In the first century AD, the apostle Paul stood in Athens on a rock formation known as Mars Hill (aka, the Areopagus). Just a few days ago, I stood in that very spot. It was a deeply moving experience.
My wife and I, along with our friends Kip & Amanda, were on vacation in Greece. In Athens, we toured the Acropolis, a plateau that contains the archaeological remains of the Parthenon and other temples to Greek gods and goddesses.
At the Acropolis, people worshiped Athena, Nike and other false gods at the Greek temples. When Paul arrived in Athens in the first century these false gods had been worshiped there for more than four hundred years. A few hundred yards away from the Acropolis is Mars Hill. We went there too, just as Paul had done two thousand years ago.
In Acts 17:16-34 (see below) you can read the story of Paul sharing a powerful message with the Athenians at Mars Hill, a message about their altar set up to an unknown God. You see, Paul knew God. Personally. He knew the Sovereign, Eternal, Creator. This God who was unknown to the Athenians was the God who had changed Paul’s life. Paul knew the One who sent His Son to provide the way to eternal life. Paul knew Jesus, who was God-in-the-flesh, the One who died and rose again.
Paul’s message convicted the hearts of some people and they put their trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Others rejected Paul’s message.
When Kim, Amanda, Kip and I stood on Mars Hill, we read Acts 17:16-34 out loud. We discussed the fact that we were standing in the very spot where Paul preached. We thanked God for Paul, and asked the Lord to use us to point people to Christ just like Paul did, because we live in a day when people worship many gods but they don’t even know the One True God — Jesus.
Paul’s message at Mars Hill:
While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, his spirit was troubled within him when he saw that the city was full of idols. 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. 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.
They took him and brought him to the Areopagus, and said, “May we learn about this new teaching you’re speaking of? For what you say sounds strange to us, and we want to know what these ideas mean.” Now all the Athenians and the foreigners residing there spent their time on nothing else but telling or hearing something new.
Then Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that you are extremely religious in every respect. 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. 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. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things. 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. 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. For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 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.
“Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, 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.”
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.” Then Paul left their presence. However, some men joined him and believed, including Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them. (Acts 17:16-34)