Acts 17


1 “Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to

Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:”  Amphipolis. This was the

ancient capital of that division of Macedonia (Macedonia Prima); see ch.16:12, note.

It was situated on the Via Egnatia, thirty-four miles southwest from Philippi, and three

miles from the AEgean Sea. It lay in a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by the

Strymon, whence its name, Amphipolis; its modern name is Neokhoria, now a

village. Its original name was Ἐννέα  ῾οδοί - Ennea hodoi - The Nine Ways.

Originally a Thracian city, it was conquered by the Athenians, then by the

Lacedaemonians, then fell under the dominion of Philip of Macedon, and finally,

with the rest of Macedonia, became part of the Roman empire. Apollonia; now

probably Polina, thirty miles due west of Amphipolis, on the Via Egnatia. The

modern track from Amphipolis to Thessalonica does not pass through Polina,

but beneath it. Thessalonica; on the Via Egnatia, now the important seaport

of Saloniki, on the Aegean Sea or Archipelago, thirty-eight miles from Apollonia,

and containing about sixty thousand inhabitants. Its ancient name was Therma

(whence the Thermean Bay), but it took the name of Thessalonica under the

Macedonian kings. It continued to grow in importance under the Romans, and

was the most populous city of the whole of Macedonia. It was the capital of

Macedonia Secunda under the division by AEmilius Paulus (ch.  16:12, note),

and in the time of Theodosius the Younger, when Macedonia consisted of two

provinces, it was the capital of Macedonia Prima. But from its situation and great

commercial importance it was virtually the capital of Greece, Macedonia, and

Illyricum" (Howson, in ' Dict. of Geog.'). Its trade attracted a great colony of

Jews from before the time of Paul, and through the Roman and Greek and

Turkish empires, down to the present day, when "one-half of the population

is said to be of Israelitish race "(Lewin). Thessalonica had a terrible celebrity

from the massacre of its inhabitants by order of the Emperor Theodosius,

in revenge for the murder of Botheric, his general, which led to the famous

penance imposed upon the emperor by St. Ambrose (Gibbon,' Decline and

Fall,' Acts 27.). It was also taken three times in the Middle Ages: by the Saracens,

with fearful slaughter, A.D. 904; by the Normans, with scarcely less cruelty,

A.D. 1185; and by the Turks, in 1430. Its ecclesiastical history under its

archbishops is also of great interest (see 'Dict. of Greek and Roman Geog.').

Where was a synagogue. It is needless to point out the exact agreement of this

brief statement with historical fact as pointed out above. There is said to have

been twenty-two Jewish synagogues at Thessalonica after the expulsion of the

Jews from Spain in the fifteenth century, and the number at the present time is

stated to be thirty-six. (circa 250 + or – years ago – CY – 2017)  The existence

of a synagogue at this time was the reason of Paul's visit and sojourn there.


2 “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days

reasoned with them out of the scriptures,”  Custom for manner, Authorized

Version; for three for three, Authorized Version; from for out of, Authorized

Version. Reasoned (see note on v. 17).



Paul’s Manner (v. 2)


“And Paul, as his manner was” (Revised Version, “custom”). Luke thinks it

necessary to record Paul’s habits in connection with his missionary

labors, and his point is, not that the apostle kept the sabbath day, but that

he consistently observed the injunction to the first preachers that they

should “begin at Jerusalem;” that is, deliver the gospel message first to the

Jews. Whenever Paul went to a fresh town, “his manner was” to find

out the Jews and join them at their meeting-place, whether that were

proseucha (a place of prayer) or synagogue. In either case he would have the

opportunity always offered to visitors to say a word of exhortation to the people.

Here at Thessalonica, the fact that Paul was allowed to preach for three

sabbaths in succession shows the respect commanded by his character as a

rabbi, and, it may be, by his earnest eloquence. We dwell on the fact that

Luke recognizes a fixed custom and settled habit of the apostle, and seems

to feel that anything so orderly and regular it was singular to find in so

impulsive a man. A great part of religious duty concerns the formation and

the preservation of godly habits, and the subject is one which may be

practically and usefully treated in a Christian congregation.


·         SETTLED HABITS. It is singular that our most common association

with the word “habit” should be bad habits, and that a much stronger form

of teaching should go in the direction of warning against or curing bad

habits, than in that of culturing and nourishing good ones. Moralists have

given abundant counsel in respect of common habits of personal and social

life, but religious teachers, even of the young, have not worthily recognized

that habits may be formed in connection with the religious life, and that

direct instruction and guidance in relation to them is imperatively needed.

Our Lord had settled habits of prayer and worship, and no Christian life

can be hopefully maintained without them.


·         HOW HABITS GET SETTLED. By simply doing things again and

again with regularity. The philosophical and the practical explanations of

the formation of habits may be given; and it may be well to show how the

very muscles, nerves, and senses get fixed by continuing to act in the same

direction. (as in athletic training – CY – 2018)  But the point to dwell on is

that habits may be settled by intelligent intention and effort. They may be a

product of will, and the formation of good habits is a proper exercise of the

regenerate will. It may be further shown that relations of dependence bring

on all parents, masters, or teachers, the responsibility of inciting to the

formation of good habits and the due nourishment and strengthening of them.



DISPOSITION? In all questions of moral culture or religious duty the

natural dispositions of men have to be taken into account. To some habits

come easily, and they can be as easily changed. Others only form habits

after much self-mastery and conflict. But these are the persons who are

best helped by habits when once they get them fixed. Such an impulsive

man as Paul might even find it necessary to restrain himself by forcing

himself into the orderliness of settled habits. Illustrate how differently

different persons stand related to the great Christian duties:


Ø      prayer,

Ø      reading God’s Word,

Ø      worship,

Ø      almsgiving, etc.



FORMED THEM? Illustrate, especially in relation to the religious life, two



Ø      They help him to master his own varying feeling. A man is not always

disposed for private prayer or public worship, but the habit keeps him

related to these things, and it is often found that, while engaged in

them, the needed mood of feeling will come. Custom only may take

us to worship, but eye and heart may be opened when we are there.


Ø      They help him to overcome adverse circumstances. Hindrances of

family or business life seriously affect the man who has no religious

habits. They fail to hurt the man who has his life well ordered, and

his regular times and ways. The habits soon get recognized, and the

incidents of life take shape so as to fit in with them.


3 “Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen

again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.”

It behooved the Christ to suffer, and to rise for Christ must needs have suffered,

and risen, Authorized Version; whom, said he for whom, Authorized Version;

proclaim for preach. Authorized Version; the Christ for Christ, Authorized

Version. The line of reasoning adopted by Paul in his preaching to the Thessalonian

Jews was the same as that of our Lord to the disciples and apostles on the day of

His resurrection, as recorded in Luke 24:26-27; 44-47, and that of Peter (ch.2:22-36;

3:18; 4:11, etc.), and it is irresistible. The fulfillment of prophecies relating to the

Messiah in the person of Jesus is like the fitting of a key to the intricate wards of

the lock, which proves that it is the right key. The preacher of the gospel should

carefully study and expound to the people the word of prophecy, and then show

its counterpart in the sufferings and glory of Christ. This did Paul. Opening

(διανοίγωνdianoigonopening up); as our Lord had done (διήνοιγεν ἡμῖν

τὰς γραφάςdiaenoigen haemin tas graphasHe opened up to us the

scriptures, Luke 24:32), the hidden meaning of the prophecies, and then

alleging (παρατιθέμενος -  paratithemenosplacing before them), setting

before them the propositions which had thus been established. The process is

described in Luke 24:27 as interpreting ("expounded," Authorized Version).

In this verse:


·         the opening was showing from the prophets that the Messiah was to die

and rise again;

·         the alleging was that Jesus was that very Christ.



The Work of Three Sabbath Days (vs. 2-3)


It was a great idea, and much more than mere idea with Paul, to “redeem

the time.” He would not have stayed a continuous three weeks in one place

doing nothing at all, much less doing what was good for nothing, or for

very little. The time he gave, therefore, to a subject, and the stress he laid

upon it, may fairly measure to a certain degree his persuasion of the value

of it. There are subjects which depend upon their very mode of treatment,

not in the merely ordinary sense for producing greater or less impression,

but for apprising us of the estimate they purport to put on themselves. And

this thought may certainly help to guide us, even in these days. It may help

work conviction as to the reality of things long “believed among us,” but

perhaps never more attacked or less boldly grasped than at this present.

For we here may notice that:





Ø      It would have been particularly like Paul to have dealt with his subject or

subjects through a period of upwards of three weeks, on their own merits,

and not have laden them with any unimportant connection with things that

had gone before. His method shows that the connection was not deemed

unimportant by him.


Ø      If Paul does deal with great subjects, which might have been discussed

on their own merits, in very close connection with their associations with

the Old Testament, it were inevitable that those associations must cling to

them. They will in a sense bring with them the atmosphere, or the flagrance

of it, to which they have been accustomed.


Ø      There can be no doubt, no contradiction, as to the connection of the

promised Messiah in the Old Testament with the sacrifices, which are really

its most unique feature; nor can there be any doubt of the great sacrifices

themselves, that they were in the main propitiatory.




purpose should the apostles have taken all the trouble and encountered all

the dangers they did in order to reconcile the minds of the Jews, to whom

they preached, to the identity of the foretold Messiah of the Scriptures with

the Jesus crucified of late at Jerusalem? There could be no satisfactory

reason for this but one, that the suffering of Christ unto death was the

central requirement of the whole position. While the Jew from first to last

objected to the subject


Ø      because the crucifixion of Christ lay at his door and on his conscience;


Ø      and because the Jew had never consented to believe in such a King as

Christ, such a grandeur as the grandeur of the cross for him, or such a

method of recovering and exalting the distinction of his own nation, as the

method which went right down to the root of its decay, disorder, misery! It

would surely seem that nothing could be more valueless than to labor as

apostles labored, and to suffer as they suffered, and to be filled with zeal as

they were filled with zeal, if it were for mere persistence sake in the matter

of an unwelcome historical identification. Whether for Jew or Gentile, the

death of Christ was with the apostles the foundation theme. But with the

Jew it was argued as now, with all the light and necessarily with the

associations that his Scriptures must throw upon it.




As much as all the deepest traceable significance of the death of Christ tends

to humble those to whom it is preached, as “the way of salvation,” so much

avails the significance of His resurrection to comfort and to raise them! The

glory of glories for Christ, it is, and it is ever scripturally exhibited as, the

joy of joys for the believer in Christ. These, then, were the great topics

upon which Paul and his companions and other apostles were constantly

insisting. Let it be explained as it may, these purport to be the message of

Heaven to earth; let it be objected to as it may, nothing else comes in their

place. The forces that lie hidden, yet scarcely hidden, in both of these are

now at least testified by an unsurpassed mass and variety of practical and

irrefutable evidence. Men’s hearts have been softened, humbled, and won

to the exercise of profoundest trust and firmest faith by the fact of the

sufferings and death of Christ. Their highest nature has answered to the

quickening influence of the clearly revealed and clearly exhibited fact of the

Resurrection, and so far forth its correlative, immortality. The pride of man

rarely finds its gain or its object in rejecting the latter, yet is it abundantly

doubtful whether any man come to it rightly, much less come to it to the

purest and truest advantage, except through that approach which Paul

found so often “to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks

foolishness,” but to “some” others even at Thessalonica (v. 4) “the

power of God and the wisdom of God.”  (I Corinthians 1:23-24)




The Three Points of Pauline Preaching (v. 3)


In v. 18 the point of Paul’s teaching to the Gentiles is briefly given,

and it is seen that he had but one message, which he endeavored to adapt

to his varying audiences. To the Gentiles he preached Jesus and the

resurrection;” to the Jews he preached that “Christ must needs have

suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that Jesus is the Christ.” It

may be noticed that to a Jewish audience Paul could make a twofold appeal:


(1) to Old Testament Scripture; and

(2) to the established facts connected with the life, death, and resurrection

of our Lord.


To the Gentiles he could make no appeals to Scripture testimony, seeing

that they had no written revelation; but even to them Paul could make a

twofold appeal:


(1) to the natural sense of religion, of which their idolatries gave witness; and

(2) to the circle of recognized facts connected with the manifestation of

Christ in the flesh.


Still our appeal to men is based on:


(1) the religious nature;

(2) the older revelation;

(3) the historical facts of Christ’s life.


Paul preached the gospel as a herald. Yes, but he preached it also by long

arguments, intended and constructed to produce faith or persuasion concerning

Christ. Indeed, the Greek word originally means to carry on an argument by way

of dialogue; question by the hearer, answer by the preacher, according to his light.

That was the real apostolic method of serving Christ — a very eager, earnest,

inevitable method. To preach Christ is to reason:


(1)   out of the Scriptures and, in a secondary degree,

(2)   out of the great book of human life and experience, and also

(3)   out of the great book of material nature;


but in any case it is to ‘reason,’


(1)   to lay out, the matter as it seems to ourselves —

(2)   to press it home upon all whom it concerns;

(3)   to remonstrate, expostulate, entreat, and then

to leave the issue with God.”


Fix attention on Paul’s three points.


·         MESSIAH MUST SUFFER. Compare our Lord’s teaching to the two

disciples on the way to Emmaus (“Ought not Christ to have suffered

these things, and to enter into His glory?” - Luke 24:26). This suffering

of their expected Messiah was the point of Old Testament teaching which the

Jews missed or RESISTED.   It is in the old Scriptures, in psalm and prophecy,

plainly enough; but the conception of the Messiah as a national Deliverer

and conquering King had so possessed the minds of the people that the

prophetic figures of suffering were willingly turned aside, referred to some

other individual, or assumed to have been exhausted in the troubles of the

writers. Yet the first promise made to men after the Fall gives hint of

redemption by suffering (Genesis 3:15 - see especially Psalm 22.; Isaiah 53.;

and the Book of Lamentations). Explain the influence which the writings of

David and the conflicts of the Maccabean princes had upon the national

sentiment.  And yet in this necessity for Messiah’s sufferings is declared the

distinction between a temporal and a spiritual Savior. Christ’s weapons are

not carnal.  Of moral weapons none are mightier than suffering, and few

can be used without involving suffering. The necessity for Christ’s suffering

may be shown


Ø      in His humiliation to man’s nature;

Ø      in His sympathy with man’s disabilities;

Ø      in His bearing of man’s burden. There was both suffering of feeling

and suffering of circumstances.


