In today's study, we find Paul ministering in Corinth where he accuses the Epicureans and Stoics of being too superstitious in their worship. He then begins to identify The Unknown God that they have been ignorantly worshiping and encourages them to repent of their idolatry and to turn to the one true and living God.
VERSE 18: Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. Paul's preaching caught the ear of certain philosophers. Epicureans were people who follow the philosophy of "eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die". Epicurus taught ataraxia which means living with no need and no distress. It is the basic philosophy of the West today, e.g., the first article in the Declaration of Independence says contains the phrase when it says, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
On the other side were the stoics who were the exact opposite. They believed that life should be lived with logic and one should not allow themselves to be controlled by the desire for pleasure or fear of pain, by using one's mind to understand the world.
Some saw Paul as a babbler, and others saw him as a setter forth of strange gods. Babbler comes from the word spermologos which means seed picker or a gossiper or trifler in talk.
VERSES 19-20: And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? (20) For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. Notice that unlike the unbelieving Jews who simply responded with violence to things that Paul taught because they either didn't understand or agree, these wanted to hear more about this new doctrine.
The Areopagus is the same as Mars Hill (v.22). Mars is a reference to the Greek God. The Areopagus is a prominent rock outcropping located northwest of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. It was the location of a court and was supposed to have been the site where Ares was tried by the gods for the murder of Poseidon's son Halirrhothius.
VERSE 21: (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) Notice that their motivation was to hear some new thing. Like our culture today, people were always looking for the next new thing. While there is nothing wrong with being willing to listen, we must ultimately take the evidence that is presented, which requires energy that most do not have, and make sure it is accurate. If I have learned anything, it is that we are constantly being presented with new information that requires the same process.
VERSES 22-23: 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. (23) 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. Notice he says that he perceives that they are too supersitious. In the Greek, it is deisi-daimon-esteros and is a compound word that means fearful of demons. Today, we would interpret it to mean simply a reverence for the supernatural.
And as such, they even worshiped at the altar of THE UNKNOWN GOD in apparent ignorance (agnostic). In other words, they don't even know who this god is and yet they still choose to worship it. He is basically saying, you obviously acknowledge that you do not know "all" of the God's, so I am going to tell you about the one you are missing.
VERSES 24-25: 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; (25) Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; Interestingly, we are going to see that Paul was not very "seeker sensitive" nor did he try to when friends and influence people as he spoke to these Epicureans and Stoics.
The first point that Paul makes is that God made the world and all things therein. This offended the Stoics because they are pantheistic and he is declaring monotheism. This offended the Epicureans who did believe in a diety, but a distant deity that keeps man at an arms-length. And he offended them all by saying that God dwelleth not in temples made with hands because the entire city and economy revolved around temples made with hands. However, Paul is saying that this Unknown God that they ignorantly worship does not.
VERSES 26-28: 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; (27) That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: (28) For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. The second point that Paul makes is that this God is very involved in the affairs of man. Again, offensive to both.
Paul declares that God made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth. One blood is a reference to Adam and that all men came from him. I guess Paul didn't totally understand the science of evolution or the Christianized version called Theistic Evolution. By the way, there is only one race on earth and they are called men. The other translations omit the word blood, but the meaning is the same.
God has also determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation. This literally means that God is sovereign over man and his boundaries. The word literally means limit placing or boundary line which means that men and their habitations have a predetermined shelf life. Of course, one only needs to read the 9th chapter of Daniel to see this.
He goes on to say that this God has done these things so that the nations of men will seek him if haply they might feel after him, and find him because he is not far from every one of us. He goes on to be culturally relevant by quoting one of their own poets when he says for in him we live, and move, and have our being. This is a quote from a popular poem of the day written by Aratus (315-240 BC), "Phenomena", which was prose that described the constellations. Interestingly, it is that that he was from Tarsus in Cilicia just like Paul, which might explain why he was familiar with his work.
In it, he wrote, "Let us begin with god, whom we mortals never leave unspoken. For every street, every market-place is full of god. Even the sea and the harbour are full of this deity. Everywhere everyone is indebted to god. For we are indeed his offspring."
