Daily Lesson for Monday 4th of December 2023
No matter where he was, Paul, given his commission from God, was going to preach the gospel. So, that’s exactly what he sought to do in Athens.
Read Acts 17:18-21. What were some of the different ways that the pagans in the marketplace reacted to Paul’s speaking and questioning?
Clearly, with his “foreign gods,” Paul made an impression on these people in the marketplace (Acts 17:18), and so they took him to the Areopagus, a part of the city where legal and religious matters were adjudicated, though it does not seem as if Paul was facing any kind of legal trial. It was just, it seemed, to give him and his “new doctrine” (Acts 17:19) a hearing. It would be hard to ignore someone of Paul’s eloquence, passion, and intelligence, even if he were promoting ideas that seemed very strange to these people.
Acts 17:21 says the Athenians did nothing but talk about and listen to the latest ideas. Was Luke accusing them of laziness? Probably not. More likely he was pointing out that they were experienced thinkers and debaters. After all, the Greeks produced such men as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, philosophers whose influence has reached down to our day, as well. Athens for centuries had been seen as the center of intellectual and philosophical thought. Though some of these thinkers were not atheists, certainly not in the sense that we think of atheism today, many of their philosophical ideas were radically different from the teachings of Christianity. It’s hard, for example, to find a place in the philosophy of the Epicureans and Stoics for something like a resurrected Messiah.
In Athens, Paul had expected that the Holy Spirit could use his knowledge and oratorical skills, which he had gained in his education under Gamaliel. But in reality it was Paul’s education on the streets of Athens that the Holy Spirit was able to use even more. “The wisest of his hearers were astonished as they listened to his reasoning. He showed himself familiar with their works of art, their literature, and their religion.”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 237.
After Paul’s experience in Athens with these pagans and philosophers, he wrote to the Corinthians that “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2, NKJV). What lesson is there for us about how central Christ must be to our message regardless of whom we are preaching to?