Paul at Mars Hill: Acts 17:16-21
“16) Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. 17) So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. 18) And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, “What would this idle babbler wish to say?” Others, “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19) And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? 20) For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.” 21) (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)” Acts‬ ‭17‬:‭16‬-‭21‬
This text starts looking at Paul in Athen. This was the seat of Greek Philosophy. He eventually gave an address on Mars Hill which was the site of the famed Areopagus.
This is where philosophers, free thinkers and religious theorists gathered to debate and explore new thoughts and world views. It was perceived to be the pinnacle gathering of the intelligent, enlightened and worldly wise scholars.
The thing I appreciate about Paul was that he did not back away from any opportunity to share the gospel. He did not view the simple message of the gospel as inferior to any philosophy, psychology, or world view. Nor did he change his message or dress it up with eloquent terms. 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 tells how strait forward he was in his message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
As we back up one chapter to 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Paul elaborates at length about his view of the wise men, scribes and debaters of the age. Verse 20-21 are especially especially pregnant with meaning. He viewed worldly wisdom as foolishness compared to the gospel. Why? Because the power of God accompanied the message of the gospel. (Compare Romans 1:16; I Corinthians 1:18; and 1 Corinthians 2:4-5)
Paul saw no reason to back down with proclaiming the simple message of the gospel. He did not make it obscure with “smart talk” or “flowery speech.” He proclaimed the same simple a clear message to the philosophers on Mars Hill as he did the common people on the streets.
There is no need to shy down about sharing the gospel. It is as relevant and powerful on Capital Hill today as it was on Mars Hill in Paul’s day. It is as needed in our universities today as it was on the Areopagus in Athens.
If you are ashamed of the gospel, spend time studying Romans 1:16-32 and 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5. The cultural and eternal consequence of not knowing the true God through the simple gospel are huge. Sin and moral decay become volcanic in the absence of truth and the gospel. The simple gospel message is God’s only plan to save lost humanity. (See Acts 4:12) There is no other way to God!
That’s why Paul’s spirit was provoked within him as he saw Athens filled with idols but totally ignorant of the gospel. Darkness reigns where the gospel truth is censored or suppressed. Jesus is the only hope for lost humanity.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global