Rarely—if ever—do we get to hear the whole story of Paul’s sermon in
. If you have time in your worship service, why not consider reading this paraphrased version of the entire event? The sermon portion is taken directly from The Voice (see below for copyright information and a link for more information). Athens (Acts 17:16-34)
“To an Unknown God”
After spending time in Thessalonica with Silas, Paul left for
. Silas remained behind for a time, so Paul found himself alone in the city. As was his custom, he went to the synagogue there, and entered into conversation about Jesus with the local Jews. Athens
But he didn’t just go to the synagogue. He also spent time in the marketplace, talking with anyone he happened to meet. After a while, he got into a debate with some Epicurean and Stoic intellectuals. Some of them dismissed his ideas immediately. But others were curious. And, because the favorite pastime of Athenians was conversation about new and unusual ideas, they invited Paul to make a public presentation over at the Areopagus (where
’ intellectual elite often gathered for debate). Athens
They said to him, “We'd like to understand these unusual ideas of yours. Would you explain them further to us?”
So Paul stood in the open space at the Areopagus and began to speak.
“Athenians, I am a new visitor to your beautiful city. As I have walked your streets, I have observed your strong and diverse religious ethos. You truly are a religious people. I have stopped again and again to examine carefully the religious statues and inscriptions that fill your city. On one such altar, I read this inscription: ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’
I am not here to tell you about a strange foreign deity, but about this One whom you already worship, though without full knowledge. This is the God who made the universe and all it contains, the God who is the Caesar, the King, of all heaven and all earth.
It would be illogical to assume that a God of this magnitude could possibly be contained in any man-made structure, no matter how majestic. Nor would it be logical to think that this God would need human beings to provide Him with food and shelter—after all, He Himself would have given to humans everything they need—life, breath, food, shelter, and so on.
This is the only universal God, the One who made all of us, wherever we now live, whatever our nationality or culture or religion. This God made us in all our diversity from one original person, allowing each culture to have its own time to develop, giving each its own place to live and thrive in its distinct ways. His purpose in all this was that people of every culture and religion would search for this ultimate God, grope for Him in the darkness, as it were, hoping to find Him.
Yet, in truth, God is not far from any of us. For you know the saying, ‘We live in God; we move in God; we exist in God.’ And still another said, ‘We are indeed God’s children.’
Since this is true, since we are indeed offspring of God’s creative act, we shouldn’t think of the Deity as our own artifact, something made by our own hands—as if this great, universal, ultimate Creator were simply a combination of elements like gold, silver, and stone.
No, God has patiently tolerated this kind of ignorance in the past, but now God says it is time to rethink our lives and reject these unenlightened assumptions. He has fixed a day of accountability, when the whole world—including every culture and religion—will be justly evaluated by a new, higher standard: not by a statue, but by a living man. God selected this man and made Him credible to all by raising Him from the dead.”
When the people listening heard his reference to a resurrection from the dead, they weren’t sure what to think. Some shook their heads and scoffed, but others were curious. They invited him to come back sometime to speak to them again. But there were some—among them, a man named Dionysius and woman named Damaris—who were convinced right then and there, and who came to faith that day.
Note: In this paraphrase, Paul’s sermon was taken directly from The Voice.™ Copyright ©
200 6, 200 7, 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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