Acts and Mission 70

Areopagus.jpgPaul got to Athens before Silas and Timothy, and while there contemplating the spiritual condition of Athens, Paul becomes vexed about idolatry, and here is a potent missional issue: discernment of spiritual condition. Notice what is said of Paul in Athens and his ascent onto the Areopagus:

17:16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, his spirit was greatly upset because he saw the city was full of idols. 17:17 So he was addressing the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles in the synagogue, and in the marketplace every day those who happened to be there. 17:18 Also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him, and some were asking, “What does this foolish babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods.” (They said this because he was proclaiming the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.) 17:19 So they took Paul and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are proclaiming?17:20 For you are bringing some surprising things to our ears, so we want to know what they mean.” 17:21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there used to spend their time in nothing else than telling or listening to something new.)


A few observations:

1. Paul begins in his customary way: in the synagogue. The response is customary: some believe, some don’t. And Paul’s gospel expands into the agora in the public.
2. Paul’s gospel, because it focuses on resurrection — an important fact to remember when it comes to how we preach the gospel today where resurrection emerges rarely if it all, provoked interest from some philosophers. They see Paul as one who picks up scraps of ideas and cobbles them together (see Gaventa, Acts Abingdon New Testament Commentaries
, our companion in this series on Acts).
3. So Paul goes public — by invitation — to the most public of places in Athens: the Areopagus.
About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.


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