Sunday: A Hebrew in Athens

Daily Lesson for Sunday 3rd of December 2023

Read Acts 17:1-16. How did Paul wind up in Athens, and how did he respond to what he found there?


The city of Athens was “given over to idols” (Acts 17:16, NKJV). Knowing the history of his own people and their proclivity (despite the endless warnings) to idolatry, Paul was upset at all the idols he found in Athens, as well. No question, Paul was motivated by compassion for the Athenians, who would die in their sins if they did not learn of the true God.

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Today, our cities are still full of idols, even though they are less obvious than what Paul saw. And unfortunately, many believers are fully capable of walking through a city without reacting in the least to its idols. Paul, though, was tuned in to the Holy Spirit enough to respond. Out of step with some other believers, who still didn’t grasp that the gospel was for all the world, Paul knew that God wanted the Athenians to be saved along with everyone else. He understood that the global mission concept was to take the gospel to those who were entirely unreached, including idol-worshiping pagans, as well as the philosophers who filled the streets of Athens.

Paul, therefore, frequented the marketplace where these people were to be found. We might say that he formed the first Global Mission Study Center, where he used the marketplace to study and test methods of reaching the hearts and minds of these pagans.

Paul knew that he could not approach the Athenians in the same way that he approached Jews or even God-fearing Gentiles. These were people whose starting point was not the God of Israel or His works among the nation of Israel. No matter how central these concepts and beliefs were to the Jews and even to the God-fearing Gentiles, they meant nothing to the people Paul encountered in the Athenian marketplace. Hence, an entirely new approach would be needed.

Today, we often seek to reach people whose background has nothing in common with what has been called “the Judeo-Christian” heritage. Hence, like Paul, we need to adapt. An approach that might work fine, for example, in Buenos Aires could be useless in Bangkok.

What kind of idols are people worshiping in your society, and how can you open their eyes to how worthless it all is?


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