Sunday, 16 September 2018

Sermon By David Wiliams: Paul at Athens (Acts 17)

Ps 121,
Acts 17:16-34

Do you like travel? In fact we are all on a journey!  Paul was on a journey with a purpose; he wanted to spread the gospel (Matt 28:20).  On his second missionary journey he had to wait for his companions in Athens, but he was not idle – he could not waste precious time.

While there, Paul was provoked by the idolatry in the city.  That is like Jesus, who was sad about Jerusalem (Luke 13:34).  Paul was severely provoked; the word is very strong (paroxysm). How do you feel about unbelief?

Paul took every opportunity to share the good news, not just to the religious, but to any who would listen (Acts 17:17). Why? Like Jesus, out of love and compassion, but also out of obedience to God.  He was called to witness, both generally, like all Christians are told to, but specifically when he met Christ on the Damascus road (Acts 9).

After a while, Paul was given a specific opportunity – the Athenians always wanted to hear new ideas.  People were prepared to hear; are we as ready to listen, as in church?

Paul sought a point of contact with them, as I like to do with visual aids, things that are part of God’s creation.  He saw one in the many idols in the city.  What would he say here – many churches? Or perhaps that we also have many things we almost worship like idols!

Paul then pointed to God’s power (Is 42:5).  Because he knew God, he was not overawed by the audience, at the heart of what had been the intellectual centre of the world for centuries. And no doubt he knew the help and power of God.  Yet he also proclaimed that God is close to all, and in fact reveals by a human being, Jesus.

But Paul did not just inform and entertain, but announced that God demands repentance; there will be a judgement!

And Paul did not just give an interesting idea, but could say that God gave evidence; Jesus rose!  This is a feature of every Acts sermon. Are we sure of the evidence? Are we sure because we have met Him? Then we can tell with confidence.

There was a varied response (Acts 17:32) - belief, mocking, delaying.  Paul remained steadfast - God wants faithfulness

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