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Acts of the Apostles: 32 - Acts 17:19-25

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Acts of the Apostles

32 - Acts 17:19-25



Acts of the Apostles: 32 - Acts 17:19-25


In this class we will discuss Acts 17:19-25 and continue looking at Paul's interactions with the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in Athens.


[Darris McNeely] Good morning, everybody. We're back with Acts. We are in chapter 17. In this class, we left our intrepid hero Paul in Athens, and he was debating with everyone that he seemed to encounter in the marketplace, in the synagogue, and is now going to be taken to a place in the city of Athens called Mars Hill. Might be good to just start with a couple of slides here to show at least the setting of the city. This is the famous Acropolis of Athens with the Parthenon at the far end, the famous relic of the golden age of Greece.

And as I'm saying, last time, it's been under renovation for probably three millennia. It just keeps being worked on. You know, this is the prominent view then and now coming into the city of Athens. The book Luke takes great care to note that the city of Athens was given over to idols. And I think I had a quote from...I think it was Xenofon, last class, I mentioned that there were more alters in Athens than there were men.

So, this particular picture here is one of those temples, the Temple of Athena Nike on the Acropolis, a smaller temple that is up there. This one is the Temple of Zeus in Athens, or the remains of it in Athens at night. I've made the comment that these pictures and slides that you would either take yourself when you go to these places, or you buy from some commercial source and use for a presentation like this, after a while, they kind of all blend together.

You've got these columns, you've got these piles of rocks and leftovers from the various temples, one looks just about like the other. And yet they once were parts of cities and temples and working temples. When Paul was in Athens, he saw these buildings as working pagan temples. People were going in and out of them for all of their religious rights and worships. When we go there in a place like Athens today, we see them as tourist sites.

A guide will take you there. You'll read about it on your tour guide, or, you know, download something from Rick Steves or read about it in advance in a brochure. And it's an interesting relic, and we try to learn as much as we can. We look at it and try to imagine what it looked out like in its pristine glory of its time. It's a tourist site for us, and we see it differently than Paul did. Paul saw them for what they were, shrines to gods that were not gods. Goddesses that were not goddesses, deities that were not divine at all, but pigments of really not even human imagination. They were figments of demonic imagination. Paul tells us that the gods and goddesses, the idols of all the ancient world really what the power was behind them was that of the demonic world and demons.

And so that got transposed upon the world, and Paul is encountering this. And we talked about how he was actually worked up as he saw this. And he went for several days in and out and amongst all of this. And in the actual word where it says that he was moved within himself, at this point, they provoked him in verse 16.

Acts 17:16 “His spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.”

And this just kept moving him to talk, in a sense, not necessarily louder. That's what a typical American tourist does. If we get to a place and people don't understand us, we talk louder because, you know, of the language barrier.

With Paul, it wasn't a language barrier but it was a spiritual barrier. I don't think he talked louder, but he certainly talked with a more intensity as he progressed through the experience that he had there. And what he saw was a wisdom of the world that did not know God. And he writes about this in 1 Corinthians 1:2. I'm taking just a moment to kind of set up a little bit and go a little deeper into the world in which Paul is engaging.

And you've been studying in your other classes this week with Mr. Petty about the Greco-Roman world from an angle that he has refined and honed and some of his work through the years. And he has, you know, as he tells me, drawing together some of the threads of what all of the rest of us here at ABC and the faculty have been talking about through the year, and giving you another angle on that. But it is the Greco-Roman world at its height and at its depth as Paul is moving deeper into this.

And Paul talks to the Corinthians about the wisdom of this world as opposed to the wisdom of God. And he sees the folly of that. And this is what moves him to engage these individuals at this level. And I think that what's important to realize is he is refining his message now. If we go back to the map and just kind of watch again the tracing of this, at least on the European continent, he started at Philippi. He went to Thessalonica, Berea. Now, he's come to Athens.

