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Sermon No: 2826-Christ and him crucified



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SERMON TOPIC: Christ and him crucified

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 12 June 2016

Topic Groups: EASTER, CRUCIFIXION, SOUND DOCTRINE

Sermon synopsis: Some ministry inspired by a recent trip to Athens.

The crucifixion of Jesus is a pivotal truth of the Christian gospel. In fact, it is crucial to the gospel, the crux of the message, if we might employ additional English words derived from the Latin word crux, from which we also derive the English word “cross.”

In writing to the Corinthians, Paul seems to express regret in the way he preached in Athens when he writes:

1 Cor 2:1-2 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

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THE 3 HOUR DARKNESS ON THE CROSS

Regarding the crucifixion of Jesus, Matthew writes:

Matt 27:45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.

Matt 27:46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

So the eyewitness Matthew tells us that there was a 3-hour period of darkness that occurred during Jesus’ crucifixion. This happens when the Father turns his back on the Son as he takes the sin of the world upon himself.

The 3-hour darkness was accompanied by an earthquake. 1 Are these events only mentioned in the Bible or is there corroborating evidence from secular sources?

It was mentioned by a Samaritan historian named Thallus, writing around 52 AD.

“On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the 263 third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun.” 2

1 Matt 27:51b The earth shook, the rocks split. 2 Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18.1 - Thallus wrote a history about the Middle East from the time of the Trojan War to the 1st century AD. The work has been lost but we have record of his writings through Julius Africanus (AD 221).

CHRIST & HIM CRUCIFIED

1st century historian Phlegon, in his historical compendium entitled “Olympiads” also mentions the event. He was quoted by Origen, Philopon, Julius Africanus and Jerome.

Julius Africanus writes, “Phlegon records that, in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth – manifestly that one of which we speak.” 1

Jerome says, “In the fourth year, however, of Olympiad 202, an eclipse of the sun happened, greater and more excellent than any that had happened before it; at the sixth hour, day turned into dark night, so that the stars were seen in the sky, and an earthquake in Bithynia toppled many buildings of the city of Nicaea.” 2 1

1 Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18.1 2 Phlegon’s 13th book quoted in Jerome’s translation of Eusebius’ Chronicle, 202 Olympiad.

CHRIST & HIM CRUCIFIED

In letters whose authorship is highly contested but written under the name of Dionysius, the Areopagite, the author claims to have observed a solar eclipse from Heliopolis in Egypt at the time of the crucifixion. 1

1 The author of the set of works commonly referred to as the Corpus Areopagiticum or Corpus Dionysiacum identifies himself as “Dionysios”, portraying himself as Dionysius the Areopagite, mentioned in Acts 17:34. While there were occasional questions raised regarding the true authorship of the Dionysian writings in the Middle Ages, Hugo Koch and Josef Stiglmayer (1895) strongly contested this idea. Most scholars now claim they were of late 5th to early 6th century origin and refer to the author as pseudo-Dionysius. But some still hold to their authenticity (see http:// pravoslavie.ru/ english/ 86817.htm). 2 The Works of Dionysius the Areopagite. London: James Parker and Co. pp. 148–149, 182–183. “Letter VII. Section II, To Polycarp–Hierarch & Letter XI, Dionysius to Apollophanes, Philosopher.”

CHRIST & HIM CRUCIFIED

According to the Orthodox Church in America, Dionysius, was from Athens and received a classical Greek education. He studied astronomy at the city of Heliopolis, and it was there, along with his friend Apollophonos where he witnessed the solar eclipse. 1

At the time of the eclipse Dionysius said, “Either the Creator of all the world now suffers, or this visible world is coming to an end.” 2

When he was later converted to Christianity, the connection between these events would surely have been realized by him then. But more of him later!

1 http:// oca.org/ saints/ lives/ 2013/ 10/ 03/ 102843-hieromartyr-dionysius-the-areopagite-the-bishop-of-athens 2 Ep., vii, 2; P.G., III, 1081 A.

CHRIST & HIM CRUCIFIED

The most common explanation that the darkness was caused by a solar eclipse was refuted by Julius Africanus.

