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Acts 17: An unknown god

On this continuation of the Acts Series, pastor David preaches on Acts 17 and the importance of sharing the gospel message. This sermon explores Paul's Second Missionary Journey and his strategy for spreading Christianity, highlighting the consequences of preaching, and stressing that the message of the gospel is too important not to be shared.

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David Loader


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Well, Easter is over and so we've had this break for these last few weeks as we've focused on on Easter and uh so today we are back into our series on the book of Acts and so just to remind us where we're up to we're looking we're up to Acts chapter 17. we're going to be looking at this whole chapter today it's um it's such a shame that we don't have time to uh to read the whole chapter because it's uh it's it's a fascinating chapter and I'd encourage you to read it next week it'll be the next chapter so it's really good if you think about it it's actually you read the chapter in advance they have some idea where we're heading but just to get you into some sort of context we're part way through Paul's missionary second missionary journey um he uh of course you probably are aware that uh that he uh went on three missionary Journeys and that uh after that there was this duty to Rome where where his life ended but uh you'll also be aware of course that when we started in the book of Acts that the focus was on Peter and the other Apostles and then there's been this shift from the focus on Peter to now this focus on Paul and so after Paul's conversion he went on these three missionary Journeys and we are part way through his second missionary journey and just to give you some idea about the second missionary journey of course there's that it's recorded there's over the period of time it's about 80 50 52. these are sort of approximate because it's inconsiderate didn't write the dates down and a travel log and whatever but his second missionary journey is recorded from acts 15 36 to 1822 we're looking at chapter 17 today so this second missionary journey the estimates are that that he walked on the second missionary journey about 2 400 kilometers that's not a bad distance for walking is it and then also traveled about 2 000 kilometers by sea so it's over a few years and over a period of time that he's on this second missionary journey and so here are the places where the second missionary journey went just to test me on my pronunciation of probably most of them are wrong but Antioch Syria solicia Derby listrophygia troas Philippi then I've highlighted these next three because these are the three that we are looking at today thessalonica Berea and Athens and then for me went on to Corinth Ephesus caesarea and returned to Syrian Antioch so it's right in the middle of this second missionary journey where he's going to these three places thessalonica Berea and Athens that we are looking at today in Acts chapter 17. let me read some excerpts from Acts chapter 17 to so from verse one when they'd pass through amphipolis and Apollonia they came to thessalonica where there was a Jewish synagogue as was his custom make that as is his custom uh Paul went into the synagogue and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the scriptures explaining and proving that that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead this Jesus I'm proclaiming to you is the Christ he said some of the Jews were persuaded joined Paul and Silas as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women but the Jews were jealous so they rounded up some bad characters from The Marketplace formed a mob and started a riot in the city they rushed to Jason's house in search of Paul and Silas in to bring them out to the crowd um so just moving on from there down into Berea just the one phrase here says in verse 11. now the bereans were of more Naval character than the Thessalonians for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true we've got to be good bereans to examine the scriptures where we hear somebody speaking about about the Bible we've got to examine the scriptures to see whether what they are saying is true so it's a bereans then down in Athens is from verse 16 on Paul's waiting for them in Athens as he was waiting for his his colleagues to catch up to him he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols so I reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God fearing Greeks as well as the marketplace day by day with those what would happen to be there so he's debating in the marketplace now some of these guys say well it sounds what you're saying is interesting we've got this place where everybody anybody with new ideas gathers together and we give them space to sprinkle about their new idea everybody listens and debates and so they bought Paul there to the areopagus in verse 22 and so Paul stands up and he speaks to them and then he has his uh has his speech the so we're going to be looking at that in a bit in detail so this morning I want to look at uh at just four things they're looking for for themes in these three different places I came up with four that we'll look at and then spend a bit more time looking at this uh the Paul's talk in the areopagus in fact I'm old enough to Remember the Time and when cars did not have seat belts see a few nods around and not only that but the front there is no bucket seats or very few car had bucket seats the bench seat in the front bench seat in the middle and any youth worker or kids worker with their salt always had a station wagon because you could fill the back up with kids as well and so whether you're going Sunday School newspaper whatever you always had a car full of kids or young people unheard of today and your youngins just don't know what a joy it was to be creamed in like sardines in a car of course safety became important and it was actually Volvo an engineer from Volvo who first came up with the three-point seat belt thing the idea of it and so they Volvo they patented that but considered it so important that they made this three-point seat belt freely available to all other car manufacturers and then a little bit later on it was Mercedes there's various people talking and doing experimenting with airbags but it was Mercedes who who actually came up with um with with the best thing and patent that came up painted the the uh the the airbag by the way in testing that the airbag they crashed about 250 Mercedes-Benz into concrete walls just to get it right and then the sled test where they just have like seats on a sled I don't know I'm not a car Enthusiast