HOME PAGE   |   CONTACT PAGE   |   OUR CALENDAR 

OUR SITE MAP ... DOZENS OF BIBLE STUDY PAGES

RECENT MEETINGS

 STANDING WITH THE BAGWELLS 

 
 

To e-mail, call or write the Bagwells, just visit our "Contact" Page.

 

PAUL AT MARS' HILL

ACTS 17:15-34

Study with us one of Paul's great sermons!

Perhaps the thing that first "drew" me to this text was the way in which Luke recorded the results of Paul's ministry in Athens: "Some mocked" at his Message!  Others said:  "We will hear thee again of this matter."  But, praise the Lord, a third group "clave unto Paul and believed!"  Acts 17:22-34

 

 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
II Timothy 2:15

 

 

LESSON 1:

He was a "hated" man.

Many of the cities he visited, preaching the Word of God, expelled him in disgust!

I'm thinking right now of his few days in Athens, the "idol" capital of the world in Paul's day.

According to Acts 17 Paul was alone there during his brief ministry!

Why?

He had been run out of Berea (just like he had been chased away from Thessalonica too)!

What does a man do when he is all alone?

In a wicked distant city?

With no one to "watch" him?

What an opportunity to "be oneself!"

I have made a list of the things Paul did after a few brethren from Berea had escorted him to Athens ... and left him.  "But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people. And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still. And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed."  Acts 17:13-15  (He has sent for Silas and Timothy ... therefore he has a few days all alone!)

What did Paul do?

1. He looked the city over, quite well ... and was upset about its idolatry!  "Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry."  Acts 17:16

2. He preached in the local synagogue ... and in the open public market place! Daily he did so!  (No day off even when alone!)  "Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him."  Acts 17:17

3. Then he got the opportunity to speak to the "city leaders" at the Aeropagus (their court house, city hall and business center all combined) ... and told them about Jesus and His Resurrection!  "Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?"  Acts 17:18-19

4. And he even saw a few folks get saved!  He pointed men and women to Jesus ... even when alone!  "And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them. Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them."  Acts 17:32-34  (One man, one lady and some others!)

Here's my point today.

Paul did all this when alone.  He could have conceivably (and properly) been resting!  He had been recently beaten and likely gone hungry and perhaps even slept outside in the weather ... due to lack of funds!  How about a little "down time?"

But no!  He was busy for Jesus!

My Dad used to teach us boys ... "The best test of a man's character is what he does when he's alone!"  When nobody's watching!  Dad was a wise man.

What would you do, friend, if you had a week in "sin city" somewhere?

I pray that your answer would be:  Live for Jesus!

Let's be the same all the time!

                                                                             --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 2:

The verse is short and to the point.

Paul had been forced to leave yet another city.

Silas and Timothy were afraid for him to travel alone.

Therefore some men went with him, returning home to Berea after Paul was situated in Athens.

We read about it in Acts 17:15.  "And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed."

We don't know how many men accompanied Paul.  It just says "they," which obviously is a plural personal pronoun.

Once they got the Apostle to the city, HE gave them a command!  They were to go back to Berea and tell Silas and Timothy to come to Paul as soon as possible!

Using a Bible Atlas, I concluded that it was about 200 miles from Berea to Athens.  That can be as little as a three day journey or as much as two week journey, depending upon several circumstances.

I began to think about that last night as I drove to the Revival Meeting.  A few folks got to spend quite some time with the Apostle Paul!  They "conducted" him to his next preaching point!  The verb, "kathistemi," means literally "to stand" ("histemi") + "under" ("kata").  They were there to support Paul!  To undergird him!  To protect him.  To give him company and support.

How would you have enjoyed that?

Days and days near that great Man of God ... when he wasn't in a hurry! When he didn't have a hundred other people around him!  When he wasn't fighting an enemy or a false doctrine!  When he wasn't preaching three or four times a day! Or writing another Epistle!  (Or giving orders!  Well, he gave at least one ... but that's on the low end of the scale for Paul!)

Here's my point today ... what an honor to be around a godly man!  (For that matter a godly lady too, a Mother or Grandmother who loves Jesus!  This Sunday is Mothers' Day.)

Wow!

As these men traveled with Paul:

What conversation to hear!

What wisdom to glean!

What praying to savor!

What techniques to observe!

I personally would have loved to just watch him even "tie his shoes!"  Or for that matter ... tie them for him!

What an opportunity to ask questions!

Yet ... of course ... Paul is gone.

We'll spend no time with him until we get to Heaven.

BUT ... there is some godly Man around you!

Your Pastor or an Evangelist or some faithful Sunday School Teacher who has sold out to the Lord!

Take him out to lunch!

Ride him to the bookstore!

Go with him on a missions trip!

Pay his way to that preaching conference or camp meeting!

And the "side effect" of such generosity?

Spending time with a godly servant of Christ!

Why, that could be better than a semester in most any Bible School!

But, you know what?

We all probably spend time around such godliness and seldom notice it!

Hey, folks, wake up!

Redeem the time!

Honor (and learn from) the man of God, the one God placed in your life!

                                                                         --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 3: 

Once Paul got situated in Athens ... he did something surprising!

"Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry."  Acts 17:16

Really, he did two things unusual.  Unusual for Paul I mean.

He "waited!"  (A present participle, indicating on-going action!  He waited and waited and waited!  He was an impatient little man you know, especially when it came to the things of God!)

And he "saw the city!"  The verb Luke uses there is the root of our word "theatre."  Paul gazed and observed and studied things in the city of Athens! 

And here's my point today ... even when "sightseeing," this godly man related everything to the Lord and His work!

All of life was to Paul spiritual!

A city of heathen?   Why, they need Jesus!

A bunch of idols?   Tell them of the One true God!

Philosophers?   Give them some real wisdom!

That's amazing!

And Jesus did the same thing.

He saw some birds flying overhead and said ...  "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows."  Matthew 10:29-31  (Thank you, little sparrows, for flying that day!)

He saw a farmer scattering his seed ... and uttered the great Parable of the Sower!

A breeze one night hit His face and he taught Nicodemus ... "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit."  John 3:8

Oh, that we might learn this technique!

To turn all of life into a set of spiritual indicators to help us live for God!

Now, that would be more prudent than anything the Stoics or Epicureans or anyone else in Athens might suggest!

                                                                                --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 4:

Paul cared!

And that's one of the problems we face today ... nobody seems to do that anymore!

Let me explain.

Once the Apostle arrived in the Greek city of Athens (Acts 17), he apparently walked around the city, surveying its spiritual condition.

What he found was tragic!

Statutes and idols and memorials to thousand and thousands of so-called gods.

