THE PROCLAMATION OF THE TRUTH ABOUT GOD LEAVES NO ROOM FOR TOLERANCE OF WORTHLESS RELIGIOUS PHILOSOPHY
(no matter how sophisticated or intellectual or culturally accepted)
Some commentators have criticized Paul’s approach in Athens based on a couple of factors:
– He was ministering solo – without the support of the other members of his missionary team
– Acts 17 does not seem to stress the message of the crucifixion (although certainly preaching Jesus and the Resurrection presumes the significance of the crucifixion)
– He quotes from a couple of their pagan poets
But I would argue that Paul adjusted his approach to his audience and that Acts 17 is a masterful exhibit of effective communication of the gospel message with its emphasis on the uniqueness of God in contrast to the futility of idol worship. We have already studied Paul’s Approach and his Argument. Today we finish with a look at his Application and the variety of Responses.
I. (:30-31) THE APPLICATION: IMMINENCY OF JUDGMENT DEMANDS IMMEDIATE REPENTANCE BECAUSE THE JUDGE IS THE RESURRECTED JESUS
In business terms we call this, Asking for the Order
Paul’s version of the altar call
A. Unique Time in History – These are the Last Days
“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance,”
Understand the Times – Judgment day fast approaching; don’t mistake God’s patience and forbearance and longsuffering for leniency
The coming of the Messiah has changed everything
Paul had begun this address in Athens by making a connection to their admitted ignorance about God – but here he shows that despite ignorance they are culpable and without excuse
B. Universal Requirement — Repentance
“God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent,”
– This requirement does not exclude faith, it assumes faith = two sides of the same coin; that is why to the Philippian jailor the only requirement verbalized is: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved”
– This requirement is much more than a change in one’s view of who Jesus is – their must be a sin component to repentance; we want to be saved from our former manner of life when we lived in selfishness, indulging the lusts of the flesh and exalting the pride of our own ways; people struggle with understanding repentance to be a requirement for salvation; they get confused and think that repentance is a work of man; it is a gift of God; but not in the sense of a tangible thing that you unwrap … but an enablement – we are the ones that do the repenting; we are the ones that must do the believing – but that is only possible because God works in us to enable us and draw us to Himself; Godly sorrow worketh repentance not to be repented of. [Daily reading 2 Cor. 7:10] You must want to be saved and changed – not to continue on in your present course of sin and rebellion and alienation from God
– This requirement does not extend to Reformation of our life – that is a fruit of repentance, not the root of repentance – we don’t change ourselves to make ourselves acceptable to God; we cast ourselves on the mercy and power of God to deliver us from our sins and transform our lives
C. Unavoidable Accountability – Judgment Day Coming –
5 Certainties about final judgment:
1. Judgment is Fixed
“because He has fixed a day”
Man is not in charge of his final destiny; he is not self sufficient or in control
Our views about eschatology might be foggy in some of the details; we might not be able to agree in all of the fine points; but when it comes to the certainty of judgment day, let’s not waffle; God has fixed a day! Nothing anyone can do will change that; God is not foggy about the details of the end times; He is working out everything according to His timetable.
Men may mock at the doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus and sneer, Where is the promise of His coming back?
2. Judgment is Universal
“in which He will judge the world”
Does not matter whether you are still living or already passed from this earth;
Does not matter if you are rich or poor;
Does not matter if you are highly intellectual and sophisticated or just a simple blue collar laborer;
Does not matter if you are Jew or Gentile
3. Judgment is Righteous
Isn’t it frustrating when judgments are not in accord with what is right and fair?
Isn’t it frustrating when people don’t get punished for wickedness and don’t get rewarded for doing what is right?
Divine promise stands: “As you sow, so shall you also reap” – but you must view that in light of eternal reckoning – not in what gets dished out to you today
4. Judgment is Messianic
“through a Man”
The identity of the Judge is no longer a mystery – all judgment has been committed to the God-Man who is the one mediator between God and man
God Incarnate; God took on humanity and still today remains fully God and fully man
5. Judgment is Divinely Orchestrated
“whom He has appointed,”
D. Undeniable Proof – the Resurrection
“having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST IS THE ONLY APOLOGETIC WE NEED
Vindication of Jesus – He is whom He claimed to be – both Lord and Judge
We all were children of God in the sense of being descended from the first Adam; we need to make sure that we are in God’s spiritual family by union with the second Adam who is able to forgive our sins and impute to us His perfect righteousness
People are always asking for proof – God has given the ultimate proof; what more could He give?
II. (:32-34) THE RESPONSE: THREE DIFFERENT RESPONSES TO THE MESSAGE OF THE RESURRECTION
A. (:32a) Mockery and Hardened Hearts
“Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer,”
Paul did not sugarcoat the gospel message at all; did not back down from confrontation; must have been preaching the crucifixion if He was preaching the resurrection
Zeisler: Some were too haughty, too impressed with themselves, too much in love with their own past, too committed to protecting the shell, too unwilling to see their shallowness. So they sneered.
Stedman: Some mocked. That means their pride was threatened. Mocking is always the defense of pride when it feels itself attacked but has no logical defense; it resorts to ridicule. This is still the reaction of many today. Whenever they hear of Jesus, they begin to ridicule. But Christianity ridiculed is always a sign of weakness, an admission of defeat.
B. (:32b-33) Procrastination and Lost Opportunity
“but others said, ‘We shall hear you again concerning this.’ So Paul went out of their midst.”
INTELLECTUAL CURIOUSITY / DELAYING TACTICS / SMOKESCREEN
God delivers His message according to His timetable; you need to respond when the opportunity is in front of you; no guarantee you will ever have another chance
Paul did not hang around Athens and schedule other meetings in accordance with their schedules; he was on the move, led of the Spirit to fulfill his mission as Apostle to the Gentiles
These people had in front of them God’s choice messenger. Yet they chose to put him off. What was more important in their lives than responding to the good news of God’s offer of salvation?
C. (:34) Commitment of Faith and Fellowship in the Gospel
“But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.”
When you believe, you join up – there is no believing and then continuing on to live as you did before
Jesus Christ wants to transform our lives; wants to give us purpose in serving Him;
“Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.”