“This darkness Thallus, in the 263 third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. For the Hebrews celebrate the Passover on the 14th day according to the moon, and the passion of our Saviour fails on the day before the Passover [see Phlegon]; but an eclipse of the sun takes place only when the moon comes under the sun. And it cannot happen at any other time but in the interval between the first day of the new moon and the last of the old, that is, at their junction: how then should an eclipse be supposed to happen when the moon is almost diametrically opposite the sun?” 1

1 Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18.1

SOLAR ECLIPSE

A solar eclipse cannot occur during a Full Moon, only a lunar eclipse. The Passover is always during a Full Moon.

A solar eclipse can only occur during a New Moon.

In addition Matthew records that the darkness lasted 3 hours:

So far, the longest duration in which the moon totally covered the sun, known as totality, was during the solar eclipse of July 22, 2009. This total solar eclipse had a maximum duration of 6 minutes and 39 seconds. The longest possible duration of a total solar eclipse is 7 minutes and 32 seconds. 1

So the 3 hour darkness at the time of the crucifixion was clearly a miraculous intervention of God and cannot be attributed to a solar eclipse.

1 "https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ List_of_solar_eclipses_in_the_21st_century

SOLAR ECLIPSE

PAUL’S MISSION TRIP TO ATHENS & CORINTH

The Book of Acts records three missionary journeys of Paul. On his second journey he left Antioch with his companion Silas. Later in Lystra (Asia Minor) he is joined by the young Timothy, who would become his frequent traveling companion and faithful understudy.

While in Troas they are joined by Luke. Paul then has a vision of a man from Macedonia (Greece) begging for help.

Come over to Macedonia and help us! (Acts 16:9)

Paul is obedient to the vision from God and proceeds from Troas to take the gospel to Europe. He and his companions sail near the island of Samothrace, then arrive at Neapolis. The group proceeds to Philippi where Paul and Silas are

beaten and imprisoned. On their release Paul and Silas, along with Timothy and Luke, travel through the cities of Amphipolis and Apollonia and arrive in Thessalonica.

We will now look briefly at his time in Thessalonica, Berea, Athens then Corinth.

Acts 17:1 When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue.

Acts 17:2-3 As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead.

This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.

Acts 17:4 Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.

Acts 17:10 As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue.

Acts 17:11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

We are not encourage to blindly believed what we are told, but to investigate and question. Luke commends the Bereans for cross-checking Paul’s message with Scripture. Jesus told us to “Love the Lord your God… with all your mind”, showing that we don’t have to check our brain in at the door when we become Christians.

Acts 17:12 Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

As in Thessalonica, Paul has a good response.

THE NOBLE BEREANS

Acts 17:15 The men who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.

Athens viewed from the northeast corner of the Acropolis

Arch of Hadrian

Temple of Olympian Zeus

Panathenaic stadium

The Plaka

Acts 17:16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly dis-tressed to see that the city was full of idols.

Biblical scholar A.T. Robertson notes:

“Pliny (the Roman writer) states that in the time of Nero (AD 54-68), Athens had over 30,000 public statues besides countless private ones in the homes. Petronius (a Roman satirist) sneers that it was easier to find a god than a man in Athens. Every gateway or porch had its protecting god” 1

1 Word Pictures of the New Testament, notes on Acts 17:16

CHRIST & HIM CRUCIFIED

The Acropolis is an ancient citadel on a rocky outcrop above Athens. Completed in the 5th century BC, it contains the remains of several buildings, like the Parthenon, Erechtheion, the Propylaea and the Temple of Athena Nike.

Erechtheion

The Parthenon

The Porch of the Caryatids at the Erechtheion (an ancient Greek temple dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon on the north side of the Acropolis).

Athena Parthenos (Athena the Virgin) was a massive gold and ivory sculpture of the goddess Athena, housed in the Parthenon. The original which is now lost, continued to stand in the Parthenon until it was removed by the Romans in the 5th century AD.

The Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee is a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens. It contains this 41 foot 10 inch replica of the Athena Parthenos statue.

Acts 17:17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.

The Agora was a central space or square in city-states of Ancient Greece. The literal meaning of the word is “gathering place” or “assembly”. 1

The Agora

Temple of Hephaestus

Stoa of Attalos

Mars Hill

1 https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Agora

The marketplace was “not only the place where provisions were sold, but was also a place of great public concourse. In this place the philosophers were not infrequently found engaged in public discussion.” 1

The Agora

Temple of Hephaestus

Stoa of Attalos

Mars Hill

1 Barnes Commentary

Acts 17:18a A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him.

