Acts 17:21 NIV.. (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)
Acts 17:22-24 NIV Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. ..23.. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. ..24.. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.
Several things jump out at me regarding the texts above. I believe I could write a few pages on these texts, but due to time constraints, I’ll try to capture the gist of what runs through my head (and heart) right now.
- First, I would like to have the job that many of the Athenians had. To sit around and discuss and think of the various ideas all day – I would love that. The original “think-tank.” Of course, someone has to cook the meals, grow the crops, and manufacture the goods – I suppose, given the times, that was left to the women. It was out of this environment that we know of great thought leaders like Aristotle and others.
- Te second thing that leaped off of the page at me was the way Paul approached these folks. I believe there are great lessons in this speech that could serve us in our postmodern era. We too live in a time where people are worshiping everything except the God of Creation. In 60 AD, they knew they were worshiping idols though. Now, though people seek spiritual understanding, they often do not understand the concept of worship and are too often just following their sensual desires – the worship of self through hedonism.
- The final potent idea that I pulled from the above texts was the idea that God does not live in an earthly building. I didn’t know there was an actual “proof text” that I could lift up to the Pharisees and traditionalists. I will keep this nugget tucked into my heart and not seek to antagonize others with something that would wound more than affirm.
Today I will focus on my second observation above. The other two are really able to stand on their own merit, however, it is Paul’s approach to these intellectual Athenians that really intrigues me. He is taking on the whole culture – not just a few individuals. He is challenging the economic staple, the authority of the leadership, the product of the entrepreneurs, and the religious rites and customs of the day.
An analogy for today would be similar to a prophet challenging the stranglehold of television on the minds, eyes, and lives of viewers. TV is so prevalent, so pervasive, and so integrated into our lives and lifestyles, that most people have no idea how much of their time and energy is sunk into this device and the culture that is promoted.
If I were to start preaching to people, in a way that took their attention off of popular media, I would have every Hollywood studio, and every enterprise that is symbiotic with those studios, on the defense and attack. Their wrath would be fast, furious, and focused. Without the Supernatural power of the Holy Spirit, I would not stand a chance.
Yet Paul does it in a way that focuses on Christ and the worship of him. This is fascinating.
Wow – God. Give me insight.