Chardon church of Christ

Sermons from the Chardon church of Christ

The Day Is Set

Posted on August 3rd, 2021

Acts 17:16-34

INTRO: Good morning. The last time we were together we left Paul speaking with the more noble Jews of Berea and we saw that their attitude towards God’s word was the kind of attitude God wants from everyone. People with that attitude do not just listen to the traditions of men, but examine the Scriptures for themselves to see if what was being preached was true.

What we are going to see today is a debate that Paul had with the so-called wise men of Athens. Our text for today is Acts 17:16-34.

But before we begin there I’d like to look at something Solomon said back in Ecclesiastes 7:11-12 that; “Wisdom is good with an inheritance, and profitable to those who see the sun. For wisdom is protection just as money is protection, But the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom keeps its possessors alive.” [para]

Folks, wisdom is more than knowing right from wrong. It also involves choosing to do the right and not the wrong. What we’re going to see today is wisdom in action.

I. Let’s read from the text today starting at Acts 17:16-21 – “16. Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. 17. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. 18. Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, "What does this babbler want to say?'' Others said, "He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,'' because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. 19. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? 20. "For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.'' 21. For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.”

A. While he waited for the others to arrive, Paul apparently toured the city and discovered it was totally given over to idolatry. This provoked, or some might say angered, him. He went to the synagogue to reason with the Jews and devout Greeks of the city. He also discussed the gospel with those he met in the marketplace. Paul preached the gospel, just as he always did, "to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
B. This drew the attention of certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, some of whom decided they wanted to hear what the "babbler" had to say.

1. These two groups mentioned here by Luke were the most powerful and popular at that time. The Stoics believed that the good life was obtained through the pursuit of what they thought was virtue, glorifying human reason and self-sufficiency. The Epicureans made pleasure the end-all of human existence.
2. Both philosophies, however, were outcroppings of a single basic error, that of the deification of humanity, an error that blinds the present generation no less than it blinded theirs.

C. Some in the crowd thought he was talking about foreign gods. Luke tells us that they took a hold of Paul in a non-threatening way and brought him to the Areopagus.

1. The Areopagus, was the earliest aristocratic council of ancient Athens. The name was taken from the Areopagus, a low hill northwest of the Acropolis, which was its meeting place. The power of the Areopagus waxed and waned for hundreds of years but at this time of Roman domination it was at a high point discharging significant administrative, religious, and educational functions.
2. As an aside, the name Areopagus is a composite of the Greek name Areios Pagos, which is translated “Hill of Ares”. Ares was the mythical god of war to the Greeks and was called Mars by the Romans. Ares was supposed to have been tried by the gods on the Areopagus for the murder of Poseidon's son. Hence the Roman name for the place, Mars Hill.

D. Back to our text, these philosophers and intellectuals want to know more about what Paul is teaching. Paul was not on trial. The council members of the Areopagus only wanted Paul to explain what he had been teaching the people in the marketplace. Of course, Paul takes this moment as an opportunity to teach.

1. I find it interesting that a messenger for the true Prince of Peace was placed in that spot, dedicated to a mythological god of war, so that curious philosophers might hear something new.
2. Let me ask you, have you ever heard someone teach something which you found strange to your ears? In a way it’s easy for us to hear some strange teachings especially if they don’t correspond with the Bible.
3. The following story was shared by a preacher. He said that he remembered speaking with his brother one time about his brother’s views and beliefs. His brother told him that he believed that he had been in this world before and that he saw life as a never-ending cycle repeating until he reached perfection which he called Nirvana.
4. The preacher found that strange because the Bible teaches in Hebrews 9:27 that “... it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” We’re all destined to die once, not over and over and over again. We’re never going to reach perfection even if we had our lives to live over again a thousand times.
5. The preacher went on and said; “Both my sisters had attended a spiritualist church in Scotland, and they believed that they could communicate with the dead and be told what is going happen to them in the future.” He found that strange because the Bible teaches something different in Isaiah 40-48.
6. In this entire section the Lord sets Himself apart from the idols of the people by affirming that He alone will tell them what will happen before it happens. Then when the event takes place they can know that He is God.

a. God says through Isaiah in Isaiah 40:18 – “To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him?” Then in Isaiah 40:25, God says, “"To whom then will you liken Me, Or to whom shall I be equal?” The point being is that it is only God who can see the future, and He cannot be compared to anyone else.
b. In the very next chapter in Isaiah 41:22-23, God says speaking of the idols, “Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; let them show the former things, what they were, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare to us things to come. Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; yes, do good or do evil, that we may be dismayed and see it together.” In other words the ability to know the future is restricted to God. The reason I brought this thought to your attention is to remind you that when we share the gospel with people, they too may find it strange.