so I hope what I'm saying is sort of making sense but where there's just the car seat and the ram along about two and a half thousand tests of that before they uh before they finally got the airbag right in cars and once again it was Volvo who uh who painted to it but once again like Mercedes done with the three-point seat belt made it freely available Mercedes made this airbag technology even though they took the pages on they made it freely available to every other car manufacturer so we've been beneficiaries of that today and with Mercedes the chief engineer at the time was asked why did Mercedes make this freely available to uh to all the other car manufacturers rather than selling it or keeping it to themselves making it whatever so I made it freely available to all their competitors and the chief engineer replied saying this he said some things are too important not to share some things that are too important not to share now if we have a chief engineer from Mercedes saying that about our physical life how much more important is it for us when we are talking about eternity to actually be saying and have that same view some things are far too important not to share and that's what Paul is on about in in his missionary genes he's come to this conclusion that some things are too important not to share of course he would have been aware that Jesus had given the Great Commission to to be Witnesses everywhere he would have been aware of that but it's not having to share the gospel out of compulsion or Jesus talk you have to sell better to do it but rather some things are too important not to share and so here we are in his second missionary journey looking at some of these things which are too important not to share as I said there are four things all beginning to the legacy of themes and they always spend a bit more time with Paul in the in the areopagus first thing is this is context is the first thing is that what I find here is that the context of Paul sharing is that there's a Paul speaking and doing his missionary journey is that there's always a context where he's involved and a part of this context is this is that there is this compelling motivation verse 16 says while Paul was waiting for them in Athens he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols when you go down the shopping center do you ever sit there in a coffee shop or whatever and look at people walking by and think how many of these people know enough about the Lord Jesus to be able to make an informed decision a bathroom to either accept or reject him and and what is your response even when you do things like that is it a case of well Que Sera Sera whatever will be will be was it like poor greatly distressed because here are people round about us and we could say I still we've got family friends and neighbors brightly distressed because here are people who don't know enough about the Lord Jesus to make an informed decision and going to a crisis eternity so there's this compelling motivation that Paul has some things are too important not to share greatly distress the people aren't in that position to know about the Lord Jesus the second thing about in the context here is that there's clear clear strategy to Paul's approach so uh well that's a new headset today folk if we drop out we're still experimenting here there's a clear strategy everywhere Paul goes it's not just well what do we do here but Paul has a clear strategy wherever he goes to sharing the gospel the Strategic places where he went always went where people gathered and you might remember that I said just a few minutes ago that in verse 2 when I read that as his custom was Paul went into the synagogue so that's in thessalonica versed in verse 10 as soon as it was night uh Saint Paul and saw us away to Maria on arriving there they went to where the Jewish synagogue verse 17 now in Athens so he reasoned where in the synagogue so Paul is the is the clear strategy in these places which is not a part of Israel but in in other parts but places where there were a number of Jews enough Jews to have a synagogue there and Paul went there as people who had a half awareness of this of the message of God had the Old Testament awareness without the full knowledge about the Lord Jesus so one of the Strategic places he went with where people gathered but he also went to other places as well wherever people gathered I've mentioned about the areopagus probably the closest thing I could think about that is probably Speaker's Corner the most famous Speakers Corner of course is in Hyde Park in England where we've actually been there where uh where people can go and stand on the soapbox or whatever and and Sprint forth um there's also a speaker's calling not the same degree of course in Brisbane otherwise Sydney one in Melbourne where uh where there's this idea of people can stand up and speak whatever and um and for others one in Brisbane by the way is is just that apply uh representing or where the the Queensland Parliament first sat it's not really like like this but the areopagus is this place where where all the philosophers or people with some philosophy of life would gather together and uh somebody would stand up and say this is what I think is the meaning of life or whatever and everybody would listen and debate and argue so Paul is the wherever people are Paul is there sharing this message which is too good not to share so that's the context that there's a content in what he says as well and there are two things in the content that he's always talking about and and we see this in In this passage as well but the content is always referring people back to this is what the Bible says and he also keeps talking about the Lord Jesus and that's what he's always talking about is uh go back to what the Bible says and also by the way this is about the Lord Jesus in fact it's important we understand that that uh that that it's important for us to to point people people will come up with all sorts of arguments or we want to share about things all about the church whatever and he just gave you the Bible what does the Bible say and what do you think about the Lord Jesus because in other places not here but in other places Paul also used his personal testimony so it's this is what the Bible says this is the Lord Jesus what do you make of him and this is what he's meant for me which meant to me so the book of Acts Acts chapter 9 is his conversion and then two times later on in the book of Acts we have Paul in different contexts sharing his testimony this is what happened to me so there are three things for us to be aware of we want to share this this uh this message which is in too important not to share keep pointing people back to