Church Extended - Message 4
May 2, 2021
Introduction: We continue our survey of Acts called, Church Extended.
- 1 Chronicles 12:32; 1 Corinthians 9:19–22
A. The title of today’s message is Connecting. (1 Corinthians 9:22)
- It refers to discovering common ground with people so you can discuss the Good News.
- Theme verse: Acts 17:23 (NLT)—“…This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.” [Ex. of Paul connecting through a common interest.]
Connecting to spread Good News… (Acts 17:16-34)
First, we must…
A. #1 – Examine [the] culture. (Acts 17:16. C/R: 1 Corinthians 10:14; Galatians 4:8-9; Colossians 3:5; 1 John 5:21)
- Acts 17:16a (NLT)—While Paul was waiting for them [Silas and Timothy] in Athens,…
- Paul arrived in Athens alone after being forced to flee Thessalonica and then Berea by jealous Jews who stirred up trouble, started riots to silence him. (Acts 17:5,13)
- The believers in Berea escorted Paul to Athens, while Silas and Timothy remained behind in Berea, with instructions to join Paul as soon as they could. (Acts 17:14-15)
- Acts 17:16b (NLT)—…he [Paul] was deeply troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in the city. [He observed that statues of gods filled the city (17:16,23)]
- Athens was a philosophical center of the ancient world, where Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, among many others, taught, so these people thought deeply about life.
- It was also a religious center where almost every god in existence was worshiped. (30,000 according to one writer. Every public building was dedicated to a god.)
- These false gods, worshiped as idols, reveal that the people knew there was something greater in this world—and they were afraid to fail to recognize any god.
- These people wisely recognized that much of this world was beyond their control: weather, harvest, health, love, fertility, protection and many other aspects of life.
- These false deities were responsible for managing what was beyond people’s control.
- We are not so different from these Athenians, because also seek support for matters beyond our control; our culture advocates seeking help from sources other than God and biblical guidance: zodiac, crystals, meditation, mediums and spirits, god within ourselves, or relying on the material support of wealth, power, fitness, self-sufficiency.
- All people know God is real because we have eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
- We all desire to discover something gives meaning, purpose, direction, to our lives.
- Apart from knowing God and being known by Him, we experience emptiness, an inner (god-shaped) void, and unfocused living, which drives us toward idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)
- We’re warned at 1 Corinthians 10:14 to flee from the worship of idols. [Drive is real!]
- We may not be tempted to worship statues, as the Athenians did, but we fill our lives with entertainment, activities, and accumulation to quiet the inner emptiness, to distract us from reflection about the deeper purposes of life.
- Warning: 1 John 5:21 (NLT)—Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts. [for salvation, identity, comfort, direction, truth, peace]
- APP.: What is taking God’s place in your heart? If He’s not there, what is?
Connecting with others enables you to…
#2 - Engage opportunities. [to spread Good News] (Acts 17:17-23. C/R:
- Ecclesiastes 3:11; Romans 1:18-20; 1 Corinthians 9:19-22; Ephesians 5:15-17; 1 Peter 3:15-16)
- Acts 17:17a (NLT)—He went to the synagogue to reason with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles [on Saturday],…
- Paul knew that these people desired to know the Hebrew God, but they could not know Him apart from believing in Jesus, the Messiah had already come!
- Acts 17:17b (NLT)—…and he spoke daily in the public square to all who happened to be there. [To Gentiles who needed to know the true God to escape their idolatry!]
- Acts 17:18a (NLT)—He also had a debate with some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. … [Two dominant philosophies at the time of Paul’s visit to Athens.]
- Epicureans were atheists who sought pleasure and avoided pain; they believed gods existed, but did not interfere in people’s lives, and there was no afterlife.
- Stoics were pantheists (god in all things) who pursued discipline and self-control, becoming indifferent to pleasure and pain, feeling nothing, needing no one, even god.
- Acts 17:18b (NLT)—When he told them about Jesus and His resurrection, they said, “What’s this babbler trying to say with these strange ideas he’s picked up?” [Ridiculed him as picking up ideas from others, then teaching them as his own.] Others said, “He seems to be preaching about some foreign gods.” [Confused, but interested; since they believed in many gods, they thought he was introducing some new ones.]
