And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Luke 24.27
This week’s video is presentation 16 in our study of Acts. In this video we review the ongoing work of Christ up to Acts 18, and consider the stages by which that work proceeds. You can view it by clicking here (scroll down to Lesson 16).
Read and meditate on Acts 17.22-28.
Luke gives us what is probably a condensed version of Paul’s message to the members of the Areopagus. We can learn a great deal from this message about doing the work of evangelism in our own Personal Mission Fields.
1. Let’s note the following: First, Paul commended the sincerity of their religion. They may have been wrong, but they were sincere. Paul gave them credit as worshipers and did not chide them for their idolatry, which would only have put them on the defensive and been the end of his address. If we want to earn the right to be heard by others, we must first take the time to hear them concerning their own beliefs. How does this transfer into your work as a witness for the Lord?
2. Second, Paul was impressed by their humility in acknowledging an “unknown” deity. They didn’t pretend to have all the answers, and were open and honest about the limits of what they understood about life and the world. Paul saw in this admitted ignorance his entry point for the Gospel. Every worldview offers a variety of entry points for engaging conversation about the Gospel. We just need to learn how to identify those and to follow the Spirit as He leads us smoothly from their worldview to ours. What entry points for the Gospel might you expect to discover in the lives or worldviews of people in your Personal Mission Field?
3. Next, Paul used quotes from two Greek poets to support his teaching; however, the foundation of his message is Scripture. Every worldview provides resources for pointing beyond that worldview to the teaching of Scripture. Again, we can learn to recognize and use these to our advantage in sharing the Gospel. For example, unbelievers agree that love is an important affection, beauty is a good thing, and every person has some measure of dignity – even though those beliefs are not inherent in a secular, evolutionary worldview! How might you use one or another of those entry points to connect with an unbelieving friend or co-worker?
4. Paul led his hearers to compare the majesty and greatness of the God of Scripture – the God Who needs nothing from men – to the gods of the Greeks, which needed to be placated by temples, devotions, and other accoutrements, lest they should fail to deliver whatever goods the worshipers hoped for from them. It is folly, Paul explained, to think that so great a God as the One Who exists beyond human knowing should be dependent upon anything from mere mortals. We can see the heads bobbing, eyes squinting, and chins being rubbed as Paul led his audience to consider an overlooked contradiction (one among many) in their worldview. Do you think that we sometimes give the impression that our God is “too small” (cf. J. B. Phillips, Your God is Too Small)? Explain.
5. Paul did not need to condemn or denounce the Athenian worldview in order to expose its folly and undermine its reliability. He was a faithful preacher of the Word of God, but he was also a skilled communicator. Paul was not trying to use philosophy to reason his audience into accepting Jesus. He was preaching the Word to these worldly Athenians and using their own philosophy to show that the wisest among them had intuited the truth, to some extent, of what Paul proclaimed. He hoped to show them that the Gospel brought corrective, clarity, and fulfillment to what was wrong and lacking in their worldviews. Most unbelievers we know hold to a materialistic view of life: the good life consists of good things and good times. How might you both affirm this idea and show an unbelieving friend the folly of living this way?
Paul engaged the Athenians on their turf. He affirmed as much as he could of their worldviews, and he graciously pointed out inconsistencies they perhaps had overlooked. He used whatever resources he could from their view of life and the world, yet he drove his argument straight to Christ, the resurrection, the coming judgment, and repentance and faith. What can you learn from Paul in Athens to improve your own witness for the Lord?
Your testimonies are wonderful;
Therefore my soul keeps them.
The entrance of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple.
I opened my mouth and panted,
For I longed for Your commandments.
Look upon me and be merciful to me,
As Your custom is toward those who love Your name.
Direct my steps by Your word,
And let no iniquity have dominion over me.
Redeem me from the oppression of man,
That I may keep Your precepts.
Make Your face shine upon Your servant,
And teach me Your statutes.
T. M. Moore
Each week’s studies in Acts are bound together into a free PDF that you can download for personal or group use (click here). Each week also features a video related to the studies of the week, which you may find helpful as you work through our studies in Acts.
Acts is the record of Christ’s ongoing work as King and Lord. This is the work of bringing the Kingdom of God to earth as it is in heaven. Read more about the implications of this work in our new book, The Kingdom Turn (click here).
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