·         MESSIAH MUST RISE. Of this the older Scriptures give witness. The

kind of passages which the apostles took to prove this position are found in

Peter’s first sermons; and the necessity may be shown


Ø      in that the acceptance by God of His life and work on earth must in

some way be attested, and


Ø      in that we must have good ground of persuasion that Christ is alive and

able to continue the good work which He has begun on earth. A Savior

for men who was held fast in the death-grip plainly could not deliver

man from death, the worst of his foes. Such a seeming Savior could

not win our confidence, for it would appear to us that He was defeated

at last. And, besides, we cannot trust a thing, a work; we must trust a

person who has worked and CAN WORK, and therefore Messiah

must rise from the dead and be alive for evermore.


·         MESSIAH IS JESUS OF NAZARETH. The things found to be

necessary are met in Him, and in Him alone. Show the correspondence

between the facts of the Christian teaching and the requirements of

Scripture prophecy, and impress the personal demand which Paul

makes to follow on his argument; then your loyalty, your trust, your love,

your life, are demanded for Jesus Messiah.


4 “And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the

devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.”

Were persuaded for believed, Authorized Version. (ἐπείσθησαν epeisthaesan

are persuaded). Consorted with;  προσεκληρώθησανproseklaerothaesan -  

were alloted to - a word only found here in the New Testament, but, like so many

other words in Luke's vocabulary, found also in Plutarch, in the sense of being

"associated with," or "attached to" any one; literally, to be assigned to any one

by lot (compare the use of the simple verb ἐκληρώθημενeklaerothaemen

our lot was cast, Ephesians 1:11). Of the devout Greeks. Observe the frequent

proofs of the influence the synagogues had in bringing heathen to the knowledge

of the true God (see v. 12; ch. 10:2; 11:21; 13:48; 14:1, etc.). The chief women

(τῶν πρώτωνton proton – the foremost ). So in ch. 13:50 τοὺς πρώτους τῆς

πολέως tous protous taes poleos - means "the chief men of the city." And Luke

19:48, οἱ πρῶτοι τοῦ λαοῦ - hoi protoi tou laou -  are "the chief of the people"

(" the principal men," Revised Version.) It has been already remarked that Luke

especially notices the instances of female piety. In v. 12 we have τῶν εὐσχημόνων

ton euschaemononthe respectable -  in the same sense as the τῶν πρώτων

(the foremost) in this verse.


5 “But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain

lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city

on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them

out to the people.”  Jews for Jews which believed not, Authorized Version and

Textus Receptus; being moved for moved, Authorized Version; jealousy for envy,

Authorized Version (see ch. 13:45, note); vile fellows of the rabble for lewd fellows

of the baser sort, Authorized Version; gathering a crowd, set for gathered a

company and set, Authorized Version; the city for all the city, Authorized Version;

assaulting... they for assaulted... and, Authorized Version; forth for out, Authorized

Version. The house of Jason; where it appears from v. 7, as well as from this verse,

Paul and Silas were lodging. If, as is very probable, the Jason here mentioned is the

same person as the Jason of Romans 16:21, it would seem that he joined the apostle,

either at this time or on his visit to Macedonia mentioned in ch. 20:3, and went with

him to Corinth, where the Epistle to the Romans was written. He was a relation,

συγγενήςsuggenaesrelative - of Paul's, and doubtless a Jew. Jason was a

Romanized form of the name Jesus, or Joshua, as we see in the case of the high

priest, the brother of Onias (Josephus, ' Ant. Jud.,' 12. 5:1). It was borne also

by Jason of Cyrene, the Jewish historian (II Maccabees 2:23), and by another

mentioned in I Maccabees 8:17, etc. Luke seems to introduce Jason as a well-

known person.


6 “And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto

the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down

are come hither also;”  Dragged for drew, Authorized Version; before for unto,

Authorized Version. Certain brethren; some of the Thessalonian Christians who

happened to be in the house of Jason. The rulers of the city (τοὺς πολιτάρχαςtous

politarchasthe city magistrates, and v. 8). This is a remarkable instance of Luke's

accuracy. The word is unknown in Greek literature. But an inscription on an ancient

marble arch, still standing in Thessalonica, or Saloniki, records that Thessalonica

was governed by seven politarchs (see the inscription in Conybeare and Howson,

col. 1. p. 360). Thessalonica was a Greek city, governed by its own laws. Hence

the mention of the δῆμοςdaemospublic; populace -  in v. 5. The politarchs

also were Greek, not Roman, magistrates. Crying; βοῶντεςboontes - imploring,

often followed by μεγάλῃ φωνῇ - megalae phonaeloud voice (ch. 8:7; Mark

15:34, etc.), but whether so followed or not, always meaning "a loud cry" or

"shout" (ch. 21:34; Luke 3:4, etc.). Turned the world upside down; ἀναστατώσαντες

anastatosantesraising to insurrection - is used in the New Testament only by 

Luke and Paul  (ch. 21:38; Galatians 5:12); to unsettle or disturb; i.e. to make

people literally ἀναστάτους anastatous -  homeless, outcasts, from their former

settlements, or, metaphorically, unsettled in their allegiance to their civil or spiritual

rulers, is the meaning of the word. In the mouth of  Paul's accusers it contains a

distinct charge of sedition and disobedience to the Roman law. The world

(τὴν οἰκουμένην taen oikoumenaenthe inhabited earth - the Roman empire

(Luke 2:1), viewed as coextensive with the habitable globe (see v. 31;ch. 19:27;

11:28, note).



The Power of God in the World (v. 6)




Ø      To explain the Divine dealings with mankind, and reveal the purpose

running through both the Jewish and Gentile histories.

Ø      To lift up the multitudes and deliver them from despotism and


Ø      To proclaim a new world in place of the old, the coming of the

kingdom, which is not the exaltation of an imperial throne, but

the reign of God on the earth, in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ø      To stir up in the hearts of men a desire for the better things. The world

within us must be turned upside down before the true peace is built up.


7 “Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of

Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.”  Act for do, Authorized

Version. Received; i.e. as the word ὑποδέδεκται hupodedektaihas entertained,

always means  "received as a guest" (Luke 10:38; 19:6; James 2:25, etc.). Hence

the substantive ὑποδοχή - hupodochae - , an entertainment or reception. The

insinuation is that, by harboring these seditious men, Jason had made himself a

partner in their sedition. That there is another king, etc. (compare John 19:12,15).


8 “And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard

these things.”  Multitude for people, Authorized Version. (τὸν ὄχλον - ton ochlon

the throng, not δῆμον – daemon - people).


9 “And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them

go.”  From for of, Authorized Version; the rest for of the other, Authorized Version.

The rest, or others, are of course the "certain brethren" of v. 6.




A Fulfilled and an Unfulfilled Prophecy (vs. 1-9)


These verses would supply us with other material for thought. They present to us:


1. Christian workers patiently and conscientiously proceeding with their mission

    (vs. 1-2).

2. Christian advocates employing the weapon which was prepared for their use (v. 3).

3. Christian laborers reaping a blessed spiritual harvest (v. 4).

4. Faithful followers of the Lord partaking of His sufferings (vs. 5-9). But

we rather find here:


·         A GREAT PROPHECY FULFILLLED. “Alleging that Christ must

needs have suffered,” etc. (v. 3); i.e. must needs have so done in order

that the Scriptures (v. 2) might be fulfilled (see Luke 24:26, 46). The

death of the Messiah was the realization of:


Ø      the predictions contained in the Jewish sacrifices (the sin offerings and

trespass offerings, and notably the offering of the goat on the great Day of

Atonement; the Passover lamb, etc.); and of


Ø      such predictions in word as those contained in the fifty-third chapter of

Isaiah. The Law must have remained fatally incomplete and prophecy

unfulfilled if the Christ had not suffered as Jesus of Nazareth did suffer, if

He had not died the death which He underwent. In the crucified Nazarene

the greatest of all prophecies HAD BEEN FULFILLED!



language of the complainants (v. 6) was unintentionally prophetic. They

indeed stated, hyperbolically, as something already accomplished, that

which the ambassadors of Christ are engaged in doing. But they indicated,

truly and graphically, what the gospel of His grace is doing — it is turning

the world upside down. We may put the facts thus to our minds:


Ø      When Christ came evil was everywhere uppermost. The reigning forces

of the world at the time of the Incarnation were “not of the Father, but of

the world.” Within the one favored and enlightened nation were:



o        hypocrisy,

o        superficiality,

o        bigotry and unbrotherliness,

o        spiritual delusion;


without that circle were:


o        superstition,

o        ignorance,

o        atheism,

o        vice,

o        cruelty —


all the abominations into which a corrupt heathenism had sunk. Language

will not tell the enormity of the world’s condition. Nothing would be of any

avail but a radical revolution, the overturning of all existing thoughts, habits,

methods, institutions — turning the world upside down, bringing to the

dust of humiliation everything that was on the throne of honor.


Ø      The gospel of Jesus Christ is destined to overturn it.


o        It has adequate means for so doing — Divine truth, the aid of the

Divine Spirit, a Divine institution (the Christian Church).


o        It has the true method, a spiritual one; its weapons of warfare are

not carnal, but spiritual, and therefore mighty to pull down

strongholds  (II Corinthians 10:4). It wins by:


§         teaching,

§         persuading,

§         leavening,

§         renewing;

§         acting upon the life through:

ü      the mind,

ü      the heart,

ü      the will — through the whole spiritual nature.


   This is the one conquering course, the one method which really and

    permanently subdues.


o        It has the assurance of success; both in the promise of a Divine Lord,

and in the history of its own triumphs. It is turning the world upside

down. In many districts the idols are utterly abolished” (Isaiah 2:18);

many “islands are waiting for his Law” (ibid. ch. 42:4);  hoary

systems of idolatry and iniquity are pierced through and through

with the shafts of truth, and promise to fall prone as

Dagon before the ark of God (I Samuel 5:3); the vices of civilized

lands are being successfully assailed; the kingdom of error and of

evil is disappearing, and THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST IS





Paul at Thessalonica (vs. 1-9)


·         HIS WORK. The synagogue was here again the scene of labor; the

substance of the evangel again the theme of his discourse.


Ø      This is in contents ever the same; founded on the Scriptures. His special

function as an apostle did not set him free from the authority of the past.

Religion at any epoch is the fulfillment of all that has gone before and the

prophecy of all that is to be. But let us beware of the slavery of the letter,

and seek the truth of the freely developing Spirit. Fresh light and truth are

to break forth at every epoch from the Scriptures. Preaching culminates in

Christ. The Messiah must suffer and rise. Paul had no other theme than the

crucified and risen One. The triumph of the spiritual element in mankind in

and through, in spite of and over, suffering, — this is the eternal message

of Christianity to mankind.


Ø      The results the same. Some believe, others do not. The good ground for

the seed is there or it is not there. Vain to seek to penetrate below this

mystery. Women again are specially named as favorable to the gospel. It is

fair to argue that, when the feelings and the intuitions lead the judgment,

the verdict will be for Christ and His religion. Divine grace does not court

those in high station; certainly it does not repel them.




Ø      Instinctive perversion of the truth. As before, jealousy, whether

proceeding from self-interest or sectarian pride, attacks the apostles. Their

enemies would misrepresent the emissaries of peace, as public disturbers

and revolutionaries.


Ø      Glaring inconsistency. They commit the very offence of which they

accuse the apostles. They play on the feelings of the mob. It is a sign of

weakness or of insincerity when men must drag the fickle multitude into

such questions. The mob may be turned momentarily to any account. If

they favor the gospel, they are despised as stupid (John 7:47-49). If

they can be stirred up against it, their clamor is equally used as evidence.


·         THE EPISODE OF HOSPITALITY. Good Jason shelters these

dangerous guests. The guest who is loved and cherished in spite of danger

to the host, will bring a blessing on the head of the latter. Be mindful of

hospitality — the true hospitality, which gives without asking in return

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers:  for thereby some have

entertained angels unawares.”  (Hebrews 13:2).



         Thessalonica (vs. 1-9)




Ø      Founded on the Old Testament Scriptures, and therefore seeking a basis

in the synagogue.

Ø      Setting forth the redeeming work of Jesus Christ as its substance.

Ø      Adapted to all, Jews and Greeks alike, and calling the influence of

women to its service.

Ø      Though itself peace, yet, by its contrast with the world, turning it upside

down. We must be quiet and orderly in our methods, but we must expect

that spiritual forces will stir up opposition. The end is with the truth.


10 “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea:

who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.”   Beraea for Berea,

Authorized Version; when they were come for coming, Authorized Version. Beraea.

In the third division of Macedonia, about sixty miles from Thessalonica; its modern

name is Verria. Went into the synagogue. No amount of ill usage from the Jews

could weaken Paul's love for "his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh"

(Romans 9:3); and no amount of danger or suffering could check his zeal in

preaching the gospel of Christ.


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.”  Now these for these, Authorized Version; examining for

and searched, Authorized Version; these for those, Authorized Version. Note the

immense advantage which the preachers and the hearers had in the previous

knowledge of the Scriptures gained by the Beraeans in the synagogue. Note also

the mutual light shed by the Old and New Testaments the one upon the other.



The Nobility of the Inquiring Spirit (v. 11)


The people of Beraea are commended for their disposition to inquire and

search into the truth of Christianity as it was taught to them by the

apostolic missionaries. They were not the slaves of prejudice. “With a

quick and clear intelligence they searched the Scriptures daily to see

whether they really did speak of a Christ who should suffer anti rise again.

The Berean converts have naturally been regarded, especially among those

who urge the duty or claim the right of private judgment, as a representative

instance of the right relations of reason and faith, occupying a middle position

between credulity and skepticism.” The attitudes of men towards truth, as freshly

revealed, or as revealed in fresh forms, are threefold:


(1) some are willfully antagonistic;

(2) some are weakly receptive;

(3) some are intelligently skeptical.


The word “skepticism” may be used in a good as well as in a bad sense. It

properly stands for that disposition to question and doubt which is one of

the features of the thoughtful and inquiring mind.



There are, in respect of this spirit, marked diversities in nations and in

races. And there are answering differences in families and in individuals.

Usually the skeptical spirit is found in men rather than in women, who are

as remarkable for their receptivity as men for their tendency to criticism.