the Bible keep people pointing people to Jesus and say this is what it means to me the third context or the third theme I picked up through here is a challenge that that Paul constantly brought to people wasn't just telling a story but he was saying not only this is what the Bible says but what does it mean for you personally and so we find these words occurring that Paul reasoned with them we understand from that that there's a discussion going on well what do you think this is what I think this is what the Bible says this is what what it's all about Jesus but he also explained hey when the Bible says this or when this happened to Jesus this is what it meant but it also says about him proving it that he was persuading people that he preached and that he debated so all these methods just in this one chapter Paul is using to challenge people in fact that's what we need to to be doing is it's not just to tell people just to throw it out there but to actually personally apply it to people hey this is not just like history taken or leaving but this is a God's message to you what are you going to do about it and then there was consequences as well that's the fourth thing chapter 17 and verse 6 some versions of the Bible say say it this way in the NIV is a bit weak it says these men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here I like how the King James version some other versions say in 1706 these men have turned the world upside down do you like that idea there are two things that we need to know to to Aarons that have said when these guys said these men have turned the world upside down you see it's not the men it's not Paul and his team who've turned the world upside down it's a message of Jesus that has turned the world upside down so I know this character uh he planted a church which didn't go too well but he took this where he thought it was his his responsibility under God to uh to turn the world upside down and did all sorts of things in this endeavored Eternal world upside it got into trouble with the with authorities all sorts of things and for him this was affirmation that what he was doing was right because he was turning the world upside down but that's not what we are told to do Jesus didn't say to his followers to his disciples go and turn the world upside down what did he say go and make disciples Go Make Disciples that's what we're on about making disciples and the thing is is that in making disciples and saying the message of the Lord Jesus what happens does the will get turned upside down it's rather the other way around isn't it it's actually following the Lord Jesus is turning the world the right side up because you see you recognize that we are living in a world in a society which is just seeming to go from one degree of chaos to another is how it seems to me and and certainly you know some some sections of the church we've got to admit have not helped this in all of this but say a bit more about that in a second but but you know the message of Jesus is this is is getting us firmly planted on our feet turning the world the right way up so that's that's what was happening in the taking this message of Jesus it was turning the world the right side up and it says in Verses 4 and 12 that some people were persuaded and believed this is five to nine and verse 13 some people violently rejected and then at the end after his time in areopagus it says that there are some who were sneering some who were believing and some who were thinking more about it you know each of us here today fall into one of those categories is it either we believers or we've rejected it or we're still thinking about it and um you know if you're still thinking about it keep thinking Folk and if there's any way that we can help you to price this and to help you with your thinking let us know we're more than happy to spend time with you in in endeavoring to help you come to a clear understanding and if this morning you're here for whatever reason but there's a rejection then just think again I just think because wouldn't it be a shame if you got to the end of the world and into your life and you felt you realize then you know I was really wrong it's um heard this saying it you know it's a shame when you're crying the ladder only to find out when you get the top that the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall and how important that is in life is it isn't it that pity isn't it a shy if we go through the whole of Life finding out that we get the end of our life in our ladder it was against leaning against the wrong wall well I just want to spend the last few moments with us just looking particularly in this verses 22 to 38 in in Paul in the areopagus and once again we don't have time to uh to to read it all but please do so please do so today go home and read this passage and and there are these once again there are these topics that Paul comes up with in this talk the areopagus he um he starts off by by talking about this search for significance um you see he brings out this air when he says here as greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols and then later on he says this he says you came to the places saying hey there's one Idol which uh which um we haven't named it's just to the unknown God because even though we've got Idols for everything there is still things we don't know and we don't understand and there's people still in the whole universe in our society who were searching for significance who are saying you know I've got this and that and everything else but there is still something missing in my life why do people experience that emptiness Paul acknowledges it says Hey listen as I walk around through Athens I'm seeing that you've got all these Idols to a whole range of things but you've got this still this huge gap there which is saying we've still got something missing here and so we've called this the idol to the unknown God then he talks about beginnings and he asked this question not in these words but this question is there that we can ask today is that it's the biggest question that philosophers ask and Endeavor to sort out why is there something rather than nothing you read pretty well any philosopher and this is the question they they grapple with philosophically why is there something rather than nothing you know there are people these days who want to uh you know put down the church put down Christianity because uh so we don't believe in God you know saying God's created the world with it we don't believe in that and we rather go with whatever whatever we hold to you know why don't you put that question to them let's lay aside the whole of Christianity and just focus on these people who say well I don't believe