Acts Devotionals

Productive in Gospel Work

We have friends … the one was a Muslim and the other a Jehovah’s Witness. They met, fell in love and decided to find another religion, different from their own before they married. They went to a Christian Church, both were converted and many years later both have a Master’s Degree in Theology. This does not happen all that often though! Mostly when people of a different religion become face to face with the Gospel, their natural tendency is anger and retaliation because suddenly they are confronted with opposing “gods”. This seems to be the reason that some of the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers, although loving debate and engagement, said:

Ac 17:18 “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.”

Yet … all Paul was doing was … They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.

1) Preaching the Gospel. We have explained the ingredients of the Gospel many times so all we need to comment on here is that Paul had one mission … he was singular minded and irrespective where he was and who his audience would be, he preached Jesus died and resurrected as the only way of salvation. This ought to be the Christian Church’s way too. One of the biggest problems today is that the Church has blended in with society to the point that often they are indistinguishable. As followers of the Lord Jesus we ought never to forget the purpose of the Church.

(i) It is to nurture and nourish the people of God in preparation for service and heaven.

(ii) It is to reach all nations with the Gospel because God’s elect are to be found scattered everywhere. They need to be called out of that world and into God’s world.

(iii) It is to be the conscience of society and through society, to governments. The world needs to see the Church of the Lord Jesus not only as distinctly different in morals, ethics and behavior, but also as God’s light shining in dark places. Please read on:

Ac 17:19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

2) Appearing before the meeting of the Areopagus.

(1) The Areopagus. It seems to have two side names …

(a) Mars Hill because it is a rocky ridge facing the Acropolis and believed by people of the day to be where “Mars” was tried for murder.

(b) Hill of Ares, the name of the Greek god for war.

(2) Those who met there met as the “meeting of the Areopagus”. History says this meeting was an aristocratic body who exercised jurisdiction over matter of religion and morals. By the time democracy came to Athens in 5 BC, the traditional power this “meeting” exercised was curtailed, though still commanded great respect although limited authority.

(3) Paul standing before this “meeting”. He was brought before the body not hauled! He was not on trial in a forensic sense. He was not there to prove his credentials as a lecturer. The purpose they took him before this body was that he expound his teachings before these expert philosophers.

(4) They wanted to know exactly what he was teaching. Look at this again:

Ac 17:19 “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.”

(i) To them it was a new teaching.

(ii) To them it was strange ideas.

(iii) They wanted to know the meaning of the teachings of Paul.

This was radical. This was totally new. This was something they had never heard of before. Maybe some of what Paul said had traces in pagan mysticism. Both the “meeting” and those who brought Paul there understood Paul’s teaching as him “advocating foreign gods”. They wanted an explanation. You see what was so radical is not that God came to planet earth or even took the form of man. Their issue was man being a sinner, needing forgiveness and salvation and living a repentant lifestyle to enter heaven and escape hell. How contrary to their belief of life being all about pleasure and enjoyment. To them man was good and pleasure was best. Licentious behavior (disregarding sexual restraint, drunken debauchery, etc.) is what they lived for … and now, Paul is saying they are sinners needing a Savior who is Godman, who suffered the Father’s wrath substitutionally for man’s sin, died man’s death, rose substitutionally guaranteeing man life after death … and when man believes this, confesses his sin, receives Jesus as Savior and Lord, promising to live for Him through repentance and faith he shall know salvation. This salvation means redemption, justification, sanctification and adoption that comes through God the Holy Spirit who births the soul into God’s forever family.

To them the Trinity was “Gods”. These are the things they could not grasp because sin (depravity) was so foreign to their teaching. The concept of sin never featured in their level of morality. We need to be very careful in proclaiming the Gospel. Never make the Gospel cheap and easily agreeable to sinful man. To say accept Jesus without pointing out how terribly sinful people are will amount to a weakened Gospel … which is actually no Gospel at all.

3) Learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth.

Ac 17:21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

The learned as well as the leaners from Athens and around the world would gathered here to discuss, debate and “learn” the latest in philosophy. Like we have luxurious islands providing playgrounds for the rich and famous and the want-to-be … so the “market place” and the “meeting place” were a playground for the mind. Gordon Keddie writes in his commentary on Acts … “Ideas, treated like hallucinogenic drugs, can provide thrilling trips to deadly destinations.” He adds that the people were idle and the philosophy was idol. They made their leisure mind games their god. If you were a fly sitting in a university’s faculty lounge where professors were drinking tea and debating … you will get the picture perfectly. Recently we spoke about “redeeming the time”. As the beloved in Christ, arguing, debating and getting into endless discussions about theology will amount to what these philosophers did. That is wasting time. Whilst it is still day we have work to do for our Lord. Let us make good use of our time for the Gospel. This is the only time we have. Waste it on the unessential and we have lost valuable opportunities to pray and reach the lost.

Our Lord and God, arrest our souls and show us how to proportion our time correctly so that we might be more productive in Gospel work. Amen.

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