He's going to go over to Corinth, where he'll spend a year and a half, and then he'll go over to Ephesus, make a brief stop and go to Jerusalem, and then work his way back. He is refining that message. And I think what he does here at Athens gives him an even deeper insight than he already had. And he was brilliant by this stage of his development anyway, but he was learning as he went and engaging these individuals.

So, in looking at this, as we connect this to the other messaging of the Bible, the world of that time has parallels to our world today. And that's really where the rubber hits the road application for all of us to understand. And so, with that as a statement, we'll bring out more of this as we get into the topic at hand. And so let's just go ahead and pick it up here at verse 17 of Acts 17. And remember now Paul, he is by himself, Timothy and Silas were left behind in Berea. They will join him. But he continues.

Acts 17:17-18 “He reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happen to be there. Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him, and some said, ‘What does this babbler want to say?’”

Now, I covered last class, what the idea of a babbler meant, a seed picker. I'm not going to go back through that, but this is what they accused him of being like a little seed picker, a little bird picking up scraps, in this case, of ideas of philosophy and of religion, and putting it together in a new religion. And to them, that's what it looked like. Now, again, that's not what the truth of God is. As we go through all of scripture, from which we gain our body of knowledge and belief, “All scripture's profitable for doctrine, for knowledge, for reproof, and instruction in righteousness,” 2 Timothy 3:16. And we gain our teaching and our belief and our practice by the entire Bible, both Old and New Testament. We don't believe the New Testament contradicts the Old, but shows the fuller development in a spiritual realm of the Word of God, the law of God.

And from that, we gain our body of knowledge. But to a cardinal mind, this looked like a seed picker. And so, again, we won't go through what that means, but let me focus here, verse 18, on these two schools of philosophic thought, the Epicurean and the Stoic. And since Luke goes to great efforts to at least mention them, he doesn't give us the background, but we should know a little bit about them. And we can know more than a little bit because there's a lot written about both of them. But let's just get the first one down here and talk about it for a moment.

The Philosophic School of Epicurus, what exactly was this? This was a philosophic school of thought that had originated in Athens in the 4th century BC by a man named Epicurus, from which we get Epicurean. Epicurus. Epicurus founded a philosophic school, and they met in a garden, and that's why they are called the Philosophers of the Garden. He actually bought a kind of a villa in Athens and it had a garden area, kind of like an enclosed backyard, if you want to look at it that way to our way of thinking, although it wasn't really a backyard. It was kind of incorporated into the house and their style of doing things. But they met in a kind of a garden setting, and he would lecture. Epicurus had 40 different dictums, or 40... I'll just go use the word dictum teachings, basic principles that formed his philosophic school. All right? And we're not going to go through any of them, you know, one by one.

But his disciples, and Epicurus had disciples, one who followed them, they learned these, passed them on. It was a very interesting school of thought. You don't necessarily read much about this or see much evidence of it today. The biggest thing that kind of comes down to us in our own language and practice today is the idea of being an Epicurean. Does anybody know what that would mean? If I called you you're an Epicurean and your tastes? Does anybody know what that meant? It means you have a fine, highly developed taste for food, for living, for style.

There used to be a magazine, and I don't know if it's still printed, called “Epicurean Magazine.” It was a magazine about dining, food, high-end food. And it comes right from this philosophy. If you enjoy, you know, a big five-star restaurant, fine French dining, and, you know, three-star Michelin-type dining, which is among the highest and highly rated in all the world, you would be an Epicurean. You have a refined palate, a refined taste, and that comes from them, although it doesn't always describe Epicurus.

Epicurus was more aesthetic. He dined on plain food. He had a lot of dietary issues, and he actually died of some intestinal issues that he had. And so, his focus, though, in his philosophy was on pleasure and the senses, and enjoying life for what it was. Epicureanism was an atheistic religion or philosophy. They did not look at the gods even of their day, the Greek gods as anything to be worshiped with seriousness. They would acknowledge them.

They probably engaged in the temple activities of some of the various deities, you know, for the physical aspects of the pleasure of maybe a meal and/or the sexual immorality of the time. But they did not see these divine beings, Zeus, Apollo, Athena, as in a real sense to be worshiped, or those who had any concern for human life. So, they were atheistic in the midst of a very polytheistic pagan world. And they focused basically on the here and now.

