Lord, today I want to tune my heart and mind to the frequency of the Spirit. I will trust and obey.
Read Acts 17:16-34
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“A poor life this, if full of care, / We have no time to stand and stare” (William Henry Davies, 1871-1940).
Waiting is frustrating. Paul, however, put his time waiting for Silas and Timothy to good use: he looked around (16). Whether by necessity or choice, this was a significant act of critical reflection. Athens was full of idols, and that “greatly distressed” him (16). Luke uses the word from which we get our word “paroxysm.” What effect would looking at your home town have on you?
Paul’s reaction wasn’t just emotional; it motivated and shaped his preaching. In such a diverse city, Paul demonstrated remarkable skill in communicating with very different groups. He spoke with Jews and God-fearing Greeks in the synagogue, then every day with people in the market place, including Stoic and Epicurean philosophers (17,18). Clearly he needed more than one or two well-tried sermons: Luke tells us that he reasoned and debated with these groups. Nevertheless, it still led to misunderstanding and he was called a “babbler” (someone who merely collects other people’s ideas, “a word-scatterer”).
More seriously, he was accused of “advocating foreign gods” (18) and was brought before the Areopagus, the Athenian court with jurisdiction over religion (22). This was the same accusation which led to Socrates’ death 450 years earlier. However, it seemed that they wanted to hear what Paul had to say. His sharp eye had noticed the altar to an “unknown god” and this was who he told the Athenians he would proclaim (23). Today, with increasing ignorance about the Christian faith and a proliferation of other faiths, we, like Paul, need to be ready to explain our understanding of God (24-30). The end point of Paul’s teaching remained the same, the resurrected Christ (31). The three reactions to his message are typical today: some sneered, some wanted to know more and some believed (32,34).
How could you explain the Gospel in a way that relates to the needs and issues of your home town? Where would you start?
Lord, I need Your heart for the lost. Teach me from the example of Paul what it means to help others come to faith in You.