And it bothered the great preacher.

"Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry."  Acts 17:16

"Wholly given to idolatry" is spelled like this in Greek:  "kateidolos eimi o polis."  (I've placed each term in its most simple form.)  It says this:  the city, being in intense idolatry, being full of idols!

And what was the great preacher's reaction?

Paul's spirit was "stirred!"

That verb, "paroxuno," means sharpened or stimulated.  It fuses two little words:  "para" meaning alongside or with ... and "oxus" meaning sharp or pointed.  Here are the few other times the word is found in Scripture. I'll capitalize the pertinent expressions: 

1 Corinthians 13:5 --- " Love ... doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil."

Hebrews 10:25 --- "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works." 

And Acts 15:39 --- "And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus." 

The verb means "set on edge!"  Violent excitement!  Medically the term was used to describe an acute disease!  Ethically it was used to depict intense anger!  Here it says that Paul was totally involved emotionally when he saw such false worship!  He was angered (in a righteous sense), surprised, grieved and shamed by what he saw ... and determined to do something about it!

God notices such concern!

Back in Ezekiel 9 God spared the lives of a group of men who cared that much about the sinful condition of Jerusalem!  "And the LORD said unto him (an angel), Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof."  These men alone were spared!  (Ezekiel 9:5)  Those who DID NOT CARE were slain!

We Americans regularly see as much, if not more, of the wickedness Paul beheld that day!

We don't have to stroll the city either ... we can just surf the channels!

Does sin "disturb" us?

Do we "care?"

Does it matter that nearly 4,000 babies a day are legally slaughtered in our Country?

Is anyone concerned over the moral breakdown we are facing?  Why, even marriage is no longer definable in some places!

Has anyone even noticed the sad state of much of Christianity anymore?  Lukewarmness prevails in too many places!

Is anyone "mourning" over sin?

There's an old English word (but originally coming from Greek) that we still use, "enthusiasm."

It means God ("theos") being within ("en") a person!

It was believed by people of old that when a person was excited and vibrant and alive and cared ... it was an indication that God lived within him or her!

Oh, has that changed!

Maybe today we should take some time, get alone with the Lord, and ask Him to help us feel as He does about the issues of the day!

To be joyful when He is!

To be grieved when He is!

To oppose what He opposes!

To thrill at what thrills Him!

Again I ask ... does anyone really care?

Paul did!

                                                                            --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 5: 

Here's how Paul operated when all alone in Athens:

"Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him."  Acts 17:17

He went directly to the Jewish synagogue, his usual practice, to preach the Word of God!

The verb "disputed" is "dialegomai" and is adopted into English as our word "dialogue!"  It means to speak (through) to someone ... often expecting a response.  It can mean to debate or to converse as well.  Of course in the synagogue setting Paul would have unilaterally taught the Word of God as a Jewish rabbi.

Two groups were present that day (in fact every time they assembled) in that synagogue --- Jews and "devout persons."   The Jews were the natural full-blooded children of Abraham while the "devout" (reverent God-seeking) folks were Gentiles who wanted to learn more about the God of Israel.  Often in ancient literature they are simply called "God-fearers."  That day they both heard about Jesus!

But in Athens Paul immediately went to the public places to preach we well! The "market" is spelled "agora" and means the city square, the place where folks congregated to sell and to talk and to interact one with another.  It would be roughly equivalent to today's open and common areas down at some big shopping mall.  Or better yet ... a flea market!

The verb describing those who "MET" with him is quite interesting.  It carries the idea ...  those who happened by!  Those whom the Lord sent Paul's way! (The root meaning:  "to hit upon or to light upon!)  Any person's meeting and hearing Paul those brief days was not a "chance" event!  It was God appointed! A divine encounter! 

And Paul told them about Jesus!

We have just seen Paul's Athenian "plan of ministry!"

A whole course in evangelism could be built around it!

Do you know some lost person today ... for whom you can develop a "rescue plan?"

                                                                       --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 6:

Paul, while preaching the Gospel, was often opposed.  Or in today's Scripture verse, "encountered!"

Here's the Bible description:  "Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection."  Acts 17:18

The verb here, which I have capitalized above, is "sumballo" in Greek.  You may recognize "ballo" as their word which means "to throw!"  One lexicon says it is used to indicate (more or less) violence and intensity in the act of throwing!  And the prefix, "sun/sum," just intensifies the verb's contribution to the sentence!

These men threw some things in Paul's face ... things concerning his preaching!

It also being a verb with an "imperfect" sense of time, tells us that these men (once they started questioning and doubting Paul) continued their harassment!

But Paul, instead of looking at the situation as a problem ... quickly turned it into an opportunity ... an opportunity to preach the Word of God!

Soon the great Apostle was on Mars' Hill (a rather exclusive place to the Greek mind) once again telling the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ!

No matter that this crowd accosted Paul.  No matter that they called him names.  Or that they at first misunderstood his Message.  He still will preach unto them "Jesus and the Resurrection!"

What an example of witnessing!

Peter told each of us to:  "Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: having a good conscience."  1st Peter 3:15-16a

Well, Paul had an answer to the philosophers' questions all right!

And his Answer was Jesus!

His answer also was one of the best sermons he ever preached!

Dear friend, how about us this Saturday in May?

Do we stay "ready?"

Ready to say a word for Jesus at any given opportunity?

Paul did!

Peter did!

So should we!

And be sure of this.  If we are living right (in a godly separated holy manner) folks will ask!  The "difference" in our lives will draw attention!  Those around you will "see" your good works!  And we all want them to then "glorify our Father Who is in Heaven!"  Matthew 5:16

Thank you, Paul, for another good example!

                                                                           --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 7:

News about good preaching spreads!

At least that's how I choose to look at Paul's situation in Athens in Acts 17:18. "Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection."

Even the "philosophers" wanted to know about this Jesus Paul preached!

That noun means "lovers of wisdom," but their brand of wisdom was sheer heathenism!

The Epicureans were basically connoisseurs of pleasure!  They lived for whatever brought them fun, usually of the sensual variety!  (I'm sure they would have gone wild over Paul's lifestyle.  "I am ... in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.  Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.  Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches."  2nd Corinthians 11:23-28)

And the Stoicks were men who sought to live their lives totally devoid of any emotion at all!  They could take "anything" without whimpering or bragging about it!

Talk about two opposite world-views!

Yet the Gospel is the answer to both!  Jesus is the only Way of salvation!

By the way, to any "pleasure seekers" with us today ... Jesus IS the delight of our existence as Christians!  He IS our pleasure!  Paul in Colossians 3:4 even says, "HE IS OUR LIFE!"  We are enjoying eternal life, life abundant!

