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Acts 17:13-34 - Corps Notes - November 11, 1976

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Publication Date: 11-11-1976

 Victor Paul Wierwille was a Bible scholar and teacher for over four decades.

By means of Dr. Wierwille's dynamic teaching of the accuracy and integrity of God's Word, foundational class and advanced class graduates of Power for Abundant Living have learned that the one great requirement for every student of the Bible is to rightly divide the Word of Truth. Thus, his presentation of the Word of God was designed for students who desire the in-depth-accuracy of God’s Word.

In his many years of research, Dr. Wierwille studied with such men as Karl Barth, E. Stanley Jones, Glenn Clark, Bishop K.C. Pillai, and George M. Lamsa. His formal training included Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Theology degrees from Mission House (Lakeland) College and Seminary. He studied at the University of Chicago and at Princeton Theological Seminary from which he received a Master of Theology degree in Practical Theology. Later he completed his work for the Doctor of Theology degree.

Dr. Wierwille taught the first class on Power for Abundant Living in 1953.

Books by Dr. Wierwille include: Are the Dead Alive Now? published in 1971; Receiving the Holy Spirit Today published in 1972; five volumes of Studies in Abundant Living— The Bible Tells Me So (1971), The New, Dynamic Church (1971), The Word's Way (1971), God's Magnified Word (1977), Order My Steps in Thy Word (1985); Jesus Christ Is Not God (1975); Jesus Christ Our Passover (1980); and Jesus Christ Our Promised Seed (1982).

Dr. Wierwille researched God's Word, taught, wrote, and traveled worldwide, holding forth the accuracy of God's "wonderful, matchless" Word.

Acts 17:13-34
November 11, 1976
Tonight we are in Acts 17. In my mind this is perhaps the greatest presentation in the Book of
Acts by a man of God. And that perhaps is my reason that I feel so totally unqualified to handle
it. I stand in utter amazement at the greatness of the revelation and the usage of that revelation
by Paul and yet it’s there in the Book of Acts where we‘re working the Word to see about rise
and the expansion of the Christian Church.
A church was in need of a pastor and solicited applications. One of the deacons, interested in
knowing just what kind of a minister they desired, wrote a letter as if he had received it from an
applicant and then read it before the pulpit committee. And this is the letter:
“Understanding that your pulpit is vacant I should like to apply for the position. I have many
qualifications I think you would appreciate. My religious and theological training was received
from the best theologians. Academically I’ve made my mark. I preach with power and have had
some success as a writer. Some say that I’m a good organizer. I’ve been a leader in most places
where I’ve gone. I’m nearly 50 years of age, but I’ve never preached in one place more than
three years. In some places I have been driven out of town after my work caused riots and
disturbances. I have to admit that I’ve been in jail three or four times but not because of any
real wrong doing. The churches I have preached in have for the most part been small, though
located in several large cities. I have not gotten along too well with the religious leaders in
town where I’ve preached. In fact, some have threatened me and even attacked me physically. I
am not too good at keeping records. I’ve even been known to forget whom I baptized.
However, if you can use me I shall do my best for you even if I have to work to help with my
support.”
After reading the letter, the deacon asked the committee if they were interested in the applicant.
They replied emphatically that he would never do for their church. They were not interested in
any contentious, trouble making, absent-minded, ex-jail bird. In fact they felt insulted that his
application had been presented. The committee then asked the name of the applicant
whereupon the deacon answered, “the Apostle Paul”.
It’s the record of that great man in Acts 17 that sits here like a diamond and just touches the
very chords and fibers of the innermost part of a man’s soul.
Acts 17:13
“had knowledge” - got to know
When the information got to them (that Paul was at Berea), they came after him. Paul, if you
will recall, had left by night and none of the believers told anybody. They kept their lousy
mouths shut. Today so many times Christians yak all the time, open their stupid mouths. But
boy, “loose lips sink ships” - a Navy term. Loose lips get Christian believers killed when the
times are tough. The time to learn to keep your mouth shut is when you don’t have to. That’s
right. Most of the Corps kids still talk too much. If you can’t say something positive and good,
say nothing about an individual. And a lot of the things that happen in life that come to you for
your experience, you put inside of your lock box and you shut up.
These disciples and apostles had said nothing where Paul had gone. But you and I know that
when Paul left Thessalonica he went to Berea. Now finally, word dribbles back through the
grapevine, which it always does, that this man Paul was at Berea.
