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Acts #62 (chapter 17:16-18)
The Book of Acts
God's Man Confronts Satan's City
Acts 17:16-34
In the 15th verse of Acts 17 we are told that with the help of some friends from Berea, Paul made his way to Athens. That trip was precipitated by the attack of some Jews from Thessalonica who did not appreciate Paul and Silas preaching the gospel.
It stirred up the city of Thessalonica, and when they left and went to Berea, those that had opposed them in Thessalonica followed them and stirred the opposition in Berea as well.
Some members of the church got Paul out of town and he went to Athens while Silas and Timothy stuck around to help the church.
  1. now, Paul is alone in Athens. I'm sure his spirits must have been low. He's been hunted and hated and hounded. And the indication in verse 16 is that he's just going to wait until Timothy and Silas come and be with him, and perhaps rest and recoup for a little while.
But in Athens, Paul begins to look at the city that surrounds him, and Scripture tells us his spirit was provoked when he saw that the entire city was given over to idols. And as we saw last week, the word indicates he was stirred to action.
verse 17
Now Paul may have been at a low point in his ministry, but he is about to see God do some amazing things in the city of Athens.
And what we see God doing in the next few verses is really what God wants to do in any city or community in any culture. Just like Ardmore or Oklahoma City or Dallas, Athens was a city of people. And because of that, it's got certain features and culture and personality.
And as we look at the ministry of Paul in the city of Athens, we see some really great insights on how to make an impact on the places we live and minister. Even though Paul was just one man, he realloy made a difference in the city of Athens and there is no reason we shouldn't and can't make a difference where we live.
Now, between verses 16 and 34, there are two primary things I want to point out to you. We'll look at one of them tonight and the other the next time we gather.
First, I want us to consider how Athens affected Paul and secondly, I want us to see how Paul affected Athens.
First of all,
1. How did Athens effect Paul?
Let me point out three things here in the text that show us how Paul responded to this heathen city that was filled with idol worshippers.
- First of all, it aroused his spiritual interests
At the time Paul was alive, the city of Athens was a beautiful place. Their buildings were gilded with gold and marble. It was a bustling, active center of business and commerce. Everything was absolutely breathtaking. And it's not hard to imagine going to a place like that and being overwhelmed with the wonder of it all.
But Paul looked at it through spiritual eyes. He didn't say, "Oh, look at this beautiful place and all it has to offer." He made one observation and that was, "It's full of idols." That was his only comment.
That was his reaction because he had that spiritual perception. In fact, one French atheistic historian named Ernest Renan who lived in the mid-1800's said, "That ugly little Jew abused Greek art by describing those statues as idols."
But Paul couldn't have cared less about all that stuff. He only saw the lostness of men. By the way, that is the mark of a spiritual man, isn't it? He sees things with spiritual eyes. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks where? On the heart.
I get frustrated sometimes with Christian people who seem to be so much more taken with money and people and stuff than they are with the Lord. They talk about how much people make and what kinds of homes and cars they have, but never mention anything about their relationship with the Lord.
How do you see your city? What we see is what is close to our heart.
Sometimes I go into a building and mention to Lisa that the trim isn't done right or the person that installed the crown molding must not have known what they were doing. She says, "You're the only one who would notice that."
But I'm not. Carpenters and trim men also notice, just like a bricklayer, when he looks at a building, notices the brick.
I suppose a street cleaner looks at the streets and a dog catcher notices the animals running around. Why? Because we view the world from our p6rspectives and experiences.
But as Christians, should we not view the world in the same way? When we meet people for the first time, should we not, first and foremost, wonder about their relationship with the Lord?
Paul had the kind of mind that when he saw something, in this case, a city, he saw it in its spiritual context. I wish we had that kind of vision. I wish we were not so consumed with the glitter and square footage and model of the car, but, instead, we saw the lostness of men that are doomed and damned to a Christless eternity.
That's what stirred Paul. He walked into this Godless town and saw two things: it was full of idols, verse 16; and the altar to the unknown god, verse 23.
The only thing he commented on about the art of that place was the statue to the UNKNOWN GOD. How pathetic, how unfulfilling. You've got all these gods and you're still looking, for another one. That's all he saw.
He saw the spiritual lostness of these people. Is that how you see your city? Your block? your neighborhood? I'm afraid we drive to church week by week, and never notice the lostness surrounding us. But Paul saw a city completely given over to the worship of idols and it piqued his spiritual sensitivities.
Second thing,
- Athens Stirred His Emotions
Notice, verse 16 says, "His spirit was provoked within him." This same word translated "provoked" here in chapter 17 is used in chapter 1 in its noun form to speak of a sharp contention between Paul and Barnabas,
  1. literal translation would be to say Paul was stirred up. So what was it that stirred his emotions? It was a city full of idols. Paul got emotional about that. nd I think it was because people worshipping idols meant they weren't worshipping God. God was being ignored.
  1. deserved the glory and Paul couldn't stand the fact that God wasn't glorified. And when he walked through town and saw all these idols, it ate on him. It stirred his spirit. It provoked him to action. After all, Paul had determined to know and preach nothing but Christ crucified. That was the only message worth sharing as far as he was concerned.
He's the one who wrote, "Whatever you do, even it's just eating and drinking, do it all to the glory of God. Paul went out to win people to Jesus Christ. Do you know why he did that?
II Cor. 4:15 tells you why, listen; "For all things are for your sakes for the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many rebound for the glory of God."
What he's saying is if more people get saved by grace that just makes a bigger thanksgiving choir to give God glory. He was busy leading people to Christ in order that they might give God glory.
In Philippians he says in chapter 2 verse 9 con­cerning Christ; "Wherefore, God has highly exalted Him and given Him a name above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord", why? "To the glory of God".
Paul was totally absorbed with one God who deserves all the glory and when he saw all these people worshipping false gods it ate him up. That's how much he loved the glory of God.
Now watch what's happening here: We've looked at two great motives for sharing Christ with a lost world. One of those is the lostness of man and the other is the glory of God.
On the human side, we see how lost men are. And on the divine side, we understand how wrong it is for God not to be glorified.
That was Paul. On the one hand, he was burdened by a city that was consumed with worshipping idols and on the other hand he was furious that God was being robbed of His glory. I just imagine every time he went out in the community and saw an idol, he got mad all over again!
There's a third thing and this is really the best of all and that is, the city of Athens
- Compelled Him to Service
It aroused his spiritual interest, and it stirred his emotions, but of all, it compelled him to get involved. After all, it doesn't do much good to have your heart touched and your emotions stimulated if you do nothing.
And yet, we do that all the time. We listen to the sermons or see the pictures from a mission trip and they touch our lives and we know something needs to be done, but we then leave it for someone else to do.
That's why it always kind of chaps my hide to hear someone pray, "Lord, somehow, someway do something to reach the lost."
You can get emotionally involved and have your curiosity aroused and do nothing. But Paul did something. Notice how verse 17 begins:
"Therefore". Because of the lostness of men and because of the glory of God, he reasoned at the synagogue with the Jews and with the Greek worshippers wherever they were meeting and down in the city marketplace also.
In other words, anyone who happened to cross paths with Paul heard about Jesus. He got interested, he got angry, and he got busy! He actually did something when he got stirred up. He took it to the streets!
How do you win the world? Well, you just go out there in the traffic patterns of your life and tell people about Jesus. It's a day-by-day responsibility and it's equally as important as special emphasis and mission trips and church-sponsored events.
Much more than we need some program or event, we need to get interested in the lostness around us, let it stir us to action, then go do what we are commanded to do.
Paul just got down in the middle of town and anybody who came across his path, he shared with them about Jesus. He preached the gospel.
verse 18
Now they had a real hang-up concerning the resurrection so that's what he preached about. Down in the synagogue, he preached about a Messiah Who died and resurrected. And down in the city square where the forward thinking liberals had a problem with the resurrection, he preached about the resurrection. And we'll see that more next week.
But that's how Athens affected Paul. Paul had his spiritual interests aroused, his emotions were stirred and he allowed those things to become his motivation to share the good news of Jesus Christ. .
Next week we'll look at the second point and see how Paul affected Athens.
Let's pray.
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