GodSpeak for the Week of April 7
We go back to our Lenten Sunday series, by considering how we as members of Bethel are being called to BeTheLABORATORY…that is, the places where people who may not be sure about the truth of Jesus Christ can reason, question and experiment with His presence and grace.
Day 1…Read Acts 17:16-17
- Consider this – Athens was THE place to be back in the first century A.D. It was THE crossroads of: culture, trade…and, world religions. Everything that COULD be worshipped WAS worshipped (and, tolerated) in Athens.
- Consider this – in v. 16, we learn that Paul was “distressed” to see the city full of (false) idols.
- More specifically, the word “distressed” in Greek means that Paul was irritated and angry at what he saw!
- Answer this – so Paul “reasoned” (specifically, he argued and discussed) in the Athenian Jewish synagogue with Jewish believers and “God-fearing Greeks” (that is, those folks who’d not become Jewish, per se, but who believed in the One, true God).
- Why would Paul have needed to “reason” with folks who already believed in God???
Day 2…Read Acts 17:18
- Consider this – Paul is confronted and engaged in debate by representatives of two schools of Greek thought: Epicureans and Stoics.
- Epicureans – basically did NOT believe in “divine intervention” (i.e., gods or God). Their goal for life was to be happy, which could be attained by things, like: living simply, learning as much as possible and not giving in to vices.
- Stoics – were heavily influenced by logic and living in the moment. For a Stoic, dealing with life – as it presents itself in that moment AND being okay with that – was the ideal goal in life. Being virtuous in any given moment was also an important tenet for Stoics.
- Answer this – given the worldview Epicureans and Stoics came from, why did they react to Paul the way they did?
Day 3…Read Acts 17:19
- Consider this – Paul is invited by the Epicureans and Stoics to go to the “Areopagus” to tell others about this teaching he is offering.
- The word “Areopagus” is a mash-up of two Greek words, which together mean “Ares Rock” (Ares was the Greek god of war). In Roman culture, Ares was called “Mars”; thus, you may have heard this place referred to as “Mars Hill.”
- The Areopagus was the place – and was the council – which ruled on all sorts of issues in Athens, including: trials for murder, blasphemy against Greek beliefs…it was even thought to have been the spot (legend/myth) where Ares was put on trial for killing Poseidon’s son.
- Answer this – given all of that, how do you think Paul felt about going to give a presentation to that group?
- What must have gone through his mind, as he prepared to speak in that famed place and to the smartest of the known-world’s scholars?
Day 4…Read Acts 17:19-21
- Consider this – the members of the Areopagus put their question to Paul, noting that he is bringing “some strange ideas” to their ears.
- Consider this – in v. 21, Luke offers a decidedly snarky parenthetical comment ?
- Answer this – why does Luke offer this editorial comment in v. 21? What is he trying to help us to understand, that we might have missed without his words?
Day 5…Read Acts 17:22-23
- Consider this – in this passage, Paul launches into his monologue; and, he begins by commenting on one, particular altar he’s seen around town…an altar with the inscription: “To an Unknown god”
- Answer this – what is Paul doing by starting his presentation in this way?
- What does Paul’s tactic of beginning this way have a chance of doing?
Day 6…Read Acts 17:24-31
- Consider this – these verses are the remainder of Paul’s monologue.
- Pay particular note to what Paul does with the Greeks’ own culture at the end of v. 28 (i.e., very similar to how he begins his presentation!)
- Answer this – how was Paul able to cover so much truth in such a compact amount of time and words?
- Of everything Paul says here, what is most striking to you?
Bonus Devotion – Day 7…Read Acts 17:32-34
- Consider this – upon conclusion of Paul’s presentation, Luke notes that “some” of them scoffed and “some” wanted to hear more about the topic.
- That is, there was NOT a mass conversion to faith in Jesus, here (although, a “number” were moved to faith)!
- Answer this – why can we trust this story? (Hint – if it were merely a human-manufactured story…and, not truly of God…how would it have ended?)
- Answer this – how can this episode be seen as a victory for the early Christian Church?