Sceptics and the City (Acts 17:16-34)

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Acts 17:16-34 is, without argument, one of the most relevant passages in all of Scripture for the church in our day—at least with reference to the church in the so-called Westernised world. As John Stott1 wrote nearly forty years ago, this passage answers the kind of questions being faced by modern (and now postmodern) church; questions such as, “What should be the reaction of a Christian who visits or lives in a city which is dominated by a non-Christian ideology or religion, a city which may be aesthetically magnificent and culturally sophisticated, but morally decadent and spiritually deceived or dead?”2 In our particular context, how should we react and respond to an increasing domination of non-Christian ideology in Johannesburg?

This passage helps us to answer such important questions. As we will see, “in this story are represented all the elements which constitute the so-called ‘religions’ of the modern world, and it suggests how these systems are to be approached and how they can be met by followers of Christ.”3

These so-called religions can be categorised in three ways: the synagogue, the superstitious (or spiritual), and the sceptical. The latter is increasingly characterising our own culture. It is permissible to be “spiritual,” but it is really hip to be sceptical. Just ask anyone at university.

This is what the church faces in the city as we seek to shine the light of the gospel. And this is not always an easy task. The city presents unique challenges to the church.

The world is becoming increasingly urbanised, and that goes for Africa as well. Listen to an excerpt from an online article:

In 1960, the “Year of Africa,” when most African states became independent, there was only one city in sub-Saharan Africa with a population of more than 1 million inhabitants (Johannesburg, South Africa). Now, in 2010, it is estimated that at least 33 African cities have a population of over 1 million inhabitants.

This development will have dramatic consequences particularly because according to data from UN-Habitat, a UN agency based in Nairobi, Kenya which deals with urban settlements, currently two thirds of Africa’s population lives in urban slum settlements or at least in “informal” conditions, without running water, sewerage, transport systems and adequate sanitation. UN-Habitat predicts that by 2030 the African population will mainly live in urban settings rather than in the countryside. Therefore, there must be a serious prospect of living offered to young people in slums, who are uprooted from traditional African culture and likely to fall into the temptation of crime or even terrorism.4

As serious as these problems are, there is a more serious one: sceptics and the city. It would seem that, as cities grow, so does opposition to the gospel. Often, this takes the shape of scepticism. And Africa is no exception.

Back in 1991 I was attending a pastors’ conference at a particular venue. At the same time, a group of young black men appeared to be having a conference of their own. During dinner one night I struck up a conversation with one of them, a very articulate young man, who informed me that this particular group comprised the young leaders of the South African Communist Party (SACP). I shared the gospel with him, and while he was very polite, he was obviously sceptical. In his opinion, many of the problems faced by South Africans were the result of Christianity. I later handed out some New Testaments to these delegates, and while none of them was vociferously antagonistic, it was clear that they were very sceptical of Christianity.

I sometimes wonder where these young men are today. (Perhaps today they are the “old” leaders of the SACP!) I don’t know how much gospel impact my encounter with these young men had, but I remember being distinctly saddened that they would view Christianity in such a negative light.

As Christians, how do we respond to such scepticism? This passage helps us.

As we will see, the pagan philosophies and the Christless religionists of Athens in Paul’s day have not changed much over the centuries. The names have changed, but the content of what they believe is pretty much the same. The result is that today, as then, the urban and suburban church always faces sceptics and the city.

May the Lord help us tonight to be further equipped to speak of the Saviour in such a context.

Paul’s Pain

Verse 16 has much to teach us and to motivate us concerning meaningful evangelism. “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.”

We need to remember that, for Paul, evangelism was not merely a task to be performed. Rather, it flowed from his estimation of the treasure that he esteemed Christ and His gospel to be. This verse introduces us again to what moved Paul in his “missional” ministry.

What Paul Was Doing

Basically, and initially, Paul was waiting for his coworkers, probably with a view to return to Macedonia, from where he had been driven by persecution. You will remember that he had been specifically called there (16:10; 17:15), and so it would not surprise us to find him waiting in Athens with a desire to return to Macedonia. While he was waiting, he was praying for the brethren that he had been forced to leave behind in Thessalonica (see 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3; 2:17-20; 3:9-10).