Epicureanism was a system of philosophy based upon the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus.

While some claim that the Epicureans were atheists (denying the gods existence), it was actually more similar to Deism in that it emphasized the neutrality of the gods; that they do not interfere with human lives. Epicurus’ view was that there were gods, but that they were neither willing nor able to prevent evil.

THE EPICUREANS

Epicurus (341-270 BC)

They denied a life after death. They were also materialists, and felt that this life was the only thing that really existed and that, therefore, men should get the most out of it. They felt that pleasure was the highest virtue, and that pain was the opposite. Their motto (and it still persists to this day) was “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” 1

Paul noted that this is the attitude of those who do not believe in the resurrection:

1 Cor 15:32b If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

Epicureans were devoted to the pursuit of sensual pleasure, especially to the enjoyment of good food and comfort.

1 http:// www.raystedman.org/ new-testament/ acts/ athens-versus-paul

THE EPICUREANS

In stark contrast, the Stoic school of philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium about 300 BC, held that a wise man should be free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief, and submissive to natural law. The Stoics were fatalists:

Their attitude toward life was one of ultimate resignation, and they prided themselves on their ability to take whatever came. Their motto, in modern terms, was “Grin and bear it”… Apathy was regarded as the highest virtue of life. 1

1 Ibid

THE STOICS

Zeno of Citium (c. 334 – c. 262 BC)

Acts 17:18 They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.

What is this babbler trying to say?

He seems to be advocating foreign gods.

What is this babbler trying to say?: Margin, “base fellow.” Greek: σπερμολόγος spermologos. The word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It properly means “one who collects seeds,” and was applied by the Greeks to the poor persons who collected the scattered grain in the fields after harvest, or to gleaners; and also to the poor who obtained a precarious subsistence around the markets and in the streets. It was also applied to birds that picked up the scattered seeds of grain in the field or in the markets.

The word came hence to have a twofold signification:

It denoted the poor, the needy, and the vile, the refuse and offscouring of society; and,

1 http:// www.sacred-texts.com/ bib/ cmt/ barnes/ act017.htm

THIS BABBLER

From the birds which were thus employed, and which were troublesome by their continual unmusical sounds, it came to denote those who were talkative, garrulous, and opinionated those who collected the opinions of others, or scraps of knowledge, and retailed them fluently, without order or method. It was a word, therefore, expressive of their contempt for an unknown foreigner who should pretend to instruct the learned men and philosophers of Greece. Doddridge renders it “retailer of scraps.” Syriac, “collector of words.” 1

1 Ibid

THIS BABBLER

He seems to be advocating foreign gods: The word “gods” is “daimonion” (Strong’s ref 1140) in Greek which is an evil spirit, a demon. Elsewhere in the NT it is translated “demons”. Barnes writes:

The word translated “gods” (δαιμονίων daimoniōn) denotes properly “the genii, or spirits who were superior to human beings, but inferior to the gods.” It is, however, often employed to denote the gods themselves, and is evidently so used here. The gods among the Greeks were such as were supposed to have that rank by nature. The demons were such as had been exalted to divinity from being heroes and distinguished men. 1

1 http:// www.sacred-texts.com/ bib/ cmt/ barnes/ act017.htm

FOREIGN GODS

Acts 17:19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus…

AREOPAGUS (MARS HILL)

The Areopagus as viewed from the Acropolis. The Areopagus is north-west of the Acropolis.

The name Areopagus comes from:

Ares (the Greek god of war)

Pagos (Hill)

The equivalent Roman god was Mars, so the Romans named the site “Mars Hill”.

AREOPAGUS

Gavin, Robin and Taryn Paynter on Mars Hill

Stoa of Attalos

Before the 5th century BC, the Areopagus was the council of elders of the city, like the Roman Senate.

In classical (Hellenic) times, the Areopagus functioned as the court for trying deliberate homicide. 1

Under the Roman Empire, it was mainly responsible for the preservation of the customs of the city. The addition of new deities to the Athenian pantheon was regulated by the Areopagus. Paul was brought before the council because he preached a new deity, and they had authority to decide on the legitimacy of the new religion he was introducing. 2

The name Areopagus survives today as the title of the Supreme Court of Greece.

