Lesson 40: Paul's 2nd Missionary Journey (Continued/Paul's Sermon in Athens/On to Corinth)

Acts 17:22-18:5

Paul was alone in Athens. His spirit must have been at low ebb. He tried to teach in the Jewish synagogue but everything turned out to be a dispute. Then the Stoics and Epicureans encountered him. To them, Paul was "a setter forth of strange gods:   because   he   preached   unto   them   Jesus,   and   the resurrection." (verse 18 They wanted to know what this seed-picker would say. They invited Paul to speak to them in Areopagus. Naturally, Paul did not use the same approach here as in the synagogue. In a synagogue the Jewish audience believed in Jehovah God; so, he would begin reading from the scriptures (which they believed) how a Messiah was to rise up, etc. These, philosophy-laden Athenians did not believe in Jehovah God; so, he had to cause them to believe in God, first and foremost, if he was to teach them and convert them. O.K. let's listen to Paul's speech before the champions of theological academics. He most likely stood on a big rostrum with fancy little carvings everywhere. This speech is ten verses long and it takes on one of those Peter characteristics in that it is interrupted at the end. So, imagine you are there as Paul clears his throat and all those philosophical eyeballs focus on. Starting in verse 22. Let's read.   "Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if happily they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from everyone of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are all his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will Judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." Isn't it a treat, to reach back over 1900 years and hear the words of an apostle as he speaks to such an audience? O.K. let's review. Notice the introductory remarks (verse 22-23). He addressed them as "men of Athens." This recognizes their prestigious rank as scholars of Athens, so to speak. Yet, in the same sentence Paul says "you are too superstitious." i.e. too religious, fearful of demons. He had observed their devotions, i.e. the gods they worshipped. He calls their attention to one monument in Athens he had observed that was dedicated TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Apparently, they worshipped so many pagan gods (with a little "g") they had a god for everything. And, Jest they overlook some god and thus provoke that god, they made an altar to the one(s) they might have been overlooking. Paul says   in essence: I'm going to tell you about the one you overlooked, the true God. You see (by saying it that way) Paul was saying (in effect) you admit: (this monument testifies to the fact) you admit: you may be missing the true God. That's the one I want to tell you about. ."God that made the world", he says in verse 24. He's Lord of everything, heaven and earth. And, He doesn't dwell in these monuments or temples, or altars made by your hands. And, you can't worship him with your hands by carvings and producing such altars. This God gave life, breath and everything. This applies to all men, "one blood" verse 26 says. "The times...and the bounds" have already been established he says. VERSE 27 "he be not far from everyone of us...in him (verse 28) we live, and move and have our very being." And, Paul confides; some of their poets had said this correctly. But you miss the point when you think of God as gold, silver, or marble carved out by men. Notice the word "Godhead" in verse 29. This is the first time this term is used in the N.T. Although we have talked about this before, it's used again in Rom. 1:20 and in Cor. 2:9. It includes the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Col. 2:9 says the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ, bodily. The point is made in verse 30 God requires, i.e. commands ajl men to repent. Then Paul calls their attention to the Judgment day. AH men in the world will be judged by a man that God has ordained i.e. Jesus. And God has given assurance of this by raising that man from the dead. YOU KNOW, of course, he was talking about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This is where the interruption came. Paul intended to say more about Jesus, but before he had the opportunity he was interrupted. Some began to mock; it was too heavy for them. Let's finish the chapter verse 32-34. Act 17:32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.
Act 17:33 So Paul departed from among them. Act 17:34 Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
When they began to mock and the meeting was broken up. Paul walked out..."departed from among them" verse 33 says. But a few followed him. Apparently they "clung unto him, and believed" verse 34. Among those foJJowing was Dionysius, a man of high officiaJ standing in the city. Also a woman, Damaris; mentioned here apparently because she was a woman. Undoubtedly women were scarce among the philosophers. Were Damaris, Dionysius and others baptized. Possibly so! We can't be certain from verse 34. They did believe! But whether they attended to repentance, confession and baptism told. Neither, are they mentioned again in the N.T. Eusebius, the historian, mentions Dionysius in his Ecclesiastical History; claiming he became an outstanding Christian and did a Jot of writing in future years. O.K. That concludes chapter 17. Paul was in Athens; Timothy and Silas were in Berea but Paul had sent word for them to come with all speed. Luke was probably still at Philippi, his location is not clear. But, we are plowing on with our study. Isn't it a fascinating book! Are you making any progress with your friends? Do them a favor and get them started on this study. The world needs to examine the hub of the bible. It's an education in itself. Many are too busy, (they think to tinker around with kid stuff. But, if they ever got a taste, they would eat it up. It's far more fascinating than Dallas. Falcon Crest or As The World Turns. Most people have never discovered the bible. It's covered up with the T.V. Guide. Ann Landers, and the National Enquirer. So-called religious people are many times as ignorant about the bible as the Athenians were about God. You know that is true! You are an unusual person. I mean it Forty Lessons and you are still studying; I congratulate you. Seventeen chapters down, eleven more to go! Here we are in the middle of Paul's second missionary Journey where he is evangelizing Europe. And, America today, needs that message just like Europe did then. Our eternal salvation depends on it. And Europe still needs it again today. It will never get out of date. So, let's get others to study. Acts ch.18, let's read verse 1-4. Act 18:1 After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; Act 18:2 And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.
Act 18:3 And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.
Act 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.

