Summary of passage: Paul next went to Thessalonica where as was his custom he preached in the Jewish synagogue, explaining and proving Jesus Christ using the scriptures. Some were persuaded and joined him as well as some Greeks. But the Jews were jealous so they rounded up some ruffians and started a riot in the city. They went to Jason’s house where Paul and Silas were staying, and not finding them there, arrested Jason and some others instead.
That night, Paul and Silas left and went to Berea where they preached in the Jewish synagogue as well. The Bereans were of more noble character and compared what Paul was saying with the scriptures. They were eager to know God more so many were converted as well. But the angry Jews from Thessalonica trailed Paul and stirred up trouble in Berea as well. So the brothers sent Paul away to Athens.
In Athens, Paul was met with idols everywhere and meeting harsh resistance with the intellectual culture of the Athenians as he preached in the synagogue and the market places. He got into a dispute with a group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers and was dragged off to the Areopagus (council) to make his case.
Paul told them about what they referred to as “the unknown god” who was the One, True God. God who made everything in the world, who does not need anything from mankind, who controls nations and time, who is near to us, who commands people everywhere to repent for one day they will be judged, and who had given proof by raising Jesus from the dead.
Upon hearing the raising from the dead (something the Greeks balked at: they were big on the spirit living on but believed the body to be merely a physical medium), Paul was cut off but invited to speak again. Only a few were converted.
11) Converting and saving of souls because that’s what’s most important to God.
12) Similarities: Paul preached in the Jewish synagogues and converted people–what he does every place he goes. The difference is in the people. We are told the Bereans are of “more noble character” and they searched the scripture every day. This means that the Bereans did not just accept what Paul was saying or were persuaded by his speaking ability. They turned to the word of God to see if what he was saying lined up with God’s word.
Another difference: they were eager to learn. Some people before were there just because they were. They wanted to know God with heart, mind, and spirit.
13a) He’s discouraged. He’s been followed by people who only want to disrupt his teachings. He’s alone so he doesn’t have any support. He’s probably tired (who can sleep well with a mob constantly after you?).
As Paul arrives, he is bombarded by the refined Athenian culture, full of images of gods and temples everywhere.
We must remember Athens is considered the birthplace of philosophy. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle all were from here and established schools of thought about 400 years before Paul’s journey. So the Athenian people are used to thinkers roaming around, spouting ideas. But they are also used to analyzing ideas thoroughly to see if they match up with the known world.
b) The Athenians disputed with Paul (verse 18) and called him into a meeting to explain himself (verse 19). Sounds like our political system from the local city councils to Congress. Council after all comes from the Latin meaning an assembly for consultation, advice, or discussion. Verse 21 describes universities to a T.
History: The Epicurean philosophers were a group of people who believed pleasure is the greatest good and should be the pursuit of life and who believed in gods but believed they had nothing to do with man. Based upon the teachings of Epicurus in 307 BC, pleasure was obtained by living modestly and gaining knowledge of the inner workings of the world.
The Stoic philosophers were a group of people who believed god was in everything and everything was god; however, they did not believe everything had a purpose or that things could be preordained. Based on the teachings of Zeno of Citium in the early third-century BC, they believed in formal logic and the ability to overcome destructive emotions. Man had a will based on nature.
So if we just compare these Athenians, then our culture has much in common with the ancients. However, not everyone belonged to these sects of society.
c) The resurrection of the dead
14a) Verse 25 “He is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself give all men life and breath and everything else”
b) Verse 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands”
c) Verse 27 “men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us”
d) Verse 24 “God made the world and everything in it”; Verse 25 “he gives men life and breath and everything else”; Verse 26 “He made every nation of men and determined the times set for them”
e) Verse 26 “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live”
f) Verse 26 “he determines the times set for them and the exact places where they should live”
g) Verse 29 “Since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone–an image made by man’s design and skill”
h) Verse 30 “he commands all people everywhere to repent”
i) Verse 31 “he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed”
Conclusions: Have you noticed the argument for God is the same? It never changes. It is just put in different ways and said by different people. Choosing God is an act of faith–plain and simple–just how God wants it to be.
The Areopagus means “the Rock of Ares” in Greek and is also known as Mars’ Hill. It was originally a court of appeal for criminal and civil cases in the times of the Greeks. It was also where the council of elders met, similar to the Roman Senate. Later, in Roman times, it was a philosophical council that oversaw religion and morals.
End Note: Map of Journey from yesterday: http://www.apostlepaulthefilm.com/paul/journey_02.htm