January 13, 2019

2019-01-13 – Acts 17.16-21 – Revealing the Unknown God 1of2

Passage: Acts 17:16-21

Bible Text: Acts 17:16-21 | Preacher: Pastor Jerry Higdon | Series: Acts | 2019-01-13 – Acts 17:16-21 – Revealing the Unknown God 1of2
Good morning everyone. It is so nice to be able to spend some time with you all in fellowship with the Lord. Thank you and God bless you for being with us.

Snow Snow Snow. I love snow. The bible speaks of it often, likening it to that which is pure, clean, and righteous. Truly, the crystal formations of snowflakes are beautiful aren’t’ they. There are many different shapes and sizes of snowflakes; amazingly, the claim is that each and every one is unique, like each one of you are unique. But despite their uniqueness, snowflakes have one common thing: dirt at the core. Oddly enough, snowflakes start as tiny dust particles, which serve as the center of the snowflake. A snowflake begins to form when an extremely cold water droplet freezes onto the dust particle in the sky. This creates an ice crystal. As the ice crystal falls toward the ground, water vapor freezes onto the primary crystal, building new crystals until the six arms of the snowflake are made. Isn’t that interesting? I bet you didn’t think you would be getting a science lesson at church today. I got to keep you all on your toes, lol

Please turn now to Acts 17, verse 16, page 984 in your pew Bibles, which is the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God.   But first let us pray..

Paul and his missionary traveling mates find themselves now in Greece. [MAP]
In last week’s message Paul appealed to the people at Thessalonica with reason based upon scripture. And the take away for us last week was that we should be doing the same. That is why it is so important that we, as Christ followers, should know our Bible, so we too can reason from scripture. Unfortunately along the way, Paul ran into some very overt troublemakers. They went out of their way to excite the town to persecute Paul again. The believers chose to protect Paul, so they sent him off to the city of Athens. That’s where our Bible lesson starts today.

While Paul was in Athens, he wrote a letter to the Thessalonian church he just started and left. That is where we get the two book-letters of Thessalonian 1 & 2. That letter really shows what Paul was feeling and thinking about, regarding the situation of that new early church.

This message today is a transitional two-part message. First we are going to listen to the first short letter Paul wrote (1st Thessalonians), then I am going to introduce you the city and situation he is now situated in, that of Athens Greece.
I hope you put on your learning caps this morning, because that is why we are here. We want to understand and know and appreciate your Bible so you can more easily apply it’s lessons to your lives today and reason with the people God puts in your path.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tk9VMhqgOHA

That takes us to the introduction of this next section of Acts 17, verse 16.
Again, Paul is in Athens, Greece.

First I have a few photos of Athens now and then.
You may have seen some of the ancient architecture of the city before, like the temple of Zeus, or the Parthenon also called Acropolis or the Sacred Rock. This has been a main attraction of Athens since the 5th century BC, and is dedicated to Athena, called the goddess of wisdom and protector of the city. Believe it or not there are still a few thousand that worship those Greek gods even today. And between that belief in Polytheism (many gods) and the influence of the Romans and Cesar to the north, Paul surely had his hands full there in Athens.

[Read from Commentary] Athens was already many centuries old when Paul paid the city a visit. For over five hundred years Athens had reigned as the queen of cities, the brightest spot intellectually, culturally, and architecturally in the western world. Statues dating from the golden age of Pericles dotted the city. The Parthenon crowned the Acropolis. In the cool marble porticos that adorned the city, all manner of philosophies were discussed all day long. Athens was no longer a political power, but Rome had the good sense to appreciate the depth of learning centered in the city, perceived the fierce commitment to freedom they lay stoking beneath the façade of marble and easy living, and decided to leave the city alone to basically run its own affairs. To the people of Paul’s day, the statues and monuments represented and actually embodied the pagan gods. Even though Paul was supposed to be resting in Athens, waiting for his friends to arrive, he walked through the city. When he saw all those idols, his Judeo-Christian blood began to boil, grieving and offending his sensitive spirit.

I hope you are enjoying this setup and overview for the text we will read now. I think it is fantastic. It makes me want to visit Athens now more than ever. Perhaps someday, God willing you all might go there and tell me about your journey J  Now let us read the text of Acts 17, starting at verse 16.

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply distressed when he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with those who worshiped God, as well as in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also debated with him. Some said, “What is this ignorant show-off trying to say?” Others replied, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign deities”—because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.

19 They took him and brought him to the Areopagus, and said, “May we learn about this new teaching you are presenting? 20 Because what you say sounds strange to us, and we want to know what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners residing there spent their time on nothing else but telling or hearing something new.

These Athenians thought of themselves as scholars of religions and (little g) gods. They loved to research and discuss the latest theories and social understandings of the world. They had concrete and stone carvings of gods all around the town, some of which are still there today. Paul was taken to the Areopagus, which is a prominent rock outcropping located northwest of the Acropolis in Athens.
In classical times, the Areopagus functioned as the court for crimes and religious matters. The god Ares was supposed to have been tried here by the gods for the murder of Poseidon’s son. So now Paul has a perfect setup. Through circumstances beyond his control, he now had a huge audience, and next week we are going to see how Paul addresses the officials and scholars there about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I promise you it will be exciting.

The main point here today is, even though Paul was again and again persecuted by the people and the courts of these towns, somehow, through the grace of God, he never lost his cool. Here again, Paul finds himself in the company of the largest of intellectual minds of that time as an audience for the Gospel. We too should take advantage of what ever circumstances and what ever arenas that God places us in to share the Good News of Jesus Christ as well. In that, God will be glorified, and like Paul, you too can experience true blessings and peace that surpasses all understanding. Paul was unique that is for sure, but like Paul and the snowflake we mentioned at the start, you are unique and wonderfully made as well. God has a purpose for you. He will take you places that you could never even imagine if you are willing to serve in His purpose.

Would you please stand with me now, as we close with an invitation followed by Lord’s Supper


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