The beginnings of what will afterwards appear as skepticism are found in

children. Some will question the why and wherefore of everything that is

told them, while others will open wide eyes, and take in as real, the

strangest fairy tales that can be told them. A great part of the responsibility

of parents and teachers lies in the need for culturing-cultivating or

restraining — the early signs of the skeptical spirit. Where the skeptical

spirit is unduly developed the corrective spirit of faith must be nourished;

and where credulity is excessive, the mind must he quickened to doubt.

Ministers need to remember that both classes are found in their

congregations, and that both classes have to be wisely led to intelligent




one of the gravest difficulties of our age, in which remarkable advances, in

knowledge have been made. Those advances have chiefly borne relation to

the sphere of the physical sciences, and in that sphere pride is readily

nourished, because, apparently, all depends on men’s own observation and

research. It becomes easy for men to say — What we observe and know is

the truth; and there is no other truth than “truth of fact.” So we find all

around us much skepticism in relation to the moral, spiritual, revelational

spheres: a disposition to unreasonable doubt; to doubting for doubting’s

sake. This needs to be wisely but firmly rebuked, and its real source, in

mere pride of intellect, should be pointed out. The physical is not the only

sphere through which God has revealed Himself to His creatures; and it

never can be a sign of human wisdom that the best three parts of God’s

revelation are set aside as the dreams of dreamers.



disposition of mind, skepticism takes a place among infectious mental

diseases, communicated very readily by association. A skeptical workman

will infect his fellows. A skeptical student will change the tone of his

college. A skeptical member of a family will destroy the recipiency of a

whole family. So we, who have any kind of trust of others, need to be

watchful over the influence of such persons. A minister’s influence in a

congregation may be seriously resisted by the power among the people of

one unreasonably critical and skeptical member. He will look with high

hope on every sign of the Berean spirit, the spirit of intelligent inquiry and

research, but he has fewer things that call for his watchful care than the

infection of the skeptical spirit, which will at once impair his influence as a

Christian teacher. And the association of books of a prevailing critical and

unbelieving character will be found quite as dangerous as that of skeptical



·         SKEPTICISM AS AN IMPULSE TO INQUIRY. This is its good

side; and in this the example of the Beraeans is commended to us. It is the

spirit that seeks for two things:


Ø      comprehension, or the distinct, clear, and intelligent understanding of

any teachings; and


Ø      verification, or adequate and reasonable grounds for belief.

But it is characteristic of intelligent inquiry that it seeks its proofs within

the spheres of its subjects. If it inquires concerning physical principles, it

seeks for proof and illustration in physical facts. If its sphere be moral or

spiritual, it asks for moral or spiritual reason and proof. So the Bereans did

not confuse the spheres and domains of inquiry. The matter was one of

prophetic revelation and of answering historical fact, and therefore their

inquiries concerned:


o        the actual contents of the revelation, and


o        the credibility of the witnesses to the historical facts. Conclude by

showing the relations of skepticism to faith. The noble man, the

intelligent believer, must have won faith out of skepticism — in the

sense of humble and earnest inquiry. Those who are simply receptive

have their mission in the world, and we desire to institute no unworthy,

no discouraging comparisons; but for the active forms of Christian

work, and for the emergencies of the Christian conflict, those are

needed who have won faith out of fight. The Bereans are commended

because they doubted and inquired; and yet this is the very thing

which many nowadays would have feared. But one thing made their

inquiries so safe — they led them to the Scriptures, and to the

searching of God’s revealed Word.   Jesus said, “Search the

scriptures for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they

are they which testify of me.”  (John 5:39)



12 “Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which

were Greeks, and of men, not a few.”   Many... therefore for therefore many,

Authorized Version; the Greek women of honorable estate for honorable women

which were Greeks, Authorized Version. Honorable; εὐσχημόνωνeuschaemonon

respectable, as ch. 13:50, where it is coupled with τοὺς πρώτους τῆς πόλεως (see v. 4;

compare Mark 15:43). Meyer thinks that it is meant that the men were Greeks too;

but this is uncertain. The only Beraean convert whose name we know is Sopater

(ch.  20:4), or Sosipater, who is probably the same (Romans 16:21). If so, he was

apparently a Jew, whose Hebrew name may have been Abishua.



A Comparison Justly Unwarranted (11-12)


In harmony with the directions of Jesus Christ Himself, and with the

dictates of wisdom as against presumptuousness. Paul and Silas, when

endangered by their ministrations in one place, sped on in all fidelity and

zeal to another. It may also be not without its significant interest that, as

we are told, they were “sent away,” or “sent on,” by the brethren. Had they

gone away at any time and ceased from their work, they and their motives

and their love might well have been objects of suspicion. But the continuity

of their devotion, and the renewal again and again of work after

disappointment upon disappointment, protect them from suspicion, and

even add to their praise. It is one of the greater practical difficulties of life

to resist successfully the distressing and disintegrating natural operation of

perpetual disappointments, and it is one of the severer tests of an uplifted

faith and enduring purpose that “often foiled” is not accepted as failure,

and that “cast down” does not mean “destroyed.” (compare Paul’s words in

II Corinthians 4:8-9) On the other hand:


(1) had the apostles been enabled to hold their ground against every attack

of the spirit of persecution, this would have been equivalent to an

unceasing repetition of miracle; and the enmity of the human heart might

have been silenced indeed, but long before it was destroyed, or had proved

its own intrinsic collapse. And


(2) those apostles would not have covered anything like the same ground,

nor secured anything like the same experience of human nature. The

language of these verses is one result, simple enough and direct, of the

experience that came from the comparison of one people with another. The

contrast is brought sharply into prominence by the conduct of Beraea, in

quick succession upon that of Thessalonica. The people of Berea are boldly

pronounced “more noble than those of Thessalonica.” Let us consider the

ennobling reasons.




Ø      There is, indeed, a readiness to receive” which marks greed.

Ø      There is a readiness to receive which marks gullibility.

Ø      There is a readiness to receive which marks the inertness of indifference.

Ø      There is a readiness to receive which marks a nature conscious of need,

and responsive to the proper supply of that need, when proffered. The

readiness to receive which now distinguished the Bereans marked thus a

good and a healthy and a spiritual instinct. For their readiness was turned

toward receiving a “word” that was true and pure and not flattering, but

faithful to reprove and to teach, as well as to stimulate and uplift by

promises. Such readiness as this is noble and ennobling. It saves souls

pining. It saves wasted energies. It eliminates vagrant pursuits. And for all

such it substitutes a genuine education.






Ø      The very attitude of the inquirer has something of the noble in it, when

compared with the custom of the decrier.


Ø      The mastery of prejudice is in itself a sign of nobility, while the reign of

prejudice means an obstructiveness which infers to none greater loss than

to the subject of it.


Ø      The searcher into truth does in the very act ingratiate himself with truth.

“Happy is the man” who seeks for it as for silver, and searches for it as for

hid treasure (Proverbs 2:2-5).


Ø      Openness to evidence comes inevitably of inquiring honestly, as surely as

prejudice makes a shut heart and undiscerning mind. Many persons do not

see because they never set themselves to look. (I highly recommend


748. Isaiah 45 – Spurgeon Sermon – Life for a Look

749. Isaiah 45 – Spurgeon Sermon – Sovereignty and Salvation

750. Isaiah 45 – Spurgeon Sermon – The Life Look


this website – CY – 2018).


They scarcely think it is given them to use their own natural powers.


Ø      Inquiringness has it in it to infer advantage


o        to individual happiness;

o        to social kindliness;

o        to public and general progress.


Ø      Inquiringness, when it is turned to things of higher and deeper

significance, to things invisible and spiritual, to the great themes of the soul

and its need of a Savior, to the grand themes of God and His pitying love to

man — this inquiringness carries its own praise in it. It is bound to enrich

him who practices it and extorts conviction from the unwilling, while the

spontaneous tribute of commendation is laid at its feet by the just and

good. That kind of moral certainty that lies in strong conviction is the price

won by all those who will take the trouble, in matters of Divine import, to

“search” whether and how they agree and hold together.


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.”

Proclaimed for preached, Authorized Version; Beraea also for Berea, Authorized

Version; likewise for also, Authorized Version; stirring up and troubling the

multitudes for and stirred up the people, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus.


14 “And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea:

but Silas and Timotheus abode there still.”  Forth for away, Authorized Version;

as far as for as it were (ἕως heosas it were  for ὡςhos – as ), Authorized

Version and Textus Receptus; and for but, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus;

Timothy for Timotheus, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus. As far as to the

sea. If the reading of the Textus Receptus is right, ὡς merely indicates the direction.

Literally, ὡς ἐπὶ κ.τ.λ, - hos epi k.t.l. – as on, etc. - means "with the thought of going

to the sea," but thence, by a common usage, it describes the action without reference

to the thought. The English phrase, "they made for the sea," is nearly equivalent.

The object of going to the sea, seventeen miles from Beraea, was to take ship for

Athens. This he probably did either at Pydna or at Dium. Silas and Timothy.

Whether Timothy left Philippi with Paul, or whether, as is not improbable, he

joined him at Thessalonica, cannot be decided. Anyhow, Paul now left Silas and

Timothy to watch over the Thessalonian converts.



The Duty of Individual Research (vs. 10-14)


This interesting and cheering episode teaches us one lesson in particular;

but there are three suggestions we may gain preliminarily.


1. That the Christian pilgrim (and workman) may hope that shadow will

soon be succeeded by sunshine; that the tumult of Thessalonica will soon

be followed by the reverent inquiry of Beraea.

2. That he must expect sunshine to pass, before long, into shadow; the

fruit-gathering of Beraea to yield to the flight to Athens (vs. 12-14).

3. That true nobility is in excellency of character: “These were more noble”

(v. 11). The word signifies (derivatively) those of noble birth, and it is

here applied to those who had chosen the honorable course and were doing

the estimable thing. This is the true, the real nobility. That which is

adventitious, dependent on birth and blood, is only circumstantial, is liable

to be dishonored by the chances and changes of time, is of no account with

God. That which is based on character and born of wise choice, pure

feeling, estimable action, is real, human, unalterable, of Divine origin, and

enjoying the Divine approval. But the particular lesson of our text is:


·         THE DUTY OF INDIVIDUAL RESEARCH. The Beraeans are

commended in the sacred narrative as “more noble than those in

Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness,” etc.

(v. .11). Their excellency was in their readiness to receive and investigate,

to study and search for themselves whether the new teaching was or was

not in accordance with the will of God. Whence we infer:


Ø      That blind opposition to all new doctrine is a sin as well as a mistake. It

may be that men who propound views different from those that we have

held come to us from God and offer us that which is in the Scriptures,

though we have not yet discovered it there. There are more things in that

living Word than the wisest man has ever seen yet. Unqualified resistance

of doctrine which is different from “that which we have received to hold”

may be the rejection of God’s own truth; in that case it is both injurious

and wrong.


Ø      That it is the duty of every Christian man to test all new doctrine by the

teaching of the Divine Word. We are to search the Scriptures whether

these things are so or not. There is no excuse for declining to do this; for:


o        God has placed His Word well within reach of us all:


§         it is in a small compass;

§         it is printed in our own language (no book so lends itself to

translation and is so widely translated);

§         it can be obtained for a small sum.


o        He has so formed us and so written it that it is level to our

understanding; He has given us the necessary mental faculties to

comprehend it, and He has made the substance of it s:


§         simple,

§         plain,

§         appreciable,


that the wayfaring man (though a fool) may rejoice in it.

(Isaiah 35:8)  It is not the:


§         recondite (little known),

§         abstruse (obscure),


mystical utterance which some disclosures are.


o        He is ready to grant us His own Divine aid in mastering and

applying it.  For what can we ask the help of His Holy Spirit more

confidently than for the study of His own Word? When is he more

certain to fulfill His promise (Luke 11:9-13) than when we ask for

His enlightening influence as we “search the Scriptures”

(John 5:39)?  It is not only our right but our duty to listen to all

and to try all (I John 4:1); to “judge for ourselves what is right”

 (Luke 12:57). It is GOD’S PLAIN WILL concerning us that we

should all bring what we hEar to the standard of His own revealed

will in His Word. To do this effectually, we must study that Word


§         diligently,

§         intelligently,

§         devoutly.


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.”  But for and, Authorized Version; as far as for unto (ἕως),

Authorized Version; Timothy for Timotheus, Authorized Version; that they should

come for for to come, Authorized Version. They that conducted, etc. (οἱ καθιστῶντες

oi kathistontes - conducting). The verb καθίστημιkathistaemi - in its primary sense,

means to "place any one" in a given spot; and thence secondarily, to "conduct" or

“escort" any one to a place, to "set him down; appoint" at such a place. So Homer

('Odyssey,' 13:294) uses the word of transporting any one by ship to this or that

town (quoted by Meyer). There is the indication in the word of Paul's defect of

sight or infirmity. Receiving a commandment, etc. We learn here that Paul sent

a message to Silas and Timothy to join him at Athens as quickly as possible, and

at v. 16 that he waited at Athens for them. From I Thessalonians 3:1-2, we learn

that he sent Timothy from Athens back to Thessalonica; and from I Thessalonians

3:6 we learn that Timothy came to Paul at Corinth (where the Epistle to the

Thessalonians was written) from Thessalonica. We also learn from  I Thessalonians

1:1 that Silas and Timothy were both with him at Corinth when he wrote the Epistle,

and from ch. 18:5 that they had both come to Corinth from Macedonia, some weeks

after Paul himself had been at Corinth (ibid. vs. 4-5). All these statements harmonize

perfectly (as Paley has shown) on the supposition that Silas and Timothy did join

Paul at Athens; that for the reasons given in I Thessalonians 3, when he was unable

to return to Thessalonica himself, as he much wished, he sent Timothy back to

Thessalonica, and Silas probably to Beraea; and that Silas and Timothy came

together from Macedonia to Corinth, where  Paul had gone alone; where it may

be noted, as another undesigned coincidence, that whereas the First Epistle to the

Thessalonians implies that Silas did not go to Thessalonica (I Thessalonians 3:2),

ch. 18:5 does not say that Silas and Timothy came from Thessalonica, but from

Macedonia. The inaccuracy supposed by Meyer (on this verse) is purely imaginary.

Ch. 18:5 does not say that Silas and Timothy "only joined Paul at Corinth," but

merely relates some change in Paul's procedure consequent upon their joining him

at Corinth.