VERSES 29-31: 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. (30) And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: (31) 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. He begins to wrap up with since 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. In other words, since they all came from God via Adam, they should not try to find God in 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. Again, not being very delicate in regards to their obvious idolatry.
He goes on to point out in v.30 that while God has winked at their idolatry done in ignorance, he now commandeth all men everywhere to repent. From the context, he is speaking to Gentiles, which God did not deal with in times past, but the nation of Israel alone, but now, He is. This speaks of the new dispensation in which now both Jew and Gentile are to repent. Repent meaning to change their way of thinking, and turn from their idols to Lord of heaven and earth (v.24).
Why? - 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.
VERSES 32-34: And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. (33) So Paul departed from among them. (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. Notice that the response to Jesus and his resurrection from the dead was either mocked or considered it. Understand that the resurrection is a key component or element of the Gospel. Under the Kingdom Gospel, had he not risen, the Kingdom could have never been legitimately offered. Under the Grace Gospel, one must believe it in order to be saved. The resurrection is essential to both. Paul spoke to this in 1Cor 15:12-19.
In regards to those who did believe the Grace Gospel, they were Gentiles since that is the audience that he was addressing. They responded favorably just like the Philippian Jailer before.
VERSE 1: After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; Interestingly, Paul didn't get thrown out of Athens like so many times before, he appears to have left on his own accord and timing. Corinth is just south of Athens and was a very important city in that while Athens contained the academics, Corinth was the seat of government for the region. We are going to discover down in v.11 that Paul had quite a long ministry in this city.
VERSES 2-3: 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. (3) And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers. Here he meets to Jews named Aquila and Priscilla. It says that they were there because of Claudius had kicked them out of Rome. This is also the first time that we learn that Paul was a tentmaker.
This skill and trade would have most likely been passed down to him from his father. There is a Jewish proverb that says, "He that teaches not his son a trade is as if he taught him to be a thief." No doubt, he made these for shepherds and soldiers alike.
Today, the term has come to refer to someone who does not receive full-time pay from the ministry and has to do something else on the side to make ends meet.
VERSE 4: And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. Again, we find him in the synagogue every sabbath persuading both Jews and Greeks.
Note: Why does the church worship on Sunday and not Saturday today? 1. The Sabbath commemorates God's creation and provision (Exo 31:16-17). It was given to Israel under the Law. 2. Sunday, on the other hand, commemorates Grace in that Christ rose from the dead (Luke 24:1) on that day and it was the day the early church gathered (1Cor 16:2). The first commemorates God's creation while the second commemorates the Lord's resurrection.
Kevin Sadler wrote that the "Sabbath speaks of rest after work and relates to the Law and the work required by those under the Law in Law-keeping, with the works, observation of feasts, and sacrifices that Israel was commanded to do continually by faith. The Sabbath foreshadows the rest that Israel will enjoy in her end times, in her millennial rest within the earthly kingdom.
Sunday worship on the first day of the week speaks to a rest that takes place before work and relates to Grace and the rest we, the Body of Christ, have in Christ and His finished work right up front. Having trusted that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again (1Cor 15:3-4), we are “complete in [Christ]” (Col 2:10). Salvation is a “gift” that we receive the moment we believe; it is “not of works” (Eph 2:8-9). For most working people, our work week follows after the first day of the week. And under Grace, because we are saved, “works” follow after out of joy and gratitude for our accomplished salvation in Christ (Eph 2:10)."
Again, we see that Paul's tried and trued method was reason and persuasion. That is all that we can do today. Some will listen today, others tomorrow, and others never.
VERSE 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. Now Silas and Timothy who he had left in Berea catches up with him (Acts 17:10). As such, Paul is pressed in the spirit. The KJV does not capitalize spirit, the NKJV does. Other translations do not use the word at all. In the end, it means that he was pressed or encouraged to teach the Word.
VERSE 6: And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. This is the first time that we see Paul purposely abandoning the synagogue, but we will find that this was not permanent at all (Rom 1:16).
VERSES 7-8: And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man's house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue. (18) And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. Justis was a Gentile that worshiped God but apparently had not converted to Judaism. It is then that many believe and the church of Corinth was begun.