ACTS 17 - PAUL'S EVANGELISTIC MINISTRY

Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., Pastor, Grace Bible Church of Costa Mesa, California

Copyright 1995-2014 Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., All Rights Reserved


Paul and his team are preaching throughout Macedonia. Evangelism becomes a dominant part of their ministry as they probe into new areas.

The Divine Method

A. Preaching and teaching - Acts 17:1-4

Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ." And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a great multitude of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. (Acts 17:1-4)

1. Paul went to the synagogue first - Acts 17:2 and Romans 1:16

And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, (Acts 17:2)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

2. The resurrection was proclaimed - Acts 17:3

explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ." (Acts 17:3)

3. All classes of people were reached - Acts 17:4

And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a great multitude of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. (Acts 17:4)

B. Result of a teaching ministry - Acts 17:4-9 and Hebrews 4:12. Some were glad, some were sad, and some were mad.

And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a great multitude of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and coming upon the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. And when they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, "These men who have upset the world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus." and they stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. And when they had received a pledge from Jason and the others, they released them. (Acts 17:4-9)

C. Preaching and teaching in Berea - Acts 17:10-15

And the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea; and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there likewise, agitating and stirring up the crowds. And then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea; and Silas and Timothy remained there. Now those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed. (Acts 17:10-15)

The Divine Motive - Acts 17:16

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was beholding the city full of idols. (Acts 17:16)

A. Compassion of Christ - 2 Corinthians 5:14

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; (2 Corinthians 5:14)

B. Constraining of the Holy Spirit

The Divine Message

Athens was the magnificent capitol of the ancient Greek Empire. It was the cultural and intellectual center of the world. Plato and Socrates had lived here. It was a center for philosophy. A hill known as the Acropolis was crowned by the temple known as the Parthenon. This temple was dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena (the Roman goddess Minerva), the goddess of wisdom, war, and the liberal arts. The people also worshipped idols and other heathen deities.

A. Paul disputed in the synagogue and market place - Acts 17:17

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. (Acts 17:17)

B. Paul encounters the philosophers

1. The Epicureans believed that pleasure was the highest goal in life.

2. The Stoics believed that emotions should not be expressed and that the intellect should rule supreme.

3. The gospel did not make either group happy because the gospel takes the emphasis from self to Christ.

4. The philosopher's opinion of Paul - Acts 17:18

And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. And 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. (Acts 17:18)

5. Paul goes to the Areopagus. This was another hill where the ruling council of Athens sat for their deliberations.

6. The philosophers lived to hear or see something new - Acts 17:20-21

"For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; we want to know therefore what these things mean." (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.) (Acts 17:20-21)

C. Paul's Sermon: His outline

1. The religion of the Athenians - Acts 17:22-23

And Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. "For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. (Acts 17:22-23)

2. The Reality of the true God

a. He made the world - Acts 17:24

"The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; (Acts 17:24)

b. He rules heaven and earth - Acts 17:24

c. He does not live in temples - Acts 17:24. They believed their gods dwelt on Mount Olympus, in the Parthenon, and at the temple at Demeter.

d. We cannot worship him with human works - Acts 17:25

neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things; (Acts 17:25)

e. He sustains all things - Acts 17:25

f. He has made all men of one blood - Acts 17:26

and He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation, (Acts 17:26)

g. He has determined the bounds of our habitation - Acts 17:26

h. God wants us to feel him and find him - Acts 17:27

that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; (Acts 17:27)

i. God is not far away - Acts 17:27

j. We are dependent upon God - Acts 17:28

for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His offspring.' (Acts 17:28)

k. We came from God - Acts 17:29

"Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. (Acts 17:29)

l. God is not like an idol of wood or stone - Acts 17:29

m. He commands everyone to repent

3. The reason for decision - Acts 17:31

because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." (Acts 17:31)

D. The result of Paul's preaching

1. Some mocked - Acts 17:32

Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, "We shall hear you again concerning this." (Acts 17:32)

2. Some said they will listen again - Acts 17:32

3. Some believed - Acts 17:33-34. Dionysius was a member of the supreme council which met on Mars hill.

So Paul went out of their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. (Acts 17:33-34)

NOTE: In Acts 17:28, Paul quotes the Greek poet Aratus who lived 300 years previous. Aratus was from Cilicia, Paul's own province.

"Zeus fills all the city streets, All the nations crowded marts; fills the watery deeps, And heavens: every labour needs the help of Zeus. His offspring are we."

There are two other places in Scripture where Paul quotes the poets. Menander, the comic poet, is quoted in 1 Corinthians 15:33. He, in turn, had taken this expression from Euripides. Epimenides of Phaestus (600 B.C.) is quoted in Titus 1:12. The quotation is taken from his treatise concerning "Oracles."

Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals." (1 Corinthians 15:33)

One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." (Titus 1:12)

This reveals the educational background of Paul and the way he used this knowledge to challenge these people for Christ. Knowledge became a tool to gain their respect and confidence.

Study Questions

1. What aspect of Calvary was constantly emphasized in the preaching of the first century? - Acts 17:3, Acts 3:14-15, Acts 4:2, Acts 4:33, and Acts 13:37

explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ." (Acts 17:3)

"But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. (Acts 3:14-15)

being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. (Acts 4:2)

And with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:33)

but He whom God raised did not undergo decay. (Acts 13:37)

2. Did the apostles reach any of the influential people? - Acts 17:4, Acts 17:12, Acts 13:6-7, and Acts 18:8

And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a great multitude of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. (Acts 17:4)

Many of them therefore believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. (Acts 17:12)

And when they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they found a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. (Acts 13:6-7)

And Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized. (Acts 18:8)

3. Should we attempt to reach influential people as well as other groups?

4. Did they have hoodlums in the first century? - Acts 17:5. Note: Socrates in the fifth century before Christ wrote: "Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, disrespect for older people. Children nowadays are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers.

But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and coming upon the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. (Acts 17:5)

5. What was the attitude of the people in Berea toward the Word of God? - Acts 17:11

Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so. (Acts 17:11)

6. Why were the people of Athens interested in hearing Paul? - Acts 17:19-21

And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? "For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; we want to know therefore what these things mean." (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.) (Acts 17:19-21)

7. Are all human beings basically the same? - Acts 17:26 and 1 Corinthians 15:39

and He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation, (Acts 17:26)

All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. (1 Corinthians 15:39)

8. Did most of the people in Athens respond well to the teaching of the resurrection? - Acts 17:32

Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, "We shall hear you again concerning this." (Acts 17:32)


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