Paul’s Call to Repentance at Athens

13 Feb

Paul concluded his speech at the Areopagus in Athens before an assembly of the philosophers there and perhaps some curious onlookers with a call to repent from worshiping gods of their own making. He referred to the glorious Athenian cultural history as the times of ignorance (Acts 17:30). He inferred their devotion to God was nothing more than that of blind men groping or feeling in the dark (Acts 17:27), because they knew, evidenced in the words of their poets, that through nature itself the invisible qualities and power of God were more than stone, silver and gold (Romans 1:20), yet, rejecting this precious jewel of knowledge (Romans 1:23), they chose rather to worship the art of their hands and imagination (Romans 1:21), and in their wisdom, they became fools (Romans 1:22).

Luke accused the Jews of this same ignorance first through the mouth of Peter in Acts 3:17, because the Jews and their rulers rejected the Holy and Just One (Acts 3:14) and killed the Prince of Life (Acts 3:15). Then for a second time Luke accused the Jews of ignorance through the mouth of Paul at Pisidian Antioch in Acts 13:27, where Paul claimed the Jews, through their rulers, rejected the Messiah and had him executed, though they found no guilt in him (cp. Acts 13:28). This, they had done even though the prophets, whom they read every Sabbath, claimed they would do those very things.

Was the ignorance of the gentiles the same as the ignorance of the Jews who ridiculed the gentiles for their devotions? Yes, indeed it was and is the same. Paul called the gentiles in Athens to repent of the ignorance of believing God has a physical form they could celebrate through the art of their imagination and handiwork. The Jews were called to repent from the ignorance of obliging God to live in a Temple made by human hands and save them from their enemies through the physical person of the Messiah, rather than through the Messiah dwelling in flesh through the power and gift of the Holy Spirit. Both the Jews and the gentiles seek to force God into a human mold!

As it was in the first century CE, so it is even today almost 2000 years later. Men still feel after God by rejecting the truth so evident in nature itself—that God cannot be bound to any form, nor is he to be found in the silly, pathetic declaration of political correctness, which claims all ideas of God are equally appropriate. This would be like saying all answers to a math problem are equally correct—a pupil’s dream but a teacher’s nightmare! This is pure idiocy, but it is the wisdom the world celebrates and embraces as its own.

Athens and America, the gentiles and the Jews need to repent of the same ignorance of God. Although they know better, they reject the truth and embrace a known lie. They have given themselves over to the lie in order to avoid the problem of change. Each believes he is the captain of his own destiny, yet all are in the hands of God. No one admits to the truth, though in word, it may seem like one or some agree, yet in the testimony of example, each proves his devotion to the work of his own hands or the imagination of his own heart and not to the Almighty One who rules and judges all.

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Posted by on February 13, 2013 in Paul's 2nd Missionary Journey, repentance


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