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  • Jan 06 / 2019
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Acts: The Book of Mission, Pastor Heo, Sermons

In 2019, let’s go to our Athens! (Acts 17:16-34)

https://soundcloud.com/antioch-church-325593234/in-2019-lets-go-to-our-athens

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In 2019, Let’s go to our Athens!

Acts 17:16-34 (Pastor Heo)

In Athens

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

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. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 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. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 **’For in him we live and move and have our being.’** As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

29 “Therefore 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. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.


  • Hedonism : The chief end of man is pleasure.
  • Stoicism : Strong self-discipline, avoiding all kinds of self-indulgence and pleasure.

Athens was very proud of their philosophies and philosophers.

  • “Philea” = Love (agape, philia, …, eros) –
  • “Sophia” = Wisdom

So “philosophy” = “love of wisdom”

In the study of philosophy:

  • Who Am I?
  • Where am I from?
  • Where am I going?
  • How did this universe come to exist?

Yes, these questions are very important questions – if we are not clear about them, our lives will be frustrated without action – events without reason.

Only IN God and BY God can we get correct answers to these questions. Outside of God, human philosophy makes us more meaningless and frustrated. (It’s true, I studied it in college…)

The Athenians lived Romans 1:25:

“25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.”

  • The Jews want miraculous signs;
  • Greeks seek philosophy and wisdom;
  • we preach Jesus Christ resurrected –
  • a stumbling block to the Jews and Greeks.

Based on this background, the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom; the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

v. 16

“16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.”

At that time there were more gods than men in Athens. So, Paul was greatly distressed.

Like Paul, we must feel anger and hatred against Satan who is holding him/her, and at the same time compassion for their soul. We must also have open (spiritual) eyes like Paul.

v. 17

“17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.”

The Areopagus Sermon of Paul

  1. Opening: Jesus’ resurrection
  2. Closing: Jesus’ resurrection
  • Epicurean = believed everything happened by chance and death is the end, and God is far from the world – practically, they were materialists like today’s.
  • Stoics = everything that happened by the will of A god (pantheists = everything is god, god is everything) and must be accepted.

What is a babbler? Someone picking up trash – it’s a criticism about Paul – someone speaking something very strange and with unknown sounds. (because Paul was speaking of the resurrection).

To the Greeks, this was a fable; a myth; some silly story to give a moral lesson (like Aesop). So, they called Paul a babbler.

v. 19-23

“19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.” 21(All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.) [gossip] 22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. *Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.* [wow]”

The Areopagus was just a hill – an open area, called “Mars Hill.”

These men sneered at Paul, but he was very wise and kind to them. We must learn from him about his outreach.

  • He didn’t say, “You SINNERS! You IDOLATERS!”
  • No, he said, “Wow, I see you are so religious!” (He gave them compliments and praise first)
  • He also saw the “Unknown God” and said, “You CAN know him!”
  • How? Because he is revealing himself through his Creation (also Romans 1).

Through this story (2,000 years ago), we can see that our world is another Athens.

“Our world is an(other) Athens.”

“In 2019, let’s go to our Athens!”

3 points about “our Athens”

#1 Athens is FULL of idols

Our world today is so full of idols (physical, spiritual) (idols “of the heart” Ezekiel)

Everybody has his/her own personal god. They think “this is my God” but really they often have another god.

Why? Man is not Creator, but created TO WORSHIP – so if you don’t have one, you will find one. Everybody has his own God:

  • Material
  • Money “You cannot serve both God and Money”
  • Family
  • Children
  • Popularity / reputation / YouTube fame
  • Health

Our world is FULL of idols. BE CLEAR about Who is your God in 2019. Who/what is the Driving Force in your life?

#2 They ALWAYS looked for “something new”

[Novelty seekers]

v. 19, 21

“19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “*May we know what this new teaching* is that you are presenting? … 21(All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but *talking about and listening to the latest ideas*.) “

Are you addicted to your phone?

