Many Christians go through life with little concern for the salvation of others. No matter where you live there are people you know or ones you pass on the street daily who don’t know Jesus as their Savior. Many Christians just don’t care enough about other people and don’t bother to share the message of salvation to the lost souls around us.
Too often we take salvation for granted and don’t feel our spirits stirred to reach out to others. One great exception to this attitude was Paul. His desire to share Jesus with others is a blessing to us because we have a record of his travels, his example of missionary work, and many letters he wrote to encourage those he had brought to salvation. Today we live in a very pagan world, but so did Paul. That didn’t stop him from taking every opportunity to share Christ wherever he went. One such place was Athens.
Paul had stirred up trouble in Thessalonica because he taught the gospel and his friends sent him on to Berea. Once again there was trouble because he shared the gospel and he was sent to Athens. This city was filled with people who needed to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ and Paul’s spirit was stirred over the idolatry that was everywhere.
“Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.” Acts 17:16-17.
Brothers and sisters, is your spirit stirred over the idol worshipping lost souls around you? Scripture says the city was “wholly given to idolatry” and that isn’t any different than Washington D.C., London, or Paris. Paul began his “dispute” in the synagogue, and today we might be drawn to a synagogue as well as a Mosque or a mega-church.
Don’t be fooled by “devout persons” who don’t really know Jesus, but witness to everyone who is caught up in religion rather than faith. Paul openly witnessed in the market but do you pray over your food in a restaurant, or are you afraid someone will be offended? Paul never looked down on people who weren’t saved, but his spirit was stirred by the Holy Spirit to tell them about Jesus. Paul’s message was met with a bit of curiosity, but they thought he was just introducing a new god, not God Almighty.
“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)
The Epicurean’s main pursuit was pleasure and the Stoicks believed in pantheism. Both groups were sincere in their beliefs, but they were lost souls in need of salvation through Jesus. These two groups sound a lot like people today. Selfish pleasure and “god is in everything” attitudes are seen everywhere. Why don’t more Christians desire to share Christ with the people who need to hear the Truth?
We can use Paul’s example of how mission work should be done. He didn’t go to Athens to build houses or plant gardens. He was there spreading the gospel. He didn’t start by saying how misguided these people were, but piqued their interest by talking about Jesus. These people were curious. They probably didn’t have a huge desire to repent and embrace Jesus, but they just wanted to know more and Paul was ready to share. He knew Scripture and he also was aware of the beliefs of the people he spoke to.
“And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)” (Acts 17:19-21)
What a dreary life they lived. Rather than being committed to their beliefs they wanted to hear something new…something that would be their next fad. Sounds like many people today. No real faith in anything, but always looking for the newest trend. These lost souls were about to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Unlike the Epicureans and the Stoicks, Paul knew exactly what he believed and why. He also knew how to talk to these people so they would listen. He didn’t compromise the gospel but spoke what they needed to hear.
“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 as 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)
He didn’t mince words. They certainly were too superstitious. They had a god for this and a god for that and just in case they missed a god, there was an altar to the UNKNOWN GOD. They needed to be introduced to Him. Paul went on to explain that God created everything and doesn’t dwell in temples. They were probably surprised to learn that God is near to everyone and in Him we live, move, and have our being. He told them that we are the offspring of God, but they shouldn’t think that God dwells in any manmade idol.
Paul knew how to talk to these men. The Holy Spirit was guiding him just like He will guide each of us when we talk to the lost souls around us. Make no mistake, there are idol worshippers in the world today just like in years past. Anything that is put ahead of God Almighty is an idol, and sadly many Christians have idols. We need to put aside our sports idols, music idols, work idols, pleasure idols, and any other idol that gets ahead of our Savior. Paul finished by saying:
“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)
Do you know who “that man” is? If you don’t know then you need to learn about Jesus. There truly is coming a day of judgment. You don’t want anyone to face God’s judgment without the blood of Jesus to take sin away.
It isn’t easy to be the only Christian standing amidst pagans, but Paul was prepared. He wasn’t ashamed of the gospel and he was compelled to share the Truth. We never know how people will react to the gospel but we should never back down from sharing it. Paul was beaten and jailed many times because he shared the gospel, but he never denied Christ. On Mars’ hill he met with mixed attitudes.
“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.” (Acts 17:32-33)
There’s a good chance that when you speak of Christ to a crowd of lost souls you will be mocked. That doesn’t mean you should keep silent. Some will think about what you say and those seeds you plant will grow. Some will believe, just as some believed Paul’s words.
“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 17:34)
These names don’t come up again in Scripture, but God knows what became of them and any others who accepted Christ for salvation. Because Paul was willing to share the gospel in terms they could understand, there were some who gave up their idolatry and turned to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul was prepared. He knew of the saving power and forgiveness only found in Jesus. He was well studied and knew what the Athenians believed and therefore was able to talk to them in a way they could understand. More than that he knew the Truth. He studied Scripture and knew that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
Are you sure enough of your faith to explain to a Mormon friend why they aren’t saved unless they accept Christ as God Almighty instead of a lesser god? Can you explain to your very kindhearted neighbor why no matter how many good things they do, they are still a sinner in need of Jesus for salvation.
Many Christians today don’t know how to witness to others because some pastors don’t feel the need to equip the saints. Don’t wait for someone to teach you but study your Bible. Know why you believe what you believe.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
Unless you study you cannot answer questions or give a reason for your faith. It can be intimidating to defend your faith. You don’t need to be eloquent, but you do need to be able to share the gospel with confidence.
“And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.” (1 Peter 3:13-16)
Peter urged us to always be ready with an answer when asked about our faith in Jesus. You may face persecution and even be put to death, but be ready to share the gospel. Peter was prepared and so was Paul. So were many Christians throughout the ages and even today. There are many people who would rather serve Satan than serve the Living God who gave His life to purchase our Redemption.
People who persecute and kill Christians are lost souls who need to hear the gospel. Are you prepared to explain why Allah isn’t the god to follow? Only Jesus Christ shed His own blood to bring eternal life to all who believe. Start studying so you won’t be ashamed by stuttering over an answer that should be sanctified in your heart and always on the tip of your tongue.
There are many lost souls around us. Be a witness for Christ by the way you conduct your life, the way you speak, and always be ready to answer questions.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at https://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original Scripture is “theopneustos” (God breathed).