Mars Hill

David Bast

Read: Acts 17:16-34

What . . . you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. (v. 23)

Are you ever bothered by the idolatry of our culture—the consumerism, the obsession with technology, the celebrity worship, the addiction to entertainment and pleasure? When Paul was walking around Athens, “his spirit was provoked” by all the idols. Paul did not look at the city as a tourist, admiring the Parthenon and the other temples, nor did he visit it as an art critic, deriving pleasure from the sculptures and paintings. He viewed it as a Christian, appalled at the ignorance that “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25).

But although Paul was very upset by the idolatry, he was very gentle in his approach to the idolaters. He begins by probing the Athenians’ vulnerable spot, namely the fear, evident in the altar to the Unknown God, that despite all their religion and philosophy these people still are ignorant of the truth. They worship countless gods, but the Athenians aren’t sure that the true God is among them. Sensing their spiritual insecurity, he speaks to that and establishes a point of contact between his beliefs and theirs, even quoting from their own culture’s books.

This is all good, but Paul is an evangelist, so he takes it further by preaching “Jesus and the resurrection” (Acts 17:18, 30-31). At this point there is a division. Some mock, some want to hear more, and some believe (vv. 32-34). That’s how it is with the gospel. —David Bast

Prayer: Lord, help me build my life on Jesus and the resurrection.