“stirred up”- shaking like an earthquake
Boy, how the Adversary can get people so adamant. It’s sometimes unbelievable to me. Here
Paul is teaching his heart out in Berea, blessing people. The unbelievers, the circumcision gang
comes over there and in a matter of a day or two or three or a week, they got that whole
community shaking like an earthquake. That’s the word “stirred up.”
The texts also have the word “troubled” following it - “Stirred up and troubled.” They did not
only shake them up like an earthquake, but they troubled them. The word "troubled” that’s used
here is “to disturb like a fantastic tornado.”
Acts 17:14
I believe, from the context and other things that come up, that they came after Paul because of
the word “security” of verse 9. He had posted bail. They came over to get Paul to bring him
back to Thessalonica. But instead of Paul staying there, they take Paul and move him out, yet
Timothy and Silas stay there. In plain language he skipped bail. They should have had that in
the argument. That’s exactly what Paul did. They had posted bail. Now they come after him
and they want to take him back to Thessalonica. Paul just skips the coop. Isn’t that wonderful?
I like him! Boy, I think that’s fantastic. You know, he put his $100.00 down and said, “Take
the damn stuff. I’m leaving”; let them keep the bail. Boy, it’s there if you can see it, but you’ve
got to really have spiritual eyes to see that. I’ll show it to you:
“as it were to the sea” – they sort of took him out and said, “Well, we’re taking him to the
ocean.” When they “dogged” Timothy and Silas and said, “Where’s that Paul?”, Silas said,
“Well, he just went to the sea” – that’s the Aegean. You know, like you go to the Riviera or the
Mediterranean.
“abode”- is basically the word “endured”. They stayed there to take the brunt of the persecution
and the slack or junk that everybody was throwing at the ministry. But they wouldn’t let them
touch Paul. They got Paul to go away and Silas and Timothy stayed there to endure the
persecution; to endure the junk that these legalistic circumcision boys were endeavoring to lay
upon them. That’s verse 14.
Acts 17:15
“they”- some of the brethren, the believers. Their names are not mentioned, but I guarantee you
their names are written in the book of life. They may never mention your name or mine in the
history books of the world. Nobody, generally, may know anything about us, but God never
loses track. He keeps the record. These names are all written in that book of life and all it says
is “they”; born again believers who believed in the integrity and accuracy of God’s Word, who
dared to risk their lives for Paul and for the Word.
“conducted” – means they made the plans; they got the food together, etc. But they did not tell
Paul. They got it all done and they conducted him. They didn’t have to tell Paul. All they had to
do was get it ready because the Word of God, the revelation, was “move out, man, and do it
real secretively; real quietly.” Timothy and Silas did not know, because the last part of the
verse says that he gave them a commandment that they should go and tell Timothy and Silas to
come to him. As long as Timothy and Silas did not know where Paul was, they could endure
the persecution. They could get the stripes laid on them, get beaten, or anything else and they
couldn’t tell because they did not know. So the brethren made the plans.
They acted like they were just going to the sea; taking a little holiday; going to have a party.
No, no, no. They were going to Athens. Now to go to Athens from Berea is about 250 Roman
miles. It takes about 12 days. If they went by sea, it would take about 3 days. Whether they
went by land or sea, I don’t know. They that made all the arrangements took Paul all the way to
Athens.
“they… receiving a commandment” – these people, who had brought Paul to Athens. To those,
Paul gave the commandment; the statement. Namely, that they should return to Berea and tell
Silas and Timothy to come to him in their “jet”--all speed—“sandal in the fan blade, hammer to
the floor.”
“departed” - with that commandment those from Berea departed. I do not know whether he
went by land or sea. I can tell you what I believe he did. I believe he went by sea. He returned
these men, by revelation, back to Berea as quickly as possible so they would not be missed too
long, so that word would get from Paul to Timothy and Silas saying, “Look, I’m going on to
Athens.” I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, but it’s interesting.
“unto” - same word translated “as it were” in verse 14 – means “as far as”
Acts 17:16
“his spirit was stirred in him” - not only the spirit of God within him, to will and to do of his
good pleasure, but Paul became spiritually distraught. He was teed-off; hot under the collar
spiritually. He was angry at the devil for what he saw with his senses eyes in this city of
Athens.
“Athens” - in this day was considered to be one of the most beautiful cities of the world. It was
a city that was located 5 miles inland from the Aegean Sea. It was northeast of the Saronic Gulf
which is an arm of the Aegean Sea. It was surrounded by 4 famous mountains. And even more
important than the famous mountains, were the 4 famous hills of the city of Athens. They were
called Lycabettus and Acropolis. On the Acropolis they had the Pantheon, which housed so
many of the great gods of the time. The 3rd hill was called, Areopagus, or Mars’ hill. It was on
Mars’ Hill where the great council of the Athenians was held forth. This great council of the
Athenians was conducted at night time only, so that the judges sitting could not see the accused
or the accuser to be influenced by their facial expressions; by their weeping or crying; or
whatever else they might do. Before they were brought before the counsel, they would set the
accused on this side and the accuser over here and they would kill an animal between them
indicating that if either one was caught in lying or not telling the truth, they would be killed.