As he waited in this well-known, historic city, he did what most tourists do: He walked around the city. We know this from what he says in v. 23: “As I was passing through.”

What Paul Saw

As he walked around, he paid close attention to his surroundings. And what he saw was a very spiritual city. No doubt, he was impressed by the fine Athenian architecture, but he could not have failed but to notice the tens of thousands of statues, most of which were idols.

It has been estimated that Athens housed some 300,000 public statues associated with idolatry. One ancient observer mocked that, in Athens, it was easier to find a god than a man!5 Xenophon referred to Athens as “one great altar, one great sacrifice.”6

Many of these statues were covered in gold, for no expense was spared to make much of one’s god. The statue at the Parthenon’s golden spear could be seen sixty kilometres away. There were statues to Apollo7, Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, Neptune, Diana, and a whole lot more.

Paul also saw at least one synagogue, and, as his custom was, immediately took opportunity to preach there (v. 17). He also encountered superstition, and would soon engage the sceptics.

In short, Paul saw a city awash in idolatry—“swamped” or “submerged” in it. This did not sit well with him.

What do you see when you look at the city in which you live? What do we as members of BBC see as we look at Johannesburg, Alberton and Brackenhurst? I would suggest that, if we are paying attention, we will see the same thing. And we need to see this. We need to be troubled by it. We need to be intent on doing something about it.

What Paul Felt

Ezekiel, ministering to the Babylonian exiles, said, “I sat where they sat” (Ezekiel 3:15). That experience would ultimately affect how he felt about his nation. Jeremiah said earlier, “My eye brings suffering to my soul” (Lamentations 3:51). Such was the case with Paul in Athens. As Longnecker notes, “Paul, with his Jewish abhorrence of idolatry, could not but find the culture of Athens spiritually repulsive.”8 I would simply add that it was Paul’s love for the triune God that was the cause of his disturbance.

Verse 16 says that Paul’s “spirit was provoked within him.” The word translated “provoked” is a strong one. From it, we derive the English word “paroxysm.”9 The Greek term “originally had medical associations and was used of a seizure or epileptic fit. . . . The verb is in the imperfect tense, which expresses not a sudden loss of temper but rather a continuous, settled reaction to what Paul saw.”10

It carries the idea of being “greatly disturbed” and can even mean “to be irritated.” But we should not read this as Paul being rashly and disrespectfully irritable and angry. Rather, we should see it as Paul being moved to righteous jealousy for the glory of God. In fact, the word is used in the Septuagint in this very fashion. It is used of God who is a “jealous” God (Exodus 34:14). It is used in several other instances in the Septuagint to refer to divine provocation:

Isaiah 65:2-3—I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, according to their own thoughts; a people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face; who sacrifice in gardens, and burn incense on altars of brick.

  • Deuteronomy 9:7—Remember! Do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day that you departed from the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD.
  • Deuteronomy 9:18—And I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and forty nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all your sin which you committed in doing wickedly in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger.
  • Deuteronomy 9:22—Also at Taberah and Massah and Kibroth Hattaavah you provoked the LORD to wrath.
  • Psalm 106:28-29—They joined themselves also to Baal of Peor, and ate sacrifices made to the dead. Thus they provoked Him to anger with their deeds, and the plague broke out among them.
  • Hosea 8:5—Your calf is rejected, O Samaria! My anger is aroused against them—how long until they attain to innocence?

God cannot be angry in a sinful manner, and therefore when we read of Paul being “provoked” to anger we should not automatically assume that his anger was sinful. When it comes to one intruding into the sphere of God’s glory, no one has a right to be there. It is right to be angry when we see this happen. In much the same way that a husband has every right to be jealous with regard to his relationship with his wife, so God has the right (as do we) to be jealous over His glory.

Paul was zealous for the glory of God and therefore, as he toured this once great city, he was moved to grief over the nauseating reality that idols were being glorified in the city rather than the God of glory.

