Paul’s Sermon at Athens
Paul has been run off from Berea to Athens and he is now proclaiming the good news of Jesus and the Resurrection in both the Synagogue and the Market. As Paul is ministering, he is bothered by the Athenians false gods and philosophies, not because he’s offended and surrounded by the sacrilegious, but because he knows these empty ideas are doing nothing more than stealing life from people and leading them astray. The Epicureans believe this life is it and then nothing more so enjoy as much pleasure as you can, the Stoics try and pretend the hardships of life away and grasp for things unseen to give them meaning, but Paul proclaims the Resurrection which stands against both of these philosophies. There’s more to this life than meets the eye and seeking out pleasure isn’t going to make you feel any less empty inside, and trying to pretend that we can ignore shortcomings in the world around us wont make them go away. It’s Resurrection that gives us hope that there’s more to this world than meets the eye and it’s also this same Resurrection that gives us hope that God can take all of the things that cause death in the world–addictions, bad relationships, racism, ethnocentrism, loneliness, identity issues, and so the list goes on–and that God can Resurrect life out of the ashes that remain.
A retelling from Acts 17:16-31, John 1:16-18
Storyline Commentary on Acts 17:16-31
Setting Paul has been run off from Berea and now is waiting in Athens to meet back up with Timothy and Silas. He’s going back and forth between the synagogue and the marketplace proclaiming the good news of Jesus and the resurrection.
Tension Paul is troubled by all of the idols he has seen in the city. He knows they are searching for truth, having even seen an inscription on an alter that said, “To an Unknown God.” The people philosophically lean either towards Epicureanism or Stoicism but Paul knows Resurrection deals with the shortcoming of both of these philosophies.
Resolution Resurrection is a new way of life. Paul points to the Unknown God they are looking for, using their culture to point them towards the good news of Jesus and the resurrection. Verses 24-31 are key here in that they address Epicureanism and Stoicism directly. Paul lays out what the people are looking for in Jesus and he ends it with the resurrection. Resurrection doesn’t fit either Epicureanism or Stoicism because Resurrection embraces both the material and divine and points towards a day when
Reflection Paul presents a completely different way of life that countered the epicurean idea that life ended with death and the stoic idea that you could separate the spiritual from the material. Resurrection turns both of these philosophies on their heads.
Epicureans embraced the material world, believing life was about achieving pleasure free from disturbance and pain, disengaging themselves from anything divine.
Stoics embraced living in divine order with the universe through logic and reason believing this brought the greatest good to life while disengaging from the materialism of this world.
In trying to have life figured out, the people readily accept the notion that they still may be wrong with the “To an Unknown God” inscription.
Paul presents a completely different way of life that countered the epicurean idea that life ended with death and the stoic idea that you could separate the spiritual from the material. Resurrection turns both of these philosophies on their heads.
I have to ask myself if my message is filled with resurrection speak or not. I believe this is what really speaks to people. Of course some will find it absurd but others will want to know more. I have to ask myself how well I know what the resurrection is.
Christianity without the Resurrection is nothing more than do’s and dont’s. Resurrection without the good news of Jesus is nothing more than escapism. It’s only when you bridge the two together that you get a wholistic and healing look at this life and the life to come.