In addition to that, they made them stand and swear that by the truth of the god next door “I
promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me god.” That’s
where it came from; from Mars’ hill; the great Athenian council. And we use it in the court of
law in the United States today. But it was the pagan god that stood for God, because they made
them lay their hands upon the slain animal when they made that declaration. The 4th hill was
called Pnyx. These are the 4 great hills within the city of Athens and Athens is surrounded by 4
great mountains.
“wholly given to idolatry” – Vertonius (sp?), in his writings, says of Athens, “it was easier to
find a god there than a man.” He said it rather satirically. Xenophon, in his writing, called
Athens, “the city of one great altar.”
“wholly given to idolatry” - literally means full of idols – the Greek word is kateidōlos - plumb
full, pressed down, running over, idols
You see, you and I can sit back and read this and it’s like water off a duck’s back because we
can’t identify with it. It’s very difficult for any of us to identify with anything unless we have
really been there. You know, you talk about praying for the sick. It’s much easier to identify
with the sick if you’ve ever been sick, I guess.
Into this city, the greatest city of its time in all the world perhaps, walked this man with the
greatest revelation of God the world has ever had. And there was really nobody there to listen.
He just walked in and started witnessing, that’s all. Boy, this takes a lot of guts; a lot of
courage. It takes somebody that’s sold out. There would have been a million places to go, a lot
easier than Athens, I guarantee you; a lot of other more wonderful places to go where he could
have hidden out; not said anything, and the Jews, the circumcision gang, would never have
found him. He could have gone undercover but you’ll never move the Word of God going
under cover. You move the Word of God staying out of the covers on top; kicking the covers
off of you and holding forth the greatness of that Word.
Paul was that kind of a committed man. That’s why he had the revelation. He dared to believe
God and God knew he’d believe. And here he comes into that city. There is no city in the world
today any more loaded with idols than that city. There is no city in the world today any more
difficult than Athens was the day Paul arrived. There is no city in the world with more churches
on the corner than Athens had. They had them on every corner and along every street. And yet
this man went into that city, and that city was just full of idols.
These idols were idols that were made of gold. You know they dressed them in gold, they
arrayed them in gold, they put fineries on them, and they put fresh flowers daily at the foot of
the idol. They really took good care of them. That’s all included in that word “fully, or wholly,
given to idolatry.”
Acts 17:17
“therefore”- why for? - because his spirit was stirred within him. He saw what was happening
in that great city. God was at work within him to will and to do of His good pleasure. He saw
this and he said, “Oh my God I just can’t help myself. I got to teach; I got to share; I got to
witness; I got to talk.” That’s why he disputed.
“disputed” - is not argue -it means “reasoning”, but I think the Greek word gives me the
greatest clue. It is the word dialegomai, which is transliterated into our English word
“dialogue.”
You know why he dialogued? Paul started speaking in the synagogue and the moment he
started speaking, somebody stood up and said “Paul where’d you get that from?” And then Paul
would reciprocate. They had a dialogue going. And this he did in the synagogue. I want to tell
you, that synagogue must have been dead, because it had had no effect upon the environment of
the Athenians. It had not influenced the amount of gods they had in that city. Most likely they
succumbed to the whole society, and the move of the time, and they just drifted with the culture
like we’re doing today in our country today. Churches just go along with it. It’s the easy way
out; just to go along with it. But Paul went into that synagogue and he dialogued them. He
shook them up. He reasoned with them.
“devout persons” - spiritually religious people
“market” - market place. It is called the Ancient Forum. If you ever make a trip to Athens and
stand here at this place where I’ve stood, that market place today is still called the Ancient
Forum. It is there that Socrates taught; same place where Paul taught. All the great philosophers
of Greece; all the great teachers taught at that place. It’s an electrifying place to be, but of
course not as electrifying as Cana of Galilee, Nazareth, and a few other places. It’s an
electrifying place because all the great brains of all time spoke at that place; the market place,
called the Ancient Forum.
“met with him” - I was going to do something on this but it’s not that important. There’s a fine
shade of in-depth meaning here that I can’t recall right now, but the thing is this went on daily.