Essentially, the idea is that enjoy life, eat, drink, and be merry because you're going to die and there's nothing beyond that. That's in the essence of Epicurean thought and philosophy. It was an attractive style. It was an attractive idea for that world at that time. And it endured into the first century and beyond. And Paul encounters those who worshiped accordingly or practice this. They just didn't believe that the gods had any interest in human affairs, and therefore, no purpose in human life.

And again, with that, you know, the morality is not based in any type of a solid, immovable, eternal spiritual ethic or law. It's left to the individual. So, it's very relational or relativistic in terms of ideas about morality and principles. There was, you know, certainly ideas that you gave your allegiance to the established government, but they were a bit outliers and skeptics even of that, but they worked within it. Now, Epicurus mentioned that he had a home with a garden.

From what we know, he didn't have a trade or a skill or inherited wealth that would've allowed that. What reading I've been able to do on Epicurus shows that he probably had some funding from a benefactor, and he allowed him to keep the style of life of leisure that he had and buy a home. And then as his disciples came around him, he taught day in and day out and wrote and things like that. But he had benefactors, which they had their wealth from other sources of income, business industry, trade, commerce, inherited wealth. And so his ethic allowed him to, in a sense, sponge off of that, while at the same time being skeptical about the status quo of life. But this is the Epicurean thought that Paul encounters, the philosophers of the garden.

Now, the second category of people that are mentioned here are Stoics, the Stoic philosophers. And go ahead and do this right down here I suppose. All right. This is another 4th-century BC school of philosophic thought that came up. Actually, 3rd century, not 4th century. The founder was a man named Zeno, Z-E-N-O. I've got a couple of pictures here. I forgot to bring up the picture of Epicurus. There he is in his glory. He looks happy from a Greek original. This is a copy of an original. Remember, I mentioned that in Greece, there was a huge industry in making copies of all these statues, busts, and everything of gods and goddesses. It's so much so that when you go to a museum today and see these statues, in many cases, more than half of them, you're looking at copies. You're not looking at the originals.

And the wealthy, especially in Rome, they would buy these out of these Greek shops, and they would be cast. But the originals have been lost to us. But this is Epicurus. Now, here is a bust of the Stoic philosopher, Posidonius, from the late first century. Just an idea, he lived a little bit after Paul or before Paul, the 1st century BC, and was a famous Stoic philosopher. This is a bust from the Naples Archeological Museum. And if you ever get to Naples on your way to Capri, be sure you go to the Naples Archeological Museum.

It is a world-class museum with a lot to see there. That's where this one comes from. And so this is the Stoic thought, Stoic School of Philosophy. They were known as the Philosophers of the Porch. By that, you know, it wasn't a front porch with rocking chairs like we think about, but a porch would be a colonnaded area within an open public space, temples, agora, the marketplace, and much of what we've studied with a temple in Jerusalem, the second temple where in Solomon's porch, remember?

We see that earlier in Acts. It was a colonnaded area of the larger structure around the temple itself on the outer bounds of the temple, where people could gather and the meetings and all kinds of things would happen. These Stoics would meet in a porch like that of a larger building colonnaded out of the shaded. And they became known as the Philosophers of the Porch. Stoicism, a bit different from that of Epicureanism, but similar in that, again, they didn't always see the gods as being that much concerned with human life.

But they taught a philosophy or an ethic about life that was, in a sense, fatalistic. Taught people to basically deal with what comes to you, learn how to work with it, don't resist it, accept it, you know, as fate or in some variance of it, you know, the divine will, but then move through it. Accept it, deal with it, keep moving forward, and fairly positive approach in a sense to life, in that you wouldn't let it get you down.

So, there was a sense of overcoming adversity. Overcoming the things that life can throw at you. This is part of Stoic philosophy. The Stoics believed in kind of a world's soul. Everybody united in one spiritual sense by somebody vague idea of a ethereal world soul that they would talk about and teach. They looked at human beings as rational, self-sufficient, capable of making their way in a world on their own, again, without having to always need the assistance, if you will, of a deity, of a god or a goddess.