And to those who are stoical in attitude, it's all right to weep or shout or feel lonely.  Jesus did!  It's even all right to ask questions!  You do not have to rob yourself of your "feelings" to be a Christian!  Jesus our Great High Priest was "touched with the feeling of our infirmities" according to Hebrews 4:15.

And you know what?

As Paul Preached the Gospel to this crowd, it actually looks like one of them got saved that day!

See Acts 17:34 where Dionysius the Aeropogite believed on Jesus!

The Gospel triumphs over Epicureanism and Stoicism any day!

In fact, the Gospel triumphs over anything!  It is the POWER of God unto salvation!

Praise the Lord!

                                                                             --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 8:

They called Jesus by various names.  I mean derogatory ones.

Jeremiah also was falsely accused.

And maybe even Noah as he built the ark!

And certainly Paul the Apostle heard ugly things said about himself!

His speech was "contemptible" in Second Corinthians 10:10.  So was his "bodily presence weak!"

And when preaching in Athens he was called a "babbler!"

"Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection."  Acts 17:18

This little noun in Greek is "spermologos" and means seed ("sperma") gatherer ("logeo")!  A seed picker! 

It is an expression they first used to describe useless little birds hopping about gathering bits of grain here and there! 

Then it came to mean beggars who lived on scraps of filthy food scavenged from one place or another!

But eventually the word meant any worthless or low-down character!

However there's not much doubt that these accusing philosophers were calling Paul a gatherer of vulgar ideas and cheap platitudes!  And they intended to expose him as an imposter!

What indignities Paul faced as he proclaimed the Lord Jesus Christ!

But do notice this:  such name-calling did NOT stop the Apostle!

He still "preached unto them Jesus!"

It well may be that today someone is studying with us here who is discouraged! You've been "hurt" by something somebody has said about you!  You're about ready to quit!

Now listen to me.  Paul was belittled and low-rated again and again throughout his whole ministry ... but that didn't hinder him a bit!

His Jesus was worth more than all the taunts and lies and false accusations on earth!

"Babbler!" they said.

And Paul responded:  "Jesus and His Resurrection!"

Amen!

May we do the same!

                                                                           --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 9:

Sometimes it is surprising how little people really know about the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

It seems to me that years ago folks were much more Biblically literate than they are now.

Some theologians are telling us that we in America have entered into what they're calling a "post-Christian" era!

A time when we our nation is slipping into a "pagan" lifestyle!

If so ... we can no longer assume that everyone is familiar with the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus, the very heart of the Gospel!

That's the kind of situation Paul faced in Acts 17!

He was spending a few days in Athens, which was then the "idol" capital of the world!

He preached unto them Jesus and His Resurrection!

His strategy was simple.  First proclaim Christ at the synagogue ... "to the Jews first" you know!  Then while there explain the Gospel to the "devout" persons, the "God fearers."  These were Gentiles who wanted to know more about the Jewish religion!

Then ... on to the marketplace to declare Jesus to everyone who showed any further interest.

(This was Paul's strategy nearly everywhere he went.)

"Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him."  Acts 17:17

BUT that day in Athens ... some of the "big boys" came by!

The philosophers!

These Epicureans and Stoicks took Paul to the "court house" (the "Areopagus") and demanded that he share with them his Message.  I have read in several places that at that time it was illegal in Athens to preach any new god!  Paul was being examined for legal purposes!

"Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection."  Acts 18:18  (That adjective "strange" can carry implications of something being "new" or foreign!)

Look how little they knew of the true Gospel!

"Jesus" was a new "doctrine" to them!

They had never heard!

Paul must have been excited!  He had perhaps already decided ... "Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation!"  Romans 15:20

In fact, they were so unaccustomed to the Truth that when Paul preached Jesus' Death, Burial AND RESURRECTION (the Greek noun "anastasis") ... they though he was preaching two new gods!  One named Jesus and one named Resurrection or "anastasis!"

Paul sure had his work cut out for him!

And so ... the "point" of today's Lesson ... we in America are fast approaching such a day ourselves!

A day in which the populace is devoid of any background in the Word of God or the Gospel account of Jesus' Life and Death!

We will have to ... as did Paul ... just "preach unto them Jesus, and the Resurrection" ... carefully explaining every facet of Truth as we progress along the beautiful story of God's "Good News" to lost mankind!

That may be why Paul said to the Corinthians ... "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified."  1st Corinthians 2:2

(Of course after they got saved Paul wrote them an Epistle explaining everything from marriage rules to supper table etiquette, the Epistle of 1st Corinthians!)

Get ready folks!

Preaching the Gospel is going to take on new dimensions very soon!

Some very "basic" dimensions!

Man is a sinner.

The wages of such sin is death in hell forever!

God sent His Son Jesus to die and pay that terrible penalty for lost souls!

Because of His vicarious Death and Resurrection ... Jesus is The Saviour!

If one is "saved" by His Grace ... Jesus' Death is applied in his or her stead!

Here are Jesus' words ... "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life."  John 5:24

And Paul added:  "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."  Romans 10:9-10

Upon being "born-again," one has eternal life and will spend "forever" in Heaven with the Lord!

Thank God for the GOSPEL!

Aren't you glad someone told you?

                                                                                  --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 10:

Acts 17:19 tells us ... "And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?"

Paul was actually accosted or seized by this crowd!  (At least that's the emphasis the word has in the other 4 places it's used in our New Testament.)

The "Areopagus" is also known as Mars' Hill.

Ares is the name of the Greek god of war!  (While his Roman name is Mars!)

They had gods and goddesses for everything!  There were over 30,000 idols in Athens alone during Paul's day!

This place is where the supreme court of the land met!

Paul is either on the verge of being "tried" for heresy ... or is being severely "mocked" by these men!

They are here calling the Story of Jesus and His Resurrection a "new doctrine!"

The adjective "new" ("kainos") more nearly means "fresh" rather than "new in time."

I think many today want to hear something fresh too!  They are tired of the old truths!  Well, not me!  I'll take the old time Word of God any day!

The amazing thing is this.

Even in the face of such skepticism and irreverence ... Paul preaches Jesus ... and souls are saved!

What is about to occur is just one more testimony of the POWER of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

In fact, it seems that one of these philosophers is just about to get saved!

"Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them."   Acts 17:34

YOU can testify to the power of the Gospel, can't you?

One day did you not hear It?

Were you not (via the convicting work of the Holy Spirit) apprehended by that lovely Story?

Then you know just how old Dionysius (who was apparently a member of that venerable body of "judges") felt!

Thank God for salvation!