This is always the motivating emotion of a faithful missionary. Henry Martyn, missionary to India and Persia (Iran), who died aged 31, once said, “I could not endure existence if Jesus was not glorified; it would be hell to me, if he were to be always . . . dishonoured.”11

What moves you when you see the city? Is your jealousy selfishly motivated, or is it God-centred. Are you moved for God’s glory or your own? Do you desire God’s honour or your own safety and comfort?

We must remember that God has planted us where He has for the purpose of bringing His glory to bear in our community. God has planted BBC in Johannesburg so that she might work to see God glorified in Johannesburg. In South African circles, Johannesburg may be considered a “great” city, but in gospel terms it is very much a pagan city. As worshippers of the one, true God, we should see the idolatry around us and be moved to gospel ministry for the glory of God.

Paul’s Passion

Paul’s passion is clearly set forth in vv. 17-21:

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. 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. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.” 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.

(Acts 17:17-21)

We can also speak of this as Paul’s plan, for once his emotions were moved for the hallowing of God’s name, he always had a plan to do something about it. What he planned to do was to speak truth into the mess. His passion informed his plan. And, to be honest, his plan was a given. He did not need to strategise; he simply looked (and made!) an opportunity to proclaim the glorious gospel. His passion drove his plan, and his passion was to proclaim the gospel. As Stott says, “The stirrings of his spirit with righteous indignation opened his mouth in testimony.”12

What He Did

Let’s consider what Paul did. We can see from this text that he acted in different settings.

The Synagogue

The first word in v. 17 is important. Depending on your translation it will be either “so” (ESV, NASB, HCSB, NIV) or “therefore” (NKJV, KJV). It is a word that implies action. Paul saw that things were not as they ought to have been. He felt deeply that they should not remain this way and “so” (“therefore”) he acted to do something about it. He sought to speak truth into the falsehood. He sought to point the Athenians to the true God.

Paul’s first stop was the synagogue. “To the Jew first” was always be his motto. After seeing the idolatry of the city close up, he made a beeline for what should have been a haven for true religion. The synagogue ought to have been a place void of empty religion, but I suspect that what he found was just as empty: Jewish orthodoxy without Christ.

The reason I say that is because there is no record of anyone being converted at the synagogue. This stands in contrast to the records of ministry at Philippi,13 Thessalonica and Berea. I wonder if the sceptical idolatry of Athens had actually affected the synagogue. In fact, it should be lamented that idolatry enveloped the city despite the presence of a synagogue. Perhaps the God-defying religion of the pagans had watered down on the Jews’ confidence in their own Scriptures. It is a shame that a people called to be the light to the nations were in spiritual darkness themselves. For whatever reason, it would appear that the synagogue in the city was no better off spiritually than the superstitious pagans. Probably, the Jews were as sceptical as the average pagan—even when it came to hearing from their own Scriptures!

I can certainly testify to parallels here in South Africa. There are “churches” where biblical exposition is met with deep scepticism. The surrounding culture has so infiltrated those churches that they do not respond to God’s Word in faith and obedience. It is my prayer that BBC will be a church to be reckoned with against the powers of darkness (cf. Ephesians 6:10-20).

Apparently having little (if any) success in the synagogue, Paul then hit the streets and engaged the average Athenian. He began in the “agora,where he spoke to people where they were and as they were. This is a lovely scene, and instructive for us. If we will reach people then we should be encouraged that they are all around us. We simply need to make contact with them.

Seventeen centuries ago, when asked about the relationship between Greek philosophy and Christianity, Tertullian retorted, “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?” In my opinion, at least as far as Paul’s example, the two actually have everything to do with each other! Jerusalem was the geographic centre of the historical setting of the gospel events. If Athens would be saved, it would need this message from Jerusalem. Nothing has changed since then. If Johannesburg will be saved, then it needs the message that originated—in space-time history—in Jerusalem.