in Christianity don't believe in God and put that question to them why is there something rather than nothing why is there this universe this world I was somewhere back in time there was this big bang or whatever okay what was there before the Big Bang what was here then come on answer this question why is there something rather than nothing you see it comes back to a question of faith and it takes less faith for me to believe in a Creator God than it does to say well I've got no idea we've got this Idol to an unknown God as it were and then there's this what is the purpose of life people ask this question is there more to life is it that I just I'm born I live I die I'm just a lump of meat and no more that I came into existence that I go into into nothing after this and then people also as a part of that say well what is it what happens when I die it's going to happen folk to you know there's this statistic that says that 100 of us are going to die unless the Lord Jesus comes sooner and we've got to be thinking about that okay is is when I die is that the end or is there something beyond that and so if we're going to be looking at this uh this um this speech that Paul makes in the areopagus that all these people searching for life and all the rest of it now the issues that he faces that he addresses and he he uh his answers and I'll finish with this why people's experience emptiness people experience emptiness because they're looking in the wrong places verses 22 and 23 says that Athens are seen every way you're very religious for so I walked around a little carefully objects of worship I've been found an altar with this inscription to an unknown God you see people looking everywhere trying to find an answer to life the fact they're not going to find it if they're looking in the wrong place and he says this goes on to say now what you worship is something unknown I am going to Proclaim to you what's he going to do now remember the context he's going to talk about the Bible you've got to talk about Jesus so there's an emptiness and people still have this emptiness that they're searching around for something but they're looking in the wrong places or maybe I'll find it in relationships maybe I'll find it you know in gathering positions maybe I'll find an experience maybe I'll find it but I'm still feeling empty and Paul says and I'll say on the authority of the word of God Paul you'll find the answer to that in Jesus then he goes back to the beginnings why is there something rather than nothing well he says right at the beginning God created the world um I believe that very firmly that God created the world there's no doubt about it in my mind that that this God of Eternity created time and created this world this universe do I know all the answers and all the intricacies and all the details about that absolutely not science in in that degree is just not my thing but there are other people other scientists who can't answer a lot of those questions all of the questions and so why is there something rather nothing it's there's something rather than nothing because God God stepped in and God created the universe and and so what is the purpose of life verses 26 and 27 Paul says God still is involved in his creation and God still wants to connect with you is that his whole thing is not I'm creating the world and I'm going to go put my feet up somewhere in a lounge chair in heaven but God still wants to be connected to you God still wants a personal relationship with you and what about the afterlife that Paul addresses that question as well too where he says in verse 30 everyone will face God every one of us no exception every one of us here everybody's ever lived kings queens presidents scientists Paupers unknowns nuns famous un Infamous unknowns we're all going to stand before God before the Lord Jesus it's important that we are ready that we are ready for that time when we will stand before God so what's your response today there's a response today for each of us here is exactly the same as it was back there verse 32 says when they heard about the resurrection of the Dead some of them sneered that others said we want to hear you again on this subject and then verse 34 says a few men became followers of Paul and believed and among them was dionysius member of the areopagus also woman named Damaris and a number of others see folk here today you're in one of those categories and if you're a Believer today then just think about these four things that I've said about the context in which you God has placed you with the message that is too important not to she remember that so that's a context in which you have which God has placed you but then there's also the the content also of what you need to be sharing as well and have you clearly understood that that this is not about whatever but this is about the Bible this is about the Lord Jesus this is about what God means to you but then the challenge to say folk we're talking but you've got to make your decision and the consequence well that's up to them how they'll respond to that um focus Believers we need to understand that and to be aware that we have a message Which is far too important not to share but maybe maybe here this morning maybe watching on the um on the stream today too there are people who aren't Believers yet and people who are saying I really need to know more about this and you know in here there are oodles of people who would be delighted just to sit with you and to share some more and and to discuss more to Endeavor to answer your question if they can't answer your questions they'll point you in some direction where you can maybe there are some here for the light of garbage it's not for me one day you too will stand before Jesus think carefully about that let's pray what a man was that Apostle Paul and they will be with him in eternity will hear firsthand some of his experiences and what he went through what a man and yet he was just somebody who was saved by grace happened to the leading of the spirit who recognized that he had a message Which is far too important to keep to himself we sit here this morning Father just as men and women some of us older some of us younger but you have given us that same message which is too important not to share and to share freely with those around about us Grant to us this is my prayer father that you'll give to us the courage and the grace to go through opportunities that you'll send our way to share this important message the message of salvation thank you Father for the gift of the Lord Jesus just remembered it over Easter this message far important not to share thank you for the honor and the privilege of being your ambassadors of this message. Amen.