Paul traveled from Athens to Corinth. Just a short jaunt, perhaps less 50 miles due west and most of that is connected by water. Corinth is city # 31 on your map. Get it located. Also notice, city # 32, which is Cenchrea. Write it in C-E-N-C-H-R-E-A. The spelling is down in verse 18. But right now, here's what I want you to see. Corinth is a seaport town on the Gulf of Corinth. This is an isthmus, i.e. a narrow strip of land, about 4 miles wide, between Corinth and Cenchrea; that connects northern Achaia with southern Achaia, sometimes called the Peloponnesian peninsula. Corinth was once the wealthiest city in ancient Greece. Sometimes called the city of two-seas. You can see, by the location of Corinth that it was a very important city, from the standpoint of commerce. And as you would expect, a very cosmopolitan city; people coming and going constantly. This was a connecting line between Rome and other parts of the empire. This was the stopover; where people change ships. Paul "Came to Corinth" verse 1 says. There he met a man and his wife who were tentmakers. They were Jews, who had recently been kicked out of Rome, because they were Jews. We later find them in Rome again. The man was Aquila, and his wife was Priscilla. He was a Grecian Jew, so-to-speak. He was born in northern Asia Minor, a province of Rome called Pontus {that's on your map). We learn an interesting little tidbit of information in verse 3. Paul was a tentmaker. Apparently, he had learned that trade as a boy. Traditionally, all Jewish boys were taught a trade. Alexander Campbell, in his commentary quotes somebody as saying it was a Jewish Jaw after the Jews returned from Babylonian exile. The Rabbis taught that a father, who did not teach their   sons   a   trade,   taught   them   to   be   a thief. Undoubtedly, Paul {as a Jewish lad) had been taught the tent-making trade. So, Paul stayed with Aquila and Priscilla and made tents. This brings up an interesting point; we haven't discussed before. How was Paul supported? That is, who paid his bills? It cost money to eat. It cost money to ride those ships. What about a place to stay? Well, sometimes he was lucky enough to be "constrained" to stay in a place like Lydia's home in Philippi, or Jason's home in Thessalonica. The Philippian church sent Paul some support over the years; we've talked about that before. They sent Paul a gift more than once while he was at Thessalonica, according to.Phil.4:16. But they were the only church that did, according to Phil. 4:15. Paul made his own way, most of the time. Usually he did not take money from churches. When he was teaching in the synagogue at Thessalonica (Acts 17), he was working day and night trying to make a living. How do I know that? Paul said it: I Thes. 2:9. In II Cor. 11:9 Paul (in discussing this subject) said, "I was chargeable to no man." He said, "I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service." Some of the false teachers associated with that incident, apparently used this against Paul, i.e. because he would not demand support, they construed it as weakness. Notice how Paul answered that charge (n Cor. 12: 13) "...forgive me this wrong" he says in a satirical sort of way. He was not burdensome to them but he could have been as an apostle. He said this in I Thess. 2:6. And in another place he said, "...they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." (I Cor. 9:14). Down in verse 18 of that same chapter, Paul pointed out he was cautious not to abuse his power in the gospel in that respect. So, Paul worked as a tentmaker, at times, to earn a living. He was one more dedicated man, a fantastic person. He may have persecuted Christians at one time because he thought Jesus was an imposter. But, he sure tried to make up for it when he learned better. Now, back to the text. VERSE 2 of Acts 18 gives us another valuable bit of information. Notice that Aquila and Priscilla had "lately came from Italy", i.e. recently. The Roman Emperor, Claudius, who ruled from A.D. 41 to AD 54 expelled all Jews from Rome in late A.D. 51 or early A.D. 52. Thus, verse 2 establishes the date Paul was at Corinth (AD   52). Almost twenty years after Jesus had ascended into heaven. And remember that is where the book of Acts started. Thus, we will cover approximately ten more years in the last ten chapters yet to come. O.K. Notice in verse 4, Paul went to the synagogue in