E. Did you find it strange when you first heard the gospel? Perhaps not, but some people do. You tell someone “You need Jesus in your life!” and you may get a look like you are an oddity. People can’t understand why we come to worship every week to remember a guy who died and was raised back to life.
F. We know that when we say these things to people we are going to get a mixed reaction. Some will say that sounds wise and others will say that’s stupid. That’s what we see happening next in Acts 17.

II. We see a mixed reaction to Paul’s wisdom. Acts 17:22-25 – “22. Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23. "for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to the unknown God. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24. "God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25. "Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all, life, breath, and all things.”

A. Notice how Paul began his sermon. The apostle began by noting that they were very religious, worshipping idols devoted to all types of gods, even an unknown God. I suspect that’s where most of us would make a mess of it. We tend to think that because people don’t behave the way the Bible teaches, or they don’t worship the way the Bible instructs us, that they are not religious when in fact they are. You can be religious about anything. What is wrong is the focus of their religion, either the object of, or the actions they take or even just a lack of full understanding.

1. We saw an example of one case in Acts 10 with Cornelius. Acts 10:1-2 – “There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.” Cornelius was a religious man in every sense of the word, but he wasn’t saved at that point in time. People can be religious but not saved.
2. Notice also that Paul didn’t go in there all guns firing. Instead, he practiced what Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:15-16 – “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.”

B. Paul seized upon their recognition of their own limited knowledge and began to tell them about the true God. He tells them that rather than there being a series of gods, each over some small element of the universe, there is one God who created all and rules over all. He says the Creator is not confined to some building made by men, nor did He need men's worship. In fact, Paul stated that all beings and all things are sustained by His power.
C. Paul tells them 4 key things. The first two are;

1. God is Creator (17:24). Paul declares that one God made it all. Paul begins by pointing out that the Athenians worship the gods as if they were distant and cannot be known. In fact, one altar was erected to the "unknown god." Paul wants to teach them that God is known and He is the creator of all things. God does not live in temples made with hands, but is Lord of heaven and earth.
2. Next God is Provider (17:25). Paul also declares that there is one God who gives all things. We do not give to God; God gives to us. God gives to mankind life, breath, and everything. There is no thing that mankind can give to God.

D. We have heard it said that human beings have a built-in urge to worship. If we know anything from history and today’s society it is this, if people do not worship God, they will worship something else. It could be the sun, a tree, money, or self. There are literally no limits whom or what people choose to worship.

1. When Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome, he says in Romans 1:20 – “ For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,”.
2. Paul says that the Creator makes His existence known in the wonderful, and obviously designed elements of the universe, and that those who reject that evidence are without excuse.
3. He goes on to say in Romans 1:21-25 that lots of people have refused to glorify God and become vain in their reasoning’s, with their “senseless” hearts being darkened. He says it is so bad that they even exchange the worship of the Creator for the worship of “created creatures,” such as men, birds, beasts, and even creeping things.

E. Isaiah 44:12-17 – “12. The blacksmith with the tongs works one in the coals, fashions it with hammers, and works it with the strength of his arms. even so, he is hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. 13. The craftsman stretches out his rule, he marks one out with chalk; he fashions it with a plane, he marks it out with the compass, and makes it like the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man, that it may remain in the house. 14. He hews down cedars for himself, and takes the cypress and the oak; he secures it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a pine, and the rain nourishes it. 15. Then it shall be for a man to burn, for he will take some of it and warm himself; yes, he kindles it and bakes bread; indeed he makes a god and worships it; he makes it a carved image, and falls down to it. 16. He burns half of it in the fire; with this half he eats meat; he roasts a roast, and is satisfied. He even warms himself and says, "Ah! I am warm, I have seen the fire.'' 17. And the rest of it he makes into a god, his carved image. he falls down before it and worships it, prays to it and says, "Deliver me, for you are my god.''” Although this sounds amusing, it’s actually very tragic. It’s tragic because this shows us just how far from God people can get when the knowledge of the Creator is left out, and the human need to worship is satisfied on the lowest level imaginable.