1 Ares was supposedly tried here by the gods for the murder of Poseidon’s son Alirrothios. 2 http:// expositorswiki.wikispaces.com/ Paul+and+the+Areopagus

AREOPAGUS

May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean. (Acts 17:20)

May we know: This seems to have been a respectful inquiry; and it does not appear that Paul was brought there for the sake of trial. There are no accusations; no witnesses; none of the forms of trial. (Barnes Notes)

Acts 17:21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

Spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas: Luke, himself an educated man, seems to say this of Athenians in a disparaging way.

In the classical period, Athens was a centre for the arts, learning and philosophy, home of Plato’s Akademia and Aristotle’s Lyceum, Athens was also the birthplace of Socrates, Pericles, Sophocles, and many other prominent philosophers, writers and politicians of the ancient world. 1

While it had lost it’s political importance to Corinth in Roman times, Athens was still a centre for learning. But the interest of these Athenians did not seemingly come from a genuine desire to understand what Paul was saying, but more from a shallow curiosity, being intrigued by the fact that he appeared to be presenting a novelty.

1 https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Classical_Athens

AREOPAGUS

Acts 17:22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said:

Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.

All the idols made it clear to Paul that the people of Athens had a great capacity for God. They understood that there was something beyond man, and they were seeking for it.

For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. (Acts 17:23)

The altar to an unknown god: We have many external references which corroborate this detail. 1

1 Archaeologist John McRay says: “Pausanias [the Greek historian], who visited Athens between 143 and 159 AD saw such altars. In describing his trip from the harbour to Athens he wrote: ‘The Temple of Athene Skiras is also here, and one of Zeus further off, and altars of the “Unknown gods”’ … Apollonius of Tyana, who died in A.D. 98, spoke of Athens as the place ‘where altars are set up in honour even of unknown gods’ …” McRay comments that, “The adherents of ancient polytheistic religions, characterized as they were by superstitious ignorance, may have simply erected altars to unknown gods ‘so that no deity might be offended by human neglect’” - Archaeology & the New Testament, 1991, p. 304 Lucian, in his Philopatris, uses this form of an oath: “I swear by the unknown God at Athens,” the very expression used by the apostle. And again he says (chapter xxix. 180), “We have found out the unknown God at Athens, and worshipped him with our hands stretched up to heaven, etc.” – Barnes Philostratus says (in Vita Apol., Rom 6:3), “And this at Athens, where there are even altars to the unknown gods.” Thus, Pausanius (in Attic., chapter i.) says, that “at Athens there are altars of gods which are called the unknown ones.” Jerome, in his commentary Tit 1:12, says that the whole inscription was, “To the gods of Asia, Europe, and Africa; to the unknown and strange gods.” - Barnes

THE UNKNOWN GOD

Paul tailored his message to suit his Athenian audience, beginning with a reference to their own altar to an Unknown God that he had seen in the city. He goes on to argue that this Unknown God, worshipped in ignorance, was in fact the only true creator God he proclaimed.

Paul said, “This is the God I want to talk about. What you worship ignorantly I have come to declare to you.” It was a great introduction. It reveals the emptiness of paganism. If you do not worship the true God, there is no end to your search; you will keep going forever. There were 30,000 gods in Athens, but they had not had enough yet; they had also erected altars to an unknown god! How clearly this voices the agony of humanity, the cry for a God they know exists, but cannot find. 1

1 http:// www.raystedman.org/ new-testament/ acts/ athens-versus-paul

THE UNKNOWN GOD

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. (Acts 17:24-25)

Bear in mind that Paul says this about their gods and temples while in full view of the Acropolis – maybe he even pointed to it when he said that God “does not live in temples built by hands.”

Pagans believed that people had to bring gifts and food to appease (and sometimes even feed) the gods. In contrast Paul shows that God is the giver and he does not need for anything from man. As the Psalmist wrote:

Ps 50:9-13 I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?

GOD THE GIVER

From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. (Acts 17:26)

From one man he made every nation of men: Darwinian evolutionists like H. Klaatsch explained the “superiority” of some races by teaching that they evolved independently from different primates. The Blacks supposedly came from the gorillas, the Whites from the chimpanzees, and the Orientals from the orangutans. 1

In contrast the Bible teaches us that all people come “from one man”. Despite differences in pigmentation, stature and facial features, there is only one “nation of men”. Studies of mitochondrial DNA indicate that humanity originated from one woman appropriately dubbed “mitochondrial Eve.” And studies of variation in Y-chromosome DNA point to a common male ancestor dubbed “Y-chromosomal Adam”. 2

1 “Darwinism, Evolution, and Racism,” Dr. Jerry Bergman 2 Doug Trouten - New Man Magazine - Sep/ Oct 2005

ALL MEN ARE BROTHERS

God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ (Acts 17:27-28)

.