The Strange Alliance (vs. 1-15)


Among the hindrances to the progress of the gospel in the world we have

often to notice the combination of the most discordant elements for the

purpose of obstruction. Pilate and Herod were made friends together when

they united in crucifying the Lord of glory. When the chief priests and

Pharisees, in their blind hatred of the Lord Jesus Christ, sought His death,

they did not scruple to invoke the aid of the Roman power, the object of

their bitterest hatred and continual resistance, and to profess an entire

devotion to that detested rule. “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15)

So in politics, men of the most opposite principles often combine to crush the

object of their common dislike. In religion, too, we see extreme parties

joining hands to discomfit a third party to which they are equally opposed.

In all such combinations there is want of uprightness and truth. There is a

culpable indifference to the nature of the weapons which men use to

compass their own end. There is a clear evidence that it is not the cause of

righteousness and of God’s truth that men are seeking to promote, but

some end of their own. When these combinations take place to oppose the

progress of Christian truth, though they may be formidable for a time, they

carry with them the evidences that they are from beneath and will not

prevail. (John 8:44)  The Church of God need not be afraid of them. The Jews of

Thessalonica combined with the heathen rabble of their town, under a

pretence of loyalty to Caesar, to silence Paul and Silas. When they fled they

pursued them to Beraea, and drove them thence onwards to Athens and

Corinth. But the breath intended to extinguish the flame did but make it

blaze up from place to place. So will it be with every conspiracy to put out

the light of Christ. Philosophy and sensuality, science and lawlessness,

atheism and superstition, may join hands and combine to remove the

candlestick of God’s Church; it will but shed its light brighter and wider in

the places where God wills it to shine, until at last the whole earth shall be

filled with the knowledge of God’s glory, AS THE WATERS COVER THE SEA!

(Isaiah 11:9)


16 “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him,

when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.”  Provoked within for stirred in,

Authorized Version (παρωξύνετοparoxunetowas incited: see ch.15:29, note);

as he beheld for when he saw, Authorized Version; full of idols for wholly given to

idolatry, Authorized Version. The Greek κατείδωλονkateidolonidol ridden –

occurs only here, either in the New Testament or elsewhere. But the analogy of

other words similarly compounded fixes the meaning "full of idols" - a description

fully borne out by Pausanias and Xenophon and others (Steph., 'Thesaur.;' Meyer, etc.).


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.”  So he reasoned

for therefore disputed he, Authorized Version; and the devout for and with the devout,

Authorized Version; market-place every day for market daily, Authorized Version.

Reasoned (διελέγετο -  dielegetohe argued, as in v. 2; ch. 18:19 and 24:12).

"Disputed" gives the force of διαλέγεσθαιdialegesthai - better than "reasoned,"

because the word in Plato, Thucydides, Xenophon, AElian, etc., is especially used

of discussions and arguments in which two persons or more take part. Διάλεκτος

Dialektos - is "discussion;" διαλεκτίκη hae dialektikae - is the art of drawing

answers from your opponent to prove your conclusion; διάλαγος dialogos - is

a "dialogue" (see, however, ch. 20:7). The market-place. "The celebrated Ἀγορά -

Agora, ... not far from the Pnyx, the Acropolis, and the Amopagus,... rich in noble

statues, the central seat of commercial, forensic, and philosophic intercourse, as

well as of the busy idleness of the loungers" (Meyer, in loc.).




Nobility of Soul at Beraea (vs. 10-15)


Beraea stands out as a bright oasis in the dreary landscape of persecution.

When Paul and Silas enter the synagogue, they find themselves in a new

atmosphere. They find “men of nobler soul” than the dishonest cavilers and

intriguers of Philippi and of Thessalonica. What were the elements of this

nobility of soul?



VIEWS, This spontaneous receptiveness springs only from the rooted love

of truth. Let us not forget how startling and how shocking was the story of

a crucified Messiah to Jewish prejudice; it may help us to appreciate the

candor of these men.


·         INDEPENDENT INQUIRY. They did not carry on a battle of notions

with notions; they went to the sources, they studied the documents and

facts. Let Protestants learn a lesson, and be true to themselves. In our time

people are only beginning to understand the Scriptures in the new light

thrown by history upon them. The study of the Bible is a right, a duty, and

a profound science. Hasty generalizations and fixed opinions must give

way before larger light.



only the profound believer who can afford to doubt. The faith which

condemns inquiry, or stops it at a certain point, or is afraid of “going too

far,” is a blind faith. On the other hand, the “free-thinking,” which owns no

religions impulse, is never deep nor sound thinking. The sincere spirit of

inquiry, as seen in the noblest scientific men, is closely allied to the true

evangelical temper. What we all need is a living love in all our studies, as

opposed to a dead and notional knowledge. The enthusiasm for truth is a

noble form of faith; and each who pursues it for himself will enjoy a

measure of its rewards. We must try the grounds of faith as we try the

metal of coins, and with the greater attention, in that more is at stake. No

resting upon the ipsi dixit (he himself said it) even of an apostle satisfied

the Beraeans, nor ought it to satisfy us.



A Saddening Spectacle: A Missionary Sermon (vs. 15-17)


The spirit of Paul was “stirred in him” (v. 16) by the statues which

crowded the city of Athens. That which would yield intense gratification to

any modern traveler plunged the apostle into deep melancholy and gloom.

But there is a vast difference between then and now. Then idolatry was

regnant; now it is dethroned. Then the worship of the living God had but

one representative in that populous city; now there is not one idolater to be

discovered there. To Paul those statues, meeting him at every turn and

almost at every step, were abominable idols; to us they are interesting relics

of a distant age.



PAUL. The aspect which Athens were to the apostle is expressed by the

sacred historian. It was a “city wholly given to idolatry,” or filled with

idols. He would have discovered on inquiry if he did not already know, that

these statues were not worshipped as gods themselves by their devotees.

Nevertheless, he would have called them “idols;” for they were distinctly

condemned by the commandments of the Lord (Exodus 20:4-5); they

were prohibited by the Law of God as idolatrous. Though the intelligence

of Athens saved its citizens from idolatry in its last and worst stage, the

identification of the image with the deity, it had not saved it from the

idolatry of an earlier stage, the association of the image with the deity it

represented. Against this form of sin, so severely denounced in Scripture,

so offensive to God, so dangerous and delusive to man, the spirit of Paul

rose in strong rebellion. The sight of its outward manifestation filled him

with inexpressible sadness; his “spirit was embittered.”



US. To us it is a sad proof that the world by wisdom does not know God.

Human wisdom can never hope to go further than it went in Athens. If

ever, anywhere, human philosophy, human art, the human imagination

could have reached truth and found God, it would have triumphed at

Athens. But there was the melancholy exhibition of error and immorality.

The utmost exertion of human thought had ended in:


Ø      the worship of many gods;

Ø      the worship of gods to whom lust and cruelty were ascribed;

Ø      the worship of these gods with debasing rites.


No city in the world gives surer or sadder proof that sin so injures and

disables us that our unaided manhood cannot rise to the sacred heights of

truth and purity.



needed the ministry of Paul so terribly then, how much must all heathen

cities require the gospel of Christ today! In the vast populations of the

Asiatic and African continents, and among the hundred “islands of the sea,”

where human intelligence has never attempted to scale the heights which

Grecian philosophers tried to reach, what awful degradations must exist

and do exist! If Athens was an idol-covered city, what must be the

condition of the barbarous towns and villages of an unevangelized world?

What sights are there to stir our spirits now!


Ø      What idolatry!

Ø      what superstition!

Ø      what cruelty!

Ø      what lasciviousness!

Ø      what falsehood!

Ø      what dishonesty!

Ø      what utter absence of piety, holiness, and love!

Ø      what an absolute reversal of God’s first thought of human nature

 and human life!


What infinite reason to address ourselves to:



disputed he… daily” (v. 17). The Christian Church must gird itself to the

work of meeting pagan error with Divine truth. It is a great task to

undertake. But as the lonely apostle went on, single-handed, with his

mission, trusting in Him “to whom all power is given in heaven and in

earth,” and knowing that “the foolishness of God is wiser than man,” and

that “the weak things of the world can confound the things which are

mighty” (I Corinthians 1:25, 27)even so must we. If only the Church

went forth to this its work with half the zeal with which the spirit-stirred

apostle wrought out his lifework, the time would not be counted by

centuries when the idols would be utterly abolished, and

the Lord Jesus Christ would alone be exalted.


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.”  And certain also of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers for then

certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, Authorized Version;

would for will, Authorized Version; preached for preached unto them, Authorized

Version. and Textus Receptus. The Epicureans (so called from Epicurus, their

founder) and the Stoics (so called from the στοά - stoa - , the colonnade or piazza

where Zeno their founder taught) were the most numerous sects at Athens at this

time; and their respective tenets were the most opposite to the doctrines of the

gospel. Encountered him; σύνεβαλλον suneballon - parleyed. In ch. 4:15

it is followed by πρόςpros - toward, and is properly rendered "conferred;"

here it is followed by the dative, and may be understood to mean "disputed"

(συμβάλλειν λόγους sumballein logous). It may, however, not less properly

be taken in the sense of a hostile encounter of words, as Luke 14:31, and frequently

in classical Greek. This babbler (σπερμολόγος spermologosrook; seed-picker);

literally, a picker-up of seeds, applied to a crow (Aristoph., 'Ayes,' 232, 579).

Plutarch too ('Demet.,' 28) has σπερμολόγοι ὅρνιθες spermologoi horinthes

birds picking up seeds. Hence it is used of idle hangers-on in the markets, who

get a livelihood by what they can pick up, and so generally of empty, worthless

fellows. Hence it is further applied to those who pick up scraps of knowledge

from one or another and "babble them indifferently in all companies" (Johnson's

'Dictionary,' under "Babble"). A setter forth of strange gods. There does not seem

to be the least ground for Chrysostom's suggestion that they took Anastasis

(the Resurrection) for the name of a goddess. But the preaching of Jesus the Son

of God, himself risen from the dead (v. 31), and hereafter to be the Judge of quick

and dead at the general resurrection, was naturally, to both Stoics and Epicureans,

a setting forth of strange gods. Χένα δαιμόνια Xena daimonia -  foreign deities,

 or daemons, inferior gods. The word καταγγελεύς kataggeleus - a setter forth,

does not occur elsewhere. But the nearly identical word κατάγγελος kataggelos

is used by Plutarch.


Paul’s preaching was not intended merely to change the forms, but the substance;

to place religion on its true foundation, not as man’s offering to propitiate

the Deity, but as his acceptance of God’s love — in fellowship. Jesus is in

the midst of us, therefore we worship no longer an unknown God.



Christianity and Epicureanism (v. 18)


Against the doctrine of Epicurus, the truth as it is in Jesus teaches us:



OPERATION OF THE LIVING GOD, and are by Him sustained. That all

our springs are not in any “it,” but “in Him (Psalm 87:7); that “every

gift cometh down from the Father of lights, in whom is not variableness,

neither shadow of turning. (James 1:17); that He (a Divine One) made

the worlds, and upholds all things, etc. (Hebrews 1:2-3; Genesis 1:1;

v. 24, here).






IS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Not ἀταραζίαatarazia(I have not been

able to translate this – CY – 2017) through φρόνησις phronaesis

wisdom; prudence -  but righteousness by faith and love.


Ø      The being counted right (or righteous) by God.

Ø      The possession of inward, spiritual rectitude.

Ø      The exhibition of integrity in word and deed. This


o       by faith in Jesus Christ, and

o       as the outgrowth of love to Him.



PEACE AND JOY. We are not to regard a state of mental equability as

the great end to be diligently and persistently attained, as the one supreme

accomplishment; but to “seek first the kingdom of God, and his

righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), in the assurance that, thus reeking,

we shall find a “peace which passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7),

and a joy which cannot be taken from us.




mind does not perish with the body, but lives on in another world, entering

a brighter realm, moving in a broader sphere, living a fuller life, in the

home of God, in the abode of purity and blessedness.



Christianity and Stoicism (v. 18)


While there were points in Stoicism which harmonized with the doctrine of

the great Teacher, there was very much indeed in which it was wholly

dissimilar and even antagonistic. The fact that it conducted so freely and

frequently to suicide is a melancholy confession of its failure; something

more and something other was needed to meet the wants of the soul than

its proud, self-sufficient, but insufficient egoism. Christianity differs from it

in that it teaches:



THE RULING POWER IN THE UNIVERSE. It is not true that Deity is

subject to all-conquering fate; it is true that all circumstance is under

Divine control.




CONDITION. We are not to quench our feeling, or to impose on

ourselves or others by the appearance of apathy. We are to weep and to

rejoice; but:


Ø      our sorrow and our joy are both to be regulated — we are to “let our

moderation appear unto all men” (Philippians 4:5), and


Ø      our sorrow and our joy are both to be consecrated to God, — the one

is to be borne with a resignation which is not a sullen endurance of the

inevitable, but a filial acceptance of the decision of the wise and faithful

Father of spirits; the other is to be accepted with thankfulness, and

dedicated to the service of the Supreme One and the surrounding ones.




SPIRIT. (II Corinthians 12:10; Philippians 4:13.)





them Jesus, and the resurrection.


19 “And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we

know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?  Took hold of for took,

Authorized Version; the Areopagus for Areopagus, Authorized Version; teaching

is for doctrine... is, Authorized Version; which is spoken by thee for whereof thou

speakest, Authorized Version. Took hold of him. The word Ἐπιλαβόμενοί

epilabomenoi  - getting hold - means simply to "take hold of" the hand, the hair,

a garment, etc. The context alone decides whether this taking held is friendly or

hostile (for the former sense, see Matthew 14:31; Mark 8:23; Luke 9:47; 14:4;

here, ch. 9:27; 23:19, etc.; for the latter, Luke 23:26; here, v.19; 18:17;

21:30,33).  Here the sense is well expressed by Grotius (quoted by Meyer):

"Taking him gently by the hand." The Areopagas. Mars' Hill, close to the Agora

("the market") on the north, was so called from the legend that Mars was tried

there before the gods for the murder of a son of Neptune. It is (says Lewin)

a bare, rugged rock, approached at the south-eastern corner by steps, of which

sixteen still remain perfect. Its area at the top measures sixty paces by twenty-four,

within which a quadrangle, sixteen paces square, is excavated and leveled for the

court. The judges seem to have sat on benches tier above tier on the rising rock

on the north side of the quadrangle. There were also seats on the east and west

sides, and on the south on either side of the stairs. The Areopagus (the upper court)

was the most august of all the courts at Athens. Socrates was tried and condemned

before it for impiety. On the present occasion, there is no appearance of judicial

proceedings, but they seem to have adjourned to the Areopagus from the Agora,

as to a convenient place for quiet discussion.