Facebook pull-down-to-refresh = always looking for something new – like a slot machine in a casino (it’s designed that way).

Everybody wants something new. But the Bible reminds us : “There is NOTHING NEW under the sun.” ONLY “in Christ there is a new Creation; the old is gone, the new has come.”

  • What is OLD in your life?
  • What is NEW in your life?

Remember, NEW is only possible IN CHRIST. Old is gone; New has come.

  • Old: Penalty, punishment, fear, worry, anxiety, has gone. Only in Christ – hatred, bitterness, all these evil things are gone.
  • New: Only in Christ – NEW has come: new hope, new vision, new mind, new start, new day. ONLY in Christ.

1 Cor 5:17? “If anyone is in Christ, he is a New Creation. The old has gone; the new has come.”

#3 All citizens spent all their time sitting and talking (gossiping) with each other

Sounds like social media…

Our world likes an EASY life, a comfortable, convenient life. Our world does not like a dangerous, difficult, dirty, sacrificial job.

Remember, we are saved by faith in Christ PLUS nothing. Because Christ has done ALL things for our salvation.

We are SAVED TO SERVE others

The church is the body of Christ; it needs DOERS not talkers, it needs WORKERS not sitters, it needs HELPERS not on-lookers.

Christ shed his _blood_ to save us.

If this is true, we must shed our _sweat_ to serve others.

SHOW the evidence of your salvation with your hands, your feet, your sweat, your blood. If Christ has shed his blood for me, I should be READY to shed my blood for him.

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are FEW.”

v. 24-31

“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. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 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. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. **28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’** As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

29 “Therefore 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. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” “

How wonderful [how powerful] a sermon.

  • v. 18 = Jesus’ resurrection (opening)
  • v. 31 = Jesus’ resurrection (closing)

“God has set a day when he will judge the world with justice…” (The Areopagus was a court of justice, so they were very familiar with this concept) “…by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

By Paul’s sermon, God is:

  • Creator
  • Sustainer
  • Provider
  • Savior
  • Judge

We must be clear on WHO God is:

We do not believe atheism (no gods), nor pantheism (many gods), we believe monotheism (ONE God). We believe in ONE and only God – but remember, it is not enough to say “I am a monotheist. That God is my God.” This is not enough to reach salvation.

Even today,

  • Jehovah’s Witnesses also say this.
  • Mormons also say this.
  • Muslims say it;
  • Jews say it.

So, what is the BIGGEST difference between them and us?

The FUNDAMENTAL difference: We are the ones who say “JESUS is my God.”

Thomas doubted the resurrection of Christ, but when he saw the resurrected Christ, he knelt immediately and confessed, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus said, “You believe because you see; but more blessed are those who do not see and yet believe.”

One day we will stand before Christ to be judged and he will ask to each of us only TWO questions (remember them):

  1. What did you do with me on earth?
  2. What did you do with what I gave you on earth?

Your Time, Treasure, Talents: what did you do with it?

  1. answer = WHERE we will spend eternity
  2. answer = HOW we will spend eternity

May God bless all of us with his final reward and praise: “Well done, my good and faithful servant; you have been faithful with a few things in this world, now I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share in your Master’s happiness.”

v. 32-34

“32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council [Areopagus]. 34 A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others. “

At this sermon of Paul, there were THREE reactions:

  1. Sneering
  2. Delay
  3. Accepting

Today, these same three reactions are possible to our own witness about the resurrection of Christ. Do not be surprised.

At our witness of Christ, some may sneer; others will say, “later”; others will accept and believe and kneel down and confess Christ as Savior and Lord.

Please remember, even today, God is happy to save those who believe in Christ through our witness: the story of the death and resurrection of Christ; which sounds FOOLISH to those who are perishing.

God gave us a NEW opportunity in 2019.

“Let’s go to our Athens!” (x5)

God bless you; your shouting; your mouth; your feet; your hands; your life.

Let’s pray.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Listen