Scripture Passage: Acts 17:16-18
The opposition we, as Christians, face in this pagan world are nothing new. In Acts 17, Paul finds himself surrounded by a pagan society in Athens, Greece. Yet, the ones who opposed the Gospel in this passage are much like those who oppose the Gospel now. Paul’s response to this opposition is a picture of standing firm in a pagan world.
First, Paul met superstitious idolatry.
Acts 17:16 says, “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.” An idol is anything you love, serve, fear or trust more than God. Paul saw idolatry everywhere he turned in Athens.
Our city, even sometimes our churches, are filled with idolatry. There are gods of materialism, alcohol, sex, violence, even gods of knowledge and wisdom. We all worship something, because mankind is incurably religious.
Second, Paul faced self-righteous orthodoxy.
Verse 17 says, “Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.” These religious men had their sterile orthodoxy. They believed in one true God, but they did not know Him; they did not understand that the Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled through Jesus Christ. Adrian Rogers says, “It’ll be a great day in America when people stop enduring religion and start enjoying salvation.”
Thirdly, Paul met sophisticated philosophy.
Verse 18 says, “Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him...’” Paul encountered two types of philosophers: the Epicures and the Stoics. Epicureans sought pleasure above anything else. Stoics believed they were victims of fate, that God is in everything and everything is God. If this sounds familiar, it’s because we still encounter people who believe this way.
How did Paul deal with this opposition? He expressed confidence in his faith. He simply continued to preach, and reveal that God is a God of power, of love, of righteous, of salvation.
Paul also expected converts as a result of his faith. Some mocked, some laughed and some procrastinated. But, thank God, others believed.
As we stand firm in this pagan world, we can’t make others believe, however, we have the opportunity to preach the Gospel anyway. Are you confident in your faith? Do you expect converts when you share the Gospel?