20 “For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know

therefore what these things mean.”   Strange things. ΞενίζονταXenixein

things being strange, in this use of it, means to act or play the foreigner, to

imitate the manners and language and appearance of a foreigner (ξένοςxenos ),

just as ἸουδαίζεινIoudaizein - means to Judaize, Ἐλληνίζειν -  Hellaenizein

to Hellenize,  ΑττικίζεινAttikizein -  Atticize, etc. Here, then, the Athenians

say that Paul's doctrines have a foreign air, do not look like native Athenian



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.)  Now for for,

Authorized Version; the strangers sojourning there for strangers which were there,

Authorized Version. Spent their time. This gives the general sense, but the margin

of the Received Text, had leisure for nothing else, is much more accurate. εὐκαίρουν

Eukairoun -  which is not considered good Greek, is only used by Polybius, and in

the sense either of "being wealthy" or of "having leisure" or "opportunity." In the

New Testament it occurs in Mark 6:31 and I Corinthians 16:12. Some new thing.

So Cleon (Thucyd., 3:38) rates the Athenians upon their being entirely guided by

words, and constantly deceived by any novelty of speech (καινότητος λόγου

kainotaetos logounew words; new ideas – my translation – CY – 2017)). And

Demosthenes in his first 'Philippic' (p. 43, 7), inveighs against them because,

when they ought to be up and doing, they went about the Agora, asking one another,

"Is there any news? (Λέγεταί τι καινόν Legetai ti kainon)." The comparative

καινότερονkainoteron -  is a little stronger than καινόν kainon - "the very last

news" (Alford).




Curiosity at the Feet of Christ (vs. 18-21)


In the company which gathered on Mars’ Hill, to listen to the Christian

teacher, we have a picture of curiosity sitting at the feet of Christ. For it is

clear that this was not a court sitting to try a prisoner, but a chance

company of citizens, wishing to hear what new and strange doctrine this

visitor had brought them.



babbler say?” said some using the language of haughtiness. They

evidently thought it was hardly worth while to pause in their gossip to

listen to this new speaker; nevertheless they condescended to hear him for

five minutes or a quarter of an hour! When men assume this attitude

toward Christ and His gospel, they may expect to gain nothing at all from

Him. “God resisteth the proud.” Except we be converted from the spirit of

contemptuousness, we shall not enter the kingdom of heavenly truth.


·         THE CURIOSITY WHICH IS FRIVOLOUS. The audience on the

Acropolis included some who were not contemptuous, but simply curious;

they wanted to hear “some new thing” (v. 21), to learn what was to be

said of these “strange gods” which this Jew was “setting forth” (v. 18). If

there is nothing directly unfavorable, there is nothing actually favorable in

this spirit of undevout inquisitiveness. No one attending the sanctuary in

this temper has any right to expect a blessing. The disciple who brings

nothing better than this to the feet of the Master may expect to go away

unenlightened. But he may not depart unblessed.- Of the men who clave to

Paul and believed (v. 34), there were probably some who came on no

high purpose bent, and who found more than they sought. Better come and

listen, even from empty curiosity, than refuse to hear; better bring in the

multitude with this inducement, than leave them outside in ignorance and



·         THE CURIOSITY WHICH IS EARNEST. Shall we not think that

among the “certain men” who did believe, there were found a few who

went up the steps of Mars’ Hill sincerely desirous of learning what was

true? Was not Dionysius or Damaris one whose heart had some “hunger

after righteousness”? Certainly it is they who come in order that they may

know the truth, who are curious to hear that they may be prompt to do the

will of God — it is they who are likely to “be filled with the knowledge of

His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” (Colossians 1:9)

“Of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14); and to such it is

that the Master says,  “Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be

 opened unto you.” (ibid. ch. 7:7) Those who earnestly desire to know:


Ø      what is the character and the attitude of God,

Ø      what are the real conditions of salvation and eternal life,

Ø      how they may best live to please God and to benefit the world, —

these shall not return empty-minded; they shall be filled (Matthew 5:6).



The Passion for Something New (vs. 19-21)


Demosthenes said, in one of his speeches, “Tell me, is it all you care for, to

go about up and down the market, asking each other, ‘Is there any news?’”

The restless inquisitiveness of the Athenian character had all along been

proverbial. It did not alone distinguish the Athenians, though it gained a

peculiar prominence in their case. It has returned upon man in such power,

now that telegraphs and newspapers (200 years ago – now we have radio,

television and social media – CY -0 2018) bind the nations together, that it may

profitably be made the subject of Christian meditation.


·         IT SOMETIMES COMES TO BE A DISEASE, A mental disease. A

restlessness that we see illustrated in some children, who tire at once of

their toys and crave for something new. We see it in the world of fashion,

in which garments are speedily set aside, and the latest new color, or shape,

or material is eagerly sought. It is equally shown in the passion for the

newest books, the last newspaper, the freshest opinion, the present

excitement. It even afflicts Christian people, who in a crowd run after the

newest revivalist, and cry for the latest novelty in doctrine or in Church

method. It is a kind of feverish delirium, which palls the appetite, spoils

the taste, and makes patient continuance in well-doing impossible. It needs

to be treated as a disease, and its influence in a family, in social life, and in

the Church needs to be carefully checked. It is not progress that is usually

sought, because true progress ever goes slowly; it is mere novelty that is

sought. We may generally say that “the old is better.”



marked feature of a nation that is struggling up into civilization, that all its

members must be workers, and none can be kept in idleness. To such a

nation mere news is the amusement of its resting leisure hours; it cannot be

the sober business of its days. But when nations have long reached the high

levels of civilization, wealth has increased, multitudes can live in idleness,

and, having nothing better to do, they may run after the latest stranger in

art, or science, or music, or politics, or religion, and gathering round him

say, “May we know what this new doctrine is, whereof thou speakest?”

This is well illustrated in the case of the Athenians, who were surfeited

with art and philosophy and superstitious religion. A city full of wealthy

idlers, no doubt of good taste and cultured minds, who had nothing better

to do than to run after the last new thing. The antidote for this evil is the

preaching of the responsibility resting on every man to be a worker, and a

worker for the general welfare. Nobody has any right to food and life save

as they work, in some good way, for it. Workers soon get interest enough

to stop their yearning for “something new.” Illustrate how these things may

be applied to Church life. Church work is the great remedy for the

hindering passion for novelty.



FOR IMMORTALITY. There is good in it; the evil of it lies:


Ø      in the forms it takes, and

Ø      in the excessive degrees of its exercise.


That something in us all which cannot rest, which must seek for something

more; which rises up above all bondages and limitations; which is as


“An infant crying in the night,

An infant crying for the light;”


is but the aspiration of souls made in the image of God, who cry for

permanence, for holiness, for rest, for God, and “can find no rest until they

find rest in Him.” We must seek after something new, on and on, until we

find God. And Scripture inspires us to such seeking; for it assures us that

“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath the heart of man conceived,

the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (I Corinthians

2:9)  And though, in measure, these have been revealed unto us by the Spirit,

yet again we are led on by the Word; for “it doth not yet appear what we shall

be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we

shall see Him as He is.”  (I John 3:2)


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.”  And for then, Authorized

Version;  the Areopagus for Mars hill, Authorized Version; in all things I perceive

that for I perceive that in all things, Authorized Version; somewhat for too,

Authorized Version. In the midst is simply a local description. He stood in the midst

of the excavated quadrangle, while his hearers probably sat on the seats all round.

Ye men of Athens. The Demosthenes of the Church uses the identical address –

Ἄνδρες ἈθηναῖοιAndres AthaenaioiMen Athenians ( which the great orator

used in his stirring political speeches to the Athenian people. Somewhat superstitious.

There is a difference of opinion among commentators whether these words imply

praise or blame. Chrysostom, followed by many others, takes it as said in the way

of encomium (a speech of praise), and understands the word δεισιδαιμονεστέρους

deisidaimonesterousunusually religious as equivalent to εὐλαβεστέρους

eulabesterous - very religious, more than commonly religious. And so Bishop

Jacobson ('Speaker's Commentary'), who observes that the substantive δεισδαιμονία

- deisdaimonia - is used five times by Josephus, and always in the sense of "religion,”

or "piety." On the other hand, the Vulgate (superstitiosiores), the English Versions,

Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, etc., take the word in its most common classical sense of

"superstitious;" and it weighs for something towards determining Luke's use of the

word that Plutarch uses δεισιδαιμονία always in a bad sense, of superstition, as in

his life of Alexander and elsewhere, and in his tract 'De Superstitione' (Δεισιδαιμονία).

Perhaps the conclusion is that Paul, having his spirit stirred by seeing the city full of

idols, determined to attack that spirit in the Athenian people which led to so much

idolatry; which he did in the speech which follows. But, acting with his usual

wisdom, he used an inoffensive term at the outset of his speech. He could not

mean to praise them for that δεισιδαιμονία which it was the whole object of his

sermon to condemn. Josephus ('Contr. Apion.,' 1:12) calls the Athenians

τοὺς εὐσεβεστάτους τῶν Ἐλλήνωνtous eusebestatous ton Hellaenon -  

the most religious of all Greeks (Howson).


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.”  Passed along for passed by, Authorized Version;

observed the objects of your worship for beheld your devotions, Authorized Version.

(τα σεβάσματα υμῶν ta sebasmata humonthe objects of your veneration: see

II Thessalonians 2:4); also an altar for an altar, Authorized Version; an for the,

Authorized Version; what for whom, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus;

worship in ignorance for ignorantly worship, Authorized Version; this for Him,

Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; set forth for declare, Authorized Version.

AN UNKNOWN GOD. There is no direct and explicit testimony in ancient writers

to the existence of any one such altar at Athens, but Pausanias and others speak

of altars to "unknown gods," as to be seen in Athens, which may well be

understood of several such altars, each dedicated to an unknown god. One of

these was seen by Paul, and, with inimitable tact, made the text of his sermon.

He was not preaching a foreign god to them, but making known to them one

whom they had already included in their devotions without knowing Him.




The Unknown God. (v. 23)


For description of the statues and altars to various divinities with which

Athens was crowded, see Conybeare and Howson, ‘Life and Epistles of St.

Paul,’ vol. 1. pp. 415-417. “Roman satirists say, ‘ It was easier to find a

god in Athens than a man.’ Athenian religion ministered to art and

amusement, and was entirely destitute of moral power. Taste and

excitement alone were gratified. A religion which addresses itself only to

the taste is as weak as one that appeals only to the intellect.” In illustration

of the altar to which Paul here alludes, Aulius Gellius says, “The ancient

Romans, when alarmed by an earthquake, were accustomed to pray, not to

a specified divinity, but to a god expressed in vague language, as avowedly

unknown.” For further illustration, see the Expository portion of this work;

and ‘Commentary for English Readers,’ in loc. We now fix attention on:


·         THE CONFUSIONS OF POLYTHEISM. Its worshippers can never be

quite sure that they have propitiated the right god, seeing that gods are

supposed to be related to particular places, nations, events, sins, etc. This

confusion tends to create a more and more elaborate ritual, and a

wearisome round of ceremonies. All gods who may possibly be related to

the matter in hand must be propitiated, and then the right one may be



·         THE RESTFULNESS OF MONOTHEISM. One God stands related

to all nature, to all events, to all ages, to all sins; and if we can know Him

and secure right relations with Him, there is no one else to fear, no one else

to come on us with claims. Behind God there is nobody and nothing. Rest




CHRIST. Manifest in the flesh.” Show how men in seeking after God

want some form under which they may present Him to their minds. This

necessity is the secret cause of all idol-making. And God has graciously

met it, and fully satisfied it, by presenting to us Himself, apprehended as the

“Man Christ Jesus.” And this incarnation of the one and only God Paul

preached to the Athenians. The name of the “unknown God’ is JESUS




Athenian Religion (v. 23)


“Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” The

materials for an introduction are found in the following suggestive passage

from F.D. Maurice: — “This language assumed that the Athenians were in

search of God; that they were ignorantly worshipping Him; that they had a

sense of His being a Father; that they wanted some one living human image

of Him, to supplant those images of Him which they had made for

themselves This teaching was adapted to all that was true and sound in the

Greek mind. The Greek asked for one who should exhibit humanity in its

perfection; and he was told of the Son of man. He felt that whoever did so

exhibit humanity must be Divine. The Son of man was declared to be the

Son of God. He had dreamed of one from whom the highest glory man

could conceive must have proceeded. He was told of the Father. He had

thought of a Divine presence in every tree and flower. He heard of a

presence nearer still to himself.” We may learn from Paul’s speech how

we ought to think of the Gentile nations of the earth, and what it lies upon

us to do on their behalf. He shows us what “gospel” — what “good news

of God” — has to be taken to the nations; and, by his example, he indicates

in what spirit the message should be taken. Speaking amidst the

surroundings of idol altars, statues, and temples, Paul:



was placed in a position of exceeding difficulty. To have attacked those

pagan divinities in the very midst of their sanctuaries and altars, and before

the very court which guarded the national religion, would have closed the

ears of his audience to any message which he might deliver, and might have

put him in some personal danger. In his speech he heartily recognizes the

worshipping instinct; he sees the dissatisfaction with all existing forms of

worship which indicates an aching and yearning of soul to know the full

truth of God. To the unrest which the strangely inscribed altar revealed, he

made his appeal. He does not attempt to break down their confidence in

Zeus, Athene, or their companion divinities. He appeals to the want which

no mere deification of human attributes or powers of nature could possibly

satisfy. Paul admits a real worship in paganism. He admits that the

incompleteness and imperfectness of the worship followed from their

ignorance, He attempts to guide the worshipping faculty aright, by

instructing their understandings, and by declaring positive truths of Divine




ATHENIANS. He does not hesitate to say, “ignorantly worship,” even to

those who prided themselves on their learning. He accepts their own

confession that they did not know the God to whom they raised their altar.

They were wrong in their cherished conceptions of God, and wrong in the

worship they offered to Him. They lowered the very idea of God, by

likening Him to mere man-made images of gold and silver. They offered

things to one who, being a Father, cared for hearts, and for things only as

they carried messages of love and trust. The sacrifices of the true God are

a “broken and a contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17), and they who “worship the

Father must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)  Three

conceptions of God are essential as the foundations of true doctrine

and true worship.