- Acts 17:19-21 (NLT)—19Then they took him to the high council of the city [Areopagus, court named for the hill on which it had met]. “Come and tell us about this new teaching,” they said. 20“You are saying some rather strange things, and we want to know what it’s all about.” 21(It should be explained that all the Athenians as well as the foreigners in Athens seemed to spend all their time discussing the latest ideas.)
- Paul understood these people and recognized this opportunity to connect with them.
- Acts 17:22-23 (NLT)—22So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, 23for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.”
- Paul didn’t rebuke these people; rather, he embraced their curiosity about supernatural gods, then, he introduced the Hebrew God who was unknown to them. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
- Paul knew that these people worshiped a very long list of gods in an effort to find peace and security—but what they sought from these false gods had eluded them.
- What opportunity is our culture presenting us to spread Good News? People are isolated, alone, some are sick, fearful and depressed, others have lost employment.
- APP.: Do you reject and avoid people who think differently than you about God and faith, or are you praying and looking for opportunities to offer them Good News?
Connecting to spread Good News [includes]…
#3 – Explain[ing] God’s nature. (Acts 17:24-34. C/R: John 17:3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 9:27-28)
- Acts 17:24a (NLT)—“He is the God who made the world and everything in it.”
Epicureans believed matter was eternal, so it had no creator; Stoics believed god was present and part of everything, so a diffused force could not have been the creator.
- Why did Paul begin with this point? Because if God is not our Creator, then why would any of us be responsible to Him for our lives?
If He is not an intelligent Being with personality, how could we relate to Him?
- You don’t have to convince anyone of creation if the Spirit is drawing them, just give some reasonable objections to evolution for them to consider God; such as:
- Evolution is not observable, repeatable or testable, so it is not scientific.
The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics states that all things move naturally from more ordered to less ordered (entropy, without a DNA roadmap to guide development.)
- Lack of transitional (evolving, changing) forms in the fossil record.
Development of incomplete organs: Ex.: eye doesn’t work until complete, no DNA.
- Acts 17:24b-25 (NLT)— 24b “Since He is Lord of heaven and earth, He doesn’t live in man-made temples [He can’t be contained, like their unliving statues.], 25and human hands can’t serve His needs—for He has no needs. [He needs nothing; He is self-existent.] He Himself gives life and breath to everything, and He satisfies every need.”
- God is all-powerful; He is the Giver, the Provider, who is not dependent on people.
- Acts 17:26 (NLT)—“From one man [Adam] He created all the nations throughout the whole earth. [So all people are equal, having the same Creator.] He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and He determined their boundaries.”
- God is sovereign controller over all people and every nation—but He is also personal and invites people to know Him. (Which is salvation and provides eternal life. John 17:3)
- Acts 17:27 (NLT)— “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him—though He is not far from any one of us.”
- God has revealed His existence to us though the created world (Romans 1:18-20) and through our conscience which knows right and wrong even without reading the Scripture (Romans 2:14-15), so we are without excuse for not seeking, and knowing, Him.
- Acts 17:28-29 (NLT)— 28“For in Him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.’ 29And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone.”
- If God created people, and our existence is in Him, how could He be a man-made idol?
- Acts 17:30-31(NLT)— 30 “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now He commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to Him. 31For He has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man He has appointed, and He proved to everyone who this is by raising Him from the dead.”
- Our lives will be judged by Jesus based on what we do with the truth of His identity as God’s Son, the Savior of the world, which was confirmed through His resurrection.
- Acts 17:32-33 (NLT)— 32When they heard Paul speak about the resurrection of the dead, some laughed in contempt, but others said, “We want to hear more about this later.” 33That ended Paul’s discussion with them [and soon he would leave Athens, never to return], 34but some joined him and became believers. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the council, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
- APP.: Have you responded to the Good News you have heard and become a believer?
Memory verse: 1 Corinthians 9:22b (NLT)—…I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.