And so, this was their moral thought. They believed in a kind of a world state, a world state of humanity, common humanity, and treating people in that way, which is not a bad idea, that you're a citizen of the world, not necessarily a Greek citizen or a Roman citizen. You're a citizen of a larger world community. They did want to kind of break down nationalistic barriers of distinction and tear them down.

So, some of their ideas we still see today, and ideas of nationhood and this kind of the world order, a global reset idea that is bent on tearing down, let's say, borders and the nationalistic ideas of various nations, and the belief that that's what causes conflict, war, poverty. And if we could just bring everybody together in a world community, you know, respect for humanity under one government that would be the choosing and running by those who are the elite, then everything would be better.

We see this idea today in globalism. It's not new. It has many of its roots in ancient philosophy, one of them being Stoicism. And so, in another way, Stoicism has things that we would necessarily look at as positive and commendable. They taught high sense of morality, fidelity in relationships. They taught a sense of honor, of courage, of duty. Those are good things, duty, honor, courage. And that these were highly valued principles within the Stoic school of thought.

And in many ways, I mean, you can see certain parallels into biblical values, Christian values as well, but they still missed the point. They still didn't understand the world created by one God and His purpose and His plan, but they had certain ideas. Both the Stoics and the Epicureans emphasized the rational over emotions, autonomy, and self-sufficiency to the highest good. And even the Stoics looked at the idea that the gods were kind of remote, not involved with men's lives in a sense that we do as we look at a very personal God with whom we can have a relationship.

And so, you know, the distance between their deities and these schools of thought were quite large. Now, interestingly, Stoicism more than Epicureanism, Stoicism is still alive and well today. It is a philosophic idea that is still around. Before I leave the ancient world, the most famous proponent of Stoic thought happened to be a Roman emperor. Anybody know who that might have been?

[Man] Marcus Aurelius.

[Darris McNeely] Yes, Marcus Aurelius, otherwise known as the emperor of the movie “Gladiator.” Everybody's seen "Gladiator," right? The emperor that got killed at the beginning, played by Richard Harris. All right? That's Marcus Aurelius. Marcus Aurelius was a Stoic. And his meditations, you can download a free copy of that off of Kindle. Today, I have a copy on my Kindle. Every once in a while, I'll open up Marcus Aurelius's meditations and read into it. And there's some interesting good things in there. But he was a Stoic adherent. As Roman emperors go, he was a pretty good emperor.

He ruled it at its height and was the last best, really, of all the Roman emperors. They kind of did a slow gradual downturn after he died, beginning with his son, who was the bad guy in the movie. But I started to say that Stoicism is alive and well today. There's a book at...is on the list all the time called “The Daily Stoic.” And it has a Stoic piece of philosophy for every day of the year. So, if you want to study Stoicism. I've looked at it, and again, Stoic thought has some very good ideas that are akin to Christianity.

But I don't call myself a Stoic, I call myself a Christian, but it is survived. In fact, professional sports teams will bring in trainers, life coaches, or whatever, who adhere to Stoic philosophy to train their athletes, basketball, football, to help get their mind straight as they deal with the game. In fact, the losing quarterback of this year's Super Bowl team was Jalen Hurts, right? Philadelphia Eagles quarterback.

And I was reading an article the day after the Chiefs beat the Eagles, and I guess Jalen Hurts kind of made the point that he himself has been a student of stoic philosophy. So, he took his loss to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in a stoical way. Well, you know, it's over. It's in the past. Now, we move on. And he wasn't whining and crying and blaming the refs and doing all these things, which, you know, high-paid, overpaid professional athletes tend to do.

And I remember thinking that they said he had been a kind of a student of Stoic philosophy. So, it's still being done and it's still alive and around today. These are the people that Paul encountered here. And a little bit of background knowledge on this is useful. So, what they did in verse 19 then, after all of this, they wanted to know more about it.