If you are thinking, you have a question. “Where are Timothy and Silas?” He gave a
commandment for them to come. They aren’t coming. Where are they? In Acts 18:1 it says
Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. In Acts 18:5 it says Silas and Timothy were
come from Macedonia. Where did Silas and Timothy finally meet Paul again? In Corinth; they
never did get to Athens. Why did they not get to Athens? Why did Paul keep teaching in the
synagogue? He was waiting for Timothy and Silas. They never got there. Why? Because of
what they were enduring at Berea. Had they been free to come, I know Timothy would have
been there if he’d had to walk on his hands and knees, barefooted backwards, because when
Paul said to Timothy, “I want you to come”, Timothy would have dropped everything and
came. Why, then, didn’t he come? There had to be something that made it impossible. The
impossible thing that happened to him was the enduring of persecution and I believe perhaps
imprisonment, which is not written in the Word. But imprisonment that made it impossible for
him to come. Later on he must have been released because they joined them after Athens, back
in Corinth. That’s what I think it teaches.
How long Paul taught daily in the Forum or in the synagogue, I do not know. But apparently he
spoke long enough that people at least began to hear and began to question. And they really
thought he was of f his rocker. They really thought he was “flippy.” They were amazed that a
person like him would say what he said. I am sure of this because of what comes up.
Acts 17:18
“philosophers” – the word “philosophy” in German is the word “weltwissenschaft” and it
means “world wisdom.” The highest earned degree cannot be earned in any other place than
world wisdom; a doctor of philosophy degree. PhD - piled higher and deeper. These were the
intellects of the day.
“Epicureans” – A man by the name of Epicurus was the founder of what we know
philosophically as the Epicureans. The Epicurean philosophy was “Eat, drink and be merry, for
tomorrow you may die.” That was their whole philosophy; live it up. Epicurus lived from
approximately 342 BC to 279 BC. The place where the Epicureans were educated in Athens
was called “the School of the Gardens” because they did all their teaching and their
presentations in a garden area.
“Stoicks” – the Stoics philosophers were the students and disciples of the philosopher named
Zeno. The word “stoa” is the word “porch.” The Stoics were fatalists. Boy, to have those two
philosophical groups in that day must have really been interesting. One group said “Eat, drink
and be merry; live it up,” and the other group said, “You can’t do anything about life anyways.
What’s coming is coming. You can’t help it. If you’re going to get killed by an automobile,
you’ll get killed by one. If you get run over by a train, if you get kicked in the face by a jackass,
you can’t help it.” It’s just that whatever happens to you is going to happen anyways; nothing
you can do about it. And the followers of Stoicism were called “disciples of the porch” because
the academy; the training place where the Stoics met, was on the porch.
“encountered him” – means “met with him.” I think it was the kind of meeting that they
requested, wherein they said, “Look, we’d like to meet with you.”
“babbler” - is a very interesting word – the Greek word is spermologos. The root meaning of
that word is “seed-picker”. Some of them said, “What’s that old seed-picker going to say?
Where did he pick up some of these crumbs of knowledge?” It was really a contemptible word
among the intellectuals. If they wanted to belittle you, they’d say, “Well, you old seed-picker.”
Today they say, “You old cult.” It’s a word of contempt and its usage literally was “small birds
who eat small seeds.” Therefore they looked upon him as a small religious leader, what today
we would call cult. “What will this seed-picker say?”
“a setter forth” – a proclaimer
“strange” – foreign
“gods” - devils - daimonion
Now there happened to be an Athenian law, and that is that nobody, but nobody, was allowed
to preach any other god than the gods they had in Athens. If he did, he would be executed. Now
I can see why the philosophers were engaging him; encountering him and saying, “Look, we
want to talk about this.” Because they’re headed for the guillotine. They’re getting him ready,
as far as they are concerned, because he’s bringing a new god and nobody was allowed to bring
any gods to Athens because they had every god there in the world plus one just to make sure
they didn’t miss anybody. The Athenian assembly did not allow it.
I also ought to tell you that, in that great court of justice in Athens, when the judges would sit at
night, they had in front of them two tables, and the judges would never talk. They’d just listen
and evaluate. And when they made a decision, they would take a flint stone and if the man was
innocent, they’d cast it on the table to the right. If he was guilty, they would cast the stone on
the table to the left. That’s how they made their decision; innocent or guilty.
“gods”- Now the word “devil” of course is one type of meaning to us. To them it represented
gods.
They had two kinds of gods in Athens:
1 - They had theoi - which means gods of nature.
2 - And they had gods called daimon - which were deified men.
