We live in a day and age where people want proof for everything. They are tired of being lied to, scammed, or taken for fools. This is true of government, education, science, entertainment, even religion. Today we celebrate a historical event that was God’s seal of authenticity for the Gospel message.
In our text the Apostle Paul is on his second missionary journey, and has arrived in Athens (Greece) to wait for his ministry partners (vs. 16-17). What he saw there made his spirit “stir in him” (lit. to stimulate, irritate, provoke to anger) because he saw the entire city literraly full of idols and idolatry. Paul couldn’t sit still and do nothing, so he began to speak with Jews in the synagogue and with religious people and everyone else in the street markets every day.
That is when two groups of philosophers found him (vs. 18). The Epicureans were followers of Epicurus; they were atheists who promoted the pursuit of a pleasant, smooth life, living for pleasure. Sounds a lot like Americans today! Some thought Paul was a “babbler” (empty talker), while others thought he was talking about strange gods, because Paul’s preaching always involved two things: Jesus and the Resurrection. You see, the Resurrection of Jesus has been at the heart of the Gospel from the very beginning.
These men take Paul to Areopagus (latin name for Mars’ Hill, vs. 19-21). This was a rocky peak in Athens, opposite to the Acropolis. They wanted Paul to explain this “new doctrine.” For these people, steeped in philosophy, pursuing pleasure and happiness outside of the true God, the Gospel was a “new doctrine,” even something “strange” or foreign, new, shocking. Just like today’s society, they were looking for the next new thing, the newest book or philosophy, or the latest fad to come on the scene (NYT bestseller list, latest celebrity to come up with the “secret” to their happiness and well-being). It was then that the Apostle Paul stood up and delivered a timeless classic, a message more relevant to 21st century Americans than ever before in our history. If you heart and mind has been bombarded and inundated by the philosophies entrenched in our grade schools, university, media and entertainment, and government institutions, this message is for you. And it all points to Easter: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (vs. 22-31)!
Paul begins by pointing out that he noticed them to be “too superstitious” (vs. 22), believing everything they had been told, “sold a bill of goods,” though there was no true, real, solid foundation to support it. It was fiction presented as fact, just like the secular evolutionary humanism of today. They worshipped in ignorance, while Paul revealed the truth (vs. 23).
The First Cause (vs. 24-26)
Of the universe (vs. 24) – God is the Creator of the universe, that transcends matter and time, that created matter in the first place (matter is not eternal, it came from somewhere), the Intelligent Designer behind the amazing universe in which we live. A universe so mind-boggling and stunning whether you look as far into space as humanly possible, or as deep into the microcosmic world of the human body. God cannot be contained in anything made. That’s our God!
Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
Romans 1:19-20 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.
Of life (vs. 25) – Even the biological sciences acknowledge that “life comes from life.” Human life, plant life, animal life, could not have come or evolved from lifeless matter. The eternal God is the Giver of life, Sustainer of life, that “breathed into [man’s] nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). That’s our God!
Of nations (vs. 26) – All nations of the earth have the same blood line – all trace back to Adam. No race, nationality, culture, language is superior to any other. We all bleed the same. From “one blood” God scattered the human race at the Tower of Babel throughout all the face of the earth, creating various languages, forming different nations, and through genetics developing various traits and physical appearances. All determined and ordained by God. The Bible explains it all. That’s our God!
The Primary Command (vs. 27-30)
The Creator of all things as determined that we as human beings, as the high point of all creation, created by the hand of God in the image of God, should “seek the Lord” in our heart and life (vs. 27). By faith, you just need to “reach out and touch him” because He is “not far from every one of us.” He is close, even now. You can’t see Him with your physical eyes (like so many other real things), but He is here.
Isaiah 55:6 Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.
Even the Greek poets believed to be “offspring” of deity, the handiwork of a Superior Being, even though they couldn’t identify Him. The most primitive of societies have the sense, instinct, and intuition to look up, around, and within and see the overwhelming evidence of a Creator. But we can’t be foolish enough to think that we can put God in a box, in man made labels and limitations (vs. 29). A God big enough to create stars millions of light years away can’t be encapsulated in a carved stone or idol of gold or silver. This God commands us to seek Him – not with our eyes, ears, hands, and feet, but with our heart and soul – by faith! And seeking God involves another step (vs. 30).
God in His infinite mercy “winked at,” temporarily overlooked, held back His judgment upon the Earth despite our “ignorance” (lit. agnosticism). He gives us more and more time and opportunities (that we don’t deserve). For what? That we might repent of our sin. Our Creator has commanded that “all men every where” repent. Repent of our sin, of breaking God’s moral and revealed laws, of rebelling against Him with our behavior and thoughts. With the overwhelming evidence of God all around Creation, the Bible says we are without excuse (Romans 1:20). We cannot run from, hide from, or ignore our sin and guilt (Romans 3:23). We must fall upon our knees before God, plead for mercy, and turn away from our sin to follow God (Acts 3:19a). No other command in the Bible is more important than this. Everything else is secondary. Repent!
Isaiah 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
The Ultimate Consequence (vs. 31)
The reason it is so urgent that you repent and turn to God is that the same God who created you and commands you to repent, also made an appointment for you. A day in which you will stand before Him to answer for your life. You will be judged by the very One we celebrate today. The “man” whom God ordained for this purpose, who lived for you, died for you, and rose from the death for you. His name is Jesus.
It is Easter, the Resurrection of Jesus, that gives proof, evidence, “assurance” (lit. faith, conviction) that this is a fact, that the Gospel is true. Easter is the Gospel’s seal of authenticity. This message of hope and warning is true (Hebrews 9:27). Easter proves that you will answer to God one day.
It is interesting to see how the people in Athens responded to Paul’s powerful message (vs. 32-34). You have three responses:
Some mocked – ridiculed talk of Jesus rising from the dead
Some reflected – it piqued their curiosity. They wanted to think about it and hear more
Some believed – lit. they stuck to him like glue, embraced the truth of the Gospel. They placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, the risen Son of God, the Savior of the world.
Which are you today? Some of you are looking at me and listening, but mocking it in your heart (God, Bible, Jesus). Easter is just another tradition, fable, fairy tale, but you are too smart or intelligent to believe it is true. Some of you are honest enough to give it some serious thought. You are not ready to become a true, born-again Christian, but you are thinking about it – wanting to come back for more. Caution: you have no promise of tomorrow. Some of you are ready to make the leap, take that step, be converted to Christ. You know you are guilty and need to beg for mercy. You know Jesus is God the Son and He died in your place. You want to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior today. And you will have that chance.
Whether you believe it or not – it is true. Jesus rose from the dead, was seen of over 500 people for over a month, then ascended to Heaven. But at any moment Jesus is coming again to take His people to Himself forever.
Acts 1:11 Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
Are you ready? Now is your time to decide.