The End Of Ignorance – Acts 17:16-34

By John Bellingham on November 10, 2013
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The End of Ignorance

Acts 17:16-34


I.  Paul’s Motive

1)     Paul was deeply grieved by the idolatry that he saw in Athens (v. 16)

  • paroxuno = irritated; provoked to anger
  • “It is  easier to find a god than a man in Athens” – Petronius (c.  AD 27-66)

2)     Are you grieved by the idolatry of our culture?

–  Paul’s deep concern for the spiritual state of Athens drove him not to despair, but to evangelism!


II. Paul’s Audience

1)     Paul began in the synagogue but quickly moved to the agora (marketplace)

2)     Epicureans

  • Life is due to the change collision of atoms
  • Our purpose is to seek pleasure/ avoid pain
  • ‘gods’ exist but have no interest in the affairs of human beings here on earth– no danger of divine judgment

3)     Stoics

  • Pantheism – ‘god’ exists within the physical creation as the ‘world soul’
  • Fatalism – everything that happens is written in the stars and fixed by fate
  • We face life with a sense of resolve and duty to endure whatever comes our way

4)     Paul is viewed with distain and curiosity by both groups of philosophers

  • He is called a ‘babbler (v.18) – literally a ‘seed-picker’:  a second rate philosopher who recycles and rehearses information
  • He is summoned to the Areopagus (aka. Mars Hill) to give an account of his teaching

5)     Our contemporary culture bears some striking similarities with Athens!

  • Not ‘religious’ but ‘spiritual’
  • Religious pluralism/ relativism
  • Epicurian outlook
    • Everything is due to chance
    • Pleasure is the greatest good
    • No accountability to God
  • Unhealthy obsession with anything that is new or trendy (v. 21)


III. Paul’s Message

1)     Paul uses elements of Greek culture as a springboard to share the gospel

  • Inscription to the ‘unknown god’ (vv. 22-23)
  • Quotations from Greek (pagan) poetry (v. 28)

2)     Essential elements of Paul’s message (cf. Acts 14)

  • God the Creator -v. 24
  • God the Sustainer–v. 25
  • God the Father of all races –  v. 26
  • God the Saviour of all kinds of people
    • God will no longer overlook ignorance!
    • God will judge the world through one man – Jesus Christ
    • God has raised Jesus from the dead


IV. Application

1) Learn from Paul’s flexibility in the way you share Christ with different kinds of people – do not assume Biblical literacy in a culture that looks more and more like Athens!

2) Affirm elements of our culture that point toward the truth about God and Jesus Christ

3) Stand firm on gospel truth even if it offends the sensibilities of our culture



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