“Paul Preaches at the Areopagus”
Acts picks up right where the book of Luke ends and shows believers how the Gospel spread following the ascension of Christ. In Acts 1:8, Jesus tells his disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Throughout Acts we see this path unfold, starting in Jerusalem but expanding (frequently because of persecution) to the far reaches of the Roman world.
In Acts 17, we find Paul in Athens preaching in the local synagogue and marketplace. Now, Paul has been in pagan towns and cities before. (He was even worshiped as a god in Acts 14!) So when, as verse 16 tells us, Paul was disturbed by the ubiquity of idols in the city, that should tell us something. In the context of this rampant idolatry, some local philosophers notice his preaching and offer him a chance to present his ideas to them when they gather again! Paul meets them on their turf, a place called the Areopagus or “Mars Hill,” and presents an incredible argument for the supremacy of Christ above all the so-called “gods” of the world. Paul’s boldness is certainly exemplary, but I’m struck by the ease with which Paul speaks, the confidence he displays not in himself but in the truth of the good news he heralds.
This Sunday, we’ll be in Acts 17:16–34. (It’d be helpful if you read it in advance.) My prayer is that by studying this text we’ll walk away with the same assurance Paul demonstrates here. The people around us might not worship gods of wood or stone, but idolatry is no less rampant. How is Christ different? How is he better? That was the challenging question Paul faced in Athens, and it’s crucial that we have an answer today.