Friday, September 25, 2009

9/25- Acts 17- Reason and the Gospel

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, "What is this babbler trying to say?" Others remarked, "He seems to be advocating foreign gods." They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean." 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.) 22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. 24 "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' [a] As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.' 29 "Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead." 32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, "We want to hear you again on this subject." 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

Calvin abridged: Paul was moved even angry because he saw the city of Athens so given to idolatry (cf. Ps. 69:9). Paul’s habit was to go to the synagogues first and to offer Christ to his own people who had been exposed to the Old Testament and had an aptitude for being taught. The Spirit gives them an honorable title in that they were a step closer to God. He calls them “religious.” But let us remember that all the religion of the world comes to nothing. Idolatry is a kind of atheism and superstition that often disguises contempt for God. Paul doubtless reasoned with the Epicureans (who boldly taught worldliness), and the Stoics (with their quips). Paul spoke about Christ and the resurrection and this seemed to them to be new devils. Our faith is distinguished from superstition in that it sets forth Christ to be the sole Mediator it teaches us to seek salvation only from him; it teaches that we are slaves to sin and need to be renewed again by the Holy Spirit. Philosophers may speak of the immortality of the soul, but they do not speak of being renewed here to the image of God; reconciled in Christ; and not a word about resurrection.

Thoughts: Paul’s teaching was different to the Athenians. They liked to hear new ideas and philosophies. So Paul tried to reason with them philosophically. He pointed out that they had an altar to an unknown God, and recognized that they believed in a creation. But they could not grasp the idea of the need for a savior nor the hope of the resurrection. It is hard to reason someone into the kingdom. Paul was not very successful here, yet some did come to faith in Athens. The Athenians were similar to people of our day. They practically were Epicureans- who follow the idea “if it feels good do it.” They also believed in openness and tolerance. When Paul came to them they were not the same Athenians of the golden age, for they had been wallowing in giving into the flesh for so long. They were considered smart, educated, but soft and immoral. “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything”- so the country song goes. In our day we have lost our moral compass. It is found in our true hope- Jesus.

Prayer: Lord, transform our minds as well as our souls, and make us better people.

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