This is one of the most telling missionary passages in all of the Book of Acts in my opinion. In it, I find counsel and encouragement.
Paul finds himself in Athens, the heart of Greek idolatry. It is a city of great learning, culture, the arts, and idol worship. As Paul finds himself there, waiting on the remainder of his party, he looks about the city and “his spirit is provoked” within him as he observes the altars to idols (17:16).
His response, of course, was not to blog about it or to start a crusade for a return to the old ways when it was less idolatrous. He simply began reasoning and teaching the Scripture. Paul shows us in this that the exposition of the Word of God illumines the mind and gives life. Now Paul began reasoning and explaining everywhere. He did not talk about it until a hotel conference room came available. He spoke in the marketplace and in the Synagogue. He talked to those who would listen. He assumed that since the people did not come with him on mission, they were the mission field! He explained the Scriptures. He explained that which is revealed through nature. He connected the story with reference points in the audience’s culture. He pointed to the Cross and the RESURRECTION!
Some accepted his teaching. Others delayed opinions. Still others thought he was mad. The responses were not the point fo the record. The fact that Paul told everyone, everywhere about the Christ is the centerpiece of the missionary enterprise. He sought to let them all know how they could understand and respond to the longing in their hearts for spiritual truth. He explained that God was the One who revealed Himself and that it was foolish to think that “little man”: could ever fabricate “big God.”
I think at times, we lose the sensitivity required to tell the truth. SUre, we live in a culture that says we must be sensitive to the people around us…to diversity. Paul was as well…but his spirit was provoked because of the ignorance of the people and the offense toward God. He knew that their actions were offensive to God. They worshipped idols.
I wonder if we even recognize the idols in our culture. Do we see family as an idol when it becomes one? Do we recognize power as an idol when it takes center stage in our hearts? Do we know that diversity and political correctness is idolatrous when it becomes more important than equality and truth? Do we call the love of money what it is…the root of all kinds of evil?
Furthermore…are we provoked in our spirits? Does the honor of God compel us to act when we see that which offends and profanes His Name? Do we act appropriately when that happens? Do we reason or do we yell our talking points?
May God grant us courage to declare that the ignorance of yesterday is no longer good enough. That God has seen fit to call all men to account and that He provided Justification and Salvation for all who would trust in His proof through the Resurrection.
Proverbs 14:15 is the takeaway today. “The naive believes everything, but the sensible man considers his steps.”