Ø      His unity. “There is no God but God.”

Ø      His spirituality. “God is a Spirit.”

Ø      His righteousness, He has been called, and the name has in it good

suggestion, “The Eternal who makes for righteousness.”



ATHENIANS MISSED. “Him declare I unto you.” We may briefly

summarize his presentation of the gospel revelation, as adapted to the



Ø      He announces God to be a personal Being: no more force, like the

sunlight or the evening breeze. No mere quality or virtue, such as they

deified, raising altars to fame, to modesty, to energy, to persuasion, and to

pity. God is living. He is one. He is the Source of all life, all breath, all

being. You cannot imprison GOD in a statue, even though you may mold it

of priceless gold. You cannot enshrine GOD in a temple, however gorgeous

it may be.


Ø      Then Paul explains God’s seeming indifference to men through the

long ages. It was a mystery, but only the mystery of patient, forbearing

love, which waited until the children put all their souls into the cry

for Him.


Ø      And, finally, he tells them that the waiting-time is quite past, and the

great Father has come to the children now, asking their trust and their love.

And the Father’s nearness is to be apprehended through the human

manifestation of His Son. “He preached unto them Jesus.”


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;”  The God for God,

Authorized Version (surely a change for the worse); He being Lord for seeing that

He is Lord, Authorized Version. Made with hands (χειροποιήτοις cheiropoiaetois

made by hands); see the same phrase in ch. 7:48; Mark 14:58; Hebrews 9:11. Paul

applies it, too, to the circumcision made with the knife, as distinguished from that

wrought by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:11). It is frequent in the Septuagint. It is

a striking instance of  Paul's unflinching boldness and fidelity to the truth, that he

should expose the hollowness of heathen worship, standing within a stone's throw

of the Parthenon and the temple of Theseus and the countless other temples of

gods and goddesses, which were the pride and glory of the Athenian people.

Note how he begins his catechetical instruction to the Athenians with the first

article of the Creed: "I believe in God the Father almighty, Maker of heaven

and earth."


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;”  Is He served by for is

worshipped with, Authorized Version; He Himself for He, Authorized Version.

Served by men's hands. ΘεραπεύεταιTherapeuetaiHe is being attended;

is "waited upon," as a man is waited upon by his servant, who ministers to his

wants; θεράπων therapon - and θεραπευτής therapeutaes - are "an attendant."

So in Hebrew: עָבַד, to serve God; עָבֵד, a servant of God; עְבודָה service as of

the Levites in the temple, etc. Anything; or as some take it, as if he needed

anybody's help or service. The argument, as Chrysostom suggests, is similar to

that in Psalm 50:8-12.


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;” He made for hath made, Authorized Version;

of one for of one blood, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; every nation

for all nations, Authorized Version; having determined their appointed seasons

for and hath determined the times before appointed, Authorized Version. From

the unity of God Paul deduces the unity of the human race, all created by God, all

sprung from one ancestor, or one blood (whichever reading we take), and so not

to have their several national gods, but all to be united in the worship of the one

true and living God, the Father of them all. It may be remarked by the way that

the languages of the earth (glottochronology is the use of statistical data to date the

divergence of languages from their common sources – CY – 2017), differing like

the skins and the features of the different races, and corresponding to those various

bounds assigned by God to their habitations, yet bear distinct and emphatic testimony

to this unity. They are variations, more or less extended, of the speech of man.

Bounds of their habitation;  τὰς ὀροθεσίας κ.τ.λ. – tas horothesiasboundaries,

 etc.: the word only occurs here.


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:”  God for the Lord, Authorized

Version and Textus Receptus; is for be, Authorized Version; each for every, Authorized

Version. If haply they might feel after him. Ψηλαφήσειν - PsaelaphaeseinThey may

grope for -  is "to touch, feel, or handle," as Luke 24:39; Hebrews 12:18; I John 1:1.

But it is especially used of the action of the blind groping or feeling their way by their

hands in default of sight. So Homer describes Polyphemus as χερσὶ ψηλαφόων

chersi psaelaphoon - , feeling his way to the mouth of the cave with his hands after

he was blinded by Ulysses ('Odyssey,' 9:416). And in the Septuagint of Deuteronomy

28:29 we read, Ἔση ψηλαφῶν μεσημβρίας ὠς εἴ τις ψηλαφήσαι τυφλὸς ἐν τῷ σκότει

Esae psaelaphon mesaembrias os ei tis psaelaphaesai tuphlos en to skotei - "Thou

shall grope at noonday as the blind gropeth in darkness." The teaching, therefore,

of the passage is that, though God was very near to every man, and had not left

Himself without abundant witness in His manifold gifts, yet, through the blindness

of the heathen, they had to feel their way uncertainly toward God. In this fact lies

the need of a revelation, as it follows v. 30, etc. And hence part at least of the

significance of such passages as:


·         "Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye  light in the Lord"

(Ephesians 5:8);

·         "Who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light"

(I Peter 2:9 );

·         "God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath shined

in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in

the face of Jesus Christ" (II Corinthians 4:6),


and many more like passages.


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.”  Even for also, Authorized

Version.   For in him, etc. This is the proof that we have not far to go to find God,

Our very life and being, every movement we make as living persons, is a proof

that God is near, nay, more than near, that He is with us and round about us,

quickening us with his own life, upholding us by His own power, sustaining the

being that we derive from Him (compare Psalm 139:7, etc.; 23:4). Certain even of

your own poets; viz. Aratus of Tarsus (270 B. C.), who has the exact words quoted

by Paul, and Cleanthes of Assos (300 B.C.), who has Ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ γένος ἐσμέν

Ek sou gar genos esmen. As he had just defended himself from the imputation

of introducing foreign gods by referring to an Athenian altar, so now, for the

same purpose, he quotes one of their own Greek poets. (For the statement that man

is the offspring of God, compare Luke 3:38.)


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.”

Being then for forasmuch then as we are, Authorized Version; device of man for

man's device, Authorized Version. Graven by art, etc. In the Greek the substantive

χαράγματα charagmatι - graven images, things engraven, is in apposition with

the gold, silver, and stone, and a further description of them. Art, τέχνηtechnae

is the manual skill, the device; ἐνθύμησις - enthumaesis -  is the thought; genius and

mental power which plans the splendid temple, or exquisite sculpture, or the statue

which is to receive the adoration of the idolater. Compare the withering sarcasm of

Isaiah (Isaiah 44:9-17).



    God Revealed: His Nature and Relation (vs. 22-29)


Paul’s spirit was “stirred” with holy indignation, and with pure and strong

compassion, as he witnessed the abounding signs of superstition in the

streets of Athens. But he had the wisdom to begin his address to these

“men of Athens by an expression which they would take to be

complimentary. He told them that he perceived they were abundantly

religious. He did not conclude this from witnessing their numerous

divinities, but from the inscription he had read on an altar, “To the

unknown God.” Adroitly seizing on this as proof positive that they were in

ignorance as to the true object of worship, he said that he could declare to

them the Deity whom they were ignorantly or unconsciously worshipping.

Then he spoke out the everlasting truth concerning the living God, which

he had learned, and in the knowledge of which he stood superior, not only

to those degenerate philosophers, but to the wisest man that had ever

spoken their language and immortalized their city.


·         THE NATURE OF GOD.


Ø      Paul taught the unity of the Godhead. “God that made the world,” etc.; a

very noticeable singular, He taught, concerning His nature, that this was:


o        Spiritual; such that it is a vain and senseless thing to try to make any

likeness of Him. God is a Spirit,” we ourselves being His children,

and it is not in gold or stone or silver to produce any sort of semblance

of Him (v. 29).


o        Independent; so that He does not need the service of human hands.

Except as expressions of our feelings of penitence, or trust, or

gratitude, or homage, all offerings are an insult to His majesty and

His power (v. 25; and see Psalm 50:8-13).


o        Omnipresent. We need repair to the interior of no temple walls to find

Him, for He is “Lord of heaven and earth” (v. 24), filling immensity

with His presence. He is not far from any one of us; He compasses our

path and our lying down; He besets us behind and before; we cannot

go where he is not (v. 27).


o        Sovereign. He is Lord of heaven and earth; He is the Divine Ruler

of all.


·         THE DIVINE RELATION TO MANKIND. We not only want to

know generally who and what God is; we also and equally want to know

what is the particular relation in which He stands to us. And what, we ask,

does He desire we should be to Him? Here is the answer:


Ø      He is the Maker of the world in which we live: He “made the world and

all things therein” (v. 24).

Ø      He is the Divine Benefactor from whom all blessings flow: “He giveth to

all life,” etc. (v. 25).

Ø      He is the Divine Provider and Arranger of all human affairs (v. 26).

Ø      His intelligence has foreseen, and His wisdom directed everything.

Ø      He is the Father of all human spirits: “We are also his off spring”

(v. 28). And we are so in that:


o        He is the Author (v. 26) of our common humanity;

o        He is sustaining us all in constant existence: In Him we live,

  and move, and have our being.”  (v. 28);

o        he is deeply interested in us, and desires our approach to Him;

o        He has so wrought that men should seek Him, if haply they

might feel after Him and find Him.”

o        He desires to be sought and found of us, that we may commune

with Him and rejoice in Him, that we may attain to His likeness

and prepare for His nearer presence. If such is the nature of God,

and such the relation in which He stands to us, then:


§         How pitiful a thing is

ü      heathenism, the ignorance of God; and

ü      atheism, the denial of God; and

ü      indifference, the rejection of God!


§         How excellent and how wise a thing is

ü      reverence for God;

ü      obedience to God;

ü      an earnest effort to obtain the Divine favor, and

to live in His love!




God’s Offspring (vs. 28-29)


“For we are also His offspring.” The source whence Paul derived this

quotation is given in the exegetical portion of this Commentary. It may be

well to point out how such a classical quotation would secure the sustained

attention of his audience. Dean Plumptre suggestively remarks, “The

method of Paul’s teaching is one from which modern preachers might

well learn a lesson. He does not begin by telling men that they have

thought too highly of themselves, that they are vile worms, creatures of the

dust, children of the devil. The fault which he finds in them is that they

have taken too low an estimate of their position. They too had forgotten

that they were God’s offspring, and had counted themselves, even as the

unbelieving Jews had done (ch. 13:46), ‘unworthy of eternal life.’”

The truth set before us in the text is that of the fatherly relation of God to

all men, and the answering child-relation of all men to God.


·         THE FACT SEEN IN ITS UNIVERSALITY. It is commonly assumed

that Paul meant no more than to remind his audience that there was

only one Creator, and that all men were made in His image. But he must

have further designed:


Ø      to reveal God to them;

Ø      to give them the best of names for Him;

Ø      and to awaken in them the sense of His universal claims to love and




These cannot be made by Christ; they belong to us, and are the very

conditions of our being.


Ø      Christ does enable us to recognize the relation.

Ø      He does restore it as a broken relation.

Ø      He does show the glory of the relation in His own human life.

Ø      He does help us, by His grace and Spirit, to meet and fulfill the claims

of the relation. “Because we are sons, God hath sent forth the spirit

 of His Son into our hearts.”  (Galatians 4:6)



INDICATED. Work out and illustrate:


Ø      That a thing can never be superior to its maker. If God made us, He

must be better than we are, and we are manifestly better than speechless


Ø      Man, the son, is a spiritual being; then God, the Father, must be

spiritual too.



means authority. What God commands we must heed. He commands two



Ø      That we should REPENT!

Ø      That we should receive His gift of eternal life IN CHRIST!

 “God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.”   

 (I John 5:11-12)


30 “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth

all men every where to repent:”  The times of ignorance therefore God

overlooked for and the times of this ignorance God winked at, Authorized Version;

He commandeth for commandeth, Authorized Version; men for all men, Authorized

Version; that they should all everywhere repent for everywhere to repent, Authorized

Version and Textus Receptus. The times of ignorance; perhaps with reference to v. 23,

and also implying that all the idolatry, of which he had spoken in v. 29, arose from

ignorance. God overlooked; or, as it is idiomatically expressed in the Authorized

Version, winked at; made as if he did not see it; "kept silence," as it is said in

Psalm 50:21; made no move to punish it. That they should all everywhere. The

gospel is for the whole world - "Their sound went into all the earth, and their

words unto the ends of the world" (Romans 10:18); "Preach the gospel to every

creature" (Mark 16:15). Repent. The key-note of the gospel (ch. 20:21;

Matthew 3:2; 4:17).



God Revealed: His Attitude Toward the Sinner (v. 30)


 It is worth while to note, preliminarily, that Paul speaks of the pre-Christian ages as

“times of ignorance.” We know that these included much human learning. The

words of the apostle were uttered on that spot where there was everything

to call this to remembrance. But he would have said, and would have had

us consider also, that any age in which God remained unknown was an age

of ignorance. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs

9:10)  No art, no philosophy, no science, no literature, no intellectual attainments

or achievements of any kind whatever will compensate for ignorance of God;

the soul that knows not Him is an ignorant man; the time that knows not

Him is an ignorant age. But the text suggests and answers a very urgent

question — What is the attitude of the holy Father of spirits toward His

sinful children? His holiness would lead to impartial severity; His

fatherhood to exceeding tenderness and clemency. The answer is found in

the words of the apostle here.



of magnanimous forbearance. God “winked at” (as the text unhappily

renders it), he overlooked, bore with all that was so painful in His sight, all

the unimaginable iniquity of forty centuries of human sin. Not, indeed,

without many proofs of His Divine displeasure; not without manifestations

of His holy wrath. He sent sickness, sorrow, calamity, death, as marks of

His meaning in regard to sin. But for long ages of evil, in which men were

everywhere sinning directly against Him by their idolatries and their

atheisms and their practical infidelities, and indirectly against Him by their

sins against one another and the wrongs they did themselves, God’s chief

attitude toward His rebellious subjects was that of Divine magnanimity.


Ø      He did not punish them in proportion to their ill deserts. He kept

silence” (Psalm 50:21). He “dealt not with them after their sins,” etc.

(Psalm 103:10).


Ø      He did confer on them great and continuous loving-kindness through

every age (ch. 14:16-17).



commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” The entrance of the “kingdom

of God” was attended with the utterance of this strong imperative,

“Repent” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 6:12). The last, solemn

commission of the ascending Lord was to sound this note of repentance

“among all nations” (Luke 24:47). The apostle of the Gentiles, divinely

taught, preached to Jew and Gentile “repentance toward God,” etc.