“preached” - as used here, is “the announcement of a joyful message.” It’s not the ordinarily
used word “preached.” Its in-depth meaning is: to announce a joyful message. Can you imagine
how enslaved and down in the mouth that city really was, with all those gods? Imagine Paul
coming in positive. Imagine Paul saying, “Beloved now are you the sons of God”, “In all things
more than conquerors”, “He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly.”
Imagine that good news; that joyful news, hitting some of the people; some of the citizens of
that great city. It did.
The word “preached” here means “joyful news regarding the subject matter.” The emphasis is
on the regard to the subject matter that’s presented. And it is remarkable to me that he
preached, unto them, Jesus. How come he did not preach unto them the Christ? How come he
did not preach unto them the Lord? Because the Athenian counsel had a rule that nobody could
bring or declare another god in the city.
Paul presented Jesus as a god under the category of men; not theoi. That’s why he used the
word “Jesus” You’ll just never see it until you see the inner depth of greatness of that thing.
Boy, you talk about technique; wisdom. Paul could have come right out and said, “Listen, you
son-of-a-guns. What’s the matter with you? Jesus Christ is the living Son of God. He is the
Christ. He’s the messiah.” Do you know what they would have done to him? He’d have never
got them to listen. But he met them right on the ground that they understood and he told them
the truth. He just didn’t tell them everything he knew.
He presented Jesus to them. And the word “Jesus” is always used in the Word when it relates
itself to the humiliation and the humility, the humbleness, of the Son of God; Jesus upon earth,
as the son of man. “The son of sorrows”, is the word “Jesus.” He is man, and he presented him
as man. That’s what he was. He never once presents him as God. Had he presented him as God,
what would have happened in Athens? Why, they’d have killed him so fast it would have made
his head roll down the hill. But instead, he presented him as what he really is; Jesus, the Son of
God; a man. That’s what it says. The word “Jesus” is always connected with the humanity;
emphasis on the humanity side; what he accomplished, the humility he suffered. The word
“Christ’ always emphasizes his messianic position, of his blessing or his standing, before God.
Like you and I are born again: we are not in Jesus, we are in Christ. That’s our standing before
God; in Christ. Christ in you is his standing within you. You in Christ is your standing in him.
The word, “lord”, and you’ll see it at times: “the Lord Jesus Christ” or “the Lord Christ Jesus”,
has its emphasis always on the authority and the power of that person. Romans 10:9:
…if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus [the one with the authority and
power who was the humiliated one]…
You and I know that now he’s seated at the right hand. That’s why it says, “Lord Jesus.” The
“Lord” emphasizes the authority, the power. The “Jesus” emphasizes the humility. The
“Christ” emphasizes the position; the blessing, or the standing, before God.
Paul knew that Jesus wasn’t God. Had he preached Jesus was God, Paul would have been
wrong to begin with and Paul would have been executed pronto.
Then he did something else. He preached the resurrection. To preach the resurrection is to
preach that this man got up. That must have really rocked those brains of the Epicureans and
the Stoics because neither one nor the other believed in the resurrection. The Stoics believed
that finally everything goes back into God. The Epicureans didn’t believe anything like that.
They just believed “eat, drink and be merry. It’s all over with.” When he dared to show this
man resurrected, no wonder they got shook, because no man, Stoic or Epicurean, ever dies and
gets resurrected. No wonder they thought about him as a seed-picker. “Where’d you get that
nutty idea?” Can’t you just see those intellectuals foaming at the gills? “Let me at him.” “Take
him apart” attitude. “His theology is too strange.” You know what they did:
Acts 17:19
“took him” - does not imply “by force.” They simply said, “Hey, how about going up to Mars’
Hill; Areopagus?” This is the place where all the great speakers spoke. So they bring him up
there and it’s a great opportunity for him to witness to the Athenian counsel. All the influential
philosophers, all the great theologians, educators, are all there. Paul now gets the opportunity to
hold forth God’s Word to them.
“may we know” - “Can we hear you out now?” – “You lay it on us, man. Tell us exactly what
this new thing is that you are promulgating; those little seed things that you have picked up. We
want to hear it.”
Acts 17:20
“strange” – foreign - in its deeper sense its, “you are lodging certain things in our hearing that
we have never heard before.”
“would” – wish to
Acts 17:21
“time” - leisure
“in” – for
“nothing else” – no other thing
“new thing” - latent thing - literally “the latest idea”
Their whole life’s pursuit was to listen to the latest idea, to something new. The wealth of
Greece, culminating of course with the great capital city of Athens, was so fabulous that so
many people had so much leisure time. In their leisure time, instead of going boating on the
Aegean, they got together to find out who had a new idea and to listen them out, and talk about
it and rap about it. That’s what they did with Paul.
