“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, ESV)

12/11/2023 – Evening Service: Paul’s preaching at Athens

Bible Readings:

Acts 2:14-42

Acts 17:15-34

Sermon Outline:

  1. Some background: Peter preaching at Jerusalem (Acts 2:14-42):
    (a) Biblical theism assumed;
    (b) appeal to Scripture as accepted authority;
    (c) preaching Christ, His death and resurrection.
  2. Paul preaching at Athens (Acts 17:15-34):
    (a) understanding the pagan religious mind:
    (i) Epicurean philosophers;
    (ii) Stoic philosophers;
    (iii) an altar to “the unknown god”;
    (b) overturning pagan ideas;
    (c) presenting the true and living God of Scripture;
    (d) preaching Christ, His death and resurrection.
  3. Application:
    (a) spreading the Gospel today;
    (b) challenging unbelief; not accommodating it

Two rival schools of philosophy (referred to in Acts 17:18). Each attempting in its own futile way to deal with hardship and the uncertainty of life:

Epicurean philosophers

  • followers of Epicurus (born 341 BC)
  • deistic polytheists (the Greek gods exist but don’t interfere)
  • believed that at certain levels blind chance (occasionally random movement of atoms) operated in the universe
  • rejected divine providence
  • hedonism (following your instinct) defines what is morally good
  • the highest good is pleasure (with some moderation to avoid pain of unfulfilled desires)
  • rejected the idea of judgment in the afterlife (a common Epicurean epitaph: “I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care”)

Stoic philosophers

  • followers of Zeno (born 334 BC) who taught in the Stoa (a portico in Athens), hence they were called Stoics
  • pantheists / fatalistic
  • no beginning or end to the universe
  • strict and self-sufficient – promoted self-control so as to be free of passions (one deals with fatalism by resigning oneself to fate)
  • human society a universal brotherhood (but not because of creation of Adam)

A conversation between a believer and an unbeliever (condensation of a true dialogue – Thom Notaro, Van Til and the Use of Evidence, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1980, pp.89-90)

Non-Christian My car window is broken!

Christian: Things like that happen in a sinful world.

Non-Christian: You mean God is punishing me by breaking my windows?

Christian: The truth is, all sorts of things go wrong because man refuses to live God’s way.

Non-Christian: Well, the way I look at it, my car window is proof that God does not exist: a good God would not permit my window to be broken.

Christian: I agree with you on one point: the god you are talking about does not exist. There is no god who protects all car windows unconditionally. But I’m not defending that concept of God. I’m talking about someone else – a God who allows windows to be broken for a reason, One who is good in all His ways, who
opposes evil and yet forgives men who turn from their sin to follow Christ. You haven’t even considered this kind of God. If you had, it would mean that your view of “good”, too, would have changed, as well as your outlook on what God has to say about the consequences of sin.