Acts 17:19-21 “They took him and they brought him to the Areopagus, saying, ‘May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore, we want to know what these things mean. For all the Athenians…’” And then Luke makes this comment, “For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there, spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.”

What a life that that is... You have the time and the means by which you can just dabble into ideas, the world of ideas, books, and art, and philosophy, religion, whatever you wake up and you want to do. You know, that's some people's idea of utopia, I suppose. I mean, I like to read widely, and I have a lot of books on my shelf and gave away some of them to you earlier this year. I haven't replaced those quite yet, but I'm in the process of, you know, doing so. I'm sure I will. You know, I like to read widely. I like to dabble into all these things that relate to the biblical narrative to help understand more of what was going on back then so that I can understand how it relates to today. But this was the characteristic of the Athenians of looking for new things.

And so Paul coming into their midst with this idea of Christianity, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the kingdom of God totally new for them. Maybe they had heard a few things coming out of Judea and Jerusalem, you know, of what had happened with the crucifixion and with this new startup group. But what they would've known would've been very, very small and certainly not enough knowledge to really say that they were conversant.

Paul's probably their first deep encounter with the truth of the gospel. You know, to them, it's somewhat akin to Judaism to the degree they even understood that. They certainly understood the monotheistic approach of Judaism and the morality of Judaism and that they didn't eat pig. But now, this new idea comes along, and so they want to know more about it. So, they take him up on the Areopagus or otherwise known as Mars Hill. And this is what it looks like.

I was there once many, many years ago. I would love to go back again and see it, but it's just a bare rock outcropping today. Not much changed from what it was at that time, that it would've been built up with a bit more buildings and benches and things like that, but this is where it happened. This is what is called Mars Hill. Now, takes its name, Mars, the Areopagus. And Mars Hill essentially are saying the same thing. They were dedicated to the god of war, Mars Hill. Mars was the Roman name of the god Ares, the Greek god of war.

I'm sure many of you have seen “Wonder Woman,” right? Number one. And her big fight was against Ares. Remember in “Wonder Woman”? Well, that's the god of war, which was... You know, whoever wrote that particular script had some insight. I will say that it was pretty insightful into the Satanic world. And his dialogue was something to listen to because of the connection to Satan. But that was Ares. So, the site is called the Areopagus, the Hill of Ares, or the Hill of Mars. That's merely what it means.

And it was where the leaders in the elite to the city met to govern the city, to hear these things. Some people position what is happening here with Paul as a trial, and he is being, in a sense, brought into court. In fact, there's one whole book, I have a copy of it, I've looked at it, that treats the entire Book of Acts as a legal treatise written by Luke as a legal defense of Paul. And I think that's a very big stretch.

And I did ask one prominent New Testament scholar a couple of years ago what he felt about that. He didn't agree with it he himself, but scattered into the commentaries, at least on this particular episode. Many treat this as kind of a trial. Paul, though, it is not explicitly stated, if it were a trial, he would've been, in a sense, accused of disrupting the order of the day and being brought to bear on this. My personal thought is that it's an intellectual discussion. That it is not necessarily in some type of legal trial in the Greek system, that at least has never has come out to me from the text as it is brought here.

They call it “strange things” in verse 20, that he's bringing strange things to our ears. Now, they did say this about Socrates many hundreds of years earlier. Socrates had to drink hemlock. Remember that story? He was a philosopher, early philosopher in Greece. And he was accused of upsetting the morals of the youth of Athens. And his critics hounded him and brought a sentence of death upon him, and he had to drink poison and commit suicide and die.

His most famous student then becomes Plato. But that was his penalty for upsetting the order. And that's why people will look at what is happening with Paul and say, “Well, it's kind of like Socrates.” And he's being brought before the leaders of the city. But my personal thought on it, and that of others that I've read since that it's an inquiry in a formal setting, but it's kind of like you'd be called before an intellectual symposium at Harvard or University of Chicago, Stanford, or some other place of higher learning to hear your apologetic, your defense.

