Paul on Mars' Hill (Part 1) - Understanding the Thinking of Unconverted Men

A copy of the outline can be downloaded at the bottom of this page. To Listen on YouTube, click here: Paul on Mars' Hill (Part 1) Paul on Mars’ Hill (Acts 17:16-34) I. This study should accomplish 4 primary things: 1. Show that many times God’s people are no different from the heathen. 2. Observe and relate to the nature and thinking of unconverted men. 3. Demonstrate how to successfully preach the gospel to heathen, unchurched men. 4. Demonstrate how preaching the gospel will sort out men and reveal what manner of spirit they are. II. God’s people are often times no different than the heathen (v. 16-17). 1. Prior to Paul arriving in Athens, he had spent time preaching the gospel in Thessalonica and then in Berea, both of which the Jews stirred up the people and ran him out (Act 17:1-15). 2. When Paul got to Athens, he found the city wholly given to idolatry (Act 17:16). 3. Wholly - 1. As a whole, in its entirety, in full, throughout, all of it; †formerly also (in ref. to a pl. or collect. n.), all of them, all together, in a body. A. This caused his spirit to be stirred in him (v. 16). i. Stirred - 1. Moved, agitated, excited, etc. ii. Excited - 1. a. Stirred by strong emotion, disturbed, agitated. iii. Disturbed - 1. Disquieted; agitated; having the settled state, order, or position interfered with. iv. Agitated - 1. Moved, set in motion. B. Seeing people (especially God’s people) practicing idolatry and not keeping God’s law should cause us to be stirred and grieved (Psa 119:53, 136, 158; Eze 9:4). i. Horror - 1. a. Roughness, ruggedness. 2. a. A shuddering or shivering; now esp. (Med.) as a symptom of disease. 3. a. A painful emotion compounded of loathing and fear; a shuddering with terror and repugnance; strong aversion mingled with dread; the feeling excited by something shocking or frightful. Also in weaker sense, intense dislike or repugnance. (The prevalent use at all times.) ii. Grieved - 1. Harassed, troubled, oppressed. 4. Therefore Paul disputed with three classes of people: A. He first disputed with GOD’S PEOPLE, the Jews in the synagogue (v. 17). i. This shows that God’s people in the synagogue were given to idolatry right along with the heathen. ii. Paul didn’t first go into the bars and brothels; he went to the house of God. iii. Judgment must begin at the house of God (1Pe 4:17). iv. It is a shameful thing when God’s people act as bad or worse than the heathen (2Ch 36:14; 2Ch 33:9; Eze 22:26; 1Co 3:1-3; 1Co 5:1-2). v. God’s call to His people was and still is “come out from among them” (2Co 6:17; Rev 18:4). B. The second group he disputed with was the devout persons (v. 17). i. Devout - 1. Devoted to divine worship or service; solemn and reverential in religious exercises; pious, religious. ii. These were religious folks, but not of God’s religion. iii. Even in the OT, God sometimes called the heathen to repent (Jon 1:1-2). C. The third group was folks in the market (v. 17). i. These were just your common everyday folks. ii. The time had come that God “commanded all men everywhere to repent” (Act 17:30). iii. Most times it is these types of folks that receive and obey the gospel (Mar 12:37) as opposed to the religious folks (Luk 7:29-30; Mat 21:31-32). III. Understanding and relating to the nature and thinking of unconverted men (v. 18-21). 1. After disputing with the Jews, pagans, and common folks, Paul has two groups of philosophers encounter him (v. 18). 2. Encounter - 1. To meet as an adversary; to confront in battle, assail. A. The first group were the Epicureans. i. Epicurean - 1. A disciple of Epicurus; one who holds views similar to his. 2. One who makes pleasure the chief object of his life. ii. "For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia, peace and freedom from fear, and "aponia", the absence of pain, and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. He taught that pleasure and pain are the measures of what is good and bad, that death is the end of the body and the soul and should therefore not be feared, that the gods do not reward or punish humans, that the universe is infinite and eternal, and that events in the world are ultimately based on the motions and interactions of atoms moving in empty space." (Wikipedia) iii. Most Americans are Epicureans with an “eat, drink, and be merry” philosophy (Luk 12:19; 1Co 15:32). iv. Epicureanism is a fruit of the perilous times of the last days (2Ti 3:1-4; Jud 1:17-19). v. Sensual - 1. a. Of or pertaining to the senses or physical sensation; sensory. B. The second group were the Stoicks. i. Stoic - 1. (With capital initial.) One of a school of Greek philosophers (founded by Zeno, fl. c 300 b.c.), characterized by the austerity of its ethical doctrines for some of which the name has become proverbial (see 2). 