                                                                               --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 11:

"Strange things!"

That's what those men on Mars' Hill said about the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

"Strange things!"

The word used here is a participle, "xenozonta" (from "xenizo," the verb root that gives us its cognate noun "xenos").

The meaning is things foreign!

Or things alien!

Here are their exact words:

"For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean."  Acts 17:20

The Message of Jesus' coming to earth to die for sinners ... then His subsequent Resurrection ... was "strange?"

I was nearly insulted as a Christian when I read those words!

They called "strange" what we call "dear" and "precious!"

Then I began to think this:

Foreign!

Alien!

Both words in a sense meaning "from another world," may not be far from the truth when it comes to the Gospel!

It did come from afar!

From Heaven with all its purity ... to a sin cursed earth in all its filth!

From the ineffable Throne of God ... to a manger in a stable!

From the Presence of eternal Deity ... to an old rugged Cross!

Yes, that IS from Another World!

"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not."  1st John 3:1

Wow!

In fact, we as Believers are going to yet have another experience with that Darling One (Jesus) from another world (Heaven)!

He is coming back again!

"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."  1st John 3:2

This blessed Event is so thrilling that John has to largely leave it in the realm of the unknown!

Those who have been saved by the Grace of God, washed in the Blood of the Lamb, are definitely living a life that's already "out of this world!"  (In fact, it is Eternal Life!)

Those Athenian philosophers means it for "evil" ("strange things") ... but God has turned it for "good" ("What manner of love!"  And "He shall appear!" Plus, "We shall be like Him!")

Glory to God!

Enjoy your salvation today.

It is imported!

                                                                                        --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 12:

That crowd of philosophers in Athens reacted to the Gospel as have millions of others!

They showed some superficial interest ... but exhibited no saving faith!

They said to Paul about the Gospel ... "We would know therefore what these things mean."  Acts 17:20

That little verb "would" (the Greek word "boulomai" means to desire or to wish) shows some interest anyway.

But as Paul preaches it soon becomes obvious that their interest has no depth.

Luke tells us:  "For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing."  Acts 17:21

They looked at the Gospel like many today look at the "news."  It is only as good as the minute in which you hear it!  Five minutes from now it's not "news" anymore!  Something else (something "newer") has taken its place!

That adjective for "new" is "kainos" and means "fresh."  They wanted something flashy and exciting ... not a story about an execution on a Hill far away!  (Which is initially what the Cross would have meant to their fleshly minds!)

And soon their interest waned and disappeared!

Their situation sounds just like that described by Paul in Hebrews 4:2 --- "For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it."  Wow!

We believers had sure better thank the Lord that when we heard ... saving faith was given to us, faith with which to believe on Jesus.  HE did the saving! In the whole plan of salvation ... we just provided the sinner!

After all, there is such a thing as saving faith ... and such a thing as "vain" faith!

"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain."   1st Corinthians 15:1-2

How thankful we who are saved should be!

The Lord gave us the power "to become sons of God!"

"But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name."  John 1:12

Amen!

                                                                        --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 13:

There's a little word in Acts 17:21 that captured my attention yesterday.

There Luke tells us ... "For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing." 

The words "spent their time" express one little Greek verb, "eukaireo." 

This is a compound term, being built from a Greek adjective "eu" (which means "good") and a verb "kaireo" (which means "to have opportunity or time").  Putting it all together: "to have a good time!"  In the New Testament the word only appears three times.  Once it is even rendered "to have leisure!"

Look at that!

These folks went to hear Paul preach ... simply desiring to "have a good time!" They just wanted a leisurely afternoon!

NO WONDER THEY DID NOT GET SAVED!  AND THAT'S WHY THEY MOCKED THE GOSPEL SO VERY MUCH!  THAT ADDITIONALLY EXPLAINS WHY THEY CALLED PAUL NAMES!

You see, when folks go to Church for "entertainment" ... bad things always follow!

And yet I fear ... in contemporary American culture ... that's exactly what churches are becoming, entertainment centers!  How very "worldly!"

Surveys of an area ... in order to discover what kind of services to have! Presenting ALL kinds of music to satisfy everybody!  A multiple number of Bibles (versions) being available!  "Contemporary" or just "traditional!"  Pastors who wear suits or just shorts and tee shirts!  Calling God our "buddy" or the Almighty sinless Lord and Saviour!

These things have now been put into the area of "preferences" ... no longer "convictions!"

Do you know WHY?

Because too many folks today, just like the people of Athens back when Paul was there, want to go to church to "have a good time!"

To be soothed and pampered and satisfied!

(We had sure better be glad John the Baptist is not pastoring anywhere!  He would have never fit into that "entertainment" mode!  Neither would Jesus!  Nor Paul!)

But, Brother Bagwell, WHY should we go to church?

To worship God!

To deal with our old rotten sins!

To obey Scripture!

To be built up in our faith!

(All of which will be thrilling to a true born-again Believer, mind you!)

But "entertainment" ... having a "good time" ... and "just for fun" are NOT Biblically listed reasons to hear the preaching of the Bible!

Lord, help us today to evaluate our motives!

                                                                             --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 14: 

As Paul began his "Mars' Hill" Sermon he said:  "Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious."  Acts 17:22

The little noun "men" is not "anthropos," which can include men or women. Rather it is "aner," indicating "males" only!  This properly reflects ancient Greek/Roman attitudes toward women!  Of course we need to remember that Mars' Hill was actually the meeting site of the Greek Supreme Court!  That's another reason why men only were present.

(Even the city name, "Athens" is taken from their one of their goddesses! Athena was their source of wisdom.)

When Paul said he "perceived" certain things about these men and their city, he used the verb "theoreo," which has become the English word "theatre!"  Paul "saw or beheld or watched or was a spectator" of these Greek folks!  He, from his observations, drew some conclusions!

One of those findings was that they were "too superstitious."  Now that expression is "deisidaimonesteros!"  To break that down ..."deilos" means fearful or dreadful or timid ... and "daimon" means a demon or spirit!  Paul literally accused them of being VERY ATTENDANT TO THE SPIRIT WORLD! He is saying to them that they are more spirit fearing that the rest of the world! However, Paul is wise in his word usage here!  That little noun "daimon" is used 60 times in the King James Bible, 59 of them being expressed as "demon or demons!" 

Paul by no means believes these men are worshipping the True and Living God!

They are actually "fearful of demons!"

Now I understand that this may not have been the meaning these Aeropagites derived from Paul's term here ... but grammatically that's exactly what he said!

Pretty bold preaching isn't it?

Yet I just today have read where theologians have said that's NOT what Paul meant!

