According to a recent survey by Lifeway Research, 52 percent of American adults believe that Jesus was a great teacher and nothing more. In addition, an increasing number of people believe there are multiple ways to God. This is not a new problem! Every time Paul preached the gospel, he challenged existing ideas about the gods, pointing to the one true God. His message was consistent whether his audience was Jew or Gentile.
In Thessalonica, Paul and Silas spent three Sabbaths proving that Jesus was the Messiah. They received a positive response, especially among the Greeks and several prominent women in the congregation, which prompted his opponents to round up a mob and make false accusations. In Berea, a city 50 miles west of Thessalonica, people examined the Scriptures “to see if what Paul said was true” (v. 11). But when Paul’s opponents from Thessalonica heard about it, they sent agitators there too. Paul left Silas and Timothy in Berea to follow up and went on to Athens.
Idolatry in Athens provoked Paul to preach in the marketplace. When the crowd, including a group of philosophers, heard Paul teach about Christ and the resurrection, they invited him to address the Areopagus, an administrative body that served as a court and exercised authority over religious matters. Paul began with observations about their spiritual practices, “I see that in every way you are very religious” (v. 22). He noted their altar to an unknown god (v. 23) and used that common point to spring into an explanation of the true God and the gospel. He reasoned about God from creation and quoted their philosophers. But central to it all, he preached Christ and warned of the judgment to come.
>> When we tell others about Jesus, we often begin with what others already know or believe. Consider your audience: Do they know any Scripture? What assumptions do they have about God? Then point them to Christ and the Cross.
Today’s reading shows Paul’s creativity in preaching the gospel in Athens. What a powerful example for us! Lord, may we also find ways to share the good news with all people, finding unique approaches to their hearts.