Online Bible Commentary
The Mars Hill Sermon, Part Two
Acts 17:29 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. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead." 32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, "We will hear you again on this matter." 33 So Paul departed from among them. 34 However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them. (NKJV)
The time is about 50 A.D. Paul is in Athens, Greece on his second missionary journey. The Epicureans and Stoics of Athens listened to Paul share the Gospel and concluded that he was proclaiming a God different than the hundreds of idols they worshiped. These were the so called elite intellectuals of Athens. They were those who did not have to work for a living and so they had time to meet and discuss the issues of the day.
They were curious and wanted to hear more so they took Paul to Mars Hill where the Aeropagus, similar to our Supreme Court, met. So now Paul is addressing the Aeropagus and the Athenians gathered at Mars Hill with what has been called The Mars Hill Sermon.
Sermons consist of three parts; the introduction, the body and the conclusion. In this passage Paul concludes his sermon and the people respond.
Paul has proclaimed that everything has been created by God (v. 29a). So, he contends, God cannot be a man made object (v. 29b). In the past God has overlooked this idol worship, this “ignorance” (v. 30a). However, no more.
Now, God calls everyone “to repent” of this idol worship, to turn from it, because one day they will all be judged “by the Man whom He has ordained”, Jesus Christ (vv. 30b-31a). God has proven that this man is His ordained judge “by raising Him from the dead” (v. 31b).
Upon hearing the reference to bodily resurrection the audience got out of hand. Some mocked Paul, while others dismissed him for another day (v. 32). Neither Stoics, nor Epicureans believed in bodily resurrection. These so called intellectuals, much as today, thought that they knew better than Paul. So they shouted him down.
Paul then departed, rather than become involved with trying to contend with a mob mentality who would no longer listen to him (v. 33). However, not all was lost. There were some who believed Paul and became Christians. Among them were a member of the Aeropagus and “a woman named Damaris” (v. 34).
Paul’s Mars Hill Sermon demonstrated how he ministered to Gentiles who did not believe in God, but instead believed in idols. He called them ignorant for not believing in God. With the creation proving the existence of God he was justified in doing so.
The Bible tells us that the gospel never returns empty. Even while facing intellectual dishonesty, Paul was able to persuade some to come to Christ. His words did not return empty.
Whenever we share the gospel with others our words, also, do not return empty. Sometimes people accept the gospel. Other times they do not, but a seed has been planted, or watered, for someone else to come along and harvest. Never be afraid to share the gospel. God always honors our efforts.