2. One who practises repression of emotion, indifference to pleasure or pain, and patient endurance. ii. Austerity - 1. Harshness to the taste, astringent sourness. 2. a. Harshness to the feelings; stern, rigorous, or severe treatment or demeanour; judicial severity. 3. a. Severe self-discipline or self-restraint; moral strictness, rigorous abstinence, asceticism. iii. Asceticism - 1. The principles or practice of the Ascetics; rigorous self-discipline, severe abstinence, austerity. iv. Stoicks and Epicureans basically hold to philosophies that are polar opposites. v. Stoicks are what the Bible refers to as will-worshipers (Col 2:20-23) and Pharisees, who “bind heavy burdens” on men (Mat 23:4). vi. Like Epicureanism, Stoicism is likewise a fruit of the devil-led latter times (1Ti 4:1-3). 3. Notice how the Epicureans and Stoicks who held to mutually exclusive philosophies, put their differences aside and banded together to confront Paul in spiritual battle (v. 18). A. Jesus Christ sometimes becomes the tie that binds their hearts in heathen hatred (Luk 23:12). B. Some simply resorted to character assassination, calling Paul a “babbler” (v. 18). i. Babbler - 1. A foolish or idle talker, chatterer, prater. ii. Chatterer - 1. One who chatters; an idle and petty talker, prater, babbler, tattler, prattler. iii. Prater - One who prates; an obnoxious or idle talker, one who speaks much to little purpose, a mere talker, a chatterer. iv. They were in essence accusing Paul of being a fool (Pro 10:8; Ecc 10:11-14). v. The gospel is foolishness to worldly wise men (1Co 1:18-23). vi. The irony is that they themselves were the babblers who “spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing” (Act 17:21), and therefore were guilty of the very thing they accused Paul of. vii. These philosophers were under the judgment of God for the same thing that they accused Paul of (Mat 12:36). viii. This would have been an appropriate time for Paul to share with them the exhortation that he gave to the Romans (Rom 2:1). C. Others at least charged Paul with something of substance, saying he was a setter forth of strange gods (v. 18). i. Strange - 1. a. Of persons, language, customs, etc.: Of or belonging to another country; foreign, alien. ii. This charge was a bit “strange” in that they themselves had made an alter “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD”, which of course would be a foreign god (Act 17:23). iii. These were obviously not the most logical thinkers! (Jam 1:8) 4. Although, seeming to be opposed to him, they brought him to Areopagus to find out what this new doctrine was (v. 19-20). A. Areopagus - 1. A hill at Athens where the highest judicial court of the city held its sittings; hence used for the court itself, and transf. of any important tribunal. B. These men were apparently very serious about finding out what this new doctrine was that Paul taught since they took him to the highest court in Athens, which was the capital city of Greece! C. They were curious, but not all of them for noble reasons (Act 17:21 c/w Act 28:22). D. The message that Paul had shared with them up to this point had likely pricked those of them in the heart who were regenerate, which became apparent later in the chapter by their belief of the gospel. E. Just because someone seems interested doesn’t necessarily mean they are regenerate or that they are sincere (Act 8:9-13, 18-24; Act 24:24-26; Act 20:29-31; Jud 1:4). 5. Thinking back to our own conversions… A. How many of us were Epicureans or Stoicks, so to speak, before we heard and believed the truth? i. How many of us were making pleasure the chief object of our lives until a “Paul” came around? ii. How many of us were in some false Pharisaical system that made us deny liberties we had in Christ and hold to extra-Biblical standards of food, drink, clothing, language, and enjoyment? B. How many of us thought that the “Paul” that we met was a setter forth of a strange God when he preached the God and the Jesus of the Bible to us? C. How many of us argued against the doctrine and even spoke evil of the person that shared it with us? D. But then how many of us eventually said "May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?"
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