There are many parallels between Athens and most of South Africa’s big cities—particularly, I suppose, Johannesburg and Cape Town. Consider this description of Athens: “Athens had long since left behind her great days of action but she was still the greatest university town in the world, to which men seeking learning came from all over the world. She was a city of many gods.”14 Clearly, the same can be said of our “great cities”: they are filled with the superstitious and, increasingly, the sceptical.

Synagogues, the superstitious and the sceptics all lived side by side, and apparently rather harmoniously. It was the presence of the Saviour that upset the proverbial apple cart. He always does.

The Sceptics

At some point, Paul happened upon two opposing groups of philosophers—the Epicureans and the Stoics—who would unite to oppose him.

The Epicureans were the rationalists of the day. They were deistic in that they believed that God was distant and disinterested in His creation. They sought to escape all pain as they pursued pleasure. This was not necessarily hedonistic pleasure but rather the tranquillity and peace of a quiet life, free from all troubles. Erdman sums it well:

The “Epicureans” were practically materialists and atheists. They taught that the real aim of existence is pleasure; that pleasure is the only good, and pain is the only evil; that virtue is to be sought only because it yields the most enjoyment; that man should free himself from all belief in the gods or in the immortality of the soul; that the universe was not created but resulted from a chance “concourse of atoms.”15

Does this sound familiar?

The Stoics were founded by the philosopher Zeno (360-260 BC), “taught in the Stoa (Porch) and so his teaching was called Stoicism.”16 Like the Epicureans, they did not believe in a personal God but rather that God existed in everything They were much like some branches of Hinduism. They faced life as realists, in that they did not expect things to change but instead dug in and apathetically awaited the hand that fate would deal them.

The Stoics, unlike the Epicureans, did not seek to escape pain. On the contrary, they were intent on disciplining themselves to nobly endure pain. They were like the hyper-Calvinist who fell down the stairs and exclaimed, “Thank goodness that’s over!” As a matter of oversimplification, Stott says that “it was characteristic of Epicureans to emphasize chance, escape and the enjoyment of pleasure, and of the Stoics to emphasise fatalism, submission and the endurance of pain.”17

I would add further, based not only on their philosophy itself but also on their response to Paul, that they were sceptical. The authority for their belief systems was man and their own autonomous ideas. This is why they responded to Paul as they did. Sceptics are repulsed by those who claim an authority outside of themselves.

Paul encountered them (purposefully, I am quite sure!) and “preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.” They were unimpressed. In fact, they were so confused that they probably thought that Paul was preaching about two gods: Jesus and Anastasis!18

Seed-Picker

Over the years, I have been called may uncomplimentary names, but never a “babbler,” as Paul was in v. 18. This word literally means “seed-picker.” It was used in reference to birds that scavenged for food. It came to be used as a term of derision for someone who was unoriginal, of one who had to rely on scraps of knowledge from others rather than originating profound insight from his own mind. “It is a contemptuous tone of supreme ridicule and doubtless Paul heard this comment.”19 Since Paul never had an original theology, he was clearly a seed-picker. So am I, and so are you if the Bible is the final authority for what you believe and do.

One of the dangers we face when reasoning with sceptics is the temptation to try and sound clever. I speak from experience. We can be tempted to cite all sorts of apologetic works to try and win an argument. It would seem that Paul quoted “primary sources,” namely truth. Without citing chapter-and-verse, he quoted Scripture to them, and trusted God’s Word to do the work of salvation.

What He Experienced

I gather that not all of these sceptics were antagonistic, and perhaps several of them were somewhat interested in Paul’s theology. Some were intrigued by the “strange things” of which he spoke. To them, he was preaching a “new doctrine,” and so they wanted “to know what these things mean.”

Others were merely interested in metaphysical, philosophical discussion for its own sake. Barclay captures the kind of “listeners” that encountered Paul: “They did not want action; they did not even particularly want conclusions. All they wanted was mental acrobatics and the stimulus of a mental hike.”20 Robertson adds that the word “new” speaks of “‘something newer’ or ‘fresher’ than the new, the very latest. . . . The new soon became stale with these itching and frivolous Athenians.”21 In other words, they were not serious hearers—at least most of them. We often face the same situation today.

