Three Responses to the Good News of Jesus and the Resurrection

The first century was not that different than our world today. When the apostle Paul stood at the place called the Areopagus in Athens to proclaim the good news of Jesus and the resurrection, his message was met with mixed responses. Let’s take a look at Acts 17:16-34. Look for these things as you read the text:

  • What was it in Athens that really bothered Paul?
  • Where are three different places that Paul talks with people?
  • Who are two groups of philosophers that were in crowd as Paul was speaking?
  • What is the initial response to Paul’s message of Jesus and the resurrection?
  • Is Paul respectful of the people of Athens and their religious beliefs or not? What makes you say so?
  • Summarize Paul’s message found in verses 22-31.
  • What are the three responses you see in verses 32-34?
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Acts 17:16-34 (HCSB)
16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, his spirit was troubled within him when he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with those who worshiped God and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Then also, some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers argued with him. Some said, “What is this pseudo-intellectual trying to say?”
Others replied, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign deities”—because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the Resurrection.
19 They took him and brought him to the Areopagus, and said, “May we learn about this new teaching you’re speaking of? 20 For what you say sounds strange to us, and we want to know what these ideas mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners residing there spent their time on nothing else but telling or hearing something new.
22 Then Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that you are extremely religious in every respect. 23 For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it—He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. 25 Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things. 26 From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. 27 ⌊He did this⌋ so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. 28 For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Being God’s offspring then, we shouldn’t think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image fashioned by human art and imagination.
30 “Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because He has set a day when He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.”
32 When they heard about resurrection of the dead, some began to ridicule him. But others said, “We’d like to hear from you again about this.” 33 Then Paul left their presence. 34 However, some men joined him and believed, including Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
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Now, let’s answer the questions: 
  • What was it in Athens that really bothered Paul? (see v 16)
  • Where are three different places that Paul talks with people? (see vv 17 & 19)
  • Who are two groups of philosophers that were in crowd as Paul was speaking? (see v 18)
  • What is the initial response to Paul’s message of Jesus and the resurrection? (see vv 18-21)
  • Is Paul respectful of the people of Athens and their religious beliefs or not? What makes you say so? (see vv 22-31)
  • Summarize Paul’s message found in verses 22-31.
  • What are the three responses you see in verses 32-34?
  • What do you learn from Paul’s message in vv 22-31 that will help you as you talk to others about Jesus?
  • How are the three responses of vv 32-34 similar to the responses you might expect to get if you talk to a group of people today about Jesus?
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