Series GOD’S MISSION, MY MISSION with Pastor Mark Finley |
Lesson 10: Mission to the Unreached – Part 1 |
Memory Text: 1: Acts 17:24 – “ ‘The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands’ ” |
Content: 10.1 A Hebrew in Athens Paul’s visit to Athens, a city full of idols, reveals his deep compassion for people living in sin without knowing the true God. In contrast to many believers who ignore idols in their surroundings, Paul responds in harmony with the Holy Spirit. He recognizes the need to bring the gospel to the unreached, idol-worshipping Gentiles. Paul virtually establishes the first Global Mission Study Center by using the marketplace to explore effective methods for evangelizing in a completely different cultural environment. His example teaches us that adaptation and an innovative approach are crucial to effectively spread the gospel in various contexts.
10.2 Paul in the Areopagus Paul’s missionary zeal leads him to the Areopagus in Athens, where he speaks with impressive eloquence and intelligence about the gospel. The Athenians, shaped by a rich intellectual heritage, show interest in new ideas, but their skepticism towards Christian teachings remains. Luke emphasizes the intellectual capabilities of the Athenians and their history of philosophical thinking, while Paul skillfully incorporates their art, literature, and religion into his argumentation. This episode illustrates that Paul’s spiritual preparation relied not only on academic knowledge but also on his empathy and adaptability to successfully proclaim the gospel in an intellectual center.
10.3 Paul and the Unknown God Paul demonstrates a remarkable tactic in Athens by not condemning the false religion of the Athenians but highlighting its positive aspects. His praise for their devotion and respectful approach to their spirituality creates a bridge for the gospel. Instead of presenting himself as an expert, he positions himself as an advocate and an interested party who has visited their sanctuaries. The clever use of the inscription “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD” as a common point allows Paul to find a topic that piques the interest of the Athenians. His approach shows empathy and a willingness to engage in dialogue with the people, providing space for the Holy Spirit to continue working.
10.4 Introducing a New God Paul pursued a compassionate approach in Athens by directing the attention of the thinkers to the God of heaven. His words about a Creator God who does not dwell in a temple but cares for human needs fascinated a people shaped by unpredictable and cruel gods of Greek mythology. Paul initially praised their spiritual devotion and sincerity, showed respect for their faith aspects, and shared insights about their own religion. By introducing a recognizable God who strives to be known, he enabled the men on the Areopagus to take initial steps towards a loving God. The warning against rejecting this knowledge concluded Paul’s efforts, and his clever approach based on their existing beliefs contributed to progress in spreading the gospel.
10.5 Crossing a Line Paul continued his testimony by skillfully using the beliefs of the Athenians and quoting some of their own authors who were close to biblical truth. This strategic approach allowed him to find a common ground and then lead them to the central message of the resurrection of Jesus and the hope it offers. The reactions to his words, ranging from mockery to genuine interest, highlight that Paul’s goal was for everyone to listen attentively and understand the message. His approach demonstrates that familiarity with the beliefs of others and the search for common ground are effective methods to reach people. While some rejected the message, others chose to investigate further and eventually became followers of Jesus. Paul’s approach reminds us of the importance of ensuring that people understand the message before rejecting it, with the ultimate decision resting with them.
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