The poem of Aratus opens with an invocation to Zeus, 1 which contains the words that Paul quotes.

“From Zeus begin; never let us leave His name unloved. With Him, with Zeus, are filled All paths we tread, and all the marts of men; Filled, too, the sea, and every creek and bay; And all in all things need we help of Zeus, For we too are his offspring.” —Aratus, Phænom. 1–5.

As an educated man, Paul’s may have used the quote to show that he was not an illiterate Jew, but a man of culture like them, acquainted with at least some of their great poets.

1 In the Greek pantheon Zeus was the king of the gods of Mount Olympus. His name is equivalent with the first element of his Roman counterpart Jupiter (the second element is ‘pater’ or father).

WE ARE GOD’S OFFSPRING

All men of all races are God’s offspring and are made in his image. Jesus says we are valuable:

Matt 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

Matt 12:11-12 “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep!...”

Matt 10:29-31 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

WE ARE GOD’S OFFSPRING

For in him we live, and move, and have our being: Paul cannot state more emphatically our entire dependence on God.

The natural life which men live is from God; and they are supported in it by him; and from him they have all the comforts and blessings of life; and all motions, whether external or internal, of body or of mind, are of God, and none of them are without the concourse of his providence, and strength assistance from him; though the disorder and irregularity of these motions, whereby they become sinful, are of themselves, or of the devil; and their being, and the maintenance of it, and continuance in it, are all owing to the power and providence of God. 1

1 Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible

WE ARE GOD’S OFFSPRING

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 man’s design and skill. (Acts 17:29)

THE FOLLY OF IDOLATRY

If we are God’s offspring our conception of Him should mount upward from what is highest in ourselves, from our moral and spiritual nature, instead of passing downward to that which, being the creature of our hands, is below us. 1

1 Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible

The Old Testament prophets like Isaiah and Habakkuk also speak of the folly of idolatry:

THE FOLLY OF IDOLATRY

Hab 2:19 “Woe to him who says to wood, 'Come to life!' Or to lifeless stone, 'Wake up!' Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it.”

The pagan lifestyle of the Athenians who professed wisdom, yet worshipped created things, is best summarised by Paul in his epistle to the Romans:

Rom 1:21-25 … but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

THE FOLLY OF IDOLATRY

The coming judgement is partly because men have worshipped both idols and demons.

Rev 9:20-21 The rest of mankind … still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons (daimonia), and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk

THE FOLLY OF IDOLATRY

In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. (Acts 17:30-31a)

He will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed: Jesus made it clear that the Father had appointed him as the future judge of all men.

John 5:22-27 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father… For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

Peter says to Cornelius, “He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.” (Acts 10:42)

JESUS THE JUDGE

… he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:31b)

Acts 17:32-34 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.

At that, Paul left the Council. A few men 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.

Some mocked: The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead was believed by none of the Greeks…The Epicureans particularly would be likely to deride this, as they denied altogether any future state. 1

And others said: Probably some of the Stoics. The doctrine of a future state was not denied by them; and the fact, affirmed by Paul, that one had been raised up from the dead, would appear more plausible to them, and it might be a matter worth inquiry to ascertain whether the alleged fact did not furnish a new argument for their views. They therefore proposed to examine this further at some future time. 1

1 http:// www.sacred-texts.com/ bib/ cmt/ barnes/ act017.htm

SOME SCOFFED / DEFERRED

A few believed: Paul’s response to his message is not as great as he had in Thessalonica and Berea, but among those who believe are:

Damaris: might have been of high social status because only such women were allowed to assist the Areopagus meetings. This may be the reason why her name has been especially recorded. 1

Dionysius: According to Dionysius of Corinth, quoted by Eusebius, 2 this Dionysius then became the first Bishop of Athens. 3 This is the same Dionysius that we referred to earlier (who witnessed the eclipse in Heliopolis).

1 https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Damaris_(biblical_figure) 2 Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiae III: iv 3 "https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Dionysius_the_Areopagite

SOME BELIEVED

Today when the gospel is presented, we normally have the same 3 mixed responses that Paul had here:

Some mocked.

