In my last post I mentioned Paul’s message to the Greek philosophers ant Mars Hill. In this article I want to take a closer look at Paul’s approach to reaching these pagan Greeks.
He used their altar to the “unknown god” as a starting point. Some want to change his statement “too superstitious” to “too religious.” While both would be accurate translations of the Greek word δεισιδαιμονεστηρος, the context better fits the first. In a good sense it means reverencing god or the gods, pious, religious and in a bad sense it means superstitious.
A superstition is a belief or practice resulting from ignorance and Paul starts by talking to them about their ignorant worshiping of the unknown god.
Today, like in Paul’s day, people will worship anything except the true God. The eastern religions and the religions of the American Indians are very popular today. Probably the most popular religion in our society is the worship of self. Where these religions are dominant the people tend to be poor. It is not an accident that the return to the Bible (the Reformation), the Renaissance and the industrial revolution all started at the same time. They were all based on a turning from the superstitions of the dark ages to the precepts taught in Scripture.
Paul starts his message by presenting God as the Creator of all things. The Greeks of Paul’s day taught a form of evolution and this needed to be countered as it does today. As long as people are taught the thoroughly unscientific “theory of evolution” our message must start with identifying God as our Creator. This establishes His right to be our Lord.
The next issue Paul deals with is God’s lordship. As Lord He possesses supreme power and authority in Heaven and earth. This also is an issue in our society. In some societies, such as in the Philippines, are taught to respect and submit to authority. In America, however, we have no king (lord) and are taught to do our own thing. A common attitude is “no one is going to tell me what to do.” One who doesn’t understand God’s lordship is not ready for salvation.
Then Paul speaks of how ridiculous it is to think we can contain the omnipotent God. We cannot contain Him in our hands and He needs nothing from us.
On the other hand, we need everything from Him. He made us all the same (of one blood). This one thought will put an end to racism. He even determines our time of living and where we live.
This “unknown god” is knowable. He is not far from any of us and if we will seek Him He can be found.
After telling us to seek God, Paul reminds us that without Him we do not live, cannot even move, and would not exist (be). We are His offspring in the sense that He made us. If He made us, how silly is it to think the Godhead is like something made by man from gold, silver, or some other material?
The things Paul has covered this far have to do with our standing before God. They make it evident that we come far short of God and that we have sinned by not putting God in His proper place. We have followed our own precepts instead of His commandments. This shows that we all stand guilty before a holy God.
Now Paul gets to the solution of the problem. The first thing he mentions is repentance. Jesus told us that repentance was to be preached to the whole world. Repentance means to turn from one thing to another. It usually has to do with a change of mind from one opinion to another. Paul summed up his whole ministry in Acts 20:20-21:
“And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”
It tells us that we are to repent toward God, but what do we turn from. Most would say we are to turn from our sins. This would be a noble thing if it were possible, but how dose one turn from sins that he does not recognize as sin?
After searching every reverence in any form to repentance in the Bible, in English, Hebrew, and Greek, I found only one thing that the lost are to turn from. It is found in Hebrews 6:1. Here we find a list of the fundamental principles of the doctrine of Christ. You will not that we are to repent (turn from) dead works and turn to faith toward God. This fits perfectly with Acts 20:21 “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
In other words, we are to turn from our dead work, our efforts to earn God’s favor through good works, and turn to God for mercy. When we do this He points us toward His Son. When we, by faith, trust Him for our salvation instead of our own efforts, He saves us from our sin.
Paul points out that the day of judgment is coming. God will judge the world in righteousness . Since all of our righteousnesses are but filthy rags in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6), we are all in danger of the second death, which is the Lake of Fire.
It is only at this point that Paul starts to talk about Christ. He is the One that God raised from the dead. He is the One that will judge. His resurrection is the all the proof necessary to assure all men of the truth of this.
You will notice that nothing has been said about the love of God. Nothing has been said about believing on Jesus. Nothing has been said about giving your heart or your life to Jesus. All that has been said thus far is that which condemns every man as a sinner, guilty before God.
The response was mostly mockery. There were a few that believed and stayed with Paul as he left Mars Hill. Paul undoubtedly preached the Gospel to them after they left. The question I leave for modern day soul-winners is to whom did Paul give the Gospel? The answer is simple, he gave it to those who believed what he had preached concerning the true God and the condition of man and had enough concern for their souls to turn from their own way and seek God’s answer to the sin problem.
One other thought before I leave this issue. In whom must we trust? It is not simply Jesus, it is the Lord Jesus Christ. This will be the subject of another article.
Copyright 2017 Pierre Coovert, All rights reserved