Sunday, January 31, 2016

Paul At MARS HILL: SCS 70

Mars Hill, Athens, Greece
Sunday, January 31, 2016, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 70

PRAYER for Today:
Father, We admit we are broken, but we know You are able to heal our hearts and souls of all of our brokenness and darkness. Help us Father to accept your freely given grace that we might be reconciled to You. We ask that Your will be done and that we may act saintly towards our fellow sojourners who around the world are hurting so that they might see a little of You in our daily lives.  It is in Your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

SCRIPTURE LESSON for Today: Acts 17:16-34 King James Version (KJV)
16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.
17 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.
18 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.
19 And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?
20 For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean.
21 (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.)
22 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.
23 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.
24 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;
25 Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;
26 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;
27 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:
28 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.
29 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.
30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent:
31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the 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.
32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.
33 So Paul departed from among them.
34 Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

SERMON for Today:

Paul’s ministry in Athens began in the marketplace and there he encountered some Athenian philosophers who wanted to know more about what Paul was saying. This led to a gospel sermon at the Areopagus where Paul preached about the risen Christ.

Athens was filled with examples of artistic beauty, particularly its statues of the Greek gods and the architectural magnificence of its temples. Paul, however, was deeply troubled by the idolatry that the art represented. He was deeply troubled to see the entire city devoted to false gods represented by idols.

Witnessing for Christ was a matter of patient persuasion. Although Paul saw a few people come to faith here in Athens , he had no helpers with him, there is no record of any miracles being done, and there is no record of a church being established.  He stood alone at Mars Hill preaching the Gospel.

Paul conversed with representatives of two of the most popular philosophies of the day, Stoicism and Epicureanism. They called Paul a babbler.  Some suggest the term suggested one who pecks at ideas like a chicken pecks at seeds and then spouts them off without fully understanding them. However, we know that Paul knew what he was speaking of.  He had met the risen Christ on the road to Damascus.

Acts 17:22–34  Paul’s Areopagus (Mars Hill) address is the prime example in Acts of preaching to Gentiles. Although rooted in OT ideas, it appealed to the Greek philosophers by interacting with their thought, even quoting their own writers in a well-informed, respectful way. Its main subject was the error of idolatry. Paul began with and returned to the theme of idolatry in a well-informed manner, clearing the way for a full statement of the gospel, but he was interrupted before he could achieve this.

Paul speaks of the God who made the world and everything in it, including mankind. He identifies this one true God as superior to all the lesser, competing deities that might be worshiped in Athens, with all their foibles and weaknesses. When Paul says that “God does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands,” it is easy to imagine him gesturing toward the magnificent temple, the Parthenon, that stood just above him and his hearers on the acropolis. Paul was claiming that the true God of heaven and earth does not live in temples like the Parthenon and is not served by the sacrifices which the Athenians regularly brought to their temples.

Then Paul begins the real Gospel message. telling them that God will judge the world.  He means that God will hold all people accountable, even these philosophers in Athens.
He speaks of the resurrection of Jesus as the center of God’s plan for history and as the basis for hope in the future resurrection of the body.

As a result of Paul’s address to the Areopagus, Luke notes that some men believed. In addition to these men who initially believed, some others also believed, including Dionysius  and a woman named Damaris, as well as others with them.

May God Richly Bless Your Life This Week and For Evermore. Amen.

  
© Ed Cooper, January 31, 2016, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
  All rights reserved

(Ed Cooper is an ordained Elder and minister in the Christian Church/Churches of Christ which are a part of the Restoration Movement started in Appalachia in the early 1800’s.  Ed started preaching as a teenager in the village churches around Mashoko Mission, Zimbabwe, Africa when he was a teenager there with his parents in the early 1960’s. Ed recognizes he is a flawed sinner needing God’s grace and your prayers.)

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