Main Text: Acts 17:16-31
Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preachingJesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.
So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
There is no disputing that those that are “in Christ” are sent. The commission of Jesus, the empowering of the Holy Spirit, and the resulting relationships within the early church are concrete proof. The Church of Jesus isn’t a social club, a self-help coach, a moral watchdog, or a values gatekeeper. Rather, the Church of Jesus is a movement used by God to carry the hope of Christ to the world. Each believer must embrace the mission of God as his or her mission. You are sent. So far, we have learned:
We have been sent by Jesus – Matthew 28:16-20
We have been sent with the Holy Spirit – Acts 1:1-9
We are sent in power – Acts 2:1-13
We are sent together – Acts 2:37-47
We are sent to bless others – Acts 3:1-10
We are sent to be witnesses – Acts 4:1-22
We are sent to die – Acts 7:54-60
We are sent to those different than us – Acts 10:44-48
We are sent to suffer – Acts 16:16-24
Our text today took place in Athens, Greece on Mars Hill right next to the Acropolis. Some of us who have traveled to Albania have sat and read these words on the rock hill looking down on the ruins of the marketplace that contained the altars created to false gods. This sermon by Paul is a classic example of contextualization of the gospel to match the understanding of the hearers.
These intellectual Athenians had an altar to an “Unknown God”. Paul states in verse 23, “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.” Verse 30 records Paul taking that thought a bold step further, saying that the days of ignorance are over.
In other letters, Paul talks about the “The mystery of Christ” that is now being made known (Ephesians 3:4-6; Colossians 1:26). The mystery of Christ was hidden and not revealed by God for generations. In Romans 16:25-26 Paul states, “the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages…has now been disclosed”.
The book of Acts ushered in the Mission Period of the redemptive story. We are still living in this mission period today. This text makes plain for us the meaning of the day in which we live. It makes a massive difference in your life and in our life as a church if we know the meaning of the day—the period of time—in which we live. What is the point of these days? What is unique about these days?
Will we allow the news to interpret the meaning of these days for us? They can tell us what is happening, but they cannot tell us the meaning of these days. Only God can do that because only God is designing and guiding these days. Only God’s plan will be established.
Our text tells us the meanings of the period of time in which we live today.
Repentance and salvation
Today is a day of repentance and salvation. Paul faced the Athenians and he faces Mesa and every people on earth and proclaims, “The days of ignorance are over and God commands you to repent, believe in Jesus Christ, and be saved from judgment”. The realities of this period and the days in which we live is that grace and salvation are readily available. The Great Sheep-Gatherer has come to the world, risen from the dead, and is gathering His sheep that are not of the Jewish fold (John 10:16). God is on the move in unprecedented ways gathering His children from all the peoples of the earth.
Repentance is required for salvation by scripture. Repentance does not mean to turn from sin or to simply change your conduct. Those are fruits of repentance. Biblical repentance is a change of mind or attitude concerning God, Christ, or sin. When you trust Christ, it is inconceivable that your mind does not change regarding these things and the fruit of repentance (turning from sin and changing conduct) begin to show itself. True knowledge of God and the message of His love expressed through Christ encourages repentance.
Missions and witnessing
Today is a day of missions and witnessing. God’s people in the Old Testament (Israelites/Jews) did not reach the nations. God did not assist their weakness and empower them with the Holy Spirit. Rather He let the nations walk in their own ways.
This all changed with the resurrection of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the early church. The days of ignorance are over. The days of a missionless people of God are gone. The mystery has been revealed; the call to repent has been given. Every believer is now been called to missions. The call isn’t without power. We are not a dim people. Now the command is unmistakable and the power is the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).
This is what God is doing. This is the meaning of the period and days in which we live. This gospel story of love and redemption and salvation through no other name than Jesus must shape each of us (Acts 4:12). These must be the lenses by which we see our lives, the lives of those that God puts in our paths, and world. The Gospel must shape our realities more than anything else. The basic facts of the gospel message include at its core,
the birth, life, teachings, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.
We too must witness to
the facts of the gospel,
the uniqueness of Christ, and
the eternal consequence to the world that these facts create.
These are kingdom realities that must mark all of our efforts. It should affect our relationships, life energies, prayers, dreams, financial spending and giving, and essentially everything.
Proclaim Kingdom Realities!
Apply to Life
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the new commandment “love your neighbor” (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
Discuss the Message
Read: Acts 17:16-31
What was the Holy Spirit speaking to you through the message? How do you think this applies to your life? What action are you taking towards that end?
What is the Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed?
How does Paul speak to the reality of the Kingdom in his discussion in Athens?
How would you describe to someone the reality that Paul speaks to that: “In him we live and move and have our being”?
How do we proclaim the Kingdom in our culture?