We are preparing our messages for Emmaus Bible College’s “Christian MInistry Seminars” for February 6-7. Here in Acts 17 Paul is our example in using his mind to reach his audience with the gospel. Our text is Acts 17:19-34. Let’s look at the first few verses, make some observations, and draw some tentative conclusions.
Paul is waiting for his friends (presumably Timothy and Silas, although Luke might have been with him on this missionary journey [see Acts 16]). But Paul is not just waiting around. He busies himself as he waits. He becomes culturally aware of his surroundings. In Athens he “was greatly distressed” to see that the city was “full of idols” (v. 16).
The word used for “greatly distressed” is παρωξύνετο which means “stirred up, incited, provoked, distressed, irritated” (only used 2x in the New Testament – here & in I Cor. 13:5- that love “is not easily angered”)
Are our cities not “full of idols” today? Timothy Keller in his book Counterfeit Gods makes the point that “[an idol] . . . is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give…”
Are we “greatly distressed” by the idolatry that we see in our culture? Do we even notice how people’s hearts and imaginations are absorbed by everything . . . but God?