Introduction: Are you “provoked” by the sinful attitudes of
others? Acts 17:16 tells us that Paul’s spirit was
“provoked” by a “city full of idols.” Historically, an idol
is something that you rely upon to give you special favors,
help you with problems, or defend you from enemies. What
would that be in our modern world? How about the government?
What about religious beliefs that are not based on Jesus?
What about philosophies of life that some rely on to live?
If we have a heart for those who are missing the joy of
belief in Jesus, what is the best way to give them the good
news of the gospel? Let’s plunge into our study of the Bible
and see what we can learn!
I. Athens’ Gods
A. Read Acts 17:16-17. Paul discovered that Athens was
full of idols. How did he respond? (He shared the
gospel in the synagogue with the Jews and he shared
in the marketplace.)
1. If you wanted to follow Paul’s example, what
would be a modern equivalent to the synagogue?
(Sharing with religious people who believe
some of the truth of the Bible, but not the
truth about Jesus.)
a. Should the Jews have been part of idol
worship? (Read Exodus 20:1-5. The Jews
were absolutely prohibited from worshiping
idols. It was part of the Ten
b. Does this help us to understand the modern
equivalent to Paul’s sharing in the
synagogue? (Yes. Just because a church is
supposed to believe in Jesus does not mean
the members have a proper understanding.)
B. Read Galatians 3:10-11. Let’s consider your church.
How many say that their salvation turns on faith in
Jesus only and not their obedience to the law?
(Probably they will all say that.)
1. How many actually believe that?
2. How many believe that their obedience to the
law makes them more likely to be saved than
3. How many of them argue against “cheap grace”
and claim that obedience to the law is
necessary to be saved?
4. If your salvation depends to any degree on
obedience to God (to His law), are you an idol
worshiper? (Yes! This is how we have idol
worshipers in our congregation who have no
idea of their danger. Just the opposite, they
believe they are better Christians than the
C. Let’s get back to Paul, Athens, and the Areopagus.
Read Acts 17:21. Do you know someone like this?
Someone who spends all their time hearing or
telling something new?
1. How much time do you spend looking at your
smart phone to read (or tell about) something
II. Evangelism in Athens
A. Read Acts 17:22-23. What two important steps has
Paul taken to begin talking with pagans about the
gospel? (First, he shows up where people are
looking for something new. Second, he uses their
system of gods to explain the true God.)
1. Compare this with how you have traditionally
done evangelism. Is this like going door-to-
door offering Bible studies? (It is nothing
like that. First, the people in their homes
have not indicated an interest in hearing what
you have to say. Second, you are at their
home, this is not where they want to meet
2. How does what Paul is doing compare with
mailing cards inviting people to a meeting?
(Mail is the traditional way people receive
notices about things in which they might be
interested. If they come to your meeting, then
they have agreed to hear something new.)
a. How is a mailer about your meeting
different? (How many people are looking
for new ideas in their mail box? The
Athenians at the Areopagus were looking
for new ideas. That was the point of being
3. What do we have today that most closely
matches what Paul was doing at the Areopagus?
(The Internet! People surf the Internet to
learn new things. They do not feel that their
privacy has been invaded and they are not
pressured to do something.)
a. You are likely reading this lesson on the
Internet. What could you or your church
do to more closely replicate what Paul is
doing? (Consider whether there is an
Internet web site that hosts new religious
b. How does the Internet fail in replicating
what Paul is doing? (Paul was face to face
with his listeners.)
(1) Would Zoom meetings fix that problem?
(2) Have you ever heard of an
evangelistic meeting over Zoom (or
something similar) in which those in
the meeting could ask questions or
challenge your statements?
B. In Acts 17:24-31 Paul presents the gospel to the
Athenians. We will get back to his message later.
Read Acts 17:32-34. What was the reaction of the
crowd? (Some mocked, some considered it, and some
1. Would you be ready for such a reaction if you
held an Internet Zoom evangelistic meeting?
III. Athens Regrets?
A. Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-4. Some argue that Paul is
confessing that his evangelistic approach in Athens
was not the best. They base this on his statement
that he decided against using “lofty speech or
wisdom,” and instead determined to know nothing
“except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” What do
B. Let’s do what I promised and go back and consider
Paul’s Athens’ arguments. Read Acts 17:22. Paul
begins by complimenting his pagan listeners. Should
we do that too?
C. Read Acts 17:23. What is Paul’s strategy here? (He
fits the gospel into their current system of
1. How would you do that today with pagans –
especially young pagans? (The religious belief
of young people is to refrain from
discrimination on any basis. Or at least that
is what they claim. The Bible’s view on
individual freedom forms the basis for Western
culture. We could start there.)
D. Read Acts 17:24-25. How has Paul changed gears in
his presentation? (He now argues that his God is
greater than their views on gods.)
E. Read Acts 17:26-29. Is Paul now condemning the
views of his listeners? (He quotes their poets, but
he says all of these idols cannot begin to help us
to correctly view the great God of Heaven.)
1. Look again at verses 26-29 and tell me what
foundational truth is most in contest by
modern pagans? (Creation. Paul says God
created humans. We were made in His image. How
could we reasonably believe that we descended
from rock, gold, or silver?)
F. Read Acts 17:30-31. What has happened to the
opening compliment? (Paul now tells them because of
their limited view of God they need to repent. They
need to change their views.)
1. What is the motive to accept Paul’s argument?
(Judgment is coming. There is a reason to
take this seriously.)
G. Look again at Acts 17:31. What is Paul asking his
listeners to believe? (In Jesus, and that he rose
from the dead.)
1. Does this sound like Paul is arguing Jesus
Christ and Him crucified? (I think so! That is
why I think the Bible scholars who argue that
Paul reconsidered his Athens’ approach are
2. If Paul argued for Jesus and “Him crucified”
in Athens, but tailored his message to his
audience, what does that teach us about our
evangelistic efforts? (Our gospel message
should remain the same. What should change is
the method for sharing the gospel with those
H. Friend, will you take Paul’s outreach to heart?
Will you do your best to share the gospel in the
most effective way? Why not ask the Holy Spirit to
further guide your mind to that goal?
IV. Next week: Mission to the Unreached Part II.
Copr. 2023, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are
from the ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard
Version ), copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing
ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All
rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within
parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail,
but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this
link: http://www.GoBible.org. Pray for the guidance of the
Holy Spirit as you study.