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The Scriptorium

The Worldly Respond to the Word

Just as they will to us. Acts 17.29-34

Savior and King (6)

Pray Psalm 96.1-4.
Oh, sing to the LORD a new song!
Sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Sing to the LORD, bless His name;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
Declare His glory among the nations,
His wonders among all peoples.
For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods.

Sing Psalm 96.1-4.
(Mit Freuden Zart: All Praise to God, Who Reigns Above)
Sing to the Lord!  O, bless His Name! All nations tell His glory!
Salvation’s tidings loud proclaim; let earth rehearse His story!
For God is greatly to be praised; His throne above all gods is raised –
fear Him, and sing His glory!

Read Acts 17.1-34; meditate on verses 29-34.

1. How many different responses did Paul receive?

2. Explain each one of those responses.

Taking off from a quote by the Greek poet Aratus, Paul questioned the reasonableness of men imagining God as a Being Who could be reduced to some concrete, portable form (v. 29). People are the fruit of God’s imagination. God is not the product of the imagination of people; or, if such a god is, it is a false god (v. 30). Paul was trying to lead the Athenians to see that their best thoughts about truth and the good life could not compare with what God has revealed in Jesus Christ (v. 31).

In the imagination of God, He has ordained the salvation of benighted men by coming in their own form to proclaim the day of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (v. 31). We note in Paul’s address the promise of redemption, the offer of salvation, the warning of judgment, and the call to repentance. Nothing philosophical here; this is pure theology.

The results are typical: Some believe. Some are piqued and would like to talk further. And some are just scornful and doubting (v. 32). Paul was as effective in Athens as he had been anywhere else, because like everywhere else, he stayed true to the Word of the Gospel. That some believed and joined Paul mirrors what we see in Jesus’ own earthly ministry (vv. 33, 34).

Paul learned the worldview of the Athenians, then he used that worldview as a platform on which to frame out the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Some believed, some scoffed, and some wanted to hear more. Many believers are reluctant to share the Gospel because they don’t think people will believe. Look at Paul’s example again, and the results of his preaching. Expect the same from your own Spirit-powered witness (Acts 1.8).

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Paul, no doubt, offended some by his view of art and of God’s preeminence over it. They liked their stuff, and Paul was taking issue with it: “Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising” (Acts 17.29).

As the psalmist David wrote: “Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth;
Oh sing praises to the Lord, to Him who rides on the heaven of heavens, which were of old!
Indeed, He sends out His voice, a mighty voice. Ascribe strength to God; His excellence is over Israel,
and His strength is in the clouds. O God, You are more awesome than Your holy places.
The God of Israel is He who gives strength and power to His people. Blessed be God!” (Ps. 68.32-35)

God is to be worshiped, not art in any form. Art should always lead to worship of God. Creation shouts of beauty; beauty should always echo back God!

God had overlooked people’s ignorance, but now commanded all men everywhere to repent from their incorrect view of art and life. (Acts 17.30)

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Ps. 19.1).

We are without excuse. And really, so is everyone else. We dare not exchange the truth of God for the lie, and worship and serve the creature, or the created thing, rather than the Creator (Rom. 1.25).

As Solomon encouraged, “Remember now your Creator…and hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
‘Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil’” (Eccl. 12.1, 13, 14).

“…He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man [Jesus] whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17.31)

We who believe, are a new creation of God (2 Cor. 5.17); so, every word and every deed should echo back God to those in our Personal Mission Field. We are His works of art, created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph. 2.10).

God’s Word to the world.

For reflection

1. What do you expect when you share the Gospel with someone? Why do you expect that?

2. God says we are His poems (Eph. 2.10, Greek: poema) – His workmanship. How has God been shaping and perfecting you of late?

3. How can we as believers encourage one another in our witness for the Lord?

Observe what glorious things Paul here says of that God whom he served, and would have them to serve. The Lord had long born with idolatry, but the times of this ignorance were now ending, and by his servants he now commanded all men every where to repent of their idolatry. Each sect of the learned men would feel themselves powerfully affected by the apostle’s discourse, which tended to show the emptiness or falsity of their doctrines. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Acts 17.22-31

Pray Psalm 96.5-13.
Pray for the coming of the Kingdom, the reign of King Jesus, in all the nations of the earth. Pray that God will bring His Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit more fully and visibly in your own Personal Mission field today.

Sing Psalm 98.5-13.
(Mit Freuden Zart: All Praise to God, Who Reigns Above)
All other gods are idols vain; the Lord created heaven.
Splendor and strength with Him obtain; to Him is glory given!
All fam’lies, praise this mighty Lord! Give strength and glory to His Word;
exalt the Lord of heaven.

Bring off’rings sweet to Him, our Lord, in holy garments praise Him!
Tremble before Him, all the earth; among the nations raise Him!
The earth is fixed, it will not move; the peoples will His justice prove.
Exalt the Lord and praise Him.

Let heaven sing with lusty voice; let earth and sea sing sweetly!
Let fields and trees in Him rejoice, for He is coming swiftly
to judge the world in righteousness, the peoples in His faithfulness.
He comes; exalt Him greatly!

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can listen to a summary of last week’s Scriptorium study by going to our website,, and clicking theScriptorium tab for last Sunday. You can download any or all the studies in this series on Acts by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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