Some profess interest and promise to examine later

People who defer inquiry on the subject of religion seldom find the favourable period arrive. Those who propose to examine its doctrines at a future time often do it to avoid the inconvenience of becoming Christians now, and as a plausible and easy way of rejecting the gospel altogether, without appearing to be rude, or to give offence. 1

Others believe and become followers.

1 http:// www.sacred-texts.com/ bib/ cmt/ barnes/ act017.htm

SOME BELIEVED

Acts 18:1-2 After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.

So Paul left Athens: Seeing there was little hope of saving them. It was not his custom to labour long in a barren field, or to preach where there was no prospect of success. 1

He went to Corinth, which was the commercial and political centre of Greece under the Roman rule.

ON TO CORINTH

1 http:// www.sacred-texts.com/ bib/ cmt/ barnes/ act017.htm

Acts 18:2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome.

The Roman historian Suetonius corroborates what Luke says about Jews being expelled from Rome by Claudius:

As the Jews were indulging in constant riots at the instigation of Chrestus, 1 he banished them from Rome. 2

It is estimated that some 20,000 Jews were expelled from Rome after their banishment in AD 49.

1 Believed by most to be a reference to Christ and the dissension between Jews and Christians. 2 Life of Claudius, 25.4

CLAUDIUS EXPELS JEWS

Emperor Claudius (Reigned 41–54 AD)

Acts 18:2-3 Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them.

18:4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Acts 18:5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.

Tentmaking, in general, refers to the activities of any Christian who, while dedicating him or herself to the ministry of the Gospel, receives little or no pay for Church work, but performs other (“tentmaking”) jobs to provide support. Specifically, tentmaking can also refer to a method of international Christian evangelism in which missionaries support themselves by working full-time in the marketplace with their skills and education, instead of receiving financial support from a Church. 1

Paul writes to the Thessalonians:

2 Thess 3:8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, labouring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.

1 https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Tentmaking

TENT MAKING MINISTRY

Paul did this for the sake of advancing the gospel, not because he had no right to earn a living from ministry:

1 Cor 9:12-18 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. But I have not used any of these rights… What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.

TENT MAKING MINISTRY

Acts 18:6 But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them:

Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.

Paul follows the advice Jesus gave his disciples that “if anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet” (Matt 10:14). We need to remember this in our missions work.

“No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once.” (Oswald J. Smith)

“God requires no person to spend his or her life reiterating the gospel to people who will not receive it. He wants everyone to have an opportunity to hear. Then He would have us move on to other areas. The mistake of the church has been that she sits down to convert all the people in one country to the neglect of the great masses who have never had the chance to hear the gospel - not even once!” (A.B. Simpson)

SHAKE THE DUST OFF

Acts 18:7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, 1 a worshiper of God.

1 Some identify Titius Justus with Stephanas (1 Cor 1:16, 16:15-17) and even Gaius (1 Cor 1:14, Rom 16:23, Acts 19:29).

Acts 18:8 Crispus, 1 the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.

1 NOTE: Crispus was one of the few people baptised by Paul personally – 1 Cor 1:14 . Some identify Crispus with Sosthenes (Acts 18:17, 1 Cor 1:1)

Acts 18:9-10 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision:

Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.

Acts 18:11 So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

What we call “Celebrity Christianity” is the trend whereby Christians adopt the values of the celebrity culture as ideals for the Christian life. And so wealth, leisure, fame, and power indicate God’s favour and blessing on one’s life. These become the goals that a Christian should strive for.

Typical book titles by some modern pastors include “Releasing Your Potential: Exposing the Hidden You” and “Live Your Dream: Planning for Success”. By ‘success’, they’re normally not referring to overcoming sin or being a good soul-winner either, but being healthy and wealthy.

While we may try justify this type of thinking, Jesus said:

“You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.” (Luke 16:15)

CELEBRITY CHRISTIANITY

A “Christian” website (www.successchurch.com) claims that we must be “a witness utilizing our Success in life from Him to bring Him Glory”. 1 In stark contrast, Paul tells us to “boast in the Lord” and not about our own success (which the Corinthians clearly didn’t have).

