Summary: verse by verse through Acts
Today we’re going to be in Acts chapter seventeen as we continue to follow the missionary travels of the Apostle Paul. We’ve seen him and his partners go to Philippi, to Thessalonica, and to Berea. In each place they’ve seen lots of people get saved, they then set up a church, and then they get persecuted out of town.
So the next stop on the Apostle Paul’s journey is the great city of Athens Greece. And even back in Paul’s day, Athens was one incredible city.
- Because of it’s location it was a culturally diverse city
- Advanced governmental structure
- Strong economy
- Art, architecture
- World’s greatest university at that time
- Philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle and Socrates
- Intellectual and philosophical capitol of the world!
But they didn’t know the One True God!
Oh they were a religious people. As a matter of fact, maybe they were too religious. I
mean they had statues of gods and idols and temples everywhere in that city. The landscape of the city was littered with images of the gods of every kind of religious thought known at that time. As a matter of fact, a member of Nero’s court named Petronius wrote, “It’s easier to find a god than a man in Athens.”
These people were so concerned with recognizing all the ‘gods’ of the universe that just in case there were some out there that they didn’t know about yet, they erected altars dedicated to the unknown God.  The one you see on the screen behind me was found in the early 1800’s and now sits in a museum in Athens. The inscription on it reads, “Agnostos Theos or To the unknown God”. Many different Greek historians wrote about these altars and sometimes even entire Temples that were built throughout Athens for the purpose of worshipping gods that the people hadn’t heard of yet.
With all their intellect, with all their philosophy and with all their religion they still didn’t know the One True God.  But here comes Paul and he’s ready to reveal the unknown God to the people of Athens.
Now as we go through this passage we’re going to see a striking parallel between ancient Athens and the United States. But I hope that through this passage we’ll be motivated to parallel our hearts and efforts with the heart and efforts of Paul.
Acts chapter seventeen and verse sixteen,  the first thing we see is how Paul is burdened for the idolatrous people.
[Read Acts 17:16.]
Remember, Paul is in Athens alone waiting for Timothy and Silas to wrap things up back in Berea. But the more and more Paul walks around the city and sees the spiritual condition of the people, the more and more burdened he is for them. So this burden for people’s souls moved him to action.
[Read Acts 17:17-21.]
One of the great past times of the Athenians was to share, discuss and debate philosophical thought. So as Paul is sharing Jesus with them, they naturally wanted to know more about this new ideology, this new teaching, this new God! And Paul gets a golden opportunity to share the gospel with them. But I tell you what, he was speaking to one varied audience.
- Jews and proselytes, (legalistic, self-righteous)
- Marketplace people, (every day people, idolatrous)
- Epicureans, (Epicurus, purpose is pleasure, no eternity, somewhat deist, materialistic)
- Stoics, (Zeno, pantheism, purpose is directing history, rational over emotional or supernatural, intellectual)
- Foreigners, (varied religions)
Now I know I’m describing the people of Ancient Athens, but doesn’t it sound like the
melting pot of people called the United States?
- self-righteous religious people
- idolatrous every day people
- materialistic pleasure seekers
- intellectuals that deny the supernatural
- religious thought brought in from every corner of the globe
The people of Athens that Paul worked with 2000 years ago were as religiously and
philosophically diverse as we are today. But they didn’t know Jesus. They worshipped the unknown God. So Paul’s heart was burdened for the people and was moved to action.
I wonder that when we look at the lost people all around us if we’re as burdened as Paul was? Sometimes I think we’re more bothered by lost people than we are burdened for lost people. I know sometimes I am.
[Ramadan postage stamp story.]
When we see evidence of the lostness of our country we should be more burdened to do something about it instead of just being bothered into complaining about it.
Paul was burdened. So he accepted the invitation to go to the Areopagus and speak to everyone about this Jesus and His resurrection. (The Areopagus was the supreme ruling council over the city’s religious, philosophical and educational affairs.)