So, let's look at it that way. But the Greeks were those that were always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. 2 Timothy 3:7 is a scripture to remember there. You know, at some point, you have to sort through all the ideas, the religions of the world, the philosophies, and you've got to understand what is truth. And that's very important when it comes to the Bible and our lives today. You've got to resolve, “This is the truth that I will live by. This is who we are. This is what we do.”

And, you know, we teach our doctrines class. We've had those discussions. Always we'll have differing ideas about various aspects of the scripture where things may not be completely clear and yet it's very clear on our fundamentals, and we can discuss that, teach that. And at some point, at the point in the church, we're going to preach that. And that is the standard that we're going to adhere to. And this is who we are.

You know, you've got to have that. I mean, otherwise, you will have chaos. That's the nature of the church and the experience that we've learned within the church, the Greek mindset, and that of other, let's say, schools of sometimes religious or philosophic thought will allow for that diversity of teaching but even the ones that have survived don't. I mean, they have their fundamentals. They live by them and they discipline. They expect a discipline and they will discipline if anyone gets out of line with that.

I mean, the Catholic church has done that off and on for years, but they've actually defrocked some who have ventured into heresy. But with that said, let's go ahead and get into where we are here.

Acts 17:22-23 “Paul then stood in the midst of the Areopagus,” this very site right here, “and he said, ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious, for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription, to the unknown god.’”

So, again, going back, the days he had spent going through the streets of the city, being moved to an anger over the idolatry, the temples, the altars that he saw, he had seen one that was a altar to a nameless god. The altar of the unknown god. Now, no archeologist has found this one in Athens to which Paul refers, but in other cities and archeological discoveries, altars with the inscription to the unknown god have been found.

This is one from the city of Palmyra in Syria, which almost doesn't exist today because it was kind of bombed by ISIS a few years ago. But it comes from the 2nd to 3rd century, and it's an altar to a nameless god. This is a photograph taken from the Istanbul Archeological Museum, well-known altar there to the unknown god. I've been to that museum twice in the last two years, and I have yet to see this altar because it's on the second floor and it's been closed off for renovations.

I'm hoping those of us that go here next month, I have hope they're done with their renovations and we can go up and find that particular altar. If not, we'll have to be content with a picture of it there. That's what it looked like at least the one in Palmyra. It gives you an idea of what Paul is talking about here. And so he uses this as the entree into his sermon or his discourse now about God.

Acts 17:23 He goes on, he says, “Therefore, the one whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you.”

Why did they have an altar to an unknown god? Well, just in case they missed one of the many that they had, and they didn't want to offend him or her. And so, you know, it was the one representing all the other deities they didn't know about. And so Paul works off of this. He says, “I'm going to proclaim that one to you that you do not know.” And they did not know that God. And so he begins to talk about it in verse 24.

Acts 17:24 “God,” Yahweh, Elohim, all the names of the Godhead. “God who made the world and everything in it. He's Lord of heaven and earth.”

And so he establishes that God is the creator. This is kind of his first point in his line. God is a creator. Keep in mind, the Epicureans didn't look at the world and the universe as having a creator and therefore any divine design behind it. And so Paul makes that his first line of attack, that God is the creator of heaven and earth and everything in it. He made it all. Now, this is an important point. He could have stayed right here. And I think all of us realize that today in the modern world, we are caught up in an, you know, evolutionary world that the accepted science is that life came from nothing, evolved from a lower life forms. And you study that in the biological sciences. The universe came out, you know, is not the result of a divine design by a creator, and that it was not needed.

Stephen Hawking, the famous physicist who died a few years ago was famous for eventually at point in his life coming to completely deny any possibility that the universe came into existence at the hand of anything near to be called a creator. And he said that it is possible that it came into existence on its own. And that was a kind of his famous epitaph. There is a place, an institute out of Seattle called the Discovery Institute. Some of you may be familiar with their work. They do some very good work.

