God’s that they knew nothing about.
Does that sound like our world too? The educated elite and hierarchy of government and of our court system cannot and will not accept the preaching of the Gospel as the most important thing on this earth! They consider Christians as “out of touch with reality” and “ignorant” and sometimes we are branded as troublemakers and radicals.