We have a problem in this world. There are too many gods. This isn’t a new problem and it has plagued people since time began. There is only one true God but He is unknown by many people. As with all things in life, we can look to Scripture for guidance about how to deal with this problem. Paul was a bold witness for Christ, and we can learn from his method of spreading the Gospel.
“Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry“ (Acts 17:16).
We know the mythology of these demon gods and goddesses. Zeus was believed to be the “father of gods and men;” they thought Hera was the queen of gods and was married to Zeus; Apollo supposedly was the god of music and poetry; Poseidon was seen as the god of the sea; Aphrodite was called the goddess of love and beauty; and so on. The list of these demons is long, and there’s a god for everything.
The people of Athens were completely taken over by the lust and sin that follow the worship of false gods. Seeing such idolatry grieved Paul, and he was compelled to speak to these lost people. Paul was waiting for Timothy and Silas to join him in Athens, but he easily could have been in San Francisco, London, Paris, Rome, or any other city or town in the world today. Idol worship is everywhere and it comes in many forms.
Paul could have confronted these people with anger, but that wouldn’t have accomplished anything. They would have run him out of town or declared him a lunatic. These were pagan people just doing what they had always done. They didn’t understand that their way of life was sinful because they had no moral standard to follow.
With Zeus, Hera, and the other gods as role models, they didn’t have any moral guide. They didn’t need to hear angry words or disgust from Paul, but they needed to be taught about the One True God. That’s what he set about doing. He met with these people to reason with them and boldly presented the Gospel. They mocked him, but at least they listened.
“Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection“ (Acts 17:18).
Paul didn’t pussyfoot around but preached Jesus and the resurrection. That just might work today. The eternal life of people mattered to Paul, and he wanted to give as many people as possible the chance to accept Christ. We all have opportunities to present the Gospel, but too often we just keep quiet for fear of ridicule.
The people of Athens seemed amused by Paul’s presentation of the Gospel. They were always looking for a new god to worship, and because of that they were willing to listen to what Paul had to say. Paul was outnumbered, but the people were curious.
“Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you” (Acts 17:22-23).
Too superstitious? Ignorantly worship? This may not be the best way to win friends and influence people, but it is the way to win souls for Christ. Straightforward honesty instead of confrontational indignation. Biblical correctness instead of political correctness. Paul may have smiled kindly when he called them too superstitious, and that would have made his words easier to hear, but today it seems as if the Gospel is less important than getting people in the pews. If we tickle ears and don’t confront sin or disbelief, then all that happens is the collection plate is full.
Why is it that today we hide the Gospel inside entertainment and fluffy sermons in the hope the truth will accidentally reach people? What would happen if we explained that there is only one way to heaven (through faith in the shed blood of Jesus) and there are no individual gods? There might not be as much money in the collection plate but the number of souls saved would rise.
I once heard a preacher who taught pure lies…Jesus is a concept, a feeling, and there’s no absolute truth. A member of the congregation made a sad comment on this supposedly Christian teacher: “I come here and can relax without feeling bad or thinking about anything. I don’t feel guilty.”
The only truth that matters is the truth of God Almighty as found in Scripture.
Paul made an important point to his audience in Athens, and it’s one that needs to be addressed today. Jesus is the Creator. Evolution didn’t happen, nor did any other myth spawned by Satan.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth“ (Genesis 1:1).
If a person is confused about that truth, then they’ll be confused about all other Godly truths. If everything evolved, then there was no Fall, death always existed, sin was always a part of life, and Jesus really had no reason to die on the cross. Do you see why it’s important to understand and believe God’s truth from the first verse of the Bible through the last?
“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things“ (Acts 17:24-25).
Paul spoke to these people in words they understood. Their hands made the idols they worshipped and placed them here and there for convenience of worshipping them. It’s not the created creature who gives life to gods, but God as the Creator gives life to His creation.
We all find ourselves in situations where we are given an opening to speak God’s truth, but do we take advantage of that opening or do we shrink from the opportunity because we don’t know what to say? Never be ashamed of God Almighty.
The audience that Paul spoke to listened and allowed him to fully make his point. The people to whom Paul spoke were pagan Gentiles who had no concept of the truth of God. Paul was Jewish and wanted them to understand that God created all people regardless of their ethnic foundation.
“And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device“ (Acts 17:26-29).
The idolatry of gold, silver, or stone doodads has nothing to do with God Almighty.
In our pagan halls of public education, God’s truth is being undermined. We can wonder how the pagans of the past could believe that Atlas carried the world on his shoulders, but we allow our children to be taught that they evolved from pond scum or some other nonsense. Is it any wonder that drugs and crime are at an all-time high and morals are at an all-time low?
As I write this, there have been two more school shootings. Guns will be blamed but the guns didn’t kill anybody. Human choice pulls the trigger. The young men who murder so many are usually on mind-altering prescription drugs and taught paganism in the school system.
It’s time to return to God’s truth and Biblical morality. It’s time for Christians to confront the lies straight on. First, Christians need to believe God.
The beliefs which the people of Athens held were from Satan. All pagan worship is satanic. It started long ago when Eve first chatted with that evil, lying Serpent. He twisted God’s words and came right out and lied. God said not to eat the forbidden fruit because they would die. Satan presented a new god to Eve. According to Satan, they would be gods.
“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil“ (Genesis 3:4-5).
So, Eve ate the fruit. Satanic lies were believed over God’s truth. History proves who was right. Adam and Eve didn’t become gods, and death is now part of life for all of us. Satan is still spewing his lies, and weak-minded people still listen to him and embrace sin.
The gods of today are many, and “self” is a very dominant god. “Be all that you can be” instead of humbling yourself before God Almighty and allowing Him to mold you into all that He has in mind for you. “Be empowered” is a ridiculous attitude unless that empowerment comes from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
How many people take a “selfie” and plaster it all over social media? Why? Is it so people who really don’t care about you can see you? It would be much better to let those same people hear about the Gospel of Jesus Christ so they will turn away from their unknown gods and hear about God Almighty, the Creator of all that is and who gave His life so we can have eternal life through faith in Him.
We are admonished to spread the Gospel but we aren’t “graded” on our results. Each person has to make up their own mind as to accepting the Gospel or rejecting it. If the Gospel isn’t presented to them, how can they make a choice?
“And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them. Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them“ (Acts 17:32-34).
We have no way of knowing how many people heard the Gospel that day, but we do know that some of them came to faith in Jesus. If Paul had kept silent, Dionysius and Damaris would be spending eternity in the Lake of Fire.
We all have the same opportunity that Paul had, but fear of losing friends or being mocked keeps us silent. Study Scripture to be able to answer questions and defend your faith. Then introduce someone to the God they don’t know. Introduce someone to Jesus Christ before it’s too late.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is “theopneustos,” God breathed.
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