Acts 17:22
Paul stood on a raised dais which was in the Forum area, in the area of Mars’ Hill where
Socrates spoke. The reason the Areopagus was called Mars’ Hill is because, according to their
teaching, Mars’ was tried there and acquitted. And they called it Mars’ Hill. He was a god, I
guess. I forget what he was. At this location he was surrounded by those great buildings. Some
of them are still standing, not perfectly but basic structures are still there, with the Pantheons
and the Thoisis over here to his front, and to his left these other large buildings. All the gods
were there in those buildings that they had. It was in that area where this great Athenian council
met and they would sit on a raised dais. It’s like some of these shows that you see where the
platform is in the middle of the crowd with the people to the back and on each side and to the
front of them. This is where Paul stood up.
“Ye men of Athens” - today you and I would say, “Ladies and Gentlemen.” Very, very
beautifully done, very courteous, very cultured, and very knowledgeable of technique.
“superstitious” - Paul never said that, because had he said that he would have killed his
audience on the second line. He never said that. He said, “Ye men of Athens, I see that you are
very religious.” The word “superstitious” is the word “religious”. He hasn’t lost his audience
yet. He would have, had he said, “Ye men of Athens, you are too superstitious. You’re
worshipping the wrong gods. What’s the matter with you?”
Acts 17:23
“For as I passed by” - which simply means “as I came up the pathway” to the Areopagus;
Mars’ hill
“devotions” - the gods that ye worship
“found” - saw
“altar” - include “also” after the word “altar” – it is found in every critical Greek text
“inscription” - inscribed in it
“whom” - what
“worship” – therapeuo - transliterated into the English word “therapeutic” – “use
therapeutically”
You see he preached unto them Jesus, but in order to preach Jesus unto someone you finally
have to get to God. He does this so beautifully without getting the noose around his neck
because they got an altar there inscribed, “to the unknown god.” So he transfers the preaching
of Jesus, what he is after, using that as his spring board to get to the true God. Boy, what a
fantastic step of genius spiritually. He must have had a course in Dale Carnegie or something.
Acts 17:24
“lord of heaven and earth” – that means He’s the Lord with the authority from heaven and upon
earth.
“temples” – shrines
I just can’t figure out how Paul could have been so smart. We live almost 2,000 years later and
so many people in Christendom think the only place you can worship him is in a temple made
with human hands. For there the bread is broken, there the blood is shed, there you come to
kneel to pray, there you come to bring your offering. Sorry, Paul did not know that. It says very
plainly that this God who is the Lord of heaven and earth does not dwell in temples, shrines,
made with men’s hands.
Acts 17:25
“worshipped” - therapeutically
“as though He needed any thing” – literally - “as needing something”
“he” - himself
“giveth to all life, and breath, and all things” - giving life and breath to all things
Boy, what a revelation; not worshiped by what men bring. You see, they would bring gifts:
food, flowers; array their gods with beautiful, expensive garments. Paul said, “This unknown
god does not live in temples made with human hands nor is there any therapeutic blessing by
what man’s hands do. He’s not required to have anything. He’s not in need of something, but in
turn, in truth it is He Himself who giveth (self giving) of life and breath and everything.” That
must have really got them out of the bird picking, seed picking, category. And there comes that
great 26th verse:
Acts 17:26
“one blood” - or the life of the flesh is in the blood [Leviticus 17:11] - hath made of one blood,
life. Now it is remarkable that, as far as I know critical Greek texts today, we have not found a
critical Greek text that has the word “blood” in it, but it’s in the Aramaic. I don’t care if we
never find a Greek text. It’s okay with me. Because we do have the Aramaic and if the word
“blood” was not there, it still would have to be there from other scriptures (remoter context)
remember? If the life of the flesh is in the blood (remoter context), this indicates that here the
life would have to be in the blood.
I know of no commentary; I don’t know any place of anybody believing what I believe is the
explanation to all color. And it takes it and puts it on the accuracy of God’s Word and we have
genetically and every other way a real solid footing to stand on, because you can change color,
you can change characteristics genetically by putting different things together. That’s exactly
the explanation of the color.
That verse then is not degrading to the white man. It’s not degrading to the Indian. It’s not
degrading to the yellow man, or the black, or all the little colors in between. And it sets there
after almost 2,000 years and nobody sees it, because man is so damn egotistical. He is his own
god. You know that. If you’re white you hate the black. If you’re black you hate the white. If
you’re red you hate the black and white. If you’re yellow you hate black, white and red. Black
people dislike black people. White people dislike white people. In Africa, the blacks today are
fighting the blacks. Other places, whites are fighting the whites. That’s the nature of the brute.