(ch. 20:21). And wherever this gospel is preached unto men, there is

announced the Divine mandate, “Repent.” We know:


Ø      Its real significance. It is the turning of the heart, and therefore of the

life, from sin and folly to God and to His service.


Ø      Its breadth of application. It is coextensive with the race; it reaches to

the remotest land and to the most distant age;


o       none so pure of heart and life that they need not,

o       none so base that they may not,

o       none so old that they cannot repent.


Ø      The consequences of impenitence. They are:


o       God’s displeasure now, and

o       His final condemnation and punishment.


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.”

Inasmuch as for because, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; the man for

that man, Authorized Version. He hath appointed a day. Hitherto the Athenians

seem to have listened with interest while Paul was, with consummate skill, leading

them onwards from the doctrines of natural religion, and while he was laying down

speculative truths. But now they are brought to a stand. They might no longer

go on asking, Τι καινόν – Ti kainon (as in v. 19); A day fixed by God, they were

told, was at hand, in which God would judge the world in righteousness, and in

which they themselves would be judged also. And the certainty of this was made

apparent by the fact that He who was ordained to be Judge was raised from the

dead, and so ready to commence the judgment. The time for immediate action

was come; God's revelation had reached them. The man (ἀνδρί - andri). So

ch. 2:22, Ἰησοῦν τὸν Ναζωραῖον ἄνδρα ἀπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἀποδεδειγμένον κ.τ.λ. –

Iaesoun ton Nazoraion andra apo tou Theou apodedeigmenon k.t.l.  – Jesus

of Nazareth, a man approved; exhibited; demonstrated, of God, etc.  And so in

John 5:27 our Lord Himself says of Himself that the Father gave Him authority

to execute judgment "because He is the Son of man;" and in Matthew 26:64,

"Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power."

(For the connection of the judgment with Christ's resurrection, see especially

ch.10:40-42.) So too the Creeds.



God Revealed: His Holy Purpose (v. 31)


We ask not only — Who or what is He? what is His character and spirit?

what is His present attitude towards us? we ask also — What is his purpose

concerning us? That one infinite God, “in whom we live, and move, and

have our being,” who holds our destiny in His sovereign hand, — is it His

intention that the lamp of His lighting, the human spirit (Proverbs 20:27),

shall go out utterly at death, or that that spirit shall shine in another

sphere? And if so, what are to be the conditions of that life beyond the

river? The reply is:




HERE. “He hath appointed a day in which He will judge the world.”

We do not suppose that time hereafter will be measured as it is now, and

that the “day” of the other life will correspond with “a day” of our present

experience. But the time will come in the future life when “we shall appear

before the judgment-seat.” God has “appointed unto man once to die,” and

“after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)  Clearly enough, in the thought

and purpose of God, this life is only the commencement of our existence,

the probation period on which the long results of the eternal world depend.

So far from this being the be-all and end-all of humanity, it is but the preface

to the large volume that succeeds; it is but the river which runs down to and

is lost in the sea.



RIGHTEOUSNESS. “In righteousness.”


Ø      There will be no trace of partiality, no smallest shade of favoritism; none

will fare the better, none the worse, for class, or sex, or parentage, or



Ø      Regard will be had to all the particulars of human action. “God will

bring every work into judgment with every secret thing” (Ecclesiastes



o        all thoughts — the “work” of the understanding;

o        all feelings — the “work” of the heart;

o        all choices — the work of the will;

o        all words — the “work” of the tongue; and, 

o        all deeds — the “work” of the hand.


Ø       Respect will be had to all that enhances or lessens responsibility; to all

special privilege and opportunity on the one hand, and to all privation and

disadvantage on the other.



SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST. “By that Man,” etc., even the Son of man, to

whom all judgment is committed (John 5:22), who will have authority

to execute judgment “because He is the Son of man” (ibid. v. 27).

Christ will be our Judge. His special relationship to us eminently fits Him

for that supreme position.


o       He is the Lord of our nature.

o       He knows our nature perfectly (Hebrews 4:15).

o       He claims that we shall all come into living relation to Himself;

we must all be “found in Him” (Philippians 3:9; John 15:4, 6;

I John 2:28).  We must be “born again” (John 3:3,7).



DIVINE PURPOSE. “Whereof he hath given assurance to all men.”

We have an assurance of such intention in:


Ø      Our own consciousness of ill desert and incomplete retribution. We

feel that sin demands condemnation and punishment, and that our own

individual guilt has not received its due penalty. For how much and how

many things do we deserve the reproval of the Divine voice, the

infliction of the Divine hand!


Ø      Our observation of the course of abandoned and wicked men. How

many are they who go down to the grave with (as it assuredly appears)

unpunished sins on their soul!  (I Timothy 5:24)


Ø      The general apprehension of mankind.


Ø      But the assurance of God’s purpose is in the language and the life of

Jesus Christ; more especially in the fact of His resurrection, preceding,

predicting, and ENSURING OUR OWN!


o       How foolish to treat as if it were the whole of our career

that which is no more than the commencement!

o       How wise to live in view of that great day of account!

o       HOW NEEDFUL to be rightly related to the supreme Judge!


32 “And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and

others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.  Now for and, Authorized

Version; but for and, Authorized Version; concerning this yet again for again

of this matter, Authorized Version. Some mocked. Athenian skepticism could

not accept so spiritual a truth as the resurrection of the dead; and Athenian levity

of purpose deferred to another day (One less day to repent and one more day

to repent of!  - copied – CY  - 2017) the decisive step of accepting the salvation

of the risen Savior, just as it had deferred resistance to Philip of Macedon till

their liberties were gone and their country enslaved. (For "We will hear thee

again," compare ch. 24:25).



The Gospel’s Kindly Encounter with Novel Foes (vs. 23-32)


The opportunity now presented to Paul he must at once have recognized to

be one of the grandest and most critical of his career. He was for a while

separated from his two loved companions, and was permitted to face his

work alone in the long-time metropolis of the world’s learning, grace, and

art. We are perhaps to understand that Paul somewhat sensitively felt his

position to be one of a special kind of responsibility. It was certainly none

the less one of so much the more honor. He does not delay his work. He

appears in the synagogue (v. 17) with the Jews and the “devout.” In the

market-place also he is found ready to debate with those who may be

willing. The citizens of Athens, and the character which now obtained to so

remarkable a degree among them, promised ground upon which rapid and

easy impression, at all events, might be made, whether lasting or not. This,

however, was held in check to a considerable degree by the presence of not

a few who not only were naturally likely to fight hard for their pet

philosophies, but whose very philosophy it was in some cases to attempt to

“prove all things” at least in their own idea or proving. Paul is not long in

being brought into the place of chief notoriety. The kind of treatment

showed to him by that ancient center of refinement and of intellectual

inquiry is vastly different from the treatment to which he had become only

too accustomed at the hands of the Jews; and the kindly method and tone

of the address of Paul seem to be some reflection of it. Still the gospel is to

grapple, and in Athens it had its work before it. The incisiveness (impressively

decisive) of Paul’s style does not fall behind its courtesy. Let us notice what

Paul has to say when now brought fairly in contact with all most typical

of a heathen world.




i.e. God. He “declares:


Ø      A personal Creator-God, against Epicureans and all various others who

either held the world to have been ever or to have come of chance. Neither

Jesus Himself nor Scripture records generally from beginning to end

presuppose atheism, nor apply themselves to prove the existence of a

personal Deity. But when nature, with all her ten thousand voices, has

nevertheless let down men to a degraded unbelief, or when men have thus

let down nature, these do pronounce and “declare” in no faltering tone this

one starting-point of all upward progress, all knowledge, and all goodness

(v. 24).


Ø      A Creator-God, the opposite of depending for anything on man,

inasmuch as all men depend for all things on Him, including the initial

breath of life, and thereupon every breath they draw.


Ø      A Creator-God who, so far as this world is concerned, knows one family

alone, but that family the universal one.


Ø      A Creator-God who does not forsake men to their own inventions, but is

the present and ruling Providence among them. There is such a reality as an

administration of the wide empire on earth, and that administration in each

part, each greater or less distribution, is Divine, is that of God, the

sovereign God.


Ø      A Creator-God who admits of no proxy whatsoever of idol fashion.




DISTINCTIVE OF CHRISTIANITY. These shall be facts or truths, not

grown of reason, not even surmised of reason; very likely not, in all their

bearings and all the questions they suggest, such as can be accounted for

by reason. They occupy by intention a unique place. They come of the

pronouncement of One who brings all-sufficient credentials, and whom to

disbelieve rationally is a greater difficulty for reason by far THAN TO

BELIEVE!  This grand, surpassing voice of Heaven is here given as



Ø      It bids repentance on the part of man.

Ø      It declares judgment to come by Jesus Christ.

Ø      It declares hereunto the resurrection of Jesus Christ;


and certainly, if the resurrection of Jesus Christ is here instanced as speaking

volumes for His likely judgeship, it will carry all that is necessary for showing

men present at His solemn judgment-bar. Evidently nothing so much arrested

men, when the world’s clock was then striking, as this announcement of

resurrection from the dead for Judge and judged.





This is but one among many ways of asserting that man is himself a

creation of reason and of heart and of conscience; in brief, of just so much

as to constitute him justly responsible to HIS CREATOR.   Beyond a doubt,

we cannot draw the line that says where the exertion of man’s will and the

interposition of God’s providence end or begin, nor, in all probability,

could we see the line if it were drawn. It is none the less certain that both

of these are facts in human life. Paul goes so far as to say that Divine

arrangements (v. 27) lead to Divine inquirings on the part of men, and

are directly adapted to suggest “seeking the Lord.” (The Bible always

counsels to do this “today” while He may be found.  – CY – 2018)

Notice, therefore:


Ø      That it lies with men, part of their simplest, first, happiest duty, to “seek

the Lord,” in distinction from the vain theory or degrading wish that the

belief in the reality of the existence of God should be an absolutely

necessary outcome of our life or natural income of our conviction. It is a

remarkable fact that in all highest senses it is both one and the other of

these things, but that in lower and literal sense, if it were so, it would

bereave human knowledge of God of its noblest aspects, noblest tokens,

and noblest uses.


Ø      That there is so much uncertainty about finding Him we seek, as might

well give zest and energy and trembling vigor to endeavor.


Ø      That the uncertainty lies much in some moral direction of our nature. To

find God” is not the quest of the intellect merely or chiefly. It will lie

nearer the heart, at all events, and it will be greatly dependent on, say, the

conscience, what it is in any man and how he heeds it. To “find God”

will depend on feeling after” Him. The absence of a certain kind and

amount of sensibility will in many a case decide, and “that right early,”

our not finding some one or some thing. Some truth and some people

are coy. And very indisputable it is that sometimes it is of the highest

truth and the highest style of human character that this is most chiefly



Ø      That to win the crown of “finding” finding really, finding blessedly,

finding for ever — is quite among the possibilities; ay, it is among the

sure promises exceeding precious to the true seeker.


Ø      That the grand object “sought,” “felt after,” and found is all the time

“not far from” any one, i.e. really near to every one. He is so near us in

our breathing life itself. He is so near us in all those qualities which are

derived from His parentage. He is so near as in bountiful goodness and

in pitying, strong love.  


33 “So Paul departed from among them.”  Thus for so, Authorized Version

and Textus Receptus; went out for departed, Authorized Version. The meaning is

that he left the assembly in the Areopagus. At v. 22 we were told that he stood

ἐν μέσῳ τοῦ Ἀρείου πάγου -  en meso tou Areiou pagou – in center of the

Aeropagus (where see note); now he went out ἐκ μέσου αὐτῶνek mesou auton

out of midst of them, leaving them still sitting on their benches, while he walked

down the steps to the city again from the place where he stood.


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.”  But for howbeit, Authorized Version; whom also for the which,

Authorized Version. Dionysius the Areopagite. The earliest notice we have of

him in ecclesiastical writers is the well-known one of Eusebius, 'Eccl. Hist.,' 3. 4,

in which he says, "We are told by an ancient writer, Dionysius the pastor of the

diocese of Corinth (ob. ), that his namesake Dionysius the Areopagite, of whom

Luke says in the Acts that he was the first who embraced the faith after Paul's

discourse in the Areopagus, became the first bishop of the Church in Athens."

Eusebius repeats the statement in his long notice of Dionysius of Corinth, in 4. 23.

Other uncertain traditions speak of him (Suidas) as one who rose to the height

of Greek erudition, and as having suffered a cruel martyrdom (Niceph., 3:11).

"The works which go by his name are undoubtedly spurious" (Alford). Damaris;

"wholly unknown" (Meyer), but certainly not the wife of Dionysius, as

Chrysostom (' De Sacerd.,' 4:7) and others have thought ('Dictionary of the Bible').

And others with them. These would seem to be but few from Luke's way of

mentioning them, and from our hearing nothing more in the Acts about the

Church at Athens. It is remarkable that this small number of converts coincides

with the weakness of the synagogue at Athens, too weak to persecute, and too

weak to make proselytes among the Greeks of Athens. It seems clear that nowhere

else had Paul won so few souls to Christ. And yet God's Word did not return to

Him wholly void. The seed fell on some good ground, to bring forth fruit unto

eternal life!