One quipped, "You would not want to make a congregation mad just before you started preaching to them, would you?" 

Well, sometimes the truth hurts!

Thank God for Paul the Preacher!

                                                                     --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 15:

Paul's "tactics" while preaching at Athens have often been questioned.

Through the years I've read things implying that:  Paul was "backslidden" because he took such a worldly approach to the Gospel there!

... That Paul so missed God's Will there that he soon left Athens, never to return!

... That Paul forsook his Bible in Athens, reverting only to pagan poets and philosophers!

... That Paul was just "passing time" there anyway and had no real desire to start a church in Athens!

... And That God did NOT bless Paul's work in the Greek Capital!

I DO NOT AGREE WITH THE PREVIOUS FIVE STATEMENTS!

I see no signs of Paul's being "backslidden" in Athens!

I do not believe Paul "missed God's Will" there either!

And while it is true that Paul was waiting in Athens for Silas and Timothy to come, that does not mean he didn't do his best in preaching the Gospel to those Greeks!

But to me the most disturbing aspect of Paul's ministry in Athens is that in his preaching he did not use His Bible!

He rather used human reasoning ... and poetry ... and philosophy ... and logic!

But, wait a minute!

Rather than criticizing the great Apostle for this, note the following facts I've uncovered.

"For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you."  Acts 17:23

The noun "devotions" means "things worshipped."

The adjective "unknown" is in Greek "agnostos!"  (Our word "agnostic!")

The verb for "worship" means to show reverence toward!

And the word most descriptive of Paul's doings in Athens, "declare" is one of those "preaching" words!  ("katanggello" = to proclaim intensively!)

In Paul's "defense" I mention these facts:

In Athens at that time history says it was illegal to preach a new god!  Paul could have been arrested for doing so!

And, believe me, Jesus is a new One to these folks!

Therefore Paul had to "build" upon some existing element of Athenian life.  And he found it!  A statue to the "unknown" god.  Paul just said, "Let me tell you about Him, the real God!"

I think that was brilliant!

And as far as Paul's NOT using Scripture (the Old Testament) in his preaching. It was his pattern not to do so with Gentiles! 

Now with the Jews he quoted the Hebrew Bible extensively!  His Text with them was the Law and the Psalms and the Prophets.

But generally his text with the Gentiles was the fact of God's Creation!

Look at the composite of Paul's "Gentile" preaching and you will see what I mean!  

And, to cap it all off beautifully, proving God's Hand was on Paul in that heathen city ... souls were saved!  Not many, but some!

God honored Paul's work in Athens!

I'm glad Paul went there.

I'm glad Luke recorded it (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit).

And I'm glad we can study it.

I do not believe Paul was perfect!

He did make mistakes.

But preaching the Truth in Athens was NOT one of them!

Preach it, Paul!

                                                                            --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 16:

Paul preached a BIG God to those folks at Athens!

Let's listen to him:  "God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though He needed any thing, seeing He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;  And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us:  For in Him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also His offspring."  Acts 17:24-28

The God Paul preached, the true and living God of the universe, is the Maker of the world!  And of everything that's in it too!

He's so big that He cannot fit into man-made temples!

Not does He need anything!

He gives life ... breath ... and every other "good and perfect" thing too!

He created mankind and has limited his living space!

He has also pre-written history!

And He is knowable!

He actually wants men to come unto Him!

And if mankind seeks Him diligently ... He will be found!

He is also omni-present, not far from every one of us!

These great facts comprise Paul's "foundation" ... upon which he built, leading up to Jesus and His Death, Burial and Resurrection!

And in a city that has 30,000 gods ... maybe it's best to tell them about the BIG God, the single TRUE God, the ONLY living God!

And His Son!

Know what?

That's precisely what Paul did too!

                                                                            --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 17:

Paul did something unusual while preaching one day!  Unusual ... even for him!

He, standing on Mars' Hill in Athens, the capital of heathen philosophy and idolatry, quoted a piece of poetry!

The poet, a man named Aratus according to most sources, was writing about the god Zeus ... not the Jehovah God of Israel!

The words?  "For we are also his offspring!" Acts 17:28c

The startling thing about this quotation is that both Aratus and Cleanthes (another poet who wrote similar words) applied them in such heretical ways! Even the title of Cleanthes' Poem is "Hymn to Zeus!"

Folks, we are NOT the offspring of Zeus ... and Paul clearly knew it!

We are the offspring of God!  (In the sense that He is The Creator!)

Other quotes from unsaved writers found in Paul's Epistles include:  "One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies." (Titus 1:12)  And then ... "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners."  (1 Corinthians 15:33)  The Apostle also alluded to ancient literature in several other places as well.

How do we explain such writing?

First of all, it's not Paul doing the writing really!  It is the Holy Spirit of God!  That fact is settled when one believes in the inspiration of Scripture!  (This fact alone makes the rest of my Article here unnecessary in a sense!  If God did something ... it is all right!)

Secondly, Truth often gets associated with grave error when its falls into the devil's hands!  He is a deceiver and liar!  He seldom "sells" an entire lie all by itself!  No! He "mixes" it with enough truth to make it appealing and seductive! (That's exactly what happened with the line Paul quoted!  We are the offspring of God, the real God of Heaven!  We are NOT the offspring of heathen deities! See it?  Truth:  We are the offspring of God!   He created mankind!    Lie:  Zeus is God!    Erroneous Mixture:  We are the offspring of Zeus!)

What Paul merely did in his preaching that day in Athens was to take the Truth that heathen poet had written ... sever it from its idolatrous background ... sanctify it unto God ... and then apply it to Jehovah Jesus!

And what do we get?

"That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us: for in Him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also His offspring."  Acts 17:27-28

God is the Creator!

And He is the Redeemer too (through the Blood of Jesus Christ His Son)!

Thirdly, by quoting such poets, Paul is getting closer to the hearts of his listeners ... for the express purpose of winning them to Christ Jesus! Remember his motto:  "And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." 1st Corinthians 9:20 and 22

Now listen to me.

I am NOT advocating compromise with the world.

I am saying that this lost worldly system in which we live occasionally does stumble across Truth!

Jesus once commended the lost men of this world by saying ... "For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light." Wow!  Luke 16:8  (Jesus here even implied that we Believers can learn some things from them!)

So ... when the heathen around us have Truth ... seize it from them, sanctify it in your life, and use it to the Glory of God!

Your Doctor may be a lost man (maybe even ungodly) ... but use the truth he shares with you (and the medicine) to help improve your health ... knowing all along that it is really the Lord who heals!

The man who hung that traffic signal in the intersection ahead may be an atheist ... but obey that red light anyway.  Your life depends upon it!

Why, I've even found "nuggets of gold" in old commentaries written by questionable men!  I would NEVER mention them by name!  Yet when divorced from their background and cleaned up a bit and dedicated to God ... those "nuggets" preach well!  (I just say, "An old writer once declared ....")

God is the Author of all real Truth anyway!

Jesus even said that He was the Truth!  "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."  John 14:6

Yes, Paul quoted from a poem written by a lost man!

But, by the time the great Apostle got through with it ... it was praising Jesus!

And friends, that is the only way I can understand Paul's strategy that day in Greece!

And do remember, God must not have been too upset with him ... a number of souls got saved!  "Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them."   Acts 17:34

Amen!

                                                                               --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 18:

Paul, apparently for several reasons, preached to the Athenians about "the unknown god!"  The Apostle declared That God unto them, the only true and living God, the God of the Bible!

It is said that Athens contained at least 30,000 gods and goddesses in idol form.  They were scattered throughout the city ... but concentrated in the very area where Paul was preaching!

However, there came a time in his sermon where he HAD to make some things clear!  And make them clear he did!

Listen:  "Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device."  Acts 17:29

Did you notice what Paul did?

He separated the True God from the idols of the Greeks!

The Godhead (a word used only 3 times in the whole New Testament ... all by Paul) is NOT to be likened unto silver or gold or any other graven image!

Paul takes a stand here that is not politically correct or socially acceptable to the majority of his hearers!

Yet he's simply preaching the Second Commandment!  By the way, the only Image of God we shall ever see is JESUS!  God is manifested in Jesus!  "He that hath see Jesus ... hath seen the Father!"   See John 14:9.  Paul elsewhere called Jesus "the image of the invisible God!"  Colossians 1:15

Now ... the line is drawn!

Idols ... or the Lord God Almighty as reveled through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ!

It's that simple!

Real preaching demands a response!  A decision!  "Choose you this day whom ye will serve!"   Joshua 24:15

I am afraid that today too much preaching has quit "drawing lines" and expecting "action!"

Let's be "doers" ... not just "hearers!"

                                                                                   --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 19:

In reading Acts 17:29 I saw an amazing truth.

It should translate into a lesson in godliness for us all.

"Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device."

Paul is preaching on his second missionary journey.

He has encountered a city with 30,000 idols!  (Athens)

He is proving that God is greater than them all!

Our God actually refuses to be identified with any graven images!

He is NOT like gold, silver or stone icons, honed by man's artistic abilities!

And that's where the verse got so powerfully instructive to me!

These idols of gold or whatever were made by man's device.  That's the King James Version's term:  "device."

Man's artistic talents fashioning objects of worship ... by human device!

That little noun "device" is the Greek word "enthumesis" and is a compound word.  It combines "eu" (meaning good) and "thumos" meaning "passion" or literally "breathing hard!"  (To rush!)

While most lexicons say that the word means deep thought or deliberation or to ponder ... several add "to be inspirited!"

By grammatical definition ... "device" means "passion within!"

The Athenians built these gold and silver and rock idols passionately!

They put "all their hearts" into such enterprises!

Isn't that something?

American Christians go to Church and worship and serve the Lord habitually and often grudgingly and lifelessly.

While too often the world serves their gods (in reality, the devil) with fervor and zeal!

Brethren, these things ought not to be so!

Of all people, we Believers in Jesus Christ should be the ones who are enthusiastic in our worship!

Paul admonishes us to be "fervent in spirit; serving the Lord!"  Romans 12:11

Jesus taught us to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind."  Matthew 22:37

What kind of attitude does Psalm 100 require?  "Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing."

And when we are commanded to "study to shew ourselves approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth," that lead verb "study" (in Greek = spoudazo") means to be diligent!  To do your very best!  To exert oneself!

It's a shame if the world brings more dedication and life to their idol making ... than we Christians do to our worship of THE True and Living God!

Remember this tomorrow ... at Church!

                                                                                    --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 20: 

Paul in Acts 17:30 said that God "winked at" some things!  This was part of his sermon in Athens as he neared the end of his stay there.

Here's the full verse:  "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent."

The noun ignorance is "agnoia" in Greek and means no knowledge.

The verb "winked" is "hupereido" and means to look ("eido") plus over ("huper" = hyper)!

Get it? 

To look over!  To overlook!

Some things God tolerated in the days of the Old Testament ... until Jesus came and died for the sin of the world!  That Paul is leading up to Jesus is clear from the next verse:  "Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead."  THAT MAN WHOM GOD ORDAINED ... AND RAISED FROM THE DEAD!

In the old days God allowed animal sacrifices for example.

Now, those animals and their blood did not forgive any sin!  They made "atonement" for sin ... just meaning "to cover" it!

In the days before Jesus ... wrongdoing was (if innocent animal blood was sacrificed according to God's directions) overlooked (better yet ... "covered" or atoned) UNTIL JESUS COULD COME AND DIE ON THE CROSS, FULLY MAKING PAYMENT FOR SUCH SIN!

As it turns out ... Paul's use of that "winked at" term may be one great way of presenting the Gospel!

It contrasts Old Testament sacrifice with New Testament forgiveness in a beautiful way!

And yet even in Paul's "winked at" verse above ... he leaves no room for "sin!" He clearly says that NOW God commands "all men every where to repent!"

(And therein is a good "hint" that repentance is essential to true Bible forgiveness and salvation!)

And why would one want to repent?

Because ... a day of judgment  is coming!

Are you ready?

God is "winking" no more!

                                                                       --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

Also see how Paul worded Romans 3:25 --- "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.  To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."  (God's "winking" ... God's "forbearance" ... just two ways of expressing the same Truth!)

 

 

LESSON 21:

Luke writes, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, an account of Paul preaching the Gospel to a group of philosophers in ancient Athens.  An elite audience was in attendance that day!  Even some of the city rulers were there!

Here's that account, word for word:  "Because He hath appointed a day, in the which He (God the Father) will judge the world in righteousness by that Man (God the Son) Whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised him from the dead."  Acts 17:31

Let's notice several "key" facts the Lord has revealed in this great Verse. 

A Day of Judgment has been appointed by God the Father!  The verb "appointed" is "histemi" in Greek and means God has established that Day, placing it in His calendar, causing it to stand!  It is a determined event!  The verb is also an "aorist" ... telling us that the decision was made long before Luke wrote those words 2,000 years ago!  God is not still deciding about this Judgment thing!  It is set for sure!

