Scriptures clearly teach us that Satan has a three-fold purpose and that is “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (see John 10:10). The Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians also taught us, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). Therefore, as Paul also exhorts, we should “Neither give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:27).
From certain things that I have experienced in my life, I am keenly aware that Satan is alive and well, and that he is crafty and operates through deception. In fact, there are actually six D’s that can be associated with Satan – Deception, Doubt, Discouragement, Diversion, Defeat, and Delay. I have spent my entire life struggling with each of these 6 D’s in one form or another. Satan has tried many times to kill me by taking control of my mind, body, and even my very soul. He has relentlessly tried to defeat me in every area of my life, but I have learned that the grace and tender mercies of the Lord are far more powerful than any attack that Satan can hurl at me. It is because of the Lord’s amazing grace and His tender mercies that I am alive today, and instead of walking in the darkness that once surrounded my life, I am now walking in the glorious light of the Holy Spirit.
The Apostle Paul in his treatise to the Saints at Ephesus taught, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). And so, we are to put on the full armor of God, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11).
The 6 D’s that I have mentioned are the wiles of the devil. I cannot express strongly enough the importance of not being ignorant of Satan’s tactics to defeat you. So, please put on the armor of God and live and walk in His glorious light. The reality is that you are either walking with Satan in darkness, or you are walking with Christ in the light. You cannot do both. Darkness and light cannot dwell together. It is an impossibility!
Karlyn Kay Stebbins
February 20, 2015
Karlyn Kay Stebbins’ Biography:
Karlyn Kay Stebbins is a guest writer for Morsels Of Bread. She is an addictions counselor and works in a drug rehabilitation center. She has a double major in Sociology and Psychology, and a minor in Communications. She is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having been baptized on 26 March 2011. Her hobbies are reading and writing. She also enjoys spending time with her son and his friends. She is also the Founder of The Conqueror Foundation and has a blog called “Reflection Pays” where she shares her insights.
On Sunday, 1 May 2011, the world exploded in jubilant celebration as the news was heard that Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind terrorist behind the horrific events of 11 September 2001 that claimed the lives of many innocent men, women, and children, had been shot and indeed killed. For nearly a decade men and women of the United States Armed Forces and Special Intelligence Agencies had stood a vigilant watch for any viable lead that would help them bring this criminal to justice. Their tireless, unselfish devotion to such a great cause warrants a salute and highest honors from all faithful Americans.
Many of the men and women who were involved in the covert operations that ultimately brought about the demise of Osama Bin Laden are Christians. Not all of them work out of office buildings, but many of them are soldiers in the line of fire on the battle field. These soldiers stand vigilant watches in the heat and the cold, through the storms and through the rain, by land, by air, and by sea, both day and night, 24 hours, 7 days a week. They do this not only for their own protection, but that you and I will always be able to enjoy the freedoms that we so cherish. They do it so that this great nation of ours will forever be “the land of the free and the home of the brave”.
Some people may wonder how a Christian can justify going to war, and more importantly, how a Christian can justify taking the life of another human being. As a Christian, and as a 30-year retired United States Navy veteran, I have often pondered the question regarding the justification of war. Is war ever justified, and where is the proverbial line in the sand drawn to distinguish between fighting a war in the name and honor of defending oneself and one’s family, and raging a war against another nation solely because of anger, hatred, bitterness, and frustration against that nation?
Unfortunately, the world in which we live is full of men who are evil and therefore sin abounds continually. Because of this, regrettably there are times when it is deemed necessary to use force in order to secure justice for the innocent and the helpless. However, when the onslaught of war has been considered, its legitimacy must be carefully evaluated. At such a time when war is ultimately declared, the Christian must remember that his ultimate allegiance is not to his country, albeit patriotism is a noble virtue, but to the commands and dictates of Almighty God. As a valiant soldier he must come to the full and complete realization that his true Commander in Chief is the Lord Jesus Christ. Even in the midst of heated battle, the Christian must at all times remain faithful. Nations may rage, but the Great Commander in Chief remains in total control of all situations, and He has already seen the final outcome of all conflicts. Indeed there will come a day when He “shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Micah 4:3).
Scriptures teach, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). And so, it is our Heavenly Father’s desire that if at all possible, we should lay down our weapons of war, and “follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
Just as the military soldier is called to arms on the battle field, Christians are also called to duty to serve in the Lord’s army. As soldiers in the Lord’s army we must stand a vigilant watch and “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (see Ephesians 6:10), “because [our] adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour“ (see 1 Peter 5:8).