1 Cor 1:26-31 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

CELEBRITY CHRISTIANITY

CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED

Some (notably Ken Ham from “Answers in Genesis”) feel that Paul was prudent in quoting from a Greek poet and making a reference to the Greek’s own religious worship as the starting point of his sermon. They think that Paul was simply being relevant; rather than quoting from Hebrew Scripture, which would be unfamiliar to them, he used something familiar as the basis of his sermon.

Perhaps Paul was trying to appeal to their intellect. But God reaches out to our heart, rather than to the intellect. Paul wrote later to the church at Corinth (his next destination after Athens):

1 Cor 1: 22 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

CHRIST & HIM CRUCIFIED

Note Paul’s response to his message before, after and including Athens:

Thessalonica: “… a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women” joined Paul and Silas (Acts 17:4).

Berea:Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men” (Acts 17:12).

Athens: “A few men became followers of Paul and believed” (Acts 17:34).

Corinth: “… many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized” (Acts 18:8). God says “… I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:10).

CHRIST & HIM CRUCIFIED

Remember that after Athens Paul went to Corinth, where his message was very well received – compared to a rather poor response in Athens. And he seems to have regretted his method of preaching in Athens:

1 Cor 1:17-18 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

CHRIST & HIM CRUCIFIED

The wisdom of the world is foolishness to God:

1 Cor 19-20 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

The wisdom of the world is futile:

1 Cor 2:19-20 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”

WORLDLY WISDOM

While the gospel may appear foolish to the wise, it has power to save:

1 Cor 1: 22-25 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

CHRIST & HIM CRUCIFIED

In Christ is hidden all the true treasures of wisdom and knowledge:

Col 2:2-4 My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments…

In contrast human philosophy is hollow and deceptive:

Col 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

CHRIST & HIM CRUCIFIED

Faith is not based on man’s wisdom.

1 Cor 2:3-5 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

The Gnostics believed that you could only be “saved” through hidden wisdom (gnosis). But if people could only be saved through intellect, then only the clever would be saved. God loves all and so the true gospel can be understood even by a child.

1 Cor 2:18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise.

CHRIST & HIM CRUCIFIED

True wisdom is taught by the Spirit and is spiritually discerned:

1 Cor 2:12-14 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

CHRIST & HIM CRUCIFIED

Although Paul makes it clear that there is a message of wisdom for the spiritually mature, when we evangelise or do mission it is best to stick to the simplicity of the gospel.

1 Cor 2:6-7 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.

And so Paul presented the Corinthians a message they could understand:

2 Cor 1:13 We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace. For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand.

CHRIST & HIM CRUCIFIED

In writing to the Corinthians, Paul again seems to express regret in the way he preached in Athens when he writes:

1 Cor 2:1-2 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

The crucifixion of Jesus is a pivotal truth of the Christian gospel. In fact, it is crucial to the gospel, the crux of the message, if we might employ additional English words derived from the Latin word crux, from which we also derive the English word “cross.”

CHRIST & HIM CRUCIFIED

CRUX

The basic, central, or critical point or feature: the crux of the matter; the crux of an argument.

from Latin crux “cross” 1

CRUCIAL

involving an extremely important decision or result; decisive; critical:

of the form of a cross; cross-shaped.

Word Origin: from French, from Latin crux cross 1

1 http:// www.thefreedictionary.com/ crux

THE CRUX OF THE MATTER

Our Western culture is similar to the Athenians:

Like the Epicureans we have some who deny the resurrection and the coming judgment and adapt a hedonistic lifestyle of “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die”.

Others find that the false wisdom of our age (e.g. evolution and situational ethics) is a stumbling block to them receiving the gospel.

Christians make a mistake when they try:

Accommodate the hedonists with a seeker-sensitive false gospel which appeals to the flesh.

Try change the gospel to accommodate the pseudo wisdom of our age (e.g. psychology and evolution).

APPLICATION

THE GOSPEL IS NOT:

You’ll be saved if you’re good enough

You’ll be saved if you’re clever enough

Jesus will bless you and make you rich

THE GOSPEL IS:

Jesus Christ and him crucified

When evangelising or in our mission efforts, stick to the simplicity of the gospel. Don’t attempt to doctor the gospel to make it more palatable to a different culture.

Paul discovered that the power of the gospel was in preaching “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).

APPLICATION

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV:

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (http:// www.Lockman.org)

Scripture quotations taken from the ESV:

“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”




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