December 29 I Thursday
“A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, ‘What is this babbler trying to say?’ Others remarked, ‘He seems to be advocating foreign gods.’ They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.” —Acts 17:18
In fourth century B.C., Alexander the Great conquered all of the known world and succeeded in forging the largest western empire of the ancient world. He famously sat down in his tent and cried when he thought there were no more worlds left to conquer. Although he died at age 33, politically, Greece remained a world leader until the Romans stepped in.
Philosophically, Greece produced some of the greatest thinkers who pioneered the way for modern-day thinking. Alexander the Great had a tutor named Aristotle. Aristotle had a friend whose name was Plato and Plato had a teacher called Socrates. These men would meet together to think and stimulate one another. Along with Epicurus and a few others, they became the fathers of modern thought who laid down the track for the pursuit of happiness. The seeds were sown in Greece in what was a perfect storm of personalities who came together and revolutionized the way people thought about life.
Religiously, Greece was steeped in idol worship. When Paul entered the city of Athens, his message was Jesus Christ and His resurrection. The resurrection was the key to Paul’s message, because though idols were powerful psychological forces, they were dead. They may satisfy appetites and ambitions temporarily, but they could not impart life. The primary characteristic of an idol is that it is dead, but the primary characteristic of the gospel is that Jesus Christ is alive and active, which is the main thrust and contrast of what Paul is setting up in Athens.
Paul tells them of the One True God, “‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.’ Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:28-30).
To repent is to change our minds about our way of life, turning from sin and becoming dependent upon the God who gave us life. It is to realize our truest source of fulfillment is in God. This is not a bullet point in our faith, but is lived out daily in fellowship with a God who transcends every philosophy. Conquering the world will not satisfy, but it makes perfect sense that being brought into union with the Creator of the world fills every crevice, and brings true and lasting contentment by the presence of the resurrected life of Christ within us.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for being a God we can come to know and experience. Thank You for your presence in us and being all we need by the indwelling Spirit of Christ.