What does it say?
Acts 17 finds Paul and Silas in Thessalonica where the Gospel goes forth with great power beginning in the synagogue and extending to the Gentiles. The unbelieving Jews mount opposition against the apostles and they move on Berea where the people receive God’s words more readily and are more diligent in their commitment to study the scriptures to verify Paul’s teaching. However, Jews from Thessalonica arrive and agitate the people. Fearing for Paul’s safety, they take him away to Athens while Silas and Timothy remain in Berea a while longer.
Waiting in Athens, Paul is burdened for the idolatry of this great city and proclaims the Gospel to leaders of the city in the public forum on Mars Hill. The reception to Paul’s teaching is more measured than in other places, but some do believe, while others mock or simply refuse to commit.
What does it mean?
This passage is important because it show us what should be normative for believers today as we carry out God’s mission to make the Gospel accessible to all the peoples, places and languages of the world. Lead by God’s Spirit, Paul and his team minister in strategic places. Taking the Gospel to Philippi in Europe is strategic; ministry in cities like Thessalonica and Berea is strategic; and certainly to announce the Gospel to the philosophers and leaders in Athens is strategic.
Notice also how Paul tailors his approach according to his audience. When he speaks in the synagogue, he expertly shows how all the scriptures point to Jesus Christ. But at Athens, he doesn’t quote the scriptures. He quotes from their own writers and connects with them at their level of understanding. Instead of teaching the scriptures, he speaks of creation and the God that is still unknown to them.
How will I respond?
God has a strategic plan to carry out his mission. Is my life properly aligned with God’s plan? It’s not so much a matter of determining what I need to do or become, but how God wants to strategically use what I am and what I currently do in order to advance his mission. Today I will prayerfully meditate on the strategic value of my life to God’s kingdom and take any necessary step to better align my life and values with God’s.