Yesterday, we saw Paul, an early Christian travelling speaker, who made some mistakes. He found himself in a totally new context, the Greek city of Athens, and ventured right into the marketplace where Greek philosophers heard him saying some nonsensical things. They thought he was preaching about foreign gods, when it was likely just a misunderstanding about the words and ideas he was sharing. But they gave him a second chance. Here it is:
 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious.  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.  The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,  nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.  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,  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,  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.’ 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.  The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,  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.”  Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.”
He goes back to the beginning. He remembers where he is. Athens. A Greek city, where people worship many gods from Zeus on down.
They have gods for every area of life they may need enhanced. They have all the gods they could ever need, you’d think, but then he comes across this altar to the unknown god. There is still emptiness inside them.
The philosophers are the same. They have Aristotle and Plato and Socrates and so on. And yet they still argue day by day, as Luke says, about nothing. What are they still looking for?
Paul says he knows. He knows the unknown God, and he wants to introduce the pagans and philosophers to him by name. It is the God who created everything. He goes through the whole story of the Old Testament for them, but this time he chooses his words carefully. He doesn’t assume that they, like his fellow Jews, will understand names like Adam & Eve, or stories like the exodus. He just uses everyday words to give a general overview of God.
He also speaks to them as philosophers and intellectuals. He appeals to their intelligence, pointing out the futility of worshipping stuff when you can worship the creator of it all.
There has been a time for seeking out God, for philosophizing, and so on. But now the time has come for action. He’s come to us, instead of waiting for us to come to him. His name was Jesus. And he’s calling people to repent, to turn away from sin and toward God.
And this is no mere suggestion, he intends to follow up. He intends to ask each individual what he or she has done with sin. And we need to choose now, whether we want to represent ourselves at that trial, or have Jesus stand in for us, the one pure, sinless man that now offers to make us the same.
I read an opinion column lately that suggested our country’s elite politicians should spend a day in court watching people try to represent themselves to truly understand the challenges. No one with wealth would dare represent themselves in court, they know it’s too risky, too challenging. They would get the best legal talent money can buy.
This kind of representation is available to everyone in God’s court, not just elites. It’s open to anyone who will trust this advocate, and allow him to even take the blame and punishment.
Question: Why do you think some mocked Paul’s message about Jesus’ resurrection?
Meeting with a Group? Your discussion questions are in this week’s Group Study Guide[permalink append=”#comments”]Discuss the Challenge[/permalink]
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