Good News from Mars (Part 1)

Those of us, who are familiar with Apostle Paul's sermon at Mars Hill, realize that it was delivered while he was on his second missionary journey. It was following his brief visit to Thessalonica where his gospel was well received, particularly among the Greek community. It was prior to his journey to Corinth where he was to penetrate the Greek religion which was commercializing sensual vices under the guise of worship.

When we think today in terms of ancient Greece, certainly the people and culture associated with Athens comes immediately to mind. It was the place where the Hellenic spirit achieved its most glorious expression. The Hellenistic Age, the period from the death of Alexander the Great to the founding of the Roman Empire by Augustus; and a period during which the culture of Greece had attained a high degree of maturity, was characterized by an amalgamation of the arts, philosophies, and religion. The most diverse people from the Nile to the Indus, from the Black Sea to the Persian Gulf, came under the spell of the Greek spirit.

I have always been fascinated with ancient Greek history primarily because the Greeks were a very cultured and interesting class of people. Unlike the Romans who seemed preoccupied with gladiator fights for their entertainment, the Greeks went to theaters to see plays by such dramatists as Aeschylus, Sophocles, or Euripides. And it is to this Greco-Roman world that Paul came with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now, we already know that Paul had traveled extensively all over Asia Minor and wherever he went he accomplished great achievements. Surely, God had blessed his ministry because not only was his travels broad, and not only was his preaching of such magnetism that people tended to gravitate towards Christianity, but Paul was also endowed the unique gift of being able to bring people into community. At Galatia he initiated the Church of the Galatians, at Philippi ? the Church of the Philippians, at Ephesus ? the Church of the Ephesians. So what I am suggesting is that Paul touched a lot of lives and did a lot of good wherever he went.

But, when Paul got to Athens, he found himself in an environment unlike any he had ever experienced before. Athens: the citadel of intellectual life for the Greek world. Athens was the capital of academia. Paul found himself in the midst of various sects of philosophical educators. Every religious cult in the world found some exponent in Athens. It was the rendezvous of scholars; the universally recognized center of learning. Those who desired learning went there to get it. Those who had learning went there to show it.

The Athenians pride was monumental and to some degree, it is understandable. After all, here was the seat of a great university where folks from all over world clamored to attend. They were proud of there tradition and ancient culture. Athens was a cosmopolitan city, lively and colorful and was considered to be Greece's "City of Light." This was the home some three or four centuries earlier of such great philosophers as Plato, who formulated a theory related to ideas and who became renown for his literary skills; Aristotle's, who distinguished himself in logic and who became known as a universal genius. And of course you remember that it was here at Athens that Socrates drinks from the poisonous cup because he refused to change his principles or alter his way of thinking.

It was to this kind of intellectual climate that Paul had come with the gospel. And that is one thing about the gospel; it does not take detours, it does not make waves, it does not adapt itself to comply with man's limited understanding. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not interested in how many degrees we have behind our names. It does not care anything about academia because there is something about the gospel that penetrates the wall of intellectualism. It breaks down the stronghold of human knowledge and human understanding. The word of God you know, is quick and powerful and shaper than any two edged sword.

So Paul found himself in Athens, the center of what was highest in Greek civilization. Now, I do not want you to misunderstand me. It was not that Paul was out of place among these intellectual giants. Paul was a scholar in his own right, though these philosophers were unaware of it. Paul had received rabbinical training under Rabbi Gamaliel and Gamaliel was the leading Rabbi of his day. So Paul was no ignoramus by any stretch of the imagination.

But Paul did not come to Athens to match wits with the philosophers. Paul was not interested in participating in philosophical debates. He was not concerned about expanding his knowledge regarding their religious stance. Paul was there on business ? God's business. He was there to introduce the gospel; to change their direction, to correct their disorders in religion. He was not there to supplement his education.

(continued in Part 2)

Rev. Saundra L. Washington, D.D., is an ordained clergywoman, veteran social worker, and Founder of AMEN Ministries. She is also the author of two coffee table books: Room Beneath the Snow: Poems that Preach and Negative Disturbances: Homilies that Teach which can be reviewed on her site. Her new book, Out of Deep Waters: My Grief Management Workbook, is expected to be available in July.

You are welcome to visit AMEN Ministries: Your Soul's Service Station for spiritual refreshing, soul edification or to browse our newly expanded mini shopping mall.

Blessings to all!

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