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Scripture Reading: Acts 17:10-13
Gospel Persuasion, Prejudice and Pride
1. The gospel belongs to Christ, and we have dedicated our lives to being worthy of it, Rom. 1:16; Phil. 1:27.
2. It is also called the “apostles’ doctrine” since they were sent by Jesus to preach it to the world, Mk. 16:15 (Jno. 20:21).
3. How we receive the apostles is how we receive Christ, Jno. 13:20; Gal. 4:13-14.
a. We all had a starting point in our relation with the gospel when God’s word was introduced into our lives.
b. How we react to the gospel (both initially and continually) when we hear it makes the difference between our salvation and condemnation, Lk. 8:8, 18.
4. Acts 17 continues the spread of the gospel in Macedonia and extends south to Achaia. We will see prejudice, pride and persuasion.
I. RESISTANCE IN THESSALONICA: JESUS IS THE CHRIST, Acts 17:1-9.
-The route of the great Roman road, the Egnatian Way.
A. Reasoned from the Scriptures, Acts 17:1-3.
1. Paul’s habit firmly established: Synagogue first.
2. Suffering, dead/risen Christ, Lk. 24:44-46; Jesus, Rom. 1:3-4.
B. Conversions and Persecution, Acts 17:4-9. Charged with treason!
C. Reactions to the Gospel:
1. Believers, 17:4; cf. 1 Ths. 1:2-10.
a. Faith, love and hope, 1:3-4.
b. Certified gospel; Convicted, conscientious preachers, 1:5; 2:2-7.
c. Received word with joy in persecution—examples, 1:6-7.
d. Faith toward God, 1:8-10:
(1) Turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God (fruit of repentance, Acts 26:18, 20).
(2) Wait for His Son (patient hope), Rom. 5:1-5.
2. Unbelievers, 17:5-9. (Jews instigate persecution)
a. Envy, 17:5. Cf. Acts 13:45; Matt. 27:18.
b. Violence, 17:5-6 (mob).
c. Lies, 17:7-8.
II. READINESS OF MIND IN BEREA: SEARCHED THE SCRIPTURES, 17:10-15.
-Fair-minded are Persuaded by the Scriptures-
-Berea: Went to the synagogue.
A. Fair-mindedness, 17:10-12. Listened…searched Scriptures…many believed, including many prominent Greeks. Faith specifically due to searching the Scriptures, cf. Rom. 10:14, 17.
B. Envious Jews from Thessalonica Incite the Crowds, 17:13 (14:19).
C. Paul Goes to Athens, 17:14-15. Silas and Timothy remain in Berea.
D. Reactions to the Gospel in Berea:
1. Believers, 17:11-12. The Scriptures are persuasive, producing faith unto salvation. (Do your own research!)
2. Unbelievers, 17:13. Blind opposition persuaded by envious enemies.
III. RIDICULE IN ATHENS: THE UNKNOWN GOD PROCLAIMED, 17:16-34.
A. Human Wisdom and the Gospel, 17:16-21.
1. Teaching the lost begins with provocation over sin! Matt. 9:36; Jno. 4:35.
2. The gospel and philosophy, Acts 17:18-21; 1 Cor. 1:21-25; Col. 2:8.
a. Epicureans (Epicurus, 341-270 BC). Materialistic humanists
b. Stoics (Zeno, 336-264 BC). Harmony with nature
c. Both denied immortality (hence, resurrection), cf. 17:18.
d. Gospel was new (fresh) and strange (novel) to them, 17:19-20.
B. Idolatry and the Gospel, 17:22-29.
1. The True God: Creator – Savior – Judge, 17:24-31.
2. “Times of ignorance overlooked”, cf. Psa. 78:38-39. Suspended His just penalty against sin (14:16-17). Call of repentance to all.
C. Gospel Invitation, 17:30-31.
D. Reactions to the Gospel, 17:32-34.
1. Believers, Left philosophies and “joined” themselves to apostle, 17:34.
2. Unbelievers, Some mocked, others non-committal, 17:32.
1. Gospel persuasion is hindered by:
a. Prejudice (envy) as in Thessalonica.
b. Pride as it Athens.
2. The gospel persuades those who have a ready heart to listen to the word of God and examine what is taught. cf. Jno. 7:17
-Amphipolis (30 mi. SW of Philippi)
-Apollonia (30 mi. SW of Amphipolis)
About 40 mi. W of Apollonia; 100 miles WSW of Philippi
1. Major city: “most important seaport of Macedonia” (Baker’s Bible Atlas, 222).
-Capital of one of the four Roman divisions of Macedonia; later became the capital of the entire province.
2. City of idolatry: Mt. Olympus just to the west; believed their gods lived on the mountain, which was regarded as a place of reverence.
3. Jewish community (17:1): Very militant against Christians (17:5-8, 13)
1. 50-60 miles SW of Thessalonica, modern city of Verria.
2. At the foot of Mt. Bermius, on the eastern slope of the Olympian range.
3. The route taken was through a level country traversed by many streams.
1. In Achaia (southern Greece); Two miles inland, its seaport was Piraeus (connected to Athens by two long parallel walls, built two hundred yards apart). On this road were altars dedicated “to the unknown god”; Formed the basis for Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill.
2. A center of philosophy (17:18) and culture.
3. Greek mythology dominated religious thought, and idols filled the city. Commonly said that there were more gods in Athens than men! Patron goddess was Athena (Parthenon), the “goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, just warfare, mathematics, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill. Minerva is the Roman goddess identified with Athena.” (Wikipedia)
4. Athens circled the base of the Acropolis, a 500 foot high hill on which numerous temples were built (incl. the Parthenon).
Epicurean Philosophy (founded by Epicurus, 341-270 B.C.):
a. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” view of life.
b. The atheistic humanists of their day.
c. Ancient Hedonism: “The aim and end of life for every man is his own happiness, and happiness is primarily defined as pleasure.” (I.S.B.E., II:964).
-“Wherefore we call pleasure the Alpha and Omega of a blessed life. Pleasure is our first and kindred good. It is the starting-point of every choice and of every aversion, and to it we come back, inasmuch as we make feeling the rule by which to judge every good thing” (Epicurus, Letter to Manoeceus; Ibid.).
-“If it feels good, do it.”
d. Summary of the philosophy:
-The real aim of life is pleasure / gratification.
-Ordinary morality has no stronger sanction than the individual’s desire to secure his own happiness. [Pleasure is the only good and pain is the only evil. (Selfish system)]
-Materialistic view of human life and the soul: At death the soul was dissolved and ceased to exist. No future life and no judgment. Rejected idea of resurrection from the dead.
Stoic Philosophy (founded by Zeno, c. 336-264 B.C.):
a. Pantheists (“God was everything and everything was God” - cf. “New Age” philosophies of today).
b. Believed the world was created by Zeus and that all things were governed by the “Fates” (fatalists).
c. They also denied the immortality of the soul.
d. Summary of the philosophy:
-Practiced self-denial and resignation (or apathy to one’s circumstances).
-Their ethic: “Follow Nature,” i.e., “Follow reason.”
-The life according to Nature is man’s supreme good.
-“His (man’s, jrp) chief characteristic is...a calm passionless mastery of all emotions, and independence of all circumstances.” (I.S.B.E., V:2855).
-They sought to live a consistent, harmonious life in conformity with the perfect order of the universe. The Stoics defined this ideal as a system of particular duties, such as purity in one’s self, love toward all men, and reverence toward God.
By: Joe R. Price
Posted: October 4, 2013