What is certain is that Paul’s preaching was new to them, because they accused him of setting forth “foreign gods.” Therefore, they “brought him to the Areopagus,” the place known in King James language as “Mars Hill.”

This was the place where the city council met. The place eventually became associated with the council itself. It was there that judicial rulings were made for civil affairs. One of these judicial responsibilities related to the approval or rejection of any new gods, religions or philosophers that were being introduced to Athens. In fact, it was the charge of introducing an unauthorised god to Athens that led to Socrates dying by consuming hemlock.22

Paul’s Proclamation

Paul was never shy to take an opportunity to preach Christ and this was no exception.

Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; “for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 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. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 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, 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; 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.’ 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. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 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.”

(Acts 17:22-31)

As he stood before what perhaps was the most sceptical crowd to which he would ever preach, we should be somewhat astounded by Paul’s wisdom and courage. “As for Paul in Athens, it required an uncommon degree of courage to speak as he spoke, for it would be hard to imagine a less receptive or more scornful audience.”23

In Socrates’ day, this council consisted of five hundred members, who voted 280 to 220 for his death. I wonder how many Paul was speaking to, and I wonder if he was concerned about a possible vote at the end of his discourse.

Let Me Introduce You

At this point Paul wisely began with a common cultural point of reference (vv. 22-23). He did not open a scroll of Scripture, like he did when he preached in a synagogue; nevertheless, what he said was thoroughly biblical. He very tactfully noted his observation as a tourist that the city was very “religious” or “superstitious” (KJV). In fact, he even noticed one particular idol dedicated “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.”

The story is told that, a long time before Paul, Athens was struck by a particular plague. When sacrifices to every god in the city resulted in no relief, the Athenians let several cows loose in the countryside. Whenever a cow lay down, they killed it, sacrificed it, and erected an altar at that spot to an unknown god, thinking that perhaps the plague had been sent by a god of which they were unaware.

Paul spotted on such altar, and used it as a springboard for his gospel message. It is as if he was saying, “You and I have a common reference point. We are both religious. Let me tell you about the God that I worship and serve.” And though He may have seemed to be “foreign” to the Athenians, Paul’s goal was to change that. In fact, as he would soon explain, He was not a foreign God at all. He made them and they should know Him! “Paul was eager to grasp the opportunity to write on that anonymous altar the name of the God he knew. This was the burden of his message.”24

In the Beginning

Paul began with creation (vv. 24-28). Because the Athenians were unfamiliar with the true God, it was important for Paul to establish God’s universal authority by virtue of the fact that He is Creator.

This strategy is important particularly for the day in which we live—a day in which people are largely biblically illiterate and are therefore unaware of God’s authority by virtue of creation. It is also important for missionaries who are seeking to reach the completely unengaged.

Verses 24-25 are a direct assault on the deistic, sceptical belief system of the Athenians: “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. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.” The God of the Bible is not disinterested in His creation. God is sovereignty independent, which implies our dependence on Him.

Then, in vv. 26-28, Paul issues a powerful statement referencing the common origin, and highlights God’s involvement in this world—His providence.

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, 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; 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.”

(Acts 17:26-28)

Note how Paul quotes culturally familiar pagans. The poet whom Paul references was the Cretan poet Epimendes. This was not a cheap pop-cultural ploy to get a hearing. Instead, Paul was building a bridge. He understood the importance of double-listening.

The apostles emphasises that man is lost and thus blind to the unknown God—not because He is unknowable, but rather because man is sinful. The word translated “grope” in v. 27 is “a verb which denotes the groping and fumbling of a blind man.”25 As Stott notes, “It would be absurd, however, to blame God for this alienation, or to regard him as distant, unknowable, uninterested. For ‘he is not far from each one of us.’ It is we who are far from him.”25

In the End

In this closing part of Paul’s sermon he emphasises that being made in the image of God (“we are His offspring”) we must come to terms with the reality that we are dealing with a personal God—one who makes the rules; one to whom we will give an account; one before whom we must repent.

