Acts 17 Part 2

August 16, 2016. Devotions

Therefore, he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? (Act 17:17-19 NKJ)

Paul didn’t waste any time doing nothing, instead, he went into the synagogues to the Jews and the gentiles he spoke to them in the marketplace. I can almost guarantee that one of his questions revolved around the question, ‘why haven’t you had a greater impact in this community as Jews, and second, have you heard about Jesus and the resurrection? The Stoics and the Epicureans called him a ‘babbler’ which is why Paul says to the Corinthian church, “These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1Co 2:13-14 NKJ)

Two groups were in the crowd, the Stoics and the Epicureans.  The Stoics believed that God was in creation, the trees, animals and plants, a kind of pantheism. Spirituality was evident in a person by the lack of emotion. Epicureans, on the other hand, believe God was distant and didn’t involve himself in the lives of people. Paul loved a challenged and had just the Word that would speak to both.  How would you deal with people like this?

Acts 17 Devotion–going deeper.

spock

August 16, 2016. Acts 17—Stoic and Epicureans

Yes, Dr. Spock, had he been a real person, would have practice Stoicism. His character believed that the development of self-control and strength were the means of overcoming emotions. This, they believed allowed their thinking to be clear and impartial, allowing them to understand universal reason, what they called ‘the logos.’ Now you can understand why John begins his gospel talking about the logos, not as the universal reason but as the incarnate Son of God.  The key aspects of Stoicism involve the improvement of the individual’s ethical and moral well-being. “Virtue consists in a will that is in agreement with Nature.”[Russel, 254]  This principle also applies to the realm of interpersonal relationships; the Stoic strived to be free from what they thought were ‘bad’ emotions. All men were regarded as equal, not because they were made in the image of God but because they were products of nature.

Unlike the Christian, who was in the world but not of the world. The Stoic sought to amend the will to bring it in line with the world.  Greek-speaking philosopher Epictetus once said that the Stoic was, “sick and yet happy, in peril and yet happy, dying and yet happy, in exile and happy, in disgrace and happy.”(Russell 264)

Stoicism was the religion of the intellectual and later became known as ‘Classical Pantheism.’ The views and beliefs of Stoicism are similar in many ways to modern Buddhism.

The Idols of Athens

Paul in Athens Acts 17 (Part 1)

I was interested to read Acts 17 again, so I thought I might research a little deeper.

So those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed. Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. (Act 17:15-16 NKJ)

athensSupposing Paul arrived by ship, he would have landed at Piraeus and would have gone north from the harbor and entered Athens by the “Double Gate” on the west side of the city, where four highways converged. Before passing the gate, however, he would have gone through an extensive cemetery, where he would have noticed the graves of many distinguished Athenian citizens, the most famous being Menander, the son of Diopithes.

Passing through the gates, Paul would have seen the Temple of Demeter with statues of the goddess and her daughter Demeter was the goddess of fertility and harvest, her daughter was goddess of the underworld. A little further on he would have passed the statue of Poseidon, God of the Sea, hurling his trident. Beyond this, he would have seen the statues of Healing Athena, Zeus, Apollo, and Hermes standing near the Sanctuary of Dionysus, the god of the wine harvest and drunkeness.

 While Paul waited for Silas and Timothy, whom he had instructed to join him as soon as possible (Acts 17:15), he must have explored the city. He could have visited the Royal Colonnade, the Metroum or Sanctuary of the Mother of the Gods with her image.

In the agora the Apostle would have passed what sometimes called “the Music Hall at Athens,” the odeon, a small roofed theater. In the agora the Athenians had an altar of Mercy, which stood in a grove of laurels and olives. Close to the agora, in the gymnasium of Ptolemy, there was a stone statue of Hermes, and a bronze statue of Ptolemy.

Wherever Paul turned, he must have seen statues, temples, and shrines. There was the Sanctuary of the Dioscuri, the Serapeum in the lower part of this city, the Temple of Olympian Zeus southeast of the Acropolis, the Pythium on the southern side of the Acropolis, the Sanctuary of Dionysus at the foot of the Acropolis, and many more.

Entering the Acropolis he would have passed two statues of horsemen facing each other on opposite sides of the road. On his right, on the western edge of the Acropolis, was the Temple of Victory Athena, the so-called Wingless Victory. Paul would have looked towards the sea and seen the Bay of Phaleron, perhaps with grain ships from Alexandria, Egypt.

He would have visited the most famous and beautiful of all Greek temples, the Parthenon, and then the Erechtheum standing on the northern edge of the Acropolis. Here his eyes must have fallen on the oldest and most venerated statue of Athena, which like that of Diana of Ephesus, was believed to have fallen from heaven. (Acts 19:35)

And when the city clerk had quieted the crowd, he said: “Men of Ephesus, what man is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple guardian of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Zeus?

Finally, there was the most conspicuous statue of the city-goddess, a dedication from the spoils of the Battle of Marathon.

Among all these deities Paul discovered one altar dedicated to the “unknown god.” There are many examples of similar inscriptions in the Greco-Roman world. The idea, of course, was that these altars to the “unknown gods” ensured that no deity was omitted from worship

River of God

August 5, 2016. Devotions.

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. (Rev 22:1-3 NKJ)

In contrast to the picture we have of the River of God, the condition of the Yellow River, like many other rivers around the world, leaves a lot to be desired. The waters of the Yellow River are filled with a yellow sediment known as loess, hence its name, is essential to the well-being of China. These days, the river is troublesome in another way: The water in it is so egregiously polluted that it’s unfit even for agricultural use. In fact, in any given year, more than four billion tons of sewage is dumped into the river. And, as China continues to industrialize at breakneck speed, the Yellow River has become a toxic waste dump, turning river water colors other than yellow.

Many Christians believe that they will be taken out of this world and that they will spend eternity in heaven.  Though heaven is a real place, according to the Bible its occupancy is temporary, God is coming down to the earth. (Rev 21) A short devotion, such as this,  doesn’t allow me the space to elaborate, but when God’s Kingdom comes down on this earth, creation, that has been groaning (Rom 8:20-22) will be liberated and restored. Everything will be brought back into balance.  Ezekiel had a similar vision to John, “wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes.” … “Along the bank of the river, on this side and that will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for medicine.” (Eze 47:9; 12 NKJ) The river brings healing and salvation.

In the meantime, we need to let the river flow through us, touching lives and bringing about restoration, renewal, and revival.

Rivers Flowing

August 4, 2016. Devotions.
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (Joh 7:37-39 NKJ)

Now the Philistines had stopped up all the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, and they had filled them with earth. (Gen 26:15 NKJ)

God wants to pour His Spirit, not on you, but out from within you. The image we’re given by Jesus is a river flowing out of the heart. Immediately I’m thinking of the different rivers ranging from those that just quietly meander along their course, like the Mississippi, broad and long, to rivers like the Colorado, powerful, whitewater rapids. The Mississippi might not be as spectacular as the Colorado, but it gets where it’s going. The Colorado, on the other hand, has been dammed, diverted and syphoned off, so that now it barely makes it to the Delta in Mexico.

Some people are just the same as the Colorado. They start out strong and powerful, but they allow the enemy to steal, kill and destroy, so much so that they are in danger of drying up before that reach the end. Better to be full, deep and wide, taking the time to get where you’re going, but when you get there, unlike the Colorado, you will be broader, deeper and full to capacity. Let the river flow!