Summary: This sermon explains that Christianity is all about a Relationahip with Jesus Christ, not a "Religion."
Introduction: The Apostle Paul was in the city of Athens, Greece, waiting for his co-workers Timothy and Silas to join him there. While he waited I’m sure he must have spent some time walking the ancient streets of Athens. Perhaps he even toured The Parthenon, which was a temple built and dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena in the 5th century BC.
In verse 16 it tells us that Paul was “greatly distressed to see that the city of Athens was full of idols.” Then as he began to speak to the men of Greece in verse 22 he said, “I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god.”
Religions have existed since the beginning of time. Each country and culture tended to have their own gods. Most countries, with the exception of the nation of Israel were polytheistic in nature. Greece was certainly no exception to that rule. Greek Mythology had its beginnings around 3000 B.C. and had become fully developed by 700 B.C.
Greek mythology had several distinguishing characteristics. The Greek gods resembled humans in form and showed human feelings. Unlike ancient religions such as Hinduism or Judaism, Greek mythology did not involve special revelations or spiritual teachings. It also varied widely in practice and belief, with no formal structure, such as an organized church government. In addition it didn’t have a written code or sacred scriptures.
The Greeks believed that the gods chose Mount Olympus, in Northern Greece as their home. On Olympus, the gods formed a society that ranked them in terms of authority and powers. Zeus was the head of the gods, and the spiritual father of gods and people. The Greeks believed that there were 12 gods in all, and that these gods were free to go wherever they wanted. However, the individual gods were generally associated with three main domains—the sky or heaven, the sea, and earth.
Greek mythology emphasized the weakness of humans in contrast to the great and terrifying powers of nature, which was controlled by the gods. So the Greeks acknowledged that their lives were completely dependent on the good will of the gods. The Greeks believed that they were essentially at the mercy of the gods, who could either bless them or curse them at the drop of a hat, depending on whether the gods were pleased with them or not. Therefore, the people became very superstitious and would go out of their way to make sure they didn’t do anything to offend the gods.
By the time the Apostle Paul arrived in Athens, Greek mythology had become deeply rooted in every aspect of Greek life. Each city devoted itself to a particular god or group of gods, for whom the citizens often built temples of worship. They regularly honored the gods in festivals, which high officials supervised. At festivals and other official gatherings, poets recited or sang great legends and stories.
Greek parents taught their children about the gods at home. Different parts of the home were dedicated to certain gods, and people offered prayers to those gods at regular times throughout the day. An altar of Zeus, for example, might be placed in the courtyard, while an altar to the god Apollo might be located in another part of the house. Since they didn’t want to offend any of the gods were careful to honor all of them in some way. We see that in our text when the Apostle Paul noted that the people of Athens had even built an altar to “An Unknown God.”
Like the Apostle Paul I must admit to you this morning that I am deeply distressed at the Spiritual climate of the nation of Greece. While the Greek Orthodox Church is officially a Christian church and was founded by true believers, over the centuries false doctrine has made its way into the church to the point that the church is now keeping millions of people from knowing and experiencing the Truth of the gospel message.
1. The first thing I want to share with you this morning is that like the people the Apostle Paul spoke to in Athens, the Greek people today are still very religious people.
A. 97 % of people in Greece belong to the Greek Orthodox Church. 3 % are Muslims, and less than one tenth of one percent are what we would call Evangelical Christians. As we were touring the city of Thessaloniki on Monday, June 16th we came to a place where we could look out over the majority of the city. It was there that Sean Whently who is one of our Southern Baptist Missionaries told us that of the 1 million people living in Thessaloniki today there are maybe only 1,000 who are true believers. He went on to say that there are only 3 Evangelical churches in the entire city, and of those there are no Southern Baptist Churches.