Summary: This continues in my expository series through the book of Acts.
Say the word “spiritual” today, and really, you’ve said nothing. There are all sorts of “spiritualities” out there in the marketplace. Google the word “spirituality”, and here’s outcome:
• Spirituality.com, from the Christian Science society
• Jewish kabbalah inspirational prayers
• Spiritualityandpractice.com, a “multi-faith website on ways to practice spirituality in everyday life”, where I listened to a song on the “37 spiritual practices”, set to “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. Positively ghastly.
• “Native American” and “New Age” spirituality links
• “Spirituality for Today”, a Roman Catholic site
• One writer wishes us “Namaste”, which translated means, “the universal spirit within me bows to the universal spirit within you in oneness". My universal spirit then upchucks.
• I could “deepen my spiritual connection to discover my purpose in life”, courtesy of Deepak Chopra
• Find mind-blowing psychic predictions (for a price, of course)
• A guy aptly-named “Jeff Krock”, who advises us to “Integrate the full spectrum of your power and touch your deepest peace.”
And all of that’s just the first page that pops up. In today’s text, Paul visits a “spiritual” place; let’s read today’s text together!
I am indebted for the basic outline of today’s message to the great British Bible teacher John Stott, who helped me out of a difficult time this week. Now, this isn’t Stott’s message; if it were, it’d be a lot better! But his main outline was worthy of using.
I. What Paul Saw - :16a
We’re going to talk about Athens today, but you can put away your Bulldog paraphernalia; I mean the real Athens, not its Georgia namesake. That’s where we find Paul waiting on Silas and Timothy to arrive from Berea. The Athens Paul found was but a shadow of her former self, with perhaps no more than 10,000 or so individuals living there. But its heyday had been glorious, the cultural and intellectual center of the world; people such as Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Epicurus, and Zeno lived there. Though conquered by Rome in 146 B.C., the empire had allowed Athens free to govern its own affairs within the empire. And though its greatness was long-since past, it continued to live in and on that glorious past. It was a city full of idols, the Greek pantheon of gods occupying a conspicuous place there; in fact, in the original language, the suggestion is that the city was almost “smothered” with idols. Pausanius, who was to visit Athens some 50 years after the apostle Paul, said that it was easier to meet a god on the streets of Athens than to meet a man, and there is evidence that perhaps that was literally true!
We need not think of an idol necessarily as a carved or chiseled image, though that’s what Paul was looking at. An idol is a God-substitute. And it can take many different forms. We even use the term on our most popular TV program: “American Idol”. Of course, we don’t bow down to singers…at least we don’t in theory. Quite frankly, as I look at contemporary American society, I find a whole lot of similarities to Athens of Paul’s day, and as we go through this passage, you might be looking for some: