Acts 17:21b The Athenians asked, “May we understand this new teaching of yours? It is intriguingly unusual. We would love to know its meaning.”
Paul answered, 22”Athenians, as I have walked your streets, I have observed your strong and diverse religious ethos. You truly are a religious people. 23 I have stopped again and again to examine carefully the religious statues and inscriptions that fill your city. On one such altar, I read this inscription: “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.” I am not here to tell you about a strange foreign deity, but about this One whom you already worship, though without full knowledge.”
Paul has shared the Gospel in the Synagogue with those who have what we know today as the Old Testament. There Paul would have used what they knew to explain who Jesus was. He would have been able to show how Jesus was the Messiah that the prophets had predicted. Now, at the Areopagus, that argument would fall flat. The Greek philosophers would know nothing of the prophesies of a Jewish messiah. Paul uses something that the Greeks already know, the “unknown god.” They had wanted to make sure that they honored every god there was, so they created this to make sure they had all their bases covered.
Paul would later give us insight to what happened in Athens in a letter to another Greek town, Corinth: 8 To preach the message of the cross seems like sheer nonsense to those who are on their way to destruction, but to us who are on our way to salvation, it is the mighty power of God released within us. 19 For it is written: I will dismantle the wisdom of the wise and I will invalidate the intelligence of the scholars.
20 So where is the wise philosopher who understands? Where is the expert scholar who comprehends? And where is the skilled debater of our time who could win a debate with God? Hasn’t God demonstrated that the wisdom of this world system is utter foolishness?
21 For in his wisdom, God designed that all the world’s wisdom would be insufficient to lead people to the discovery of himself. He took great delight in baffling the wisdom of the world by using the simplicity of preaching the story of the cross in order to save those who believe it. 1 Corinthians 1.
As Paul began preaching in the Areopagus, there was a spiritual battle in which he needed the wisdom of God to have success. Still today we are in a spiritual battle and we must rely on God’s wisdom and not our own if we are to overcome.
Paul writes about the spiritual battle in Ephesians 6:10-12. A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
To hear more about this battle, listen here: https://podpoint.com/light-of-christ-church-podcast/series/mission-trip-two-radio-show/the-battle-for-souls
Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Eph 6:10–12). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.