The Word of God declares the only truth regarding color that I know, and that is that God made
one blood and out of that one blood came all the nations of men that dwell upon the face of the
earth.
“and hath determined the times before appointed and the bounds of their habitation” - Some of
the commentaries say that God determined the times of the nations; when they were to be killed
and destroyed and He set the bounds of the nations; this particular group of Semitics live over
here, these Aryans live over here, those skunks live over there. That’s the teaching.
I think Dr. Lamsa in his translation is accurate where he has Acts 17:26:
Hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on the face of the earth and he hath
appointed seasons by his command and has set limits to the age of men.
Having made of one blood all the nations to dwell, God knew that they would live as long as
they could believe. That’s why the limit to the age of men is limited to their believing.
Acts 17:27
“the Lord” – God - He made of one blood, appointed seasons, set limits, whereby the limit is,
as long as a man believes, he lives. He did this that the people should seek God; should turn to
God.
“if haply” - that at least
“feel” - grope
If you’ll just blindfold your eyes for a moment and somebody turn you around 12 times
standing up, and then you come find me, that’s that verse. They should seek God that they
might feel after him, like a man with his eyes covered, That’s why the word “grope” is used;
groping. That has been man’s quest for God, at best.
“He be not far from every one of us” - just like if you came up here to find me, if you were
being circled around blindfolded, I wouldn’t be far from you. That’s the whole greatness of that
verse.
Acts 17:28
“in him” - in God - not in Jesus; in God. This is absolutely unique in what is not said. For had
he taught everything he knew he would have lost his people. I see the word of wisdom in here,
just fantastically.
Every other place, in the Word, it talks about God seeking man: God looking for man; God
going out for man; the “90 and 9” [Matthew 18:12-13, Luke 15:4]; Jesus looking for the one
lost sheep; the man born blind, Jesus goes looking for him [John 9:35]; God calling man, and
yet Paul, by divine revelation, in the greatness of this presentation in Athens says, “They seek
after the Lord. They grope after God.”
Everybody is basically spiritually hungry. Every man, woman, boy and girl has to have God
and in their way, they’re groping. Really, like many of us, didn’t know what they were groping
for. He is not covering “God looking.” He’s covering how they’re groping, yet from the other
side, I know God is there calling because he preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection and
believing cometh by hearing and hearing cometh by the Word of God. [Romans 10:17] You
see it!? Boy, he’s just molding those people with the greatness of all the ability he has. What a
fantastic thing! “In God” - and that’s true because God is in Christ and Christ is in you, that
puts you in God.
“your own poets have said” - The fellow who Paul is quoting here, and its remarkable to me,
that Paul would use an illustration like you might use from Shakespeare or Chaucer or Playboy,
he uses it as a poet of their own. The poet was Aratus, who was a Stoic, and he came from the
city of Cilicia, originally, which was Paul’s hometown. Do you think maybe Paul was a little
more knowledgeable of things than just what Gamaliel taught? Do you think maybe Paul knew
a little bit about the Epicureans and the Stoics before he got to Athens? I want to tell you, he
was up on his reading material. He knew what was happening. That’s why he could meet those
Stoics right on their own grounds. They thought he was a seed-picker, but when they got to that
old boy, he axed them; he laid the sledge in their head. He just wasn’t picking seeds. He was
swallowing whole pumpkins or something. Here are the words literally from the hymn of Zeus:
“For we all greatly need Jupiter, for we are his offspring, full of grace, he grants men
tokens of favor.”
“offspring” – genos – genus - How can you reconcile this unless you have more knowledge of
the Word? Why sure you have to have more knowledge of the Word! Everybody is His
offspring because of the original creation of verse 26; “He made of one blood” and to that end
everyone is an offspring of that original creation. That does not mean that everyone has the true
God in him, because the true God is not in the flesh; He’s in the spirit. He’s talking about the
genus, the genos of natural existence; life. What they put in their own mind is their business.
What he taught was still the greatness of God’s Word.
Acts 17:29
“the Godhead...” – the head God - the Godhead is not three heads; God the Father, God the
Son, and God the Holy Spirit head? No! The word “Godhead” here is the word theios meaning
“divine one.” Referring to that great god the Greeks had, Aphrodite. The Romans, the Latins,
had the same god called Venus.
“Is like unto gold, or silver, or stone” - Like a lot of those gods they had there were.
“graven” – engraved, or sculptured
“device” - thought
Lamsa translates it:
“worship resemblances made of gold, or silver, or stone shapen by the skill and
knowledge of man into resemblances of the deity.”
