Paul and an Unreached People Group

The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), November 16

images-1Paul encounters an unreached people group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers and idolators in Athens. To them, as with all unreached peoples, the teaching about “Jesus and the resurrection” is “foreign” and “strange” (Acts 17:18, 20).

Paul’s conversation with the Athenians demonstrates how to engage an unreached people group:

  • Paul begins at the beginning of the story, with the Creator and His creation—“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth” (Acts 17:24). Since He created the world, no place in this world can possibly contain Him.
  • Paul points out the futility of idolatry, that God “does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things” (17:25-26). Since He existed before time, no man-made image could possibly capture His essence.
    Paul introduces the subject of origins, “He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth” (17:26)—that all people groups descended from one man.
  • Paul validates their search but declares that they have stopped short of Him for whom they have been searching, “so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (17:27).
  • Paul appeals to their reasoning by exalting God and repudiating man-made images, “Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising” (17:29).
  • Paul preaches repentance and judgment, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (17:30).
  • Paul proclaims a day of judgment and Jesus as the appointed Judge, “because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness” (17:31).
  • Paul presents the resurrection of Christ as proof of Christ’s deity, “He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (17:31).
  • Paul is culturally sensitive. He uses others’ beliefs as a bridge for sharing the Gospel. Paul, however, is not intimidated by the idolatrous beliefs of the Athenians. He simply and boldly dismantles idolatry for what it is—many steps short of its destination of knowing God through Jesus Christ His Son.

Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Acts 17:16-18:3; 1 Thess. 1:1-5:11):
What is the purpose of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian believers?
Describe Paul’s relationship with the Thessalonian believers.
What does Paul communicate about God to the Thessalonian believers? About their walk? About the resurrection?