The Cross of Christ in the Metropolis of Art and Philosophy

    (vs. 16-34)


There is a singular interest in this first encounter of the gospel with the art

and philosophy of Athens, and it is instructive to note the attitude taken by

the great preacher in the encounter. Whether Paul had artistic taste we

have no means of knowing. But probably, as a devout Jew, seeing that

sculpture was so largely employed in the images of the gods and the deified

emperors, his eye would not have been trained to look with pleasure even

upon the masterpieces of Grecian art. In like manner Greek architecture

was mainly devoted to glorify the temples of the gods. The Parthenon at

Athens, the temple of Diana at Ephesus, the temples of Apollo and Diana

at Antioch, at Baalbec, in the many cities of Asia adorned by the

Seleucidae, were indeed materially beautiful, but that material beauty was

eclipsed by the moral deformity of their consecration to idolatry, to

imposture, and to falsehood. The devout eye of the apostle would

therefore be more shocked by the dishonor done to God, and the injury to

the moral nature of man, than gratified by mere beauty of form, or

architectural grandeur and grace. Hence, as far as we learn from the

inspired narrative, the dominant effect upon his mind of the sight of the

unrivalled statues and temples of Athens was grief and indignation at their

homage to idolatry, rather than admiration of the artistic genius which

produced them. In like manner he found himself face to face with

philosophy. He was treading the courts of the academy where Plato had

taught; he was in the city where Socrates had lived and died; there

Aristotle had both learned and taught; there the successors both of Zeno and

Epicurus were still inculcating the tenets of their-respective schools. What

was to be the attitude of an evangelist in the presence of these august

representatives of human intellect? In what language was the apostle of

Jesus Christ to address himself to them? In that of apology? In that of

compromise? in that of conscious inferiority? or as if the possessors of so

much wisdom had nothing to learn from him? Or, on the other hand, was

he to speak the language of scorn and indignation — was he to shut his

eyes to all that might be true and noble in the sentiments of those men, and

to put them on a level with the vilest of mankind, because they were

ignorant of the great truths of revelation? The actual conduct of Paul

was as modest as it was wise, and as dauntless as it was modest. Looking

around him at the altars of the gods, he seized upon the one favorable

aspect of them — their witness to a worshipful spirit in the people towards

the Unseen. Gathering from Greek literature a true description of the

relation of man to the living God, he proceeded with wonderful simplicity

and force to enunciate those truths of natural religion which an untainted

reason perceives and approves. And then, rising to those higher truths

which are the domain of revelation, he preached, as he had done before in

the Agora, JESUS and THE RESURRECTION. He bid them repent of their sins

done in ignorance; he told them of the coming of the day of judgment; he

spoke to them of the awful Judge, and of His unerring righteousness. There

was no faltering in his speech, no watering down of the severity of the

gospel, no wincing at the subtle wits or the pretentious wisdom of those

who heard him. He spoke as a man who knew that he had the truth of God,

and that THAT TRUTH WILL PREVAIL! And such should ever be the attitude

of the Christian teacher before the powers of the world. Humble, charitable,

confident, and firm; owning all that is good and beautiful and true in the

world around him, but always feeling, and acting as if he felt, that the

gospel of Jesus Christ is better and truer and more beautiful than all;

valuing true wisdom, and prizing the great gift of reason as the brightest

jewel of our human nature; yet always remembering that in our fallen state

reason could bring no remedy for sin nor cast a light upon the world to

come; but that the only Name whereby we may be saved is the Name of

Jesus, and that HE ALONE has abolished death, and brought life and

immortality to light through the gospel. To Him be glory for ever and ever.





       Paul at Athens (vs. 16-34)




·         The connection of the whole with THE HISTORY OF

CHRISTIANITY. The Greek mind was evangelized. The function of Greek

thought in the development of doctrine. The contrast between the gospel

and philosophy. The step towards the conquest of the world.


·         The illustration of THE APOSTOLIC METHOD. Adaptation of the

truth to every class of mind. Difference of the preaching when the

foundation of the Jewish Scriptures was for the time forsaken. Important

difference of results, showing that there must be something intervening

between idolatry and Christian faith, besides natural religion. The

resurrection must stand on its true foundation, or it is mocked at. The

spiritual truth is mere “babbling” to those who look upon it from the

naturalistic point of view.


·         The picture of HUMAN HELPLESSNESS presented. Intellectual

restlessness of Athens. The judgment of God overhanging the moral

corruption. Times of ignorance. Idolatry, the more hideous in its

decorations of artistic beauty. Worship of the human body. Social miseries

of the Greek world. The one man among the multitude, type of the spiritual

force which, though a grain of mustard seed in apparent magnitude, was a

germ of life in the midst of the universal decay and death. So in the decline

and fall of the Roman empire. A great lesson on:


Ø      the sufficiency and power of the gospel;

Ø      the responsibility of man.



   Paul at Athens (vs. 16-34)


Paul stands in Athens, amidst the master-pieces of Greek art and the

memorials of Greek wisdom. It is not admiration or aesthetic delight which

is awakened in him, but moral indignation. Christianity is not opposed to

art; but Christianity does not approve the worship of sensuous or ideal

beauty apart from moral earnestness. In the true relation, religion absorbs

art into itself; when art is substituted for religion, there is moral decay. Nor

is Christianity hostile to philosophy. On the contrary, there was in Greek

philosophy a preparation for Christ. There were germs of truth in the

Epicurean and the Stoic schools which Christianity incorporated, while it

corrected the one-sidedness of these philosophies. The Epicurean built his

practical system on human weakness, the Stoic his on pride. The gospel

will not excuse sin on the ground of weakness; nor found a righteousness

of man’s own on pride (see the noted discussion of these schools, and the

relation of the gospel to them, in Pascal’s ‘Pensees’). Between these

extremes, as between those of Sadducecism and Phariseeism, the gospel

ever makes its way. These academicians of Athens might well be anxious

to know what the “ugly little Jew” had to say. Long had the mighty logos

or dialectic of Plato and Aristotle and their successors and rivals ruled the

world. What could the fanatical Jew have to say? An immortal discourse is

the reply to these questions of curiosity.


·         GOD UNKNOWN, YET KNOWABLE. The speaker recognizes the

reverence of the Athenians. The heathen were prepared for the gospel, all

the more from the weariness and failure of their age-long “groping after

God.” In the inscription on the altar was the witness of the desire to

worship all forms of divinity, whether to them known or unknown. Both

Greeks and Romans recognized, above and beyond the definite gods and

goddesses of the Pantheon, the indefinable in Deity, the mystery of that

Essence, to us and to all, as to them, incomprehensible. So far we are all on

a level with the Athenians. But there are special senses in which God is

unknown to the worshipper.


Ø      To the sensual and sin-loving heart. Many there are whose heart is like

the Agora of Athens or a Pantheon; one idol stands beside another. Wrath,

pride, lust, avarice, treachery, ambition, — these are their gods. And again,

science, art, money, the husband, the wife, the goods of this world. And in

a neglected corner stands the altar with the inscription, “To the unknown



Ø      To the wise in their own conceit. “For the wisdom of this world is

foolishness with God” (I Corinthians 3:19); “He resisteth the proud,

and giveth grace to the lowly.”  (James 4:6; I Peter 5:5)


Ø      To the formalists and externalists in religion. For the drama of an

external ritual is rather a screen between the soul and God, if the soul be

not bent on finding Him.


Ø      To all who seek Him otherwise than with the pure and lowly heart,

coming by the Way, the Truth, and the Life to the Father. Though in one

sense” God is great; I know him not,” must be the confession of all hearts,

from the lowliest to the wisest, in another the good news of the gospel

proclaims — God may be known, is known; and every name by which He

is known resolves itself into love. He is concealed, yet revealed; unknown,

yet known; defined, yet indefinable. Tis a great yet a small part of His ways

that we can understand.


·         GOD REVEALED IN THE CREATION. He has made the world and

all things therein. Animate and inanimate nature, body and spirit, all have

the stamp of omnipotence and of omniscience in the unity of a Mind.

(How foolish for modern pseudo-intellectuals to deny Intelligent Design!

CY – 2018)  Every step in science makes more clear this unity; and in the

last resort this unity is not conceivable as “law” or “force” merely, but only

as the living and the loving God. In His infinite majesty, heaven is His throne,

earth His footstool.  He is in Himself both Temple and Inhabitant. The voice

of God bursts asunder the system of idolatry and superstition. The latter

denies that God can be found only in fixed places, by means of fixed rites

and mediations.  The true temple is everywhere; “The walls of the world

are that.” In the Church, where the gospel of His Son is heard, and above

all in the heart, where He indwells in the power of His Spirit, is the

temple of the living God.



love. Needing nothing from men’s hands; they incessantly feel the need of

Him. Life itself is sweet, and in that sweetness we have an instance of His

love. There is a joy in breathing, moving about, looking, learning,

experiencing manifold experiences in this “fair world of God.” And each

and every pleasure, lower and higher, leads up to God and His love. The tie

that binds us to our kind is an expression of the same love. Sympathy is

possible, is actual, between men of every color and clime. The mechanism

of thought and feeling is alike in all. All men suffer and rejoice from the

same causes. The unity of the human race reflects the unity of God’s mind

in wisdom and in love. Men form one people, one race: this is the great

thought the gospel throws upon the world, and teaches us to say, in deeper

senses than the heathen knew, “I am a man; nothing human is foreign to

me.” He has set bounds to man’s habitations. All the effects of climate, of

physical configuration of the earth, distribution of land and water, so

interesting to the student of man and his dwelling-place, are conditions

fixed by the same wise and loving hand. GOD IS IN HISTORY!   His

thoughts alone are living. Athens was not for ever, nor Rome; but the Divine

thought, whence proceeded the culture of Greece, the law and order of

Rome, lives on, and is revealed in changing forms from age to age. And

towards the “far-off goal” of an infinite love, we doubt not, the whole of

creation and of history moves. THE END OF ALL IS THE UNION OF

MAN WITH GOD!  Though in one sense He needeth not anything,”

in another he needs all — the whole love of His whole rational universe.

The process of thought in the world is a process of “groping after” and

of finding God. God wills that we should find Him, but only as the result

of our seeking. Therefore He “half reveals” and” half conceals” Himself.

He is far off, yet near; in each and all the spheres of our knowledge. Our

being rests ON HIS;  ours are borrowed lives (Isaiah 54:6; I Corinthians 8:6).

In the Father,” says Cyprian, “we are, from him all life comes; in the Son,

who lives, we have life; in the Spirit, who is the Breath of all flesh, we have

our being.” His offspring we are:


Ø      by creation in His image,

Ø      by redemption through His Son.


 This truth we know from Scripture, from the human heart, from life;

 and the effect of this knowledge may well be to produce holy humility,

 mixed with confidence and joy.




Ø      The heathen draw a wrong inference from the true saying on men

being the offspring of God. If we are of Divine origin, they seemed to

argue, then the gods are of human kind, and images of them may be made.

On the contrary, Paul argues, those who are of Divine origin despise

themselves if they render worship to any but the supreme Head and Lord.

When we say that God is in affinity with man, we do not affirm that man

can represent Him in thought, much less in images of plastic art. The

philosopher Xenophanes had said that if the animals had gods, they would

imagine them in their own likeness — the god of the horse would be a

horse, etc. The truth is that only our ideal or higher nature is the mirror of



Ø      In conscience we find His clearest reflex. And ignorance of Him in this

nearest sphere of knowledge is not excusable, as  Paul teaches in

Romans 1. Men did not like to retain God in their knowledge. At the same

time, the conscience needs light from without. There are dark ages of the

world, when men have comparatively little light, and which may be viewed

as ages of God’s forbearance, wherein he “overlooks” much that men do,

“not knowing what they do.”


Ø      But Christ is a Turning-point of history. Before Him, the period of

“ignorance;” with Him and after Him, the true light. Before Him,

forbearance; henceforward, the just judgment of the world. The description

of the person and functions of Christ.


o        He is Man; a member of humanity, a partaker of human flesh and

blood, subject to death.


o        As High Priest, He is one “touched with a feeling of our infirmities.”

(Hebrews  4:15)


o        And as Judge, He is qualified on the same grounds. It is a common

feeling which requires that a man should be judged by his peers.

Knowledge and pity, severity and compassion, are united in Christ.


Ø      The call to repentance. It is an urgent call. The more indifferent and

light-hearted the listeners, the more urgently it must sound. It is an

absolute call, admitting of no exceptions. No ignorance and no philosophy,

no dignity or rank, can exempt men from the immediate command of God

to repent. Amidst the depths of sin and the heights of virtue, in paganism

and in Christendom, the new heart and the new life are indispensable.




Ø      Some scoffed, some procrastinated. These are ever the two main classes

of those who turn a deaf ear to the Divine Word. Some make light of the

truth, some put off attention to it until the “more convenient season.”

“Faith in to-morrow, instead of CHRIST, is Satan’s nurse for man’s

perdition.” Paul departed from among them, and came not back; the

tender grace” of the day of salvation VANISHED  not again to be found.


Ø      But some believed. Of whom Dionysius among men alone is mentioned;

and of the women, Damaris, with some others. We need, however, to

remind ourselves that great numbers are no sign of the true Church. There

are many more of common stones than of jewels in its structure, according

to the ordinary valuation; but God’s measures are not ours. According to

ancient testimonies, a bright light went forth from the Church at Athens.

The splendid intellectual culture of Athens remains the heritage of the few;

the gospel pours its common blessing on mankind. The relation of the

Christian to the art and science of the world.


o        He is not to despise them. The master-works of genius are gifts of God;

and in their way they bear testimony to the universal striving of the

human spirit after the reconciliation of sense and spirit, the human

with the Divine.  The aberrations of great spirits are more instructive

than the meaningless commonplaces of ordinary minds.


o        At the same time, he is to apply to them the Christian scale of

judgment. Christianity cannot countenance immoral art or

godless science.  If the heart of the artist and scientific man

be sanctified, their works and studies will tend to the glory

of God.  (If not, and we  have a lot of examples in our culture,

they tend to glorify man, which only degrades with a sort of

hellish aura – CY – 2018)



Three Kinds of Hearing (vs. 32-34)


It is not always given to the hardest and most conscientious laborer to reap

a large harvest. The day had been a day of hard work and faithful work for

Paul. Arrived at sunset, he counts more disappointment than gain. This

passage speaks of three kinds of hearers. And it is telling us of facts —

facts that were, facts that too often are. Notice:




Ø      They mock when they hear something and fear something.

Ø      They mock when they cannot confute what is spoken into their outer

ear, nor silence what speaks of itself in their inner ear.

Ø      They mock when they don’t understand and don’t try to understand.

Ø      They mock when they are ready to risk everything, rather than yield

anything of self and self-will.




Ø      They procrastinate when they are persuaded — almost.

Ø      They procrastinate when it is no matter of “two opinions” but of active

duty or public declaration of themselves.

Ø      They procrastinate when their mind is quite clear, but their heart neither

honest nor earnest.

Ø      They procrastinate when they feel they must say something, but are not

prepared either to do or to say the right something.




Ø      They believe when the Lord has opened their heart to attend to the

things spoken.”

Ø      They believe when they feel that the things spoken are true to their need

and are for them.

Ø      They believe when they are practically ready, if needs be, to “forsake”

all the rest in order to “cleave to” that one Being who has “the words

of eternal life.”



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