Then notice that the Judge is identified too!  God arranged it all ... but has put the actual Judgment into the Hands of a Man (Jesus) Whom  He has ordained! The preposition "by" is in Greek "en!"  The judgment will be by ("en" = in) Jesus! All God's standards of Righteousness are found in Him!  (Wow!)  No wonder we are told that He (Jesus) IS Righteousness!  See 1 Corinthians 1:30 --- "Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption."

Then see with me that God the Father has "ordained" Jesus!  This verb, "horizo," means "to mark out the boundaries or limits" of something!  (The English word "horizon" is gleaned from it!  The horizon marks the limits of your ability to see the terrain ... or sky ... or whatever!)  God's ultimate goals of Truth and Holiness and Glory are "set" in Jesus!  He IS God manifest!  In Romans 1:4 "horizo" is rendered as "declared" in the King James Bible.  "And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead."  (In both "horizo" verses the Resurrection of Jesus is mentioned!)

Luke also in his great Gospel verse makes a dash for the empty tomb!  He asserts as fact that God the Father "raised Jesus from the dead!"  (The noun for "resurrection" is "anastasis" which means "to stand" + "up!"  Jesus just "stood up" from the slab where His dead body was laid!)  No doubt about it!  Not even any discussion!  Jesus IS alive!  Again, we are dealing with an aorist (participle). Jesus' Resurrection is over, past, done, completed!  He lives!

But one more thing ... through that Resurrection God the Father has also ... "given assurance to all men!"  That noun "assurance" is the well-known little word "pistis," meaning faith!  The Resurrection brings faith along with it!  (I would have said that one needs faith to believe the Resurrection!  Luke says believing the Resurrection brings to one faith!  To Luke believing that Jesus had been raised from the grave was no act of faith!  It was a fact of history! Accepting That as from God ... would give a man or woman "faith" to believe ALL the Father revealed about His only begotten Son!

Folks, ponder these things today.  Take some time before Church or after lunch or as you nap this afternoon ... and try to internalize all Luke said about our Lord in these few short words!

He has just presented to us The Greatest Truth in all the Universe!

"Because He (God the Father) hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by That Man (Jesus, God the Son) Whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised him from the dead."

Therefore ... "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house."  Acts 16:31

Furthermore ... "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."  Romans 10:9-10

Or as Jesus put it ... "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life."  John 5:24

I can say no more!

                                                                               --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 22: 

Paul was a preacher of the Resurrection ... the literal bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ God's Son!

He (Jesus) was dead!

He now lives!

But as soon as he mentioned that great Fact to the men of Athens ... most of them interrupted his sermon!

"And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter."  Acts 17:32

Why did they so object to the resurrection?

They, nearly to the last one, strongly believed in a kind of "dualism" that separated the body and the soul of a man, equating the body with things evil and the soul/spirit with things good!

ANYTHING spiritual to them was good!  (Hence ... many gods!  The more the better!)

ANYTHING physical to them was evil!  (So if all bodily things were evil ... then any one physical thing was as bad as another!  So a person was left with two choices.  Either abstain from all things material ... which will soon bring death. You see, food is physical!  Or jump into a physical life of food, fun and pleasure!  Indulge! Why fight it?)

This belief is also one of the basic tenets of Gnosticism, a false religion of late New Testament days.

But look!

When Paul preached the Resurrection ... he was teaching that God was going some day to reunite soul and body for all eternity!  Jesus IS in Heaven right now as God ... with a glorified human body (the One He got at the Virgin Birth)!

These hearers just could not handle that!

They mocked!   "Chleuazo" means to jeer or to deride or to belittle!

This kind of "confusion" (dualism) comes from not believing in a Creator God! This crowd of folks were (before Darwin by the way) evolutionists!

But if there is a Creator Who is holy and just ... then His work (including mankind) can be pure as well!  (And Adam and Eve were "right" ... until they fell into sin!)

Well ... things will again some day be made "straight!"

Because of Jesus' shed Blood on the Cross ... soul, spirit and body can be "saved" and "redeemed" and "glorified" for all eternity!

Praise His Name!

There was a Resurrection (Jesus') ... and there are plenty more coming too (all the saints')!

Amen!

And that's true whether the Epicureans and Stoicks like it nor not!

                                                                                      --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 23:

Jesus, being the eternal Son of God, did not "marvel" at much!

But I have found one thing that definitely caused Jesus "wonder!"

"And He (Jesus) marvelled because of their unbelief. And He went round about the villages, teaching."  Mark 6:6

Apparently Jesus would have thought that all men would believe, being presented with the "evidence" and "prospect" of everlasting life!

The rejection of the Message of the Cross ... not its acceptance by lost mankind, seemed to "overwhelm" our Lord!

And so it seems to me Luke follows that same pattern in recording the "results" of Paul's preaching the Gospel in Acts 17!

Here's how he, in reality here's how the Holy Spirit, puts it in Acts 17:32.  This is written about the "invitation" given at Athens after that great "Mars' Hill" Sermon.

"And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter."

First we are told that some "mocked" the Word of God!  "Chleuzo" means "to throw out the lip" and probably has the idea of making fun of something! Laughing at it!  These folks obviously rejected the Gospel. 

Then we are given this information: Even more delayed any kind of decision.  "And others said, We will hear thee again of this matter."  They postponed any commitment ... and left that Hill in unbelief!

That's what most impressed Luke!  The folks who rejected such preaching! 

In fact it is not until 2 verses later that we lean a few people believed!

Why, to the Lord, to the Holy Spirit and to the writers of Scripture ... the most sensible thing in all of life is accepting the Word of God as Truth and trusting Jesus as ALL He said Himself to be!  (Including Saviour!)

And for men NOT to do so ... was an astounding thing, a cause for marvel!

After all, what MORE can God do to give lost men the Gospel?

Do any of you know one single way to improve the Plan of salvation?  Of course not!

How astounding that so many reject!

Now ... here's the danger of unbelief ... and all from the lips of Jesus too!

"He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."  John 3:18

"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."  John 3:36

Warning:  UNBELIEF in Jesus is eternally fatal!

In Athens some mocked ... others postponed ... and both groups are in hell today unless they were converted from that spirit of doubt and unbelief and rejection!

Be careful!

In 2 Corinthians 13:5 Paul writes:  "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?"

                                                                              --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 24:

Paul had preached!

The Gospel had been clearly declared.

Some of those present mocked that Message!

Others wanted to wait until later.

But the Bible says:  "So Paul departed from among them."  Acts 17:33  (The verb here is "exerchomai" and just means he "went out!" He left! Paul just did NOT have the burden for Athens that he did for Philippi or Thessalonica or Rome!)