III. Paul tells those gathered there that there’s not a lot of different little gods who represent every little thing in the universe, but there is one God who created all things and rules over all things.

A. Paul continues his sermon in Acts 17:26-29 – “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.' Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising.”
B. Here Paul goes on to give them the third key thing; God is Ruler (17:26-28). Paul declares that God is the supreme ruler. Paul tells them that the God of heaven had made all the various peoples and He worked within them in precisely the way and at precisely the time He planned. Paul says to these Gentiles that this divinely controlled flow of history was used by God to encourage men to seek him. Yet, the supreme God is always near since we live in him, move in him, and depend upon him for our very existence. Paul, being an educated man, noted that one of their own poets said men are God's offspring, so God cannot be stone but must be alive just as His children are alive.
C. It’s now that Paul gets to the point. He carries on in Acts 17:30-34 and says, “30. "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31. "because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.'' 32. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, "We will hear you again on this matter.'' 33. So Paul departed from among them. 34. However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.”

IV. Paul now tells them the fourth thing; God sent a Personal Savior (17:29-34). They were not to think of God as gold, sliver, or stone from which an image can be formed. God overlooked this foolishness but now commands all people everywhere to repent. God has fixed a day upon which He will judge the world. Proof of the judgment is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

A. When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them mocked, but others said, "We want to hear you again on this subject." At that, Paul left the Council.

1. Some became followers of Paul and believed. Luke says that among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.
2. Paul boldly stated that God would no longer overlook the ignorant worship of men. But now God demands that they turn from their ignorance and serve Him. This is what we call repentance.
3. Paul didn’t mince his words here, and we should never leave repentance out of the gospel. Jesus tells us in Luke 13:3 – “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

B. When the apostle Paul wrote a tough letter to the Corinthian church, telling them to repent of their ways, he writes again with another letter and says, in 2 Corinthians 7:8-10 – “ For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” True repentance means more than just feeling sorry for what you have done or said. It’s a turning, a refusal to go back to the ways of the world. It’s a conscious decision to start following God and His ways.
C. Paul now calls for repentance from these Gentiles in Athens and he says such repentance is especially important. What does he say the reason is? Because a day of judgment had been set aside by the Divine Planner.

1. Make no mistake about it folks. Judgment Day is set and coming, and in that day, the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ will rightly judge all men. This is a truth confirmed by His resurrection from the dead.
2. I know some people think, “Yeah, yeah, people have been saying that for the last two thousand years and life is still going on, everything is the same as it always was.”... Please don’t be one of them.

CONCLUSION:
Just before we finish, listen carefully to Peter’s words in 2 Peter 3:3-14 – “3. knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts,
4. and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.''
5. For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water,
6. by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.
7. But the heavens and the earth which now exist are kept in store by the same word, reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
8. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
9. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
10. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
11. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
12. looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
13. Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
14. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;”

Have you ever been away from your friends and family for a long period of time and you end up being home sick?
I remember when I went into the service. Basic training was tough. They removed any reminder of your home including pictures in your wallet. It was so tough that some recruits did not make it a week before breaking down. I wonder if we feel that sort of emotion about heaven?

Do we look forward to Jesus coming to take us home? Are you longing for Jesus to come back?

Peter says, listen if you honestly believe that the Judgment Day is set and coming then “you ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.”

Peter says if you truly believe that the Judgment Day is set and coming then “make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.”
Repentance needs to happen today.
The Day is set and coming, it really is, but you need to be ready for His coming.

The story goes that just before the death of the actor W.C. Fields; a friend visited his hospital room and was surprised to find him thumbing through a Bible. His friend asked Fields what he was doing with a Bible, Fields replied, "I'm looking for loopholes."

Loved ones, there are no loopholes in God’s judicial system.
Today is the day for repentance.
Today is the day for turning to God.
Folks, that’s the message we need to let people know about, because we don’t know when the Day of Judgment is going to come. There is a sense of urgency about the message.

Oh, I’m sure that when we share that message with people, some like Paul's listeners will mock our words. They ignore the evidence.
Oh, I’m sure like some of Paul’s listeners they will want to hear more. They want more evidence.

One thing I know for certain, as long as we keep sharing that message with others, a few people like Paul’s listeners will actually be moved to obey the gospel.

As we said last week, God has commanded all people to repent. We must seek the Lord and do as He commands. His commands are not burdensome.

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We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.

Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
# ??? Only a Step

Reference Sermon: Mike Glover

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