I like the word “thought” better because that is where it happened!
Acts 17:30
Lamsa translates verse 30 as follows:
“For the times of ignorance God has made to pass.”
I would say that it would carry a literal translation according to usage:
“For these times of ignorance God are now past; over with.”
“repent” - That must have been a new word to them - at least a new thought concept to the
Epicureans and the Stoics, the rest of the intellectuals. But I can see what he’s building to,
because he preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection. Now see how he’s building this
thing. He’s just getting ready to put the noose around their neck and gather them in the fold
with the ministry of reconciliation and the Word to do it with.
Acts 17:31
“hath” - delete
“judge the world in righteousness by that man” - God’s going to have a righteous judgment. By
what? That god? No. Jesus Christ is NOT God! But by that who? “Man.”
“ordained” – determined
“assurance” – pistis
“unto all” - upon all and unto all that believe
This Jesus and the resurrection: boy, you see how he’s headed toward the new birth; teaching
the whole Word so beautifully that anybody who wants to, after he finishes teaching, can be
born again. He’s wrapping it all up here. This is perhaps the greatest homiletical presentation in
the Book of Acts.
The unknown God; that God that you say is unknown; He’s the one who raised this Jesus from
the dead. Now they can’t pin anything on Paul because he hasn’t brought any new gods into
Athens because he took the same statue they had there and did the preaching from it. Isn’t that
something?
Acts 17:32
“of” – concerning
“some mocked” - those very people who called him seed picker, the little old birds who picked
small seeds, these are the mocking birds. They themselves are the small seed pickers. Basically
this would come from the Epicureans and the Stoics.
“others said” - this perhaps was among the Stoics
“matter” - subject
Acts 17:33
I’ve often wondered why that one line was there. You know why it’s there? Teaching the
greatness of God’s Word in the greatest pagan city of all time; greatest city of all idols, where
the law is, that if you introduce any other god, than the gods we’ve got, you get executed: he
walked out a free man. That’s why the verse is there.
“from among them” - out of the midst of them
I told you he was standing on a dais surrounded on all sides by the great intellects of all time at
that age. He presented the greatness of the truth of God’s Word and walked out.
Acts 17:34
“Howbeit” - but
“clave unto him” - followed him out
“and believed” - they were men who believed what he taught. How many times did he speak at
Mars Hill? Those that hunger and thirst after righteousness eat, the rest just talk about it. They
tell you how hungry they are but they never eat. If you’re hungry, you eat if it’s made available.
They ate.
“Dionysius the Areopagite” - one of the council; one of the Athenian assembly, got converted.
“a woman named Damaris” - a very prominent woman
Lamsa translates it:
“one of them was Dionysius, one of the judges of Areopagus and another, a woman
named Damaris and others with them.”
There is no record that Paul stayed in the city after that. As a matter of fact, after these things
Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth; left the poor church just by itself.
This idea that permeates people’s heads so many times, that you have to have a top leader in a
community to keep it going, is just so much hog wash. It’s wonderful if you’ve got a top leader,
what are you going to do if you don’t have any leader? It’s still God’s Word. Why Paul didn’t
stay there and build up the body and appoint an elder? Don’t ask me, I don’t know. All I know
is he didn’t do it. And yet he taught the Word, people got converted. Maybe the judge, the
Areopagite, believed God big enough on that one meeting and said, “I’ll stand for that and I’ll
keep the body, the household, together.” It’s quite a record isn’t it?
I made the following notes going through this that I just quickly want to share regarding what I
see as God doing throughout this whole section:
In verse 24: He is the Creator
He is the Lord of heaven and earth
He is a God who dwelleth not in temples man made
In verse 25: He’s not worshipped by man’s hands
Universal providence
In verse 26: Made all men of one blood
Times, before; appointed seasons and set limits to the age of man; in other
words, planned the ages.
In verse 27: God provided salvation
His omnipresence
In verse 28: The source of all light.
In verse 30: Revelation made known
Repentance
In verse 31: Assured judgment of righteousness
Jesus Christ the judge
That God via the resurrection guarantees justice
All of that I have seen in Acts 17 in the great sermon that was preached that day by a man of
God called Paul in the most difficult city that any man could go to. That is our God: Same God
today, same Word. That’s why I said when I began, any man teaching this has to be
tremendously humbled, because no man is qualified to teach the greatness of that Word, it’s
just so fantastically fantastic. You can work, and work, and work and yet things escape you
because of the greatness of the divine revelation in the record. But again I’ve done my best and
that’s all a man can do.