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Paul’s Address on Mars Hill  #3 THE CALL TO REPENT

Text: Acts 17:29-34 

Paul has been preaching to the learned men of the Areopagus in Athens.  Paul’s mission, of course is not to excite their interest with some new philosophy, it is to win them for Christ, and he must make a gospel application.  

Athens – Image by Leonhard Niederwimmer from Pixabay

How will he do that, and what will their reaction be?  So, the APPLICATION, and then the RESPONSE:-

1 Three Reasons to Repent

So, this is Paul’s ‘call to action.’  He has laid out the truth about God and about mankind.  He has spoken of the Creator, who made the world and who sustains it, and of mankind, equal before God in their sin, and with a God given desire to seek the creator whom they do not know, leaving them groping around in the darkness of their own sinful blindness.  Now he must join the dots, he MUST seek for a response, It is time to seek the Lord.  He calls upon the Athenians to REPENT!

  • Reason 1.  Because God has been very patient with us,  29  
    • We have been testing him with our idolatry.   Anything that occupies the place in my life that rightly belongs to God is an idol.  That applies to every part of my life. If there’s anything there that’s more important than the Lord, its an idol!
    • Yet God, in his mercy has not rained down his wrath upon us.  Think of the state of the world in the days of Noah, when God looked down upon humanity and saw that all they did was evil all day long.  Genesis 6:5    Yet in God’s mercy, the Athenians, (and we) still have time to repent…
  • Reason 2. Because God has Commanded us to Repent.  but now commandeth all men every where to repent.  
    • It’s a critical command.  It is made an iterative by the use of the word NOW.  NOW, something has changed.  It is that God has sent his Son into the World, the One who is THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD, and now in the blazing light of Christ, there is a universal call to repent and believe in Him.
    • It’s a comprehensive command.  We can’t ever say it not for me.  It is our duty, as those under command, and to refuse to repent is to disobey a direct order, and that brings with it the punishment die to disobedient offspring.   
  • Reason 3. Because a day will come, when we will be very sorry if we do not repent.  V31  There is a compelling reason to repent while we still have time! Psalm 98:9    It is this…
    • There is an appointed day.  he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world.  This world will come crashing to a sudden and expected end, and the unrepentant mass of humanity will be required to stand before God, and their lives will be measured against a standard…. 
    • The absolute standard. he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained;. Now, how many people on that day will claim, “I’m a good person.  In fact, on the whole I’m a far better human being than that Christian over there…”.  But Christians are not the standard by which God will judge mankind.  We’re going to be measured against the only Man who never sinned at all, who perfectly kept and fulfilled God’s law.  God’s Son, Jesus, and measured against him, we all fall short.  1 Peter 2:21-22
    • The assurance given. in that he hath raised him from the dead.  It is going to happen.  Be in no doubt, and to prove that it will happen, God has raised his son Jesus from the dead, as a guarantee.  

The message to the Athenians is repent, while you still have time!  That message hasn’t changed.  We are sinners, we have sinned and our sin has broken the Law of God and brought us under just and deserved condemnation.  Repent!

2 Three Reactions to the Resurrection32-34  

Paul is preaching now about a RESURRECTION, and a resurrection implies a BODY, and what Greek wants one of those in the afterlife! At this point the Greeks wanted no more!  Look at the three reactions in V32:-

  • The predictable mockers.  They MOCKED.  There are always those who will mock the Christian, mock the Gospel, mock the Lord Jesus. Read Luke 18:31-33, The soldiers did it at his scourging, they platted a crown of thorns, placed it on his head and mocked, the scourged him and mocked, Pilate mocked him; the soldiers did it around the cross.   But I wonder is this what Paul had in mind when he wrote Galatians 6:7.  
  • The procrastinating delayers.  Like King Agrippa, they thought they would be able to leave off this subject for another day, come back to it some time in the future when it was much more convenient for them, perhaps much later in life when they had had their fill of earthly carnal pleasures.  But for the Athenians, those days would never come.  Paul left the Areopagus, v33 and he left Athens and he never returned.  In chapter 18:1, we read of his departure. The day of opportunity to be saved was over, and the gospel would not be sounded there again, at least not by Paul.  
  • The persuaded believers.  Only a handful were saved in Athens, and we have a record of them in V34  Two are named and there are others, plural, so we can reckon that at least four people repented of their sins and trusted Christ in Athens.  The two who are picked out for mention though are significant.  They are Dionysius the Areopagite, a wealthy, highly educated, sophisticated scholar, from the upper echelons of society.  Then there’s Damaris, the woman, who must have heard him preach in the marketplace. No decent Greek woman would be in the Agora, so she was probably a prostitute.  If so, then once again the point has been made that Christ died for every part of society, for there is no distinction between the rich and the poor as far as sin and salvation is concerned.  All have sinned and all must repent.

So, Paul has preached in Athens. There’s no record of a church having been formed in the city, as there had been in Philippi and Thessalonica and Berea and that has left some to think that Paul’s evangelistic method there was an experimental approach on his part, and one that he very quickly dropped.  He has preached the Gospel, made a direct application – a call to repent,  but his approach was to start with ‘where the Athenians were’ – with their own ‘felt needs.’  They wanted philosophy and poetry, and Paul gave them what they wanted, drawing it skilfully to a gospel message.  But when he went to Corinth, where he went after his time in Athens, he had completely changed that approach.  Writing to the Corinthians he recalled, And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-4 A totally different evangelistic method, and one from which we should learn.  Nevertheless, God’s plan has been fulfilled, and souls have been saved, and two of those believers are recorded in the Scriptures, and their names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

BobMcEvoy March 2021

From → Acts

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