Corinth as his custom was (stated in Acts 17:2). What did he do? He "reasoned" and persuaded every Sabbath (verse 4) Jews and Greeks. O.K., that's par for the course; go I into the synagogue, preach a few Saturdays, baptize a few people, get put in jail, run out of town, stoned, or something worse, right? You've learned the routine! What will it be at Corinth in this big cosmopolitan city? There was a little band of disciples at Philippi, some at Thessalonica, and a church at Berea. What about Athens? Well, they disputed but they didn't obey. Up on the hill, Dionysius, Damans and a few others showed interest AT LEAST. But Corinth, what will it be? O.K. I'll let you read verse 5. Aren't I nice?? Let's read: Act 18:5 And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. Alright! I was beginning to get worried about Silas and Timothy, weren't you? Paul instructed them to come to Athens with ALL SPEED, remember? Which was very fast in those days, of course! Something tells me, Paul couldn't stand that place called Athens, and so he left word for Timothy and Silas to come on to Corinth. "Paul departed from Athens" verse 1 said. I don't want to string this out. But honestly now, can you visualize this occasion? When Silas and Timothy found Paul at Corinth? Think about it! How did they greet each other? Timothy, this is Aquila, and this is Priscilla, they are refugees from Rome, displaced persons at the pleasure of the emperor. And what do you think Paul's question might have been? I would say, you guessed it. How are the brethren at Berea? At Thessalonica? At Philippi? Can you imagine Paul telling them his experience in Athens? They must have prayed a few times together,    as    their   joys    and    disappointments    were communicated to each other. The candle must have burned late that night. Conversation just couldn't stop. And, all the while they may have been weaving, sewing, or whatever tentmakers do. Paul must have told them about the progress at Corinth, what had happened in the synagogue, how many were baptized. What needed to be done next! Then as Paul tried to sleep, his mind kept going back to the brethren at Thessalonica What Timothy told him about the. church at Thessalonica needed   his   counsel.   We   don't   know   who!   But,   some members) of the church there must have died. Could it be Jason, or one of those brothers who had posted bond when Paul was sent away to Berea? But, who ever it was, it had apparently caused a provoking question to arise in the minds of the other disciples. How would death affect their eternal destiny? Paul had told them about the eternal kingdom in the heavens where they would rest. Where Jesus will take us when he returns, i.e. those that are faithful citizens of that kingdom. Paul had told them that! But they were expecting Jesus to return any day, undoubtedly. Would these that died, miss out on that blessing? The question may seem preposterous to you. You may have understood that much from childhood. But, do you remember? Paul was at Thessalonica only three Sabbath days. How much could YOU teach in three weeks and work too? These people did not have, childhood opportunities. This was completely new to them. Thus, it came to be what I would call a "church issue" at Thessalonica. It was an emotionally laden question. Apparently, Timothy and Silas had not been able to overcome all the DOUBT on this stirring question. So, it must have been about the next day; Paul took a clean scroll and a quill and wrote what we would call the book of I Thessalonians. This letter has been preserved for us. Turn to it! It is the 13th book in the N.T. The first three chapters cover general things. In the middle of ch.4, Paul gets down to the death question. He refers to death as "sleeping." Have you got your eyes on I Thessalonians? Lets read. You read! I'll read. Beginning in verse 1, ITh 1:1     Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. ITh 1:2   We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; ITh 1:3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;

May I interrupt a moment? Our time is almost up! But, would you turn the tape player off and complete the book of I Thessalonians, while you've got it in your hand? It's a short book! It will take you only about 12-15 more minutes. I'll be with you in Lesson # 41. Have a good reading!

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