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Devotion by R.C. Sproul
Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them (Acts 17:32–34).
Aside from his conversion, Paul’s speech at the Areopagus in Athens is perhaps the most well-known event from his life found in the book of Acts. It gives us masterful insight into his way of proclaiming the gospel and defending its truth in the midst of a pagan culture. Moreover, the episode also cautions us against measuring the effectiveness of our ministry by the results we see in our own lifetimes. The apostle saw few people converted in Athens on the occasion of his speech , but the lasting influence of his work there and throughout the Mediterranean world is seen in that today the text of Paul’s speech is engraved on a bronze plaque at the foot of the ascent to the Areopagus.
When presenting the gospel to those who knew nothing of the biblical revelation, Paul was not afraid to find some point of common ground with his audience. If the pagan teachers recognized truth, the apostle would affirm it as he quotes from the philosophers Epimenides of Crete and Aratus (v. 28) to show that God is indeed Lord over all. But Paul does not change biblical revelation or dumb it down to reach his culture. Though he may quote pagan sources when they get something right, he is always careful to make sure his audience knows the content of God’s gospel, in which all truth finds its origin. Paul presents clearly the claims of Christ and teaches how He was resurrected from the dead, which was a scandalous doctrine in first-century Greek thought (vv. 29–31).
We should know what non-Christians believe and the questions about Christianity they ask in order to show how the Bible answers them. We must also know the gospel that we may share it accurately and compassionately.