Paul goes to Athens to await Silas and Timothy. While there he walks the city, astounded by the multitudes of altars to idols. Idol worship is repugnant to Christians and Paul speaks three weeks in the temple giving the Good News of salvation and Christ’s Resurrection. Then he is invited to present his new way of thinking at the Areopagus.
Paul allows the Holy Spirit to prepare his heart to speak before the large group of philosophers at the Areopagus, or Mars Hill. There are two groups of philosophers. The Epicurean philosophers, who deny God’s Presence altogether– the world’s workings are by mere chance, and sexual pleasures along with the good in humanity are foremost. And the Stoic philosophers, who believe that everything is ordered by fate and that matter is eternal, that virtue is its own reward and thus, vice is its own punishment.
The Epicureans and Stoics are Paul’s large congregation to preach to this day! What a challenge. Yet not a challenge when one is anointed by the Holy Spirit! Paul now has this opportunity to offer them Christ and His Resurrection– the Good News! As the Holy Spirit moves Paul’s thoughts he finds his introductory foothold our Creator. Paul mentions that he sees that are spiritual but is quick to point out God is not in the temples nor in idol worship altars. God is within the hearts of humanity through the action of salvation in Jesus Christ.
Through One Savior, Son Of God, the world can now receive God personally and eternally! Good News indeed! This is new thinking to them and they grasp at what Paul has to say with their minds as Spirit knocks on the doors of their hearts. The outline and conclusion of what Paul has to say is this in chapter 17 of Acts:
22 — Paul says, I see how religious you are
23a– I found an altar, among the idol’s altars, to an Unknown God. (Some suppose this altar to the Unknown God to be set up by Socrates to express in a covert way his devotion to the only true God, Rev. John Wesley)
23b– “What therefore you worship as unknown, This I Proclaim [Greek: katangello] to you.” Verb katangello, the Churches prophetic witness to you, when the Good News is proclaimed for conversion, ref 17:13.)
Paul reveals here his true vocation as a prophet defending his spiritual authority as a person inspired by God’s Word, Jesus Christ. Paul the prophet exposes the ignorance of these learned people he is speaking to and calls them to repent from idol worship and sins, telling them to turn to the One True God.
24– God is God, has everything, does not need anything from us.
25– God gives us life, breath all things. Therefore human existence depends on God.
26– From Eve/Adam God created one humanity. God participates in our History and God… (continued…)
27– “is not far from each one of us.”
28– quotes Greek poet Epimendes, “In Him we live and move and have our being.” “For we too are His offspring,” quoted from Greek Poet of Cilicia (Stoic philosopher) from the opening lines of Phaenomena by Artaus.
29– “Since we are God’s offspring we ought not to think that the Deity is … an image formed by art and the imagination of mortals.”
Paul points to their faulty logic of religious worship in shrines, idols, food offered to gods, and pagan rituals.
We worship according to Who God IS thus religious practices must reflect our kinship with God. Substituting inarticulate objects for God makes no sense. God is both transcendence and personal. God’s existence is beyond our normal physical level and God is personal, fully engaged in humanity through Jesus Christ.
30, 31– Paul says: “While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will have the world judged in righteousness by a Man Whom He has appointed, and of this He has given assurance to all by Raising Him from the dead.”
Paul exposes their ignorance through idolatry which is both spiritual and intellectual in context. Our loving God overlooks ignorance and has brought a prophet (Paul) to them and to us with the Word of God. Paul says God’s salvation is through Jesus Christ for all of humanity. Reference Romans 1:18-3:26, humanities’ need for salvation through Savior Jesus Christ Resurrected.
31– Turn from idolatry because God will have the world judged [Greek: oikoumene] in righteousness to purify and restore. All of humanity will be judged. There is an urgency to repent of the pollution of idols.
33– some became believers including Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
After this Paul leaves Athens and goes to Corinth.