Summary: An indepth look at how Paul, though weary and worn, was able to assess a situation and teach the truth in love and ultimately bear fruit. A lesson in tactfulness.
Paul On Mars Hill
Text: Acts 17: 16-34
I. Introduction: Background
A. Second Missionary Journey (with Silas & Timothy)
1. Full of struggles
2. Full of success
3. Shows the character and focus of Paul’s life
B. Stops prior to Athens
a. Lydia and her household converted.
b. Exorcism of the slave girl. Starts the persecution cycle because they were beaten and thrown into jail.
c. The jailor and his family.
1. Paul & Silas are willing to witness when they could have run.
2. They were wronged even under Roman law.
3. They went back and encouraged the brethren there.
a. Converted a variety of individuals – Jews, Greeks & women by
preaching the risen Savior.
b. Foreign to Greeks/blasphemous to Jews
c. Jews caused an insurgence so Paul, Silas, & Timothy hide at
1. They used the Romans, whom they detested, to incite the riot.
2. Common hates make for strange alliances.
3. Paul and the others escape by night.
a. More noble/more receptive.
b. Same stuff/ different day
c. Paul escapes to Athens and waits on Silas & Timothy.
II. Body: Paul in Athens
A. What would be our mindset if we were in Paul’s shoes in this instance?
1. Looking over our shoulder constantly
2. Go somewhere for a break
3. Paul did not change his way or focus because of past events.
a. Paul is touched by the needs of the Athenians.
b. He is diplomatic and knowledgeable of Roman Law which in a
number of instances saved his life as we’ll see it does here.
B. Epicureans & Stoics (vs. 18)
a. founded by Epicuras ~ 260 BC
b. didn’t believe in God
c. 1st to believe the Big Bang Theory
d. believed in denial of one’s sensual pleasures but not his
followers. (Odd because they didn’t believe in the resurrection.)
* This validates Paul’s statement in vs. 27.
a. followed the teachings of Zeno who taught on the porch or Stoa.
b. believed that God made the universe but fate ruled it.
c. believed the soul stayed in existence until the universe is de-
stroyed. (No resurrection)
3. Other philosophers of this time incl. Aristotle & Plato. I Cor. 1: 22
4. Their perception of Paul.
a. babbler – Gr. “a bird that picks up seeds on the side of the
b. They believed Paul was simply regurgitating what he had
picked up from others.
c. They were belittling him.
5. Their initial perception of his message.
a. Teaching new or foreign god(s).
b. Jesus himself constituted one god and the resurrected Christ
C. The Areopagus: Highest Gentile Court
1. Paul was not on trial (per se) but he was in the position to be if he
a. Introducing foreign gods in Roman society was a capital crime
punishable by death.
b. Read vs. 21
2. Historical Facts
a. When a decision was made here, even the guilty did not argue.
b. Hill where Mars was tried for the accusation of killing the son of
D. Vs 22-23 (Preface)
1. Common ground – tactful
2. Paul was disturbed but he didn’t lose his cool.
3. He did not bash the idols nor did he condemn the worshippers.
a. Can we do that today?
b. Common ground is not compromise. The words of God will
convict; we do not have to. God wants to convict to bring to
E. Vs 24-30 (Body)
1. Everything Paul teaches here is contrary to their beliefs.
a. God is Lord of Heaven & Earth.
b. He doesn’t live in temples made of hands (idols).
c. He made everything for its own time and purpose. Vs 26
2. Refer back to the beliefs of the Epicureans & Stoics.
3. Paul validates his point by referencing Greek poets.
a. Aratus – lived in the same era as Aristotle, Zeno, & Epicuras.
b. Subtle & wise tactic – logically they could not deny their own.
1. Like begets like: we’re made in God’s image not idols, that is
why we live, move and have being (unlike idols).
2. Paul uses logic on the Greeks; this is like fighting fire with fire.
3. Read I Cor. 1: 22-23.
F. Vs 30-34 (Closing)
1. In vs. 31-32, Paul states the truth & moves on and let’s God’s word
convict these people: He does not belabor the point!
a. He walks off.
b. Silence can speak louder than words. (Even music has to have
strategically placed rests in order to be touching.)
2. Some sneer and do not accept Paul’s teaching.
3. Some did accept.
a. Dionysius – a judge in the Areopagus: history tells us that he was
a governor of the city at one time and held in the highest esteem.