Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Acts Chapter Seventeen

Acts Chapter Seventeen (NIV)
Acts Chapter Seventeen (NASB)

I. SYNOPSIS

Verses 1-9: Paul preaches to the Thessalonians.

Verses 10-15: Paul preaches in Berea.

Verses 16-21: Paul reasons with the Athenians.

Verses 22-34: Paul addresses the Court of the Areopagus.

II. KEY PASSAGES

(A) Acts 17:2-3--"And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, 'This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.'" This passage notes that it was Paul's custom to enter Jewish synagogues in order to demonstrate from the Jewish scriptures that Jesus had to die and rise from the dead.

(B) Acts 17:6-7--"And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, 'These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.'” Paul's preaching made things difficult not only for himself, but for the other Christians in Thessalonica as well.

(C) Acts 17:11--"Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so." It is a virtue in Christianity to carefully examine the evidence with an open mind.

(D) Acts 17:19--"And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, 'May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?'" The Areopagus wasn't merely a meeting place. It was a kind of court that could hand down rulings on religious and moral issues. Paul is on trial so that the court could make a decision as to whether his claims were harmful to the city.

(E) Acts 17:22-23--"So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: 'Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, "To the unknown god." What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.'" Many cities in the ancient world had altars to unknown gods, showing that people were worried about not giving some unknown god the proper respect. Paul sees the altar as an acknowledgement that they didn't possess the full truth, and that they should therefore be open to his preaching.

(F) Acts 17:24-25--"The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything." From the Areopagus, there would have been a clear view of the Acropolis, with numerous temples and idols. Paul asserts that the true God doesn't need these things. (Note: This would have been extremely offensive to the Athenians.)

(G) Acts 17:27-28--"Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’" Paul quotes pagan poets to show that even the pagans had some understanding of a God who is the source of everything.

(H) Acts 17:29--"Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man." Since God created man, and man creates idols, we shouldn't think that God is somehow like our idols, which are less complex than we are.

(I) Acts 17:30-31--"The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Paul refers to the time before the preaching of the Gospel as "times of ignorance" (certainly not the most seeker-friendly way to put things!). Paul also says that God has given proof of the Christian message by raising Jesus from the dead. Christianity, contrary to the claims of skeptics and even some Christians, isn't based on blind faith.

6 comments:

Jabari said...

Finally we get to the chapter on which this ministry is named after: Acts 17. I'm just curious David. Why did you decide to name your ministry after this chapter in the book of Acts? Why not Act 16 Apologetics, or Acts 13 Apologetics ministry? Why did you choose to name the ministry after Acts 17?

Zack_Tiang said...

(A) Acts 17:2-3--"And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, 'This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.'" This passage notes that it was Paul's custom to enter Jewish synagogues in order to demonstrate from the Jewish scriptures that Jesus had to die and rise from the dead.


I thought it was more talking about it is Paul's custom to visit the synagogues, since he is a Jew. Not that it is his custom to go tot he synagogue AND preach/debate about Christ.

David Wood said...

Hi Jabari,

In Acts 17, Paul speaks in Athens (the heart of the intellectual world), in front of the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers (some of the most brilliant minds of the ancient world). People often criticize Christianity for being anti-intellectual. But from the beginning, it was being defended using evidence and reason.

Charis kai Eirene said...

Zack, it probably was Paul's custom to enter the synagogue on the Sabbath since he was a Jew, but we also see a pattern of Paul first approaching the Jews in a city with the gospel before going to others. It makes sense because the Jews are the ones with the background beliefs in the Scriptures which predicted and were fulfilled by the death and resurrection of the Messiah.

Charis kai Eirene said...

I appreciate how Paul takes time to understand his audience and their beliefs by examining their altars and inscriptions. A helpful part of Christian witness is an awareness of what other religious groups believe. Paul utilizes his knowledge of their belief systems to create a common ground of understanding by quoting their poets who have some accurate knowledge of God. At the same time, Paul boldly declares the inferiority of idols to the true God, who is the Creator of all things (v.24-25, 29). A great evangelist should be informed and sensitive enough to identify with his audience while at the same time not refraining from bold declarations of truth, which may often involve the truth that someone else's belief system is profoundly flawed and ignorant.

One of my other favorite passages in Acts 17 is the accusation in v. 6-7 that the Christians were "men who have turned the world upside down have come here also...they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus" What a wonderful way of putting it. The Christian message and life is subversive to "Caesar," i.e. all the powers and principalities which are of the world. The Roman Empire was propagated by the bloodshed of military conquest but in the end was conquered by those who did not kill for power but who were willing to become powerless, even to the death, for the truth of their beliefs. It was Jesus Christ himself who embodied this subversiveness when He humbled Himself--although God He became Man, although the rightful King He became a servant upon the cross.

1moremuslim said...

David Wood wrote:

"People often criticize Christianity for being anti-intellectual"

Christianity , being anti intellectual is a solid fact.

Read Acts 17:30-31, God overlooked the ignorance of Pagan worshipers, but NOW, they have to repent.

Try to harmonize this with Romans 1:18-32, Paul clearly indicates that Pagans have no excuse, because God was know from the beginning through his creation. In other words there was never a time of ignorance! The only way to still believe that there is no contradiction in the Bible is to suppress the Intellect, and just have blind faith.