Acts 17:16-34

From Philippi, Paul and companions, Silas and Timothy came to Thessalonica where he (Paul) was well received by both the Jews and the Greeks. But some of the unbelieving Jews in Thessalonica persecuted the apostles. So, Paul and Silas had to leave for Beroea that night. But the Jews from Thessalonia pursued them further to Beroea to persecute them there. Paul therefore, left Beroea for Athens to await Silas and Timothy. While Paul was waiting at Athens, he took a walk around the city. He saw that the city was full of many religious buildings and images representing the various Greek gods.

It was just like our traditional religious society where there are many temples, shrines and images of African gods.

There was also a synagogue where the Jews worshipped God. Paul went to the synagogue and preached to the Jews. He also spoke to the Athenian crowd in the market place. While some of the people argued as to:

“What will this babbler say?”

Others said:

“He seems to be a preacher of foreign deities.

The Greeks were highly educated people. There were philosophers and scientists among them. For example, there were the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. They liked to argue so that they might learn more. As a result, they were always ready to listen to a new doctrine. Many of them talked to Paul and later brought him to one of their hills called the Aeropagus. This was the meeting place of the Supreme Council and the Supreme Court of the Athenians. The Athenians asked Paul:

“May we know what this teaching is which you present?”

Paul stood up on the Aeropagus and talked to the Athenians. He said that the Athenians were very religious people because he found many religious buildings and images of Greek gods all over the town. He said he also came across an altar with the words:

“To an unknown god.”

Paul talked to them about this ‘unknown God’ whom they worshipped but did not know. He said it was the same God who made the world and everything in it. He does not live in shrines. He is the Lord of heaven and earth. We are all His children for we all live, move and have our being in Him. Even some of their great poets have confirmed this when they said:

‘For we are indeed his offspring’.

But Paul said God could not be represented in the image of gold or silver or stone.

Paul explained to them that God was the judge of all men and He had appointed a time when He would judge the world through Jesus Christ. He therefore emphasized that all men must change from their bad behaviour and become good people before that day of judgement. Paul confirmed that the judgement would surely come because God had given proof of it by raising Jesus Christ from the dead.

When Paul spoke about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, some of his hearers laughed at him. They wondered how anyone could come back from the dead. But there were some who believed. Among these were Dionysius and Damaris.


Significance of Paul’s visit to Athens

Paul did not condemn the Athenians for worshipping other gods. He used their idea of God as ‘the creator and sustainer of life’ to preach to them about Jesus Christ. This is an example of ‘religious tolerance’. It is a positive approach to conversion that all missionaries and evangelists should emulate.

Paul in Corinth: (Acts 18:1-22) When Paul arrived at Corinth, he lodged at the house of a Jewish couple, Aquila and Priscilla, who had been sacked together with other Jews from Rome by Emperor Claudius. Paul stayed with them and they all worked together as tent makers. Paul argued in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.

When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with preaching, and explaining to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. And when they opposed him, he shook his garments and told them that he would henceforth turn to the Greeks. Paul left the Jews and stayed in the house of Titus Justus, a Greek, and a worshipper of God whose house was next to the synagogue.

The ruler of the synagogue was Crispus. He accepted the Lord Jesus together with his entire household together with some of the Corinthians. Paul baptized all of them. And Paul received encouraging words from the Lord in a vision one night:

“Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man shall attack you to harm you; for I have many people in this city. ”

As a result of this vision, Paul stayed in Corinth for one and a half years teaching the gospel message among them.

But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul, and brought him before the tribunal. They claimed that Paul was persuading people to worship God contrary to the Jewish Law. Gallio said if it was a case of crime or any wrongdoing he would have looked into the case. But since it was a matter concerning their religion, he refused to look into it. This was because the Romans had given the Jewish community religious freedom to worship God in their own way. He then drove them from the tribunal. And the Jews seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue and beat him in front of the tribunal, but Gallio ignored them.

After this incident, Paul stayed in Corinth for many more days before taking leave of the members. After that he sailed to Syria together with Aquila and Pricilla. At Cenchrea, Paul cut his hair for he had a vow. He then came to Ephesus and argued with the Jews in their synagogue. They asked him to stay for a longer time, but he declined and left Ephesus.

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