Day 23 - Acts 17:22-18 - 40 Days in the Book of Acts

Acts 17:22-18

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 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. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 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, 27 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, 28 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.’ 29 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. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 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.”32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

Paul beings by complimenting the supreme court of Athens for being very religious.  Even though Paul is irritated by their idol worship, he at least recognizes that they are passionate about it. 

He sees an opportunity to witness to them through one of their gods.  The unknown god.  Greeks, as most false religions were polytheistic - meaning that they worshipped more than one god.  (We are monotheistic, we worship one God.)  Paul is in essence saying, "I know who that unknown God is!" Well this would have the full and undivided attention of the Athenians. 

He is the Creator of everything!  He is God and supreme ruler, one with no equal, over heaven and earth.  He is bigger than a temple, therefore He doesn't live in them.  He is all powerful, therefore He doesn't need you to feed Him.  He is the one who gives us life and everything that follows it.  Everyone is a decedent from His original creation - Adam.  This eliminates the possibility of any one race of people being better than the other.  He creates the times and places whereby we can have an experience with Him.  Opportunities to seek Him with all their heart, soul and spirit.  It isn't that hard as one might think, Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,.  

Paul now uses some of their poets writings, "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".  Using something that they understand and accept to illustrated Christ was brilliant on Pauls part.  Anytime that you can link someones present world to the Gospel it always helps them to understand.

Therefore, if we are created in the image of God, He isn't gold, silver or stone is He?  He isn't a work of art or some creation of our imagination.  He has been patience with everyone for this ignorance.  After all, they didn't know - until now.  Now He calls for people to repent of their sins. Why should that do that?  There is a day of judgement coming.  On that day, there is a man whom God has appointed to judge you.  Not just any man but a man that was raised from the dead.  Of course he is talking about Jesus. 

Talk of the resurrection caused some to mock Paul.  That's because the Epicureans didn't believe in either the resurrection, miracles or the wrath of God.  However, there was enough interest to invite Paul back to share more about this previously, "Unknown God".  Paul efforts were not in vain.  Dionysius was a member of this high council and Damaris was apparently a woman of influence in the city of Athens. 

Notice that Paul wasn't very "preachy" here.  He doesn't quote scripture or use religious language.  He speaks to a people who have never heard of his God or of Jesus by starting with what they know.  A) There is a God and B) this God created everything.  No matter what god these Athenians worshipped, they believed in these two things.  Paul starts here.  When sharing the Gospel with someone who really doesn't know or understand God or Jesus.  Begin with what they do know and build up from there.

1 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3 and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Why Paul left Athens to go to Corinth without Silas and Timothy is a bit of mystery to us.  Apparently Luke didn't think that the reason for it was important enough for us to know.  But the fact that Paul picked Corinth doesn't escape us.  It was a very idolatrous and immoral city.  

Paul finds friends and some of his most faithful followers in a married couple, Aquila and Priscilla.  Aquila was a Jew, but had to move away from Rome because the Cesar of that day, Claudius threw all the Jews out of Rome.  (FYI - While Rome said that anyone can worship whatever god they so desired, they didn't have much patience for anyone who didn't worship their gods.)  Because Paul was a tentmaker like Aquila, they were able to do business together while teaching in the synagogues.  

Remember, Paul always when to cities that didn't have a church or any believers.  Also, he was never alone.  So he and his company would have to make a living wherever they went.  Paul trade was tent making.  If you traveled at all, you needed a tent to stay in at night.  (Motel 6 hadn't been invented yet.) 

5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. 6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. 9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.  

Silas and Timothy arrive from Macedonia.  We know from 1 Thessalonians that they brought good news that Timothy had been successful in sharing the Gospel to the Thessalonians.  Remember in the last chapter, things do go all that well for Paul there.  

This encouraged Paul because he was getting no where in Corinth.  The Jews simply would not believe what he was saying.  They were so stubborn about it that they began to use abusive language against Paul.  He finally had enough.  He shook off his robes, signifying that he rejected their insults. Told them that on the day of judgement it would have been their decision to be eternally separated from God.  That he was going to share this good news of Jesus with the Gentiles.  I bet that went over well.  

This is a bit of a contrast to the worlds point of view about God and church isn't it?  The world would want us to declare a every loving God who would never punish or correct people for any reason.  But that isn't the truth is it?  Also, because we are the body of Christ - it shouldn't surprise us that His church will provide correction and discipline to others in the Spirit of Christ.  Paul wasn't trying to condemn people personally.  He was trying to get them to wake up and realize that they were condemning themselves before God.  

Paul walked next door to the synagogue to the home of Tititus, a Gentile believer and started to preach there.  The Jewish leader of the synagogue Crispus also followed.  Many Gentiles believed and were baptized.  

Paul then has a vision one night.  God tells Paul to stay put in Corinth.  That many people would be saved.  That he would be there for one and half years.  This had to be a great source of encouragement to Paul, after all, this may have been one of his greatest challenges to date.  

12 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, 13 saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” 14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. 15 But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.” 16 And he drove them from the tribunal. 17 And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.

There was a new proconsul in town.  The unbelieving Jews probably thought that they could take advantage of the rookie and get Paul throw out of town.  So they bring Paul before Gallio and proceed to tell him that he was teaching a religion that was against the law.  (Judaism was allowed by Roman law, but Christianity hadn't ever been added to the list.  Later, under Nero, things get worse for Christians because of this.)  Gallo, very wisely said that this had nothing to do with him.  This was a religious matter, not a legal matter.  Then they threw everyone out.  

Well, if Paul didn't get his attention, maybe beating the leader of the synagogue will.  Sosthenes took a brutal beating in front of Gallio.  Thinking that maybe he would do something, even if just to stop what they were doing.  Again, nothing.  Well that backfired big time on these unbelieving Jews.  So much so that at some point and time Sosthenes converted to Christ.  In 1 Cor. 1:1 Brother Sosthenes greets the church along with Paul.  The only reason why his name would show up is because the Corinthians recognized it.  The Jews beat him publicly, but now the church loved him publicly.  

18 After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow. 19 And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to stay for a longer period, he declined. 21 But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus.  22 When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch.

We finish Paul's second missionary journey now.  From Corinth he goes to Syria.  Priscilla and Aquila go with him.  Apparently Paul had taken some modified Nazarite vow (an expression of his total and complete submission to God and His will) which had come to an end.  Ones hair would be cut at the end of this type of vow.  They arrive at Ephesus.  The Holy Spirit doesn't move him along in his journey so he goes to the synagogue and shares the Gospel.  As a result, there are converts.  They desire for him to say, but he cannot.  He however does promise to return someday.  He sails to Ceasarea and goes to Jerusalem.  He probably reported to them everything that had happened, but the reason for his visit is probably a desire to keep a good relationship with the church.  From there he goes to Antioch and finishes his journey.  Whew!  What a journey!

Journeys like this still happen today.  Whether physical, I don't know how many ministers and missionaries I know that travel thousands and thousands of miles every year, or spiritual, a journey in the hearts and lives of people like Priscilla, Aquila, Sosthenes, Tititus or Crispus.  A journey with Christ will never leave your bored or unchallenged.  

English Standard Version (ESV)

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