Summary: The three responses to Paul’s message in Athens are essentially the same as we see today.
THE THREE RESP0NSES TO THE GOSPEL
“And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, "We will hear you again on this matter." So Paul departed from among them. However, some men joined him and believed.” Acts 17:32-34 NKJV
The Athenian crowd seemingly enjoyed Paul’s discourse until he spoke of the resurrection of Christ from the dead. It was at this point the message became divisive. The resurrection of Christ is an absolutely essential part of the Gospel message. The varied response to Paul’s message then is essentially the same as we see today.
I. SOME MOCKED
For some there in Athens, it was too big a jump to go from worshiping inanimate objects to worshiping the resurrected, living and redemptive Savior as the only God in their life. It is little different today. The inanimate objects worshiped today by many are different but spiritually just as deadly. Likewise, the mockery and sneering may take a different form, but it leads to the same Christ-less eternity.
Whenever the Gospel is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, any mocking is, in essence, mocking God. The Word of God warns, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7 NKJV
The leading assistant to the King of Samaria experienced the reward that comes to those who mock God. This striking example is found in 2 Kings, chapter seven. “Then Elisha said, ‘Listen to the word of the LORD; thus says the LORD, ’Tomorrow about this time a measure of fine flour will be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.’
“The royal officer on whose hand the king was leaning answered the man of God and said, "Behold, if the LORD should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?" Then he said, "Behold, you will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat of it." (Vs. 1-2)
We read the record of the four leprous men who went to the camp of the Syrians to beg for food. God caused the Syrian army to hear “the noise of a great army” and the army fled in fear leaving everything behind. After satisfying their hunger and hiding a large supply of fine garments, gold and silver, the lepers told the king’s guard. The king sent soldiers to verify the report and found it to be so. The people of Samaria soon heard the wonderful report and rushed out of the city toward the area where the Syrian army had camped. The fulfillment of Elisha’s prophecy reads, “So the people went out and plundered the camp of the Syrians. Then a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel and two measures of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the LORD. Now the king appointed the royal officer on whose hand he leaned to have charge of the gate; but the people trampled on him at the gate, and he died just as the man of God had said, who spoke when the king came down to him.” (Vs. 16-17)
II. SOME DELAYED DECIDING
Their response was “we will hear you again on this matter”. It is a tragedy that some get so close to being saved but never quite get there. The most opportune time to accept Christ as Savior is the first time we feel the Spirit of God convicting us of sin and our need of the Savior.
Acts 24:25 provides us with such an instance. Felix, procurator of Judea, was brought under great conviction by the Holy Spirit when Paul shared his testimony in Caesarea. “As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, "That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you." Although Paul appeared before Felix on more occasions in Caesarea, the Scripture gives us no indication that Felix ever found “a convenient time” to accept the gift of salvation in Christ Jesus.
The great invitational hymn "Almost Persuaded" was written by Philip Bliss following a sermon he heard that greatly touched his own heart. The minister ended his message with a sentence that reverberated in his heart. He said, "He who is almost persuaded is almost saved, and to be almost saved is to be entirely lost." Unable to escape that thought, later the same day Bliss wrote the hymn, "Almost Persuaded." We will find it time well spent to reflect on each verse of this hymn.
"Almost persuaded" now to believe;
"Almost persuaded" Christ to receive;
Seems now some soul to say,
"Go, Spirit, go Thy way,
Some more convenient day
On Thee I’ll call."