January 19, 2021 – Tuesday
Acts 17:32-34 NIV
32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.”
33 At that, Paul left the Council.
34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.
When last we looked (verses 10-15) Paul escaped the Jews from Thessalonica who had followed him to Berea persecuting him there. From Berea he escaped to Athens. There he was (v18b) preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection in the synagogue and the marketplace. Due to the great interest and curiosity about what he was teaching they took him to a meeting (v19), of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? They were curious and always interested in hearing new ideas. This was not so much a search for truth, but the enjoyment of listening to and debating new ideas, the newer the better.
Paul took them up on their offer. While acknowledging their religiosity due to all their idols and alters, he taught them. He said (v24-27), The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything. Rather, He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. All of this easy for Paul from what would become known as the Old Testament which he would have known as a Pharisee before coming to know Jesus.
Then Paul quoted from two of philosophers they would know of (v28), ‘For in him we live and move and have our being’ (Cretan philosopher Epimenides). As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring’ (Cilician Stoic philosopher Aratus). I can only imagine that now he really had their attention, and they were listening with intense interest. That is when Paul followed on with exquisite logic stating (v29-30), Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent. Then he concluded with the news of judgment and of the resurrected Christ (v31), For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.
This brings us to our verses for the day. When they heard about the resurrection some sneered while others wanted to hear more about the resurrection. But Paul left. Why? We are not told, but he likely refused to speak more of Jesus to mocking and scoffing. Nonetheless, some became followers of Paul’s message and believed. Among those who believed were Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others. Ellicott’s Commentary tells us, Dionysius to be a member of the Areopagus would have to be over sixty and according to a tradition, ascribed by Eusebius (Hist. iii. 4, iv. 23) to Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, he became Bishop of Athens. Whether the tradition is true or not, holding the position he held his conversion would have influenced many. Then there is the woman named Damaris of whom very little is known. However, by the mention of her name she would have been a woman of some position and her conversion like that of Dionysius would have influenced many.
It is interesting that places where Paul was actively opposed and persecuted was where the greatest number of believers came to be. But here in Athens, not so much. Perhaps the message is we should not fear opposition and persecution as the harvest will be greatest then.
Prayer: Heavenly Father – No matter the circumstances let me always find a way to share the wonderful news of salvation You have made possible through Your Son. – In Jesus name. Amen.