Then only two verses later we are further told:  "After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth."  Acts 18:1  (This verb is even stronger!  "Chorizo" means to separate!  To divide or put asunder!  Literally, "to place space between two things!"  Paul deliberately got out of that town!)

And, by the way, there is NO record of the great Apostle returning again to the city of Athens ... ever!

My point?

Simply this:  When it comes to the Gospel ... "Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation."  2 Corinthians 6:2

Those who planned to hear Paul later ... just may have missed their opportunity!

He left town.

The mockery and unbelief of the Athenians in general and the Mars' Hill crowd in particular had taken its toll!

Why, this is even said of Jesus:  "And He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief."  Matthew 13:58

Mark 6:6 says even more:  "And He marvelled because of their unbelief. And He went round about the villages, teaching."

Jesus also left town ... and went elsewhere preaching the Word!

Dear friend who reads here today, the one who is yet unsaved, be careful!  Take heed!  Don't mock!  Don't delay!

While the Lord is speaking ... be saved ... now!

Again, listen to Jesus:

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life."  John 5:24

And to those of you who are already saved ... rejoice in that fact!  You are redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb!

                                                                                      --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 25:

The "results" of Paul's preaching at Athens seemed rather meager by New Testament standards!

Yet I believe they form a "pattern" for us Christians to note.

At the end of the sermon we are told:  "Some mocked!"  Next Luke adds:  "Others said, 'We will hear thee again of this matter.'"

But, thank God, a third group was created that day by the Holy Spirit:  "Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them."  Acts 17:34

Look at that!

Some laughed and made fun!

Others delayed any decision!

But ... some believed!

In the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13) ... three out of four areas where the seed was planted bore no fruit (75%)!  With Paul at Athens two out of three remained unsaved (66%)!  Jesus was right ... "Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."  Matthew 7:13-14

But do observe this with me.

Of those who belittled the Gospel ... we know absolutely nothing else.  They left Paul that day and walked into Biblical oblivion, never to be heard from again!

Of those who postponed knowing Jesus ... they never saw that Preacher named Paul again!  He soon left town and never returned.  Their "delay" may have just sent them to hell!  Of course, their saying "Later" to the Truth was likely just a way of saying "No" anyway!

But ... of those who believed unto salvation we know some things!  Their names are written down in Scripture!  (I know somewhere else they are "written down" too!)

"Dionysius"," the new-born Believer, was an "Areopagite!"  That probably means he was a member of the body of judges who sat regularly deciding cases at Mars' Hill!  In other words he was a justice of the supreme court of Greece!  That would have made him one of the most prestigious men on earth! Yet He trusted Jesus!  (And we now know his name!)  By the way "Dionysius" means one who is devoted to the god of wine!  He may have changed that one as he grew in the Lord!

And a woman named "Damaris" also was saved.  All kinds of ideas about her exist.  Some say she was a prostitute or something like that ... because no women would have been around those men otherwise.  Some say she was perhaps the wife of one of the judges in Athens.  Others believe she was a member of high society, being mentioned in such a context as this.  Truthfully, we just don't know!

But we do know this ... both her name and her commitment to Christ draw Biblical attention!  (That name, "Damaris," means "heifer" according to Strong's Concordance!  Was she a strong woman, like a heifer?  Or a stubborn one?  Or just extremely "religious," heifers being used by the wealthy in sacrifice to heathen gods?

Again, we don't know!

But of the mockers, whom we shall never see ... and the procrastinators, who are gone forever too ... and these few BELIEVERS, of whom we know nothing but their names ... there's one crowd we can some day ask more questions! When you see Damaris in Heaven ... get her story!  Hear her testimony!  Why, it will just give you one more cause to glory in the marvelous grace of God!

"Others" were saved too during Paul's short days in Athens!

Thank God for the Power of the Gospel!

Paul was truly right when he shared with us ... "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the Power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."  Romans 1:16

Have you "believed unto salvation," dear friend?

                                                                                 --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 26:

Of all Paulís sermons we possess, none is more criticized than his Marsí Hill Message found in Acts 17.

In it the Apostle quotes poetry, refers to the writings of heathen authors, and even builds his whole opening point on an "idol" ... to the "unknown god!"

However, before we criticize too quickly, letís notice several things. Things the Scripture Text seems to indicate.

First of all notice that the entire "Athens Narrative" consumes 17 verses of the chapter ... a rather large segment!  And of those 17 verses, Paulís sermon proper is given 11 full verses! That's 65% of the space ... to the word-for-word reporting of this Message!  It does not sound to me like Luke thought it was an inferior address!  (Nor the Holy Spirit Who inspired Luke!)

Then look at the beginning of the sermon. It does build upon that "unknown god" theme, but ... history says at that time in Athens it was illegal to introduce a new ("unapproved") deity to the populace! Paul needed a way to preach Jesus and Him crucified ... and he found it!  That silly old statute "to an unknown god" ... is suddenly used by the Apostle to "spring" into a message about Jesus, the Son of God!  Paul knew their unknown god ... and preached unto them Jesus! Attack his methods if you please, but I think it was a stroke of genius!

Also watch where Paul began telling this crowd about our God!  He began ... just where the Bible does in Genesis 1 ... at creation!  Paul is preaching to a bunch of evolutionists the creative power of God! Thatís not a bad way to start!  At least Moses didnít think so!  (Nor the Lord!)

He then preaches against idols! The true God is NOT like unto gold or silver or precious stones, he declares! We humans did not make him ... rather He made us!

Then after a touch of preaching about Godís Grace ... His "winking" at certain things for a time ... Paul launches into a point that explains Godís coming Judgment upon sin!  A Judgment that will be rendered by the Lord Jesus Christ, Godís Son!

Now heís preaching Christ the Lord!  Pointedly he declares this to be the same Jesus Whom God raised from the dead! (He got the Resurrection into that Sermon ... as he always did!)

No sir! Iíll not criticize it!

And did God bless the sermon?

Well, according to Acts 17:34 some folks got saved!  "Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them."

It must have not been too bad an example of preaching!  God sure honored it with fruit!

Hereís what I think.

We are all too quick sometimes to belittle some preacher or his sermon!  Too quick to offer improvements!

Maybe we had best leave that alone and ... if he is preaching the Word ... just say "amen" a little more and pray for God to use it all to His Glory!

Amen!

 

                                                                               --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

OUR PRAYER IS THAT THIS STUDY HAS BEEN A BLESSING TO YOUR HEART!  STAY "IN THE WORD!"

 

 

Thank YOU for visiting our Website!

You are visitor number ...

Hit Counter

The Fundamental Top 500

 

Copyright ©2005 DrMikeBagwell.org  All Rights Reserved.