Summary: When it comes to sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, it helps if we understand the approach Paul took. Let’s look at 3 principles that will help us become more frequent sharers.
The Gospel Happens in Athens
1. Philosophers can be interesting and sometimes deep. Joke about 2 Greek philosophers arguing:
Euclid tells the other: You've been a very good pupil this past year, Eubulides, but now it's time for you to pay the 50 drachma you owe me for all the philosophy I've taught you.
Eubulides pauses to think for a moment.“Hm, as much as I would love to pay you back, I'm afraid that's not possible.”
Euclid asks, “Why not?”
Eubulides explains, “Imagine that I have a heap of sand in front of me. Suppose I were to take a single grain away from the heap of sand. Is it still the same heap?”
Euclid answers, “Well, perhaps...”
Eubulides interrupts, “Now suppose I were to continue taking away grains of sand one by one. Eventually, you'd agree, the heap is no longer the same.”
Euclid nods, “Yes, I agree that it would be different at some point.”
Eubulides continues, “Then you understand precisely my problem! Just as the heap of sand changes as grains are removed, I have also changed over this past year. The Eubulides who promised to pay you 50 drachma no longer exists.”
Euclid pauses to think for a moment. He then proceeds to beat up Eubulides and take his 50 drachma.
Eubulides complains, “Ow! What'd you do that for?”
Euclid responds, “Who? Me? The man who did that is no longer the same man.” [reddit.com, altered]
2. Although some of you may witness to a philosopher in your lifetime, Paul witnessed to a boatload of them at the same time. Yet we can learn much by his approach.
Main Idea: When it comes to sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, it helps if we understand the approach Paul took. Let’s look at 3 principles that will help us become more frequent sharers.
I. The Principle of Being Alert to OPPORTUNITY (16-21).
Paul used his unexpected time in Athens to share Christ
A. This was not part of his plan, but God puts us in PLACES for His purpose.
• Athens was the intellectual capitol of the world.
B. Paul experienced HOLY aggravation (16).
• The term “full of idols” suggests being “swamped with idols,” “a forest of idols.” [Stott]
• Entire Greek pantheon; the joke was that there were more gods in Athens than men.
• Idols, as artworks, can be beautiful; but behind them is a spiritual ugliness.
• Like Paul, we should detest all forms of physical, actual idolatry; we are not ready to spiritualize idolatry until we have addressed physical, literal idolatry.
1. Intimidating; you feel different when your viewpoints represent a small minority.
2. Angering: if you know how much God hates idolatry… 4th and 5th generation
3. God can use our sense of aggravation to motivate us toward action of some sort.
4. The Reformation began with holy aggravation; Luther, Tetzel, indulgences.
5. Three reasons to evangelize: (1) Great Commission, (2) Love of people — people without Christ are lost and doomed, but number 3 is perhaps the most intense: (3) a holy jealousy that desires to bring Glory (rather than insult or contempt) to Jesus Christ.
6. Difference between tolerance and indifference; difference between respecting people’s right to worship as they please and the conviction that one way to God, that is thru Christ.
C. He began sharing with the Jews in the SYNAGOGUE (17a).
Paul was uniquely qualified to address the audiences he was about to address, unlike a blogger who shared, “Today, it was graduation day, and the very first time I'm hosting an event. When I got on stage, I stared at the audience for a good 5 seconds, then I fainted.“
When we try to imitate Christ or Paul who encouraged others to imitate him, the meaning is to imitate their character and walk with God, not their ministry. We all have different functions and gifts.
D. He began sharing with the GREEKS (17b-21).
1. CURIOSITY is often an open door to share the Gospel.
2. Paul will address them for a good period of time; we have just a few highlights.
3. Every audience has its assumptions; this audience embraced TWO differing philosophies.
4. Paul quotes from at least two different Greek philosophers.
5. The idea that source = contamination is questionable (legalism); you don’t endorse everything about someone just you quote them.
In modern day usage, we think of a Stoic as someone without feelings and purely logical, and an epicurean as someone who craves excessive pleasure. But things were not that simple or extreme.
Philosophy basics.com, “Epicureanism is a system of philosophy based on the teachings of Epicurus, founded around 307 B.C. It teaches that the greatest good is to seek modest pleasures in order to attain a state of tranquility, freedom from fear … and absence from bodily pain …”