Paul’s Message on Mars Hill

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens…
Acts 17:22

Paul’s message to the wondering crowd of the Areopagus (the NIV calls this place “Mars Hill,” recorded in Acts 17:22-31) is one of the great treasures handed down to us in the biblical text. It’s not only a great example of a gospel message; it’s also a lesson on how to deliver the gospel to a culture that is far from God.

Even the fact that Paul responded to the invitation to share the gospel in this context reveals that Paul believed that the gospel message is for everyone, everywhere, by all means necessary.

Here are my observations of Paul’s method and message:

1) Paul starts with their context, not his. (vv. 22-23, 28-29)

He begins by noting that the “altar to an unknown God” was evidence of their spiritual hunger. Later in his message he quotes pagan poets from their culture, which would be like quoting lyrics to a popular song in our day. He doesn’t demand that they come to him to hear the message of the gospel, instead he begins right where they are.

As for his message, it breaks down like this:

2) God is the sovereign, giving creator. (vv. 24-25)
3) God is mankind’s ultimate purpose, and we can feel it. (vv. 26-27a)
4) The God we search for actually reaches out for us. (vv. 27b-28)
5) God sent Jesus to reveal himself and to call all people to him. (vv. 29-31)

As John Stott notes:

“The Areopagus address reveals the comprehensiveness of Paul’s message. He proclaimed God in his fullness as Creator, Sustainer, Ruler, Father and Judge. He took in the whole of nature and of history. He passed the whole of time in review, from the creation to the consummation. He emphasized the greatness of God, not only as the beginning and the end of all things, but as the One to whom we owe our being and to whom we must give account. He argued that human beings already know these things by natural or general revelation, and that their ignorance and idolatry are therefore inexcusable. So he called on them with great solemnity, before it was too late, to repent.”[1]

This text is a great place to find out the elements of a solid gospel message, and to be challenged by the motive of love for the lost that animated Paul’s life.

[1] John Stott, The Message of Acts.

About Pastor Andrew

Follower of Jesus, Husband to Carissa, Daddy to four daughters, Lead Pastor at LifePoint Church in Vancouver, WA.
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