I've been to one of their live seminars in Dallas a few years ago, and every year we buy a online ticket to listen to their seminars. And they just gave a few last month, they had another seminar in Dallas. And they bring in top thinkers from the world of chemistry, genetics, archeology, biology, philosophy. Stephen Meyer is kind of the director of this institute. And for an entire day, they go through, you know, hour-long presentations on the latest in these subjects showing that life, the universe, the world is here by design. There is a designer behind it.

They are believers and they have marshaled the science to prove their point. And they continue to do very, very good work. Stephen Meyer's latest book is called “The Return of the God Hypothesis,” which I've read about half of that, and then I got distracted onto another book. But it's pretty deep, but if you're interested in that type of study, I highly recommend anything coming out of the Discovery Institute because they back up this idea with design.

This is where the debate is today. And they're pushing back at the frontiers of atheism and evolution, just, you know, a relentless push against that. And their materials are very, very good for anyone wanting to study into that topic. This is where Paul begins, and it is still the front line, if you will, of any apologetic in terms of understanding life, this world that God is the creator of it.

Acts 17:24 He goes on to say that, “He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not dwell in temples made with hands.”

Now, that is a phrase that we first encountered back in Acts 7 with Stephen, remember? That's really was Stephen's punchline, his closing line. When he pointed to the temple and he said, “God does not dwell in temples made with hands.” And that is what, in a sense, led to his stoning among the other things that he said. But that was the clincher. And I personally feel that Paul bringing it into this particular message here is a result of having been there, hearing Stephen, and Paul being one of his chief accusers holding the cloaks of those who cast the stones at Stephen, remember?

And that probably for the rest of his life I think Paul never forgot what Stephen said that day. And after Paul's conversion, his change of life, probably a day didn't go by that he didn't think about that. And so it's on the tip of his tongue when he begins to give his sermon here on Mars Hill.

Acts 17: 24-25 “God does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men's hands as though He needed anything since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.”

He doesn't need anything from us, except worship. He does desire that. And through that relationship, it's not that it feeds His ego and His vanity, but it reflects our love for Him as we understand His love for us. Our worship then is what begins to develop and define a close personal relationship with God. God doesn't need, you know, the offerings that, you know...let's say the old covenant offerings that were a part of the Levitical system. He didn't need any of that to sustain Himself.

That was for the good of the worshiper, well, those who were coming for seeking and needing atonement and forgiveness of sin, and to understand how all that relationship works. He didn't need that either, but it was part of the design under the old covenant. He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And so his second point here is that He is a life-giver. This God, this unknown God, he's revealing to the Greeks is also the giver of life, which contradicts... I mean, that would nail in the heart the idea of the Epicureans who relished and luxuriated in life in the physical senses and the finer things as they could acquire them and, you know, give birth to that idea. But without any tying it into any idea of thanksgiving and appreciation and understanding that it comes from a creator, well, then that's just an empty human idea that goes nowhere. It's only as good as the meal you're in, and then you want another one.

And if that's all the purpose is to eat and drink and enjoy life at that level, well, you know, it's kind of fun. It can be fun in the moment. But without any moral divine spiritual purpose, which Paul is giving them here, it's empty. And we know from, again, our reading of scripture, that God wants us to enjoy a physical life and to enjoy the physical things, but in the context of recognizing that He gives that. I mean, go back to the teaching in Deuteronomy that we go through and understand about the holy days, especially the Feast of Tabernacles.

We save this tithe that we then we take and we convert to things that we, you know, need and whatever heart desires the idea to enjoy the Feast of Tabernacles, that eighth eight-day period, and we enjoy the abundance of a harvest and recognizing, though, that it comes from God. And we enjoy it within the context of a spiritual worship defined by God's holy days. And so, you know, the deeper we go into this, then we can understand how this ties to a whole system of life. And this is what Paul is beginning to lay out to them here.

So, that brings us through the first two. We've got three more ideas that Paul is going to go through, but we've run out of time here for this particular class. So, probably just leave this on the board and we'll pick that up in the next class and continue on with what Paul here gives to the Athenians, and let's see what kind of reaction that he gets from them when we pick this up next time.