Sunday Morning Sermon
Series: Easter Sunday Title: “Its Reasonable” File: 20070408am. Key Passage: Acts 17:16-33 Location: FCC Date to be Preached: 4/8/07 Date Prepared: 4/5/07
Intro. About six hundred years before Jesus came to earth, the prophet Isaiah opened his book with a proposition. Some of God’s prophets were rough and tumble kinds of men, Amos, John the Baptist, but others were more sophisticated, philosophical and well education, Moses, Paul, Isaiah. Good thinking has always been a part of the way God has opened men’s eyes to Him and His ways.
Isaiah 1:2-4, 18 Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. 3 The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but (my people) do not know, my people do not understand.” 4 Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.
18 “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
Have you ever noticed that God is often concerned about things have little importance to us and that His solutions seem to be solutions that don’t fit with our problems? We have sickness and money problems, broken relationships and conflicts with people and God keeps talking about sin and rebellion and forgiveness. What’s the deal? What’s going on with this? If He really is God, why doesn’t He just fix our problems and leave us be?
Then we hear these words for God. “Come, now. Let us reason together.”
Understand that if you are dialoging with God you probably need to do more listening that talking and when God speaks if He says something that doesn’t seem to fit with your view of things, it just might be that it is your view of things that is askew!!!
With that in mind, I want to take you to a story in the NT in which great minds dialogued about God. And the end result of that conversation landed squarely on the thing that we are celebrating this morning; the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. When God gives an answer, when He steps into time and space He does so with the real solution. And I can promise you, He will never just leave you be. His answers, His life, will change you forever (or not change you at all). It all comes from this simple yet profound truth. God has come to earth and He died for you and rose again.
Acts 17:16-33 (NIV)
16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 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.
Athens – center of philosophy Greece and reason(Plato, Aristotle, Socrates)
Full of idols – who would have thought
He reasoned – let’s think this through
NT. Use (dialogizomai) = factor in God’s revelation to understand the whole of the issue.
18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.
greatly distressed: As Paul walked through Athens, he was impressed with the idolatry that was taking place. The phrase “greatly distressed” is a strong word describing his grief and anger that the Creator of the Universe, the Father, was being so blatantly blasphemed. He was provoked to action.
good news about Jesus and the resurrection: So he moves to what he knows to be the reasonable solution. He tells them the good news of Jesus (foreign God) and His resurrection.
To the ear of these philosophers, it appears that Paul is providing a solution for problems they don’t understand. But don’t forget that Paul is a sharp guy and he knows where he is going with all of this.
19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)
Areopagus = permission to teach in Athens
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. 23 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.
Objects of worship / idols 300 plus
Unknown God. Not an idol, but an altar. No name on it, Simply “agnostos theos” The God we don’t know.
The history behind this “God we don’t know” is at the heart of Paul’s reasoning with these thinkers. This altar is not a “just in case there is a God we don’t know about altar. The story behind it takes place some 300 years previous.
What we know from history is that there was a devastating plague affecting the city of Athens. The city leaders had done everything they knew to do, making sacrifices to their plethora of Grecian gods but nothing abated the plague. Then someone suggested that Epimenides be called to help. He was a wise counselor, a prophet from the Island of Crete. Perhaps he would have some counsel that could help.
When Epimenides arrived in Athens he met with the leaders and suggested that there was another God, unknown to them that could help. He gathered sheep and penned them without food or water all night; he summoned stone masons and stones gathered. Then in the morning he opened the pens and any sheep that chose to lie down rather than do what was natural, eat and then lie down, was considered a supernatural act of this unknown God. Epimenides surmised that this God was Good, powerful and willing to help if they acknowledged there ignorance of Him and His ways. The altars were built and inscribed with the phrase “unknown God”, the sacrifices were made and miraculously, the plague ended. This is the God that the Athenians did not know. Paul continues:
Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.
Proclaim = declare a spiritual truth. Speak as a prophet of God things you must know and must act upon. Here is pure logic and rationale – Information from the heart of God, the answer to “come and reason together with me”.
24 “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.
The Creator, omnipotent, Eternal Spirit
25 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.
All sufficient, God of mercy and grace
26 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.
The Sovereign Lord of All, He orchestrates life to accomplish His end, His purposes. You exist forHim. He doesn’t exist for you.
27 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.
28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
29 “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.
30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.
Including these philosophers (and you). Include in your “reasoning” the revelations of God Almighty. The real problem isn’t the plague, the real problem is you don’t know God. He is willing to enter your life, your circumstances, but you must be willing to open your life to Him.
31 For he has set a day when 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.”
You can argue religion and philosophy all day long, but in the end you will deal with the reality of the living Jesus Chirst.
Acts 2:32 & 36 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
This is what God wants you to know, this is what He says you must factor into your thinking, your reasoning.
I have entered your time and space. I am God, I have come to you. You can know me. And you can know this, because when I am crucified, I will be alive again, forever and you can know me, the only True God.
Acts 2:37-38 (NIV)
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said . . . “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 . . . “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. . .
In just a few minutes you are going to witness this. Nathan has come to believe this about Jesus Christ and he is going to make it clear to you that he has faith in Jesus Christ.
Acts 17:32 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.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council.
Acts 17:33-34 (NIV)
33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 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.
The Bible is clear and reason demands it,
Maker of Heaven and Earth
He reveals Himself, in time and space.
Jesus Christ has was born, lived, did miracles, was crucified and raised to life.
He calls you to repent and turn to Him.
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