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The Speech Heard Round the World 

Acts 17.16–34

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • April 30, In the year of our Lord, 2017

Scripture Reader and Reading: Billy Henshall – Romans 1.18–20

Song Leader and Song Suggestions: Phil Joseph – Songs on God


  1. Acts 17.16 | The Domination of Idols Provoked Paul’s Spirit

    16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.

    1. Paul waited in Athens for Silas and Timothy to show up, but
    2. being in the city at the heart of Greek culture,
      1. provoked Paul’s spirit, because
      2. he saw how the city had given itself over to idols completely.
  2. Acts 17.17 | Reasoning with Idolaters

    17 Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there.

    1. Rather than giving up on the city of Athens,
    2. Paul realized that the city needed teaching.
      1. He reasoned with the Jews and the Gentile worshipers
        1. in their synagogues, and
        2. in the marketplace
      2. with anyone who would listen to him.
  3. Acts 17.18–21 | Do We Proclaim Strange Gods?

    18 Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? 20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.” 21 For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.

    1. When the world strays from the truth, the normal becomes strange and the strange becomes normal.
    2. Eventually he came in contact with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers.
    3. Some of them asked, “What does this babbler want to say?”
      1. They did not think very much of what he preached,
      2. referring to him as a babbler who was trying to say something.
        1. Luke used the Greek word, spermolo/goß.
        2. That is a compound of two words,
          1. sperma meaning seed, and
          2. le/gw meaning pick or arrange.
            1. They just saw Paul as a picker of seeds, or
            2. one who arranged seeds to try to make a message out of it.
    4. What made them question his teaching?
      1. Other people charged Paul with proclaiming foreign gods, because
      2. he preached Jesus and the resurrection.
    5. They brought him to the Areopagus, or Mars Hill,
      1. that they could hear more of what he was saying and
      2. that they could question him.
        1. They wanted to know of this new doctrine or teaching that he brought.
        2. They told him that he brought some strange things to their ears.
          1. Thus, they wanted to know the meaning of his teaching.
          2. Luke explained that the Athenians and travelers to Athens
            1. spent their time telling or hearing some new thing.
            2. That could have made them open
              1. to the Jesus and the resurrection, or
              2. it could simply have made them accept anything new.
    6. Then Paul used this opportunity to the maximum!
  4. Acts 17.22–31 | The Speech Heard Round the World

    22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:


    Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said,

    ‘For we are also His offspring.’

    29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

    1. 17.22–23 | The Very Religious Athenians 
      1. Paul acknowledged their religious nature.
      2. Their religious nature showed itself in the objects of their worship,
        1. including an altar they had put up,
        2. with an inscription that showed they did not want to exclude any god,


      3. Paul also acknowledged that they worshiped the Unknown God, but
        1. that they needed to know Him, because
        2. they did not worship Him according to His nature.
    2. 17.24–29 | Making Known the Unknown God 
      1. Paul explained the nature of God:
        1. He made the world and everything in it.
        2. He is Lord of Heaven and Earth.
          1. Therefore, He does not dwell in manmade temples,
            1. although He can be in them just like He can be anywhere, but
            2. His dwelling is not restricted to any single place.
          2. He supersedes what He has made, the heavens and the earth.
            1. Therefore, we cannot worship Him with our hands,
            2. as though we can supply something that He needs, for
              1. He needs nothing.
              2. He is the One who gives to all
                1. life,
                2. breath, and
                3. all things.
                  1. He is the Giver.
                  2. We are in comparison nothing but takers.
        3. Then Paul introduced an idea most people do not think about,
          1. that we are all related, for
          2. God made from one blood all the nations of the Earth.
            1. He has also predetermined
              1. the times that nations would rise, and
              2. the extent of their borders.
      2. Why has He made us from one blood and especially predetermined
        1. the beginning and ending of our nation and
        2. the extents of our boundaries?
          1. He wants us to consider that we have been created, and
          2. that even as men and women are finite,
            1. so nations do not last forever,
            2. showing our need something greater than governments.
        3. He wants us to seek Him,
          1. hoping that we will reach out for Him, and
          2. so doing we will find Him, because
            1. He is not that hard to find.
            2. We can find Him, because
              1. we live in Him,
              2. we move in Him, and
              3. we have our very existence in Him.
                1. The Athenians had poets who acknowledged this truth,
                2. confessing that we come from the Unknown God.
      3. Since we are all children of God,
        1. we should not think of His nature as comparable to
        2. gold, silver, or stone, because
          1. we are not gold, silver, or stone.
          2. We did not shape and devise ourselves, but
            1. the Unknown God has shaped and devised us
            2. to be somewhat like Him, or
              1. as Moses wrote in the beginning
              2. the Unknown God made us in His image.
    3. 17.30–31 | We Shall Appear Before Jesus 
      1. As our Creator,
        1. He can choose to ignore somethings, or
        2. He can command us to repent.
          1. He did overlook humanity’s ignorance in the past, but
          2. now He commands everyone everywhere to change
            1. from things like idolatry or
            2. from false worship of Him
              1. to understanding Him as Paul has explained, or
              2. living by His direction.
      2. The reason we must repent
        1. is that even as God has predetermined the life and death of nations,
        2. so He has set aside a day, already appointed by Him,
          1. when He will judge every person who has ever lived, and
          2. He will carry out that Judgment by a certain Man,
            1. whom Paul had been preaching to them,
            2. the one the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers heard,
              1. Jesus of Nazareth.
              2. He will judge us in righteousness,
                1. meaning that He will do the right thing, and
                2. He expects righteousness from us.
    4. We know that we rush toward that Judgment Day because
      1. God gave assurance of its coming
      2. by raising Jesus from the dead.
        1. God raised Jesus from the dead for various reasons, but
        2. one of those reasons is that Jesus will be the Judge.
  5. Acts 17.32–34 | We Want to Hear More

    32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” 33 So Paul departed from among them. 34 However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

    1. While the Athenians believed in gods, including the Unknown God,
      1. they evidently did not believe that any of those gods could raise the dead.
      2. What kind of gods did they believe in?
    2. However, the God whom Paul preached to the Athenians,
      1. created humans and gave them life.
      2. He can recreate them and give them life again!
    3. While some mocked the idea of a resurrection of the dead,
      1. others wanted to hear more,
      2. perhaps because the things that Paul proclaimed
        1. made sense to them, and
        2. they wanted to hear further explanations.
    4. Paul left the Areopagus, but
      1. some men joined him and
      2. believed what he taught.
        1. Of note was Dionysius the Areopagite, and
        2. a woman by the name of Damaris.


  1. What provokes your spirit? 
  2. Do you know God, and His Son Jesus Christ?

    “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17.3).
  3. Reason with people. 
    1. First Peter 3 says to give a reason,

      15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed (1Pe 3.15–16).
    2. Getting angry does not work.
    3. We cannot force people.
  4. We have to confront cultures that vary wildly from our own. 
    1. We want scrubbed individuals.
      1. Their lives are in order.
      2. They just have some wrong ideas about biblical teachings.
    2. Billy’s Bland’s attitude in Russia.
    3. We cannot forget why we are here.
  5. People will think that what we teach is strange or foreign. 
  6. Hold on to the resurrection of Jesus, and the hope of ours. 
  7. VII.Seek to understand the nature of God, but not as you want Him to be.