Have you ever wondered if there really is one God in heaven?
And if there is how can we know Him, truly know Him? The folks in Athens of Paul’s day wondered the same thing (as we’ll see shortly.)
Last week we left off with Paul and Silas leaving Philippi, and now we see them traveling to Thessalonica in Acts 17.
Vs 1-3 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to 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.”
The Jews had been waiting for years for their promised Messiah. They didn’t understand or believe that their savior would have to suffer and die before setting up His kingdom. A King like David – that’s what they were looking for. Paul took his time with them, loving them enough to spend three Sabbaths with them. He explained to them the Scriptures that point to a suffering Jesus as the Savior because we are separated from God by our own sin.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear. ~Isaiah 59:2
No doubt Paul also told them the same thing he told the Romans when he wrote to them:
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. ~ Romans 3:23
For our sin, we needed the perfect sacrifice:
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
~ Isaiah 53:4-5
As Paul preaches to them week after week, many begin to understand and believe, while others get jealous and start trouble.
Vs 4-9 And 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. But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, 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. But 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.”
And 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.
Over and over and over
This same situation is one that the Apostles seem to encounter over and over and over in his ministry. (See Acts chapters 9, 12, 13, 14, and 16 so far in our study.) He preaches and many come to salvation in Jesus while others get upset and stir up a mob to kick them out of town. In this case, they actually grab the poor guy that had been letting them stay at his house (Jason) and force him to pay a bail or ransom.
I love the phrase they used to describe the Apostles! Oh that we would be described the same as “these who have turned the world upside down”!
How does God want us to turn the world upside down?
Can we change the world? No, but God can change the world using us!
Let’s look at a couple of world-changers:
Born in 1832 in England, Hudson Taylor changed the way foreign missions reached the lost. “Between his work ethic and his absolute trust in God (despite never soliciting funds, his China Inland Mission grew and prospered), he inspired thousands to forsake the comforts of the West to bring the Christian message to the vast and unknown interior of China. Though mission work in China was interrupted by the communist takeover in 1949, the CIM continues to this day under the name Overseas Missionary Fellowship (International).” Taken from Hudson Taylor
D.L. (Dwight) Moody
Born in 1837 in Massachusetts, DL Moody “was revolutionary in his evangelistic approach.” He evangelized “throughout America, often preaching in major cities and at various universities. His heart was for his schools, and he spent much of his time in Northfield (MA). Moody was a visionary who always seemed a step ahead of the status quo. From training women, to reaching out to lost children, to bridging the gap between denominations, he was unlike any other. D.L. Moody effectively changed the way evangelical ministry is done and his “vision for the mission movement grew as it spread around the world to Europe and South Africa.” Taken from D.L. Moody Story
Paul and Silas in Berea
Vs 10-15 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. 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. Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there.
So 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.
In spite of the constant persecution the Apostles faced, God’s Word continues to impact and change lives. The Thessalonicans “received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily” such that “many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men”. God makes us able to do His work. His Holy Spirit works in us when we allow Him to, and in us He does incredible things in the lives of people!
But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
~2 Timothy 2:20-22
Are we a vessel of gold and silver, or a vessel of wood and clay? If we allow God to clean out the junk of sin in our life and we accept the free gift of salvation from Jesus, He will do His work in our lives. Flee away from the temptations of life and pursue Christ! “Pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”
Paul’s Sermon in Athens
Vs 16-34 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, 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 their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.
Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus 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. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed 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.”
And 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.
The Athenians and Greeks believed in lots and lots of gods. Many cultures still do today. Paul explains to them that there is only one true God, and he wasn’t built by a sculptor or an artisan like their gods.
What does the verse say about God?
“He is Lord of heaven and earth”, and “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. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.”
So God is Lord of all, He can’t be contained by anything, He can’t be built or duplicated by an artist, He gives life to every breathing thing, He created all mankind from one man (Adam), and He determines when we live, where we live, and when we die.
The only way we can know Him is through Jesus, the Deliverer sent by the one God that cares about you and about me.
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