(Acts 17:16-33) Paul was alone in Athens, so let’s be his companions, following along and observing (learning from) the activities of this amazing man of God. He was waiting on Silas and Timothy but waiting for Paul never seemed to indicate inactivity. He observed some things that “provoked his spirit within him.” Have you ever been “provoked” by reading and studying Scripture, hearing a testimony, or seeing God at work in such a way that it led to a Holy-Spirit inspired activity? This activity could be a time of praise, a sermon idea, a conviction of something that needs to be done, or a witnessing opportunity. This is what happened to Paul in Athens.
One of the things that provoked Paul’s spirit was the presence of many idols and “objects of worship.” The Athenians seemed to make room in their spirits for any and all deities that came to their attention. In fact, they were ready to accept this Jesus about whom Paul was teaching as a new and “strange deity.” Paul even discovered an altar attributed to “an unknown God.” They wanted to make sure they covered all their bases!
This was too much for Paul. He could not remain silent in the face of such ignorant idolatry. He was provoked to make a bold statement: “What you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you” (v. 23). He preached about his God, “Lord of heaven and earth.” There was no place for them to idolize Him, since He “does not dwell in temples made by hands.” He could not be understood or served by human ideas and methods, “as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things.” He could not be validated by man’s recognition, or invalidated because man refused to recognize Him, because “He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.” He even had a message for the philosophers and poets among them, of whom there were many: “In Him we live and move and have our being” (NKJV). Nothing lived or even existed without Him! Most amazingly, Paul’s God was accessible: “He is not far from each one of us.” Paul declared: “God is now proclaiming to mankind that all people everywhere are to repent.” This repentance was possible through “a Man whom (God) has appointed, having furnished proof to all people by raising Him from the dead.”
As we are moved and inspired by the work of God in our families, in our church, and in our association with internationals, we probably will not be as eloquent as Paul was. But the Holy Spirit can use our testimony as He used Paul’s. Some philosophers accused him of being a “scavenger of tidbits.” But others admitted: “You are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean” (vv. 18-20). If we use our experiences, our circumstances, and our relationships to talk about Jesus, the Holy Spirit will take care of the rest!