Acts 17:22-34 (ESV)
Then Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that you are extremely religious in every respect. For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed:
TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.
Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it — He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things. From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Being God’s offspring then, we shouldn’t think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image fashioned by human art and imagination.
“Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has set a day when He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.”
When they heard about resurrection of the dead, some began to ridicule him. But others said, “We’d like to hear from you again about this.” Then Paul left their presence. However, some men joined him and believed, including Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
Paul stood up in the “midst of the Areopagus,” a place where the secular debate community in Athens came to parley their ideas, jockeying for a leg up in the race for the control of the cognitive realm there. His monologue was met with three different reactions: mocking, interest in hearing more, and also belief by a small few.
What was it that was… 1) mocked, 2) shelved for a future discussion, and 3) believed?
Paul laid it out beautifully, saying that, “The God who made the world and everything in it,” also “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.” This is what led to the three, varied responses.
A Special Chapter
Acts 17 is a special chapter from what I would call “The School of Evangelism” (which is all of scripture, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). It provides a framework for the sharing of the good news about who God is and what He has done, through the person of Jesus Christ. Whenever our (the Christian’s) confidence in sharing the faith wanes, Acts 17 provides us with the tools needed to overcome our moments of a lack of boldness, laying out a step by step process for Gospel proclamation when words do not come easy.
Fortunately, we are not obligated to come up with our own words in order for the lost to be found. That would be too much for the Christian to bear. Instead, God graciously provides for us what is to be shared…
John 5:24 (ESV)
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
Paul offers this encouragement to Timothy, which we can all glean from…
2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV)
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Godspeed, to the brethren!
(The above photo is a good friend of mine, Mike Stockwell, a full-time evangelist, preaching the Word. Please pray for him.)