Acts 17:30 – Times of Ignorance

At one point in his ministry travels, Paul went to Athens, Greece and was on his own without any of his brothers in Christ.  As he wandered around the city, he saw that most, if not all, of the people in the city worshiped pagan gods.  The demonic spirits had worked long and hard to turn all men away from the One true God, presumably ever since the Tower of Babel incident in which God scattered mankind into nations, confused their tongues, and placed His divine sons over those nations – sons who rebelled against their creator and Father, having decided they desired to be gods in His place (Genesis 11; Deuteronomy 32:8 – ESV).  As a result, the city of Athens was full of idols (Acts 17:16).

Paul knew what God had said about such men.  He was steeped in the Scriptures from his past learning as a Pharisee.  Such people had the mindset, as Psalm 10:11 tells us:

He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,

    he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

He was well aware of the pride and arrogance people harbored in their belief that “There is no God” (Acts 10:4).

Despite this understanding of the nature of man, Paul ‘s faith in God enabled him to trust all that He did and said.  Thus, he could declare as King David did in Psalm 12:6:

The words of the Lord are pure words,

    like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,

    purified seven times.

It was those pure Words that Paul began to speak to the Jews in the Athens’ synagogue and to the Gentile elites of the day.  It’s amusing how these philosophers treated what Paul said.  They called him a babbler.  In their high-falutin thinking, i.e. their pretentious embrace of empty philosophies, they could barely apprehend what Paul said: “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities.”  (Acts 17:18)

Despite the fact that, as Acts 17:21 relates:

Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

… the Word of God does not return void.  These were men who idly speculated on everything and knew nothing.  As only God can do, His Word penetrated this ignorance and folly.  One means that Paul used was to relate to these people with the words of their very own poets and philosophers.  The unknown god they acknowledged, as Paul noted in Acts 17:28):

“ ‘In him we live and move and have our being’ … ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ ”

… was the One true God.

It was following this declaration that Paul seems to have really made an impact.  It was in the form of a warning.  Paul said in Acts 17:30-31:

“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

He essentially told them: “You men can no longer go about in your foolishness, pursuing that which has no value.  A day is coming whereby you will be held to account by the ultimate judge of the universe.  The proof of this is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  Listen!  Turn now from your ungodliness or suffer the consequences.”

For some, that resonated.  For others – just as men have always done – it caused them to mock.

Time as we know it in this Age of Grace is coming to a close.  It won’t be long before God calls all men to account in righteous judgment.  Our job, as ones who know and love Jesus Christ, is to be productive – to occupy – until that day comes.  We are not to sit on the sidelines and simply wait it out.  That will not go well with the Lord Jesus when He judges at the Bema Seat.

There are many who are lost, yet will respond to God’s pure Word.  Let’s bring it to them however God has given us the means to do so.  Let us reflect the light that shines in each of us that some may be saved.

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