The Philosophers at Athens (Part 3)
Paul exhorted his audience:
"'Seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, "For we are also His offspring." Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.' And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, 'We will hear you again on this matter.' So Paul departed from among them. However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them" (Acts 17:27-34).

As Paul instructed the Athenians to seek God, he explained that God was not far away from any of them or uninvolved in their lives. Evidence abounds of the Creator's existence for those who are willing to exercise the initiative to search for Him (cf. Rom. 1:20,21; Matt. 7:7,8). God is near, and He makes possible our very existence. We are God's offspring, which implies that we resemble Him. Thus, it logically follows that we ought not to think of His nature as deity as being something physical like metal or wood (since man is not metal or wood, right?) It's not reasonable to think that man can create with his hands a god that previously created him! Even the Greek poets affirmed that humanity is the offspring of deity, but the gods which the Athenians worshiped were objects made by men (composed of gold, silver, stones, etc.). Thus, according to their own view of God, man is the offspring of gold, silver, and stones! But who can really accept such a conclusion? Living beings do not derive their origin from a non-living material source (contrary to evolutionary theory).

In the past, God was more tolerant of the gross ignorance and inconsistency of mortals on this subject because divine revelation was incomplete. The arrival of Christ heralded a new era of responsibility. God had not "overlooked" the wickedness of men in the sense that it was completely ignored (otherwise, there would have been no need for a Savior). Rather, God patiently bore with them (cf. Acts 14:16), not extracting the full penalty that their sins deserved (cf. Luke 12:47,48). However, with the arrival of Christianity a new day had dawned and more was now expected of everyone, not just the Jews who had been favored with special privileges under the Old Testament. Increased knowledge always brings increased responsibility.

Specifically, God expected ("commands") idol worshipers to repent (cf. Acts 2:38)! He wanted to educate them regarding His nature and His plan of redemption through the Messiah, and then that would lead them to a change of mindset and a corresponding change of behavior. Those who wanted to obey God as well as avoid condemnation would repent. There was no other way to escape eternal destruction than through the gospel. There is a Day of Judgment approaching (cf. Heb. 9:27), and no one can avoid it (which is why we must always be ready for it). The Man, Jesus Christ, will righteously judge everyone who has ever lived (cf. II Cor. 5:10,11). This is the same Jesus who was crucified for the sins of the world. But, He is alive again, having been raised from the dead by the power of God, never more to die. It is His resurrection that gives us confidence that we too, according to the promise of God, will be raised from the dead.

Hearing Paul speak about "the resurrection of the dead" caused some to ridicule the great apostle. Their philosophies were not congruent with the notion of a universal resurrection, and most clung to their vain beliefs. Yet some were genuinely interested and desired to hear more at a later time. It appears that the gospel did not reach many souls in Athens, comparatively speaking, but there were some named by Luke who did believe and obey. Not surprisingly, the same message preached to different hearts (of varying integrity) resulted in different responses (e.g., Matt. 13:3ff). Such still happens today.