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. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 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.

(Acts 17:29-31)

We know that Paul went from Athens to Corinth. Later, he wrote to the Corinthians, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2). Some interpreters reason from this that Paul did not actually preach the gospel in Athens, but instead tried to use philosophy to convinced the Athenians. When he came to Corinth, then, he felt convicted by his failure and so determined to return to the gospel.

I do not see that in our present text. In fact, if the gospel is the Scriptural message of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), then Paul quite clearly preached the gospel in Athens, “because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection” (v. 18). He confronted the sceptics with the truth of final judgement. He proclaimed eschatology: the last things; the final judgement in world history.

This is the message that the city needs. Soup kitchens, prolife ministries, adoption opportunities and all kinds of ministries of mercy are needed in the city. But, ultimately, each person in the city will stand before God one day—and what they will need then is Christ. They need Him now. And so, with all our concern for the city, let us preach Christ crucified, risen, reigning and, yes, returning one day. Are you ready for that day?

Paul’s Departure

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

Paul’s desire was repentance before it was too late. We know that some did believe (v. 34), but, unfortunately, we don’t read of a church being planted here—at least in Paul’s time. (There are churches there today that preach the gospel.)

It seems, sadly, that many who heard Paul learned by experience that “the most dangerous of all days is when a man discovers how easy it is to talk about tomorrow.”20

My friend, today is the day of salvation!

What can we learn from this episode? In addition to what we have seen, let us be reminded that the gospel is the remedy for the city. It is needed by the synagogue, by the spiritual and by the sceptic. The gospel is the only message that makes sense of life—rural or urban. Let us take the gospel seriously, and we will see that others take us seriously as well. In the wise words of Stott, “Many people are rejecting our gospel today not because they perceive it to be false, but because they perceive it to be trivial. People are looking for an integrated world-view which makes sense of all their experiences.”28

“He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:6). Let us sow the seed and trust God to give us sheaves to bring back with us.

Show 28 footnotes

  1. I am heavily indebted to Stott for this particular message. His commentary on this passage is, in my opinion, pretty much the definitive one.
  2. John R. W. Stott, The Message of Acts: The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1990), 276.
  3. Charles Erdman, The Acts: An Exposition (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1966), 138.
  4. Agenzia Fides, “Africa—50 years since the ‘Year of Africa,’ the continent is increasingly urbanized,” http://goo.gl/5BPlx, retrieved 9 June 2013.
  5. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6 vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1930), 3:278.
  6. Stott, The Message of Acts, 277.
  7. Apollo is credited with the quoted, “Our blood goes into the ground, and there is no resurrection.” Paul would preach a very different message at the Areopagus.
  8. Richard N. Longnecker, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 12 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1981), 9:473.
  9. “Paroxysm” can be defined as “a sudden attack or violent expression of a particular emotion or activity.” It is also used of a sudden recurrence or attack of a disease; a sudden worsening of symptoms. Synonyms would include “fit,” “attack” or even “seizure.”
  10. Stott, The Message of Acts, 278.
  11. Stott, The Message of Acts, 279-80.
  12. Stott, The Message of Acts, 280.
  13. Actually, there was no formal synagogue at Philippi, but Paul did find a group of women who were God-fearers. This was effectively a form of synagogue.
  14. William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles: The Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1955), 141.
  15. Erdman, The Acts, 139.
  16. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 3:280.
  17. Stott, The Message of Acts, 281.
  18. The Greek word translated “resurrection” is anastasis. This was also the name of a Greek god.
  19. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 3:281.
  20. Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles, 144.
  21. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 3:284.
  22. Everett F. Harrison, Interpreting Acts: The Expanding Church (Grand Rapids: Academie Books, 1986), 283.
  23. Stott, The Message of Acts, 284.
  24. Harrison, Interpreting Acts, 285.
  25. Stott, The Message of Acts, 286.
  26. Stott, The Message of Acts, 286.
  27. Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles, 144.
  28. Stott, The Message of Acts, 290.