As military soldiers must be dressed appropriately to enter battle, soldiers in the Lord’s army must also dress appropriately for the battle. In Ephesians 6:11-17 we are instructed to:
|11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we awrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
The Apostle Paul gave the following counsel to his young son in the Gospel, Timothy, as recorded in 2 Timothy 2:1-3,
|Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.|
Paul warns Timothy of the difficulties of the ministry and urges him to be strong, in contrast to those who had defected. Faithful men were to be selected and trained as leaders and teachers. Thus, personal discipleship was a vital part of Timothy’s leadership.
The word for “soldier” in the Greek is STRATIOTES and is used in the natural sense in Matthew 8:9; 27:27; 28:12; Mark 15:16; Luke 7:8; 23:26; six times in the Gospel of John; thirteen times in the Book of Acts; and not again in the New Testament in this sense. Some of the characteristics of a good soldier of Jesus Christ are: (1) in his personal life he is strong spiritually through dependence upon the grace of God, (2) in public he is effective in leadership, example, and in teaching others, and (3) in the midst of persecution he is able to endure to the end, preserve and press on in affliction. In 2 Timothy 2:3, the word soldier is used metaphorically of one who endures hardship in the cause of Christ. As good soldiers of Jesus Christ, we are to “endure hardness” which literally means we are to suffer affliction in order to be rewarded.
Therefore, the good soldier of Jesus Christ must keep the fire of his service burning bright. In 2 Timothy 1:6- 7 we read, “ Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up [keep in full flame] the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands [this refers to Timothy’s ordination]. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power [Greek: Dunamis – This is the ability to accomplish whatever He wills us to accomplish. Note that it is from this Greek word “dunamis” that we get our English word “dynamite.”], and of love [Greek: Agape – volitional love], and of a sound mind [a disciplined mind].”
And, in 2 Timothy 1:13-14 we read, “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us” (see also Ephesians 4:11-16; 5:18).
A good soldier of Jesus Christ also trains daily in the use of his armor and weapons. In 2 Timothy 2:15 we are taught to, “Study [The command to study means “give diligence and be zealous.” It involves a total effort of mind, emotion and will] to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing [literally means “cutting straight”] the word of truth.”
The Apostle Paul appeals for efforts to be made to properly interpret the Word of God. In 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 we are taught that, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God [Greek: Theopneustos – literally “God-breathed”], and is profitable for doctrine [to tell one what to believe], for reproof [to tell one what is wrong], for correction [to tell one how to correct wrong], for instruction in righteousness [to tell one how to live]: that the man of God may be perfect [Greek: Artios – “proficient, capable” – having everything needed to do what God wants], throughly furnished [“thoroughly equipped”] unto all good works.” God’s inspired Word, properly used and applied, provides all that we need for life and ministry.
A good soldier of Jesus Christ must also keep himself pure. In 2 Timothy 2:20-22 we read,
|But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work. Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.|
A good soldier of Jesus Christ must prepare for persecution, and be able to endure it. In 2 Timothy 3:10-12 we read,
But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (see also Acts 13:13 – 14:28).
And, he must fight the good fight to the finish. The Apostle Paul was a good soldier of Jesus Christ and at the end of his life he was able to give this final testimony:
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing (2 Timothy 4:7, 8).
As good soldiers of Jesus Christ we must be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong, and let all be done in love. And we must,
Take heed to [ourselves], lest at any time [our] hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon [us] unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth” (Luke 21: 34, 35).
Therefore, we must watch “and pray always, that [we] may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36).
May we all be found to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ. And when this mortal life is over, may we, like the Apostle Paul, be able to put the final exclamation point of our lives in place with the words “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”
This imaginary letter from Apostle Paul speaks of the segregation within and without the church, not only in America but all over the world for there is still time to change and do God’s will.
Text and audio of this speech available at: Paul’s Letter to American Christians
Delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, on 4 November 1956.
- Martin Luther King Jr. 50 years later (brownegg2010.wordpress.com)
- Do you remember King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech on Aug. 28, 1963? Some long-time Montgomerians share memories
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – The Purpose of Education
Good morning Brothers and Sisters. I would like to first welcome all the new midshipmen and I would also like to welcome their families who are visiting with us today.
To briefly introduce myself, I am Brother Keith Brown, the High Priest Group Leader. I began my Naval career as an enlisted man in March 1981. I retired after 20 years of faithful service in March 2001, and Lord willing, twelve days from today I will have completed 10 years of inactive Fleet Reserve duty for a total of 30 years of military service. I have been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for almost 12 ½ years. I did not become a member of the Church until 17 years after I had joined the Navy, even though I had investigated the Church and had met with the missionaries for a time before leaving home . I joined the Navy in March 1981 and was baptized in Reykjavík, Iceland while serving on active duty in Keflavik, Iceland in March 1998. But, that is another story for another day.
The Scriptures teach us in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Having been raised in a good Baptist home by a loving mother who lived by the rule that if she were going to church on Sunday then so were you, and being taught by that same mother to have a love for the Scriptures carried with me even after I left home to go into the Navy. Even in boot camp when it may have seemed strange or odd to some of my shipmates that anyone would want to muster on a Sunday morning and be marched to church services, to me attending church services on Sunday was the normal thing to do. I was reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul in Hebrews 10:25 when he warns us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together as some do, but we should exhort one another and so much more as we see the day approaching.
In boot camp I was not the best of swimmers. I was not the fattest of runners. And, I did not break any academic records, but I truly believe that it was because of the life that I endeavored to live and the example that I endeavored to be, that I was able to gain recognition and successfully carry out the things that I was assigned to do.
Throughout my entire military career I was blessed to see the hand of God at work in so many ways. From the duty assignments that I received, to the people whom I was blessed to meet, to the places where I served, I know that I was able to have a successful military career because of my faith and my obedience to the will of my Heavenly Father. Even in places such as Bahrain where I served for a little over a year, where there were no weekly church services to attend, I had my Scriptures and found comfort and solace in being able to read and study the Scriptures. Even at times during my career when I may have strayed off the path and wanted to “sow my oats” as it were, in the back of my mind I was always constantly reminded of the things that my mother had taught me, the things that I had learned growing up in church, and the things that the missionaries and I had spent time discussing. At times there were also those gentile reminders of not so much who I am, but more importantly whose I am.
I have just a few moments to share with you one incident from my career where the Lord taught me a very important lesson. Twenty-two years ago this month I was a young 29-year-old sailor aboard the U.S.S. Lake Champlain CG-57. I had the honor of being assigned as a member of the commissioning crew and thus had the dubious honor of riding the ship on her maiden voyage from New York City, where the ship was commissioned, to her home-port of San Diego, California, via Cape Horn, South America. As the cruise progressed we ran into a major storm. Now for those of you who know anything about being caught at sea during a storm, you know that it is almost impossible to outrun a storm at sea and so you are forced to ride the storm out. During the course of the storm we hit some really rough seas. The seas were so rough and the bow of the ship was taking on so much water that it made the ship tremor violently as the waves would cross the bow. Our forward guns were rendered inoperable, the forward water tight doors looked like something had rammed them with tremendous force, and we lost part of our hurricane bow. Below decks, eating was a major chore and sleeping for some was no easy task either. Those who were not assigned to be on deck were told to strap in and hold on.
As some became a bit concerned about the storm and what might could happen, I found that I was able to sleep comfortably in my rack every night. Why? Because I had been taught about a Man who even the winds and the waves obey His voice. I could rest every night knowing that I have a Heavenly Father who promised never to leave me nor forsake me. Although He did not calm the winds and the seas in that particular case, I learned from that experience that sometimes God calms the storm, and sometimes, if the sailor will allow Him, He calms the sailor to enable him to endure the storm. That lesson followed me throughout my career and afterwards.
In life, Brothers and Sisters, when the storm winds seem to be blowing all about and we seem to be tossed to and fro, we must remember that sometimes God will calm those storms, but sometimes those storms are necessary to teach us things and so if we will allow Him, He will calm us to enable us to endure the storms.
The amazing thing is that during the storm we never lost the ship’s anchor. It remained steady and in place. If I could offer one small word of counsel to our new midshipman this morning it would be this: throughout your time at the Naval Academy and on with your career, when it seems at times like storms are raging all about you and your ship is being tossed to and fro, be very sure that your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock which is Christ Jesus our Lord.
I bear you my testimony of the truthfulness and Divinity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I testify that I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s true Church upon the earth today and is led by His chosen Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. I further testify of the spiritual strength that is gained by assembling ourselves together and worshiping together just as we have done this morning. I know that God lives and Jesus is the Christ. And I bear this testimony and leave these thoughts with you humbly in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
I am sometimes a little amazed that some people seem to think that because we profess to be a Christian – a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ – that automatically equates to never getting upset, never murmuring, never complaining, never getting angry, never getting frustrated, never having to face heartaches and disappointments, and perhaps, some even think that Christians never shed any tears or have any sleepless nights. The reality of the matter is that nothing could be further from the truