ACTS - CHAPTE 17 - PAUL, THE WARRIOR
ACTS – CHAPTER 17 – Paul, The Warrior
Tuesday Morning Bible Study
June 7, 2022, the Year of Our Lord
Pastor Carolyn Sissom
Paul and Silas continue their journey, not discouraged by the persecution at Philippi. When we are under persecution, the Glory is the greatest. Persecution for the sake of the Gospel is one path into the Glory of God; provided we are able to forgive and love our enemies. No one usually volunteers for this. Paul and Silas give us and example of this cost.
The next city targeted by the Holy Spirit for a church and a move of God is Thessalonica, Greece in Europe.
Paul wrote in his letter to the Thessalonians:
1 Th. 1: 1-4: We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God.
The election by God of the saints in Thessalonica makes it clear the ministry team was sent.
Acts 17: 1-4: When they had passed through Amphipolis and A-po-llonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Paul, as his custom was, went into them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.” Some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.
Their response followed the familiar pattern. Some Jews believed the message, but the bulk of his converts were God-fearing Gentiles. A great multitude were persuaded. His method of preaching was simple. He quoted the Old Testament scriptures from the Old Testament Prophets explaining and demonstrating that Jesus is the Christ,
17: 5-9: The Jews who were not persuaded became envious. They took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. When they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king---Jesus.” They troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things. So, when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.
The idol of jealousy doing its evil work. They stirred up a mob and incited a riot. Satan never changes his tactics. The mob descended on the house of Jason. Paul and Silas slipped away from the mob. They seized Jason and some of the brethren charging him with sedition. This is a common tactic of persecution of religion. Jason put up bail money.
Paul and Silas are again forced to leave town. Paul describes this in 1 Thess. 1: 6: You became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe.
A strong church was birthed. It was so strong that they became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. Let us always continue in our assignments because we never know who is watching our example of faith and faithfulness. If no one is watching, the angels are watching.
1 Th. 2:2: Even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.
Satan hindered Paul from returning. 1 Th. 2:18-20: We wanted to come to you---even I, Paul, time and again---but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.
The church continued to suffer persecution. In 2 Thess. 1: 4-6, Paul speaks judgment on those who trouble you. “God will repay with tribulation those who trouble you.”
Acts 17: 10-15: The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea (Northern Greece), When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore, many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. But, when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds. Immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea, but both Silas and Timothy remained there. Those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens, and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed.
The Bereans were commended by Luke for their nobility. This quality is part of Jesus’ royal nature. This is opposite of scorners and mockers. Scorners ad mockers cannot be noble. Nobility implies courtesy, open and fair-minded, good manners and a good disposition. They searched the scriptures to make sure what they were hearing was really true. The name of the Bereans has been adopted by thousands of Berean Bible classes internationally.
17: 16-18: While Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. He disputed in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoics, encountered him. Some said, “what will this babbler say? He seems to be a setting forth of strange gods;” because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.
At Athens, Paul is able to take a breather from the Jewish religious spirit, but runs into other demon spirits which are worse than the legalism of the Jews. Yet, these spirits were neither violent or abusive. Religious spirits are usually mean. Since jealousy for status attaches itself to religion, this spirit fights for pre-eminence. In churches, these spirits will set up a pecking order. They peck-out those who do not submit to their power.
Athens was the leading center of culture and philosophy of the ancient world, yet none of it was dedicated to the True God.
Paul true to his warrior nature, goes in on the offense. His platform is the market-place. The Agora was a gathering spot for intellectuals in this city of learning. This was not a market in the usual sense, but a stock-market of news. The elite minds of the world gathered to speculate on ideas: “The Ancient Agora was the primary meeting ground for Athenians, where members of democracy congregated affairs of the state, where business was conducted, a place to hang out, and watch performers and listen to famous philosophers. The importance of the Athenian agora revolved around religion. The layout of the agora was centered around the Pa-nath-e-naic Way, a road that ran through the middle of Athens and to the main gate of the city” (Wikipedia).
The brilliant mind that penned the Book of Romans would only be animated by any challenge to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here he learned first hand how the wisdom of the spirit of the world (2 Co. 2:12) is in conflict with the Wisdom of God.
1 Co. 1:20-23: Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.
Paul’s revelations were birthed in his Spirit through the “mind of Christ,” by divine revelation and pressing through suffering.
While speaking, he draws the attention of some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. The Epicureans were atheists in that they believed the world was an accident. To them, seeking pleasure was the main purpose in life. They did not deny the existence of gods (plural), but maintained they were totally indifferent. Consequently, they were given to gross sensualism. Our culture of the 21st century has been greatly influenced by this spirit. It has a strong-hold on those who embrace the spirit of the world.
The Stoics were the opposite of the Epicureans. They were pantheists, claiming God was in everything and everyone. To them, pleasure was not good and pain was not evil. Virtue was its own reward and vice its own punishment. They denied the immortality of the soul, claiming people were swallowed up in the Deity after physical death. The Stoics were founded by the Greek philosopher, Zeno. Their god was reasoning.
They labeled Paul a “babbler.” The Greek literally means a “grain picker.” It was used contemptuously for pretender philosophers who gathered scraps of information from others. They suspicioned he was bringing in foreign demons (Greek for strange gods, Greek philosopher, Zenos; Daimonism).
“Daimons are lesser divinities or spirits, often personifications of abstract concepts, beings of the same nature as both mortals and deities, similar to ghosts, chthonic heroes, spirit guides – often associated with animals” (Wikipedia).
Heathen theology taught that the “thor” were gods of nature (god of thunder), and the daimon were deified man.
In short, Paul got into a mess of demonic mind sets.
Paul taught that Jesus Christ was God incarnate in a man, crucified, risen and exalted at the right-hand of God. This was the same to them as the deification of heroes. Thus, the term daimonion in connection with their religion.
17: 19-21: They took him, and brought him into Ar-e-op-a-gus, saying, “may we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore, we want to know what these things mean.” For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.
This ancient court of Athens was located on Mars Hill. The hill was named after the Roman god-of-war, Ares. This was the most prestigious pulpit in Athens. It was the highest governmental council and later a judicial court. All who went there spent their time in nothing else, but to either tell or hear some new thing. This is the lust for knowledge.
2 Co. 10:5: Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God...
Worldly knowledge will be flashy and superficial which will result in a reprobate mind.
Phil. 3:8: I count all thing but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.
Paul’s Sermon on Mars Hill:
Acts 17:22-31: Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, “men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you. “God who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. He has made from one blood, every nation of men to dwell on the face of the earth, and has determined that pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings. So, that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him, we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, for we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent; because He has appointed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom he has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
This speech has been analyzed and critiqued by those who are more learned than me. I find it breath- taking and refreshing. After Paul has been pounding sermons to the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles, here we have a sermon to heathen who worshipped false gods.
To the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles, the apostles led their hearers by prophecies and miracles to the knowledge of the Redeemer, and faith in Him.
He confronts the bottom-line of their idolatry. “I perceive in all things you are too superstitious.” All superstition gives power to the devil. They fear and worship demon spirits.
Dake’s foot notes reads: “greatly addicted to religion.”
Paul lays out his point that he is going to teach, to bring them to the knowledge of the only living and true God.
That Paul found and stood at an altar, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD, and then declared him is magnificent. There is not much they could debate him on that.
His speech contradicts the Epicurean philosophy that the universe is an accident. It also countered the stoic notion that the universe always exited. Paul said, “God made the world and all things therein.” He totally blew-off 30,000 Athenian gods with this declaration. He is so quiet that He cannot be compressed into any man-made temple. Further, God not only made the universe, He also runs it. He is the source of life for all living things. He is not dependent on His creatures. They are the ones who need Him.
From verse 24-31, Paul declares 18-truths about God:
1. (vs. 24) – Creator of all things.
2. (vs. 24) – Lord of Heaven and earth.
3. (vs. 24) – Dwells not in man-made temples
4. (vs. 24) – Is not worshipped by man’s hands.
5. (vs. 25) – universal providence.
6. (vs. 26) – Made all men of one kind (one blood).
7. (vs. 26) – He decrees habitations.
8. (vs. 26) – He planned the ages.
9. (vs. 27) – A God-provided salvation.
10. (vs. 27) – Omnipresence.
11. (vs. 28) – God is the source of all life.
12. (vs. 29) – He is a living being.
13. (vs. 30) – Revelation of God.
14. (vs. 30) – Repentance commanded.
15. (vs. 31) – Judgment-day appointed.
16. (vs.31) – The whole world to be judged in righteousness.
17. (vs.31) – Jesus Christ to judge.
18. (vs. 31) – Resurrection of Jesus Christ guarantees justice to all.
He quotes one of their Greek poets, Epimenides (who meant Zeus to be the “him”). “For in him we live and move and have our being.” Some criticize this. I say, “Go Paul. The devil tried to steal it. Take it back.”
Paul fearlessly drops the bombshell, “REPENT.” God will no longer “wink” at their ignorance because God has given the world such a clear revelation of Himself through a “Man”, Jesus Christ.
2 Th. 3:17: Paul wrote the epistles by his own hand.
17: 32-34: When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” So, Paul departed from among them. However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
Dionysius, a member of the 12-man panel and a woman, named Damaris believed. There is no evidence of a church started in Athens. Paul is a success because of his faithfulness.
We learn that no matter how much we labor, there will always be those to whom the preaching of the Cross will be foolishness.
No method of preaching can overcome that obstacle. But as Paul stood there declaring the One True God, the demons heard it! The angels heard it! The Great Cloud of witnesses in Heaven heard it! God on His throne heard it! We, and 200 others generations hear it! Those who receive it will be declaring it for eternity! Paul’s message in Athens was a glorious success.
Carolyn Sissom, Pastor
Eastgate Ministries Church
Scripture from NKJV. Acts teaching notes by Carolyn Sissom dated 5/28/2000; quotes from Finis J. Dake; International Bible Commentary and C. S. Lovett’s Lights on Acts.