Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Athens Still Needs the Unknown God

This will be a quick blog post, as I’m currently in Greece, preparing to speak at a retreat for women who are serving globally around the world. 

While we aren’t here to “tour,” we did arrive a day early and chartered a one day cruise that left the port at 6:15 AM and arrived back at the hotel at 9:30 PM.  We stopped at three islands: Hydra, Poros, and Aegina. 

Once again, I’m overwhelmed by the notion of standing on the shores of the very waters that brought the Apostle Paul to this country. A country where he was able to inform the Grecian folk about the “unknown god.” 

It’s an interesting read (Acts 17:16-34). By clicking on the verse, read the passage.

This is what impresses me as I sit in my little hotel room, overlooking the sunrise just off my balcony.

As Paul wandered about the city of Athens, he took note that the city was filled with idols. 

He attempted to talk to the resident Jews, reasoning with them and preaching Jesus.

Instead, they called him a “babbler.” An empty talker. One who is like a bird picking up seed, who picks up tidbits of truth from this teaching and that, second hand thoughts he might have borrowed from others (kind of like I do sometimes).  It was not meant to be flattering, obviously.

But, of all things you might call Paul, a babbler, by this definition, he wasn’t.

Instead, the story proves the man was an incredibly creative evangelist. 

The rulers of the synagogue take him straight to the Areopagus.

Here’s what I know about this place situated in Athens, and also known as the “rock of Ares/Mars (the Greek god of war);” thus, you may have heard it more commonly referred to as Mars Hill. 

It was situated opposite the west end of the well known Acropolis.

As the story goes, Mars, having slain the son of Neptune, for the attempted violation of his daughter (Alicippe), was tried for the murder in this spot before twelve other “gods” as judges. 

Apparently, this, then, became a typical place for future Athenian judges to convene, and they had jurisdiction over offenses such as willful murder, arson, poisoning, malicious wounding…all the capital offenses. However, they were also responsible to weigh in on and investigate new teachings. 

Because the Greeks, by nature of the culture, were all about NEW TEACHINGS…

So, this is where the philosophers and spiritual leaders bring Paul, not to defend himself, but to hear the court’s opinion on this strange new teaching, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting. For you bring some strange things to our ears! (Acts 17:19-20)”

Hear the brilliance of Paul:

“Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious!” 

He’d seen all the altars, the objects of worship to all the many gods. The Greeks had a god for everything; and, just in case, not wanting to neglect any other deity, they even built an altar to an “unknown god.” 

So, Paul continues, “What, therefore, you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you…” 

How can you argue with this logic? 

He compliments them! You’re very religious, good job! 

But, how can you worship a god you don’t know, so let me help you, because I KNOW HIM!

Now their interest is piqued and they are all ears!

Paul sets himself up beautifully to download the greatness of his God, the goodness of his God, the government of God, and the AWE-MAZING grace of God (Wiersbe). 

He masterfully communicates to these judges who God is, then concludes leaving them with an application and a decision they must make. Of course, some mock him, some consider his words, but many made decisions to follow Jesus… 

As I sit outside Athens in my little hotel, I’m reminded the world still needs creative evangelists. Daring men and women unafraid to make the gospel the most important priority of conversation.

I’m reminded that wise minds still need Christ presented to them in a relevant way.

I’m reminded that those who are wise in this world are still ignorant and foolish when it comes to the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:21-31). 

I’m reminded that God still calls His children to go to “Athens” with the TRUTH.


Where might your Athens be? 

How can you creatively, boldly, truthfully, compassionately, enter into conversations that allow you to present Jesus, so that others might know the God they thought they knew existed, but needed help to perceive. 


(Volunteer Team)

These next few days over the rest of the week, I’ll be meeting with women who are doing just this. My role is to remind them of their #why, bring words of TRUTH to refresh and restore and renew and revive their calling. When we finish the week, we’ll send them back to their Athens (some are in pretty difficult countries). Would you pray for the group of volunteers I am working alongside to help them persevere?

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