Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Acts 17:18-34
Pastor Steve Schell
Sunday: Acts 17:18, 19
v18 (continued): Some of the philosophers listening to Paul grew frustrated. They wanted further clarification of the things he was preaching, so they apparently stepped away from the discussion that was being carried on and asked each other, “What does this peddler of someone else’s ideas wish to say?” Others replied, “He appears to be a spokesman for foreign gods,” because they had heard him talking about someone named “Jesus,” whom he said had been resurrected from the dead. v19: Taking Paul by the hand, these philosophers led him to the market place to stand before a council of six annually-elected judges who had been chosen by the nobles of the city to serve as “guardians of the established customs.” When it assembled as a murder court, it convened on the rocky hill of the Areopagus (named after Ares, the Greek God of war), near the shrine of the Furies. Because of its meeting place, it had come to be called the “Council of Areopagus” (W. E. Caldwell, The Ancient World, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1962, p.159).

Monday: Acts 17:19-21
vs19-20: In earlier times this council of elders governed the entire city, but when Paul stood before it, its authority had declined over the years until their only responsibility was investigating questions concerning religion and morals (Paul Lawrence, The IVP Atlas of Bible History, Intervarsity Press, 2006, p.156). They asked Paul, “Can we know what this new teaching is which is being spoken by you? For you are bringing into our ears some foreign things. Therefore we strongly desire to know what these things mean (wish to be)” (literal). v21: At this point Luke inserts a brief observation so we’ll understand the prevailing attitude of the people Paul was addressing. He says all Athenians, including foreigners who were living in the city, spent their free time either reporting or listening to “something newer,” a term which probably means they researched and reported on ideas they had never heard before. Apparently this was done as a form of entertainment, not as a sincere search for truth.

Tuesday: Acts 17:22, 23
vs22-23: This council of elders generally met in the Royal Portico, one of the colonnaded buildings lining the market place. Once they had gathered and the question had been asked of him, Paul stood in their midst and said to them, “Men of Athens, I have observed how much more fervently you worship the gods than those who live in other cities, because as I was walking through your streets, looking up at the objects you worship, I even found an altar on which the words had been inscribed, ‘To an unknown god.’ This god you worship without knowing who He is, this is the One whom I proclaim to you” (paraphrase).

Wednesday: Acts 17:24-27
vs24-25: “The God who made the world and all the things that are in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in hand-made temples and shrines, nor does He need to be served in any way by our human hands, for He lacks nothing, but instead He is the One who gives to all of us life and breath and all things. vs26-27: And furthermore, from (out of) one (man) He made every nation of men (people groups) to dwell upon all the face of the earth, placing boundaries on their predetermined seasons (of existence) and on the frontiers of their dwelling places (outer boundaries of the land they occupy), and God’s purpose in doing this was so that those who were seeking after Him might reach out and touch Him and find Him, because the truth is He is not, and has never been, far from each one of us.”

Thursday: Acts 17:28
v28: “For in Him we live and are moved (set in motion, originate) and continue to exist (are), as indeed some of the poets among you have said, ‘For we are also His offspring…’” In order to show these Athenians that some of their own ancestors had said similar things, Paul quoted from two different Greek poets. His first quote is found in a poem by Epimenides of Crete. He wrote concerning Zeus, “They fashioned a tomb for thee, o holy and high one. The Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies! (Titus 1:12) But thou art not dead; thou livest and abidest forever; For in thee we live and move and have our being” (F.F. Bruce, Acts, Eerdmans, 1974, p.359). His second quote repeats exactly the words written by a poet named Aratus of Soli (B.C. 270), a native of Cilicia, Paul’s own province. In the first half of the fifth line, in a poem about astronomy entitled Phaenomena, he wrote, “For we are also his offspring,” again referring to Zeus rather than the God of the Bible (A.G. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Broadman, 1930, Vol. 3, p.289). By showing them that he was familiar with their literature Paul was trying to find some common truth upon which they could all agree, and he was also proving he was an educated man.

Friday: Acts 17:29-31
vs29-31: Having shown the council that some of their own philosophers had described God as a divine person far too big to live in the temples or idols that humans might fashion for them, Paul continued, “Therefore, being God’s offspring we should not think that gold, silver or stone, an engraved object produced by human skill and design, is like that which is divine. But having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now announces to all men everywhere to repent, because after this (season during which men may repent), He has set up a day in which He must righteously judge all the inhabited earth by a man whom He has designated (set a boundary around), furnishing proof (that this man is the one He has chosen to be the Judge) by raising Him up from the dead” (paraphrase).

Saturday: Acts 17:29-34
vs29-31 (continued): Paul uses the term “times of ignorance” (from: agnoia) to describe those many centuries during which the Athenian people had become so confused about spiritual realities that they had built an altar to an “Unknown (from: agnoew) God.” He tells them God mercifully “overlooked” this season, but by saying that he doesn’t mean God considered them morally innocent, but rather he is explaining why God withheld His wrath. They should not interpret the fact that God continued to care for them as evidence that He approved of their idols, but rather as evidence of His patient love. He held back the judgment they deserved in order to give them time to find Him. For hundreds of years Athenians “…exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures” (Ro 1:23). And during those years God indeed turned them over to the misery which naturally results from sin (Ro 1:24-25), but He had chosen to restrain His wrath and had postponed that day when they would stand before His judgment seat to give an account for every word and deed (1Co 4:5; 2Th 1:6-10). vs33-34: Apparently the Council continued meeting after Paul left. They may have stayed to discuss how to respond to what they had just heard. But amazingly, when Paul walked out of that meeting he did not go alone. A number of people who had been listening to him were deeply touched by what he said, and walked out with him, and met with him in the days which followed. Some came to faith in Christ, and Luke mentions two: one was a man, Dionysius, who was an actual member of the Areopagus Council, and the other was a woman of high reputation named Damaris. He notes that there were others who believed as well, so Paul’s sermon, though delivered under very difficult circumstances, still bore eternal fruit.

Return to Daily Bible Studies