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Thursday, June 9 2011

The Gospel To The Athenian Jews And Greeks

The apostle Paul, who was formerly known as Saul, was a Jew, and a Pharisee, who was chosen by Jesus Christ while he was yet a Christ and Christian-hating unbeliever (see Was Paul Among Them?). While Paul's primary assigned task was to be the "apostle to the Gentiles" (see also Who Was The First Apostle?), while doing so he would "bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel" i.e. at that time, the scattered people of Judah (keeping in mind that Paul himself was born in Tarsus, a city in Turkey, not in Israel; see also The Gathering of Israel and Judah).

As recorded in Bible History, Paul encountered many Jews throughout the world in which he would preach The Gospel of The Kingdom of God (see also When And Where Your Eternal Life Will Begin and What Will Heaven Be Like?). Many of those fellow Jews were, or became, believers as Paul had done; others remained Christian-haters, as Paul himself once was.

Paul's famous conversion on the road to Damascus - when he "saw the light":

Light

"9:1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 9:2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. 9:3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 9:4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

9:5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord?

And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 9:6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

9:7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. 9:8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. 9:9 And he was three days without sight [see Paul's Blindness Lesson], and neither did eat nor drink.

9:10 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias.

And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.

9:11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, 9:12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.

9:13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: 9:14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.

9:15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel." (Acts 9:1-15 KJV)

"He saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons"

Jews were present throughout Paul's ministry (although a Gentile, Luke, recorded much about it in the book of Acts; see The Gospel By The Gentile). Paul's arrival in Athens during his second missionary journey (see the Fact Finder question below) was preceded by, and caused by, Jews who violently opposed Paul, unlike many other Jews who "received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (keeping in mind that at that time, only Jews could have "searched the scriptures" because other people didn't yet have the "Bible").

Paul In Athens

"17:10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. 17:12 Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.

17:13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people. 17:14 And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still. 17:15 And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed." (Acts 17:10-15 KJV)

Amazingly, Paul began his speaking against "the city wholly given to idolatry" in a synagogue, where "disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews" - the "disputed" with the Jews in the synagogue indicates that they were at least tolerant, or publicly silent, of all of the heathen idolatry in the city. Paul was not the first Jew in those "Gentile" lands, but he was apparently the first Jew to effectively do something about it.

"17:16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. 17:17 Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him." (Acts 17:16-17 KJV)

Paul's primary assignment was however to the Gentiles (although, as we read, it often included other Jews who behaved like Gentiles); he therefore found himself dealing with the "philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks" who "spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing." Ironically, they called Paul a "babbler." "Babble" literally means confused; Paul wasn't confused - they were.

"17:18 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. 17:19 And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? 17:20 For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. 17:21 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." (Acts 17:18-21 KJV)

Paul's approach was to reason with them by means of their own method of logic - to use what they said as a way to prove what Paul was saying. When the opening came, Paul struck at the place, geographically ("in the midst of Mars' hill") and philosophically ("I passed by, and beheld your devotions"), where they could most naturally see the Logic of God's Truth (ironically as well, Christ is also recorded in the Scriptures as the Logos, as shown in the illustration - a Greek word for logic; see The Logos).

Logos

"17:22 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. 17:23 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.

17:24 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; 17:25 Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; 17:26 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; 17:27 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: 17:28 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.

17:29 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. 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: 17:31 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." (Acts 17:22-31 KJV)

As always happens, some, who had the Holy Spirit to "hear," welcomed the Gospel Truth: "certain men clave unto him, and believed." Others continued on in their Babylon (see also What And Where Is Babylon Today?) and so "Paul departed from among them."

"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. 17:33 So Paul departed from among them.

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." (Acts 17:32-34 KJV)

Fact Finder: Where did Paul go on his three major missionary journeys?
See Acts 13:1 to 15:35 for Paul's First Missionary Journey
See Acts 15:36 to 18:22 for Paul's Second Missionary Journey
See Acts 18:23 to 21:17 for Paul's Third Missionary Journey
See also Paul's Passport and Paul's Bible Correspondence Course


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This Day In History, June 9

411 BC: A coup in Athens formed a short-lived oligarchy (a political system governed by a few people).

53: Roman Emperor Nero married his stepsister Claudia Octavia, the 13 year old niece of Emperor Tiberius (Tiberius was the emperor at the time of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ) and the daughter of Emperor Claudius.

62: Roman Emperor Nero had his wife Claudia Octavia executed. She was 22.

68: Roman Emperor Nero committed suicide (see also Did Nero Really Fiddle While Rome Burned?).

1534: By some historical accounts, the French explorer Jacques Cartier and his crew became the first Europeans to sail into the St. Lawrence River.

1549: The Church of England adopted The Book of Common Prayer, compiled by Thomas Cranmer.

1597: Jose de Anchieta died at age 63. The Portuguese Jesuit is considered to be the founder of national literature of Brazil, and is "credited" with helping over 1 million "Indians" (the incorrect term applied to the natives of the continents of North and South America by European explorers who thought that they were in India) to become "Christian" i.e. Roman Catholic.

1732: James Oglethorpe of England received a royal charter to form the colony of Georgia (named after King George II) on the southeast coast of North America.

1800: During Napoleon's Italian campaign, the first Battle of Montebello was fought.

1815: The Congress of Vienna closed with the signing of the Final Act. Among its provisions, Belgium and Luxembourg united with Holland to form the Netherlands, Switzerland was neutral, East Poland ceded to Russia and its western provinces to Prussia.

1898: An agreement was signed under which Hong Kong was leased to Britain from China for a period of 99 years.

1908: King Edward VII of Britain met Czar Nicholas II of Russia on board the royal yacht anchored in the Baltic. It was the first meeting between a czar and a British monarch.

1931: Robert Goddard patented the rocket-fueled aircraft design.

1940: That day was appointed by the British as a national day of Thanksgiving to God for "the miracle of Dunkirk" a week before. Overcast had kept the Luftwaffe grounded, while the normally rough and treacherous English Channel was unusually calm. People who had lived all their lives on its shore said that they had never seen the Channel so tranquil, which enabled all sorts of small civilian craft to take part in the successful evacuation of 338,000 British and allied troops - many of whom survived to return a few years later on the D Day landings at Normandy.

1959: The first submarine to carry nuclear "weapons of mass destruction," the USS George Washington, was launched.

1964: William Maxwell Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook, died at age 85. The Canadian financial baron and statesman was one of only two people (the other was Winston Churchill) to sit in the British cabinet during both world wars. He was Prime Minister Churchill's minister of aircraft production (Fighters: 14,200 Hurricane, 20,300 Spitfire; Bombers: 11,400 Wellington, 7,300 Lancaster, 6,100 Halifax and 7,700 Mosquito) during the Second World War (listen to our Sermon The European World Wars).

1967: During the Six-Day War, Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria.

1968: U.S. President Lyndon Johnson declared a national day of mourning after the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy.

1978: An original Gutenberg Bible, one of only 21 known to exist, sold for $2.4 million in London.

1991: Mount Pinatubo, a Philippine volcano that had been dormant for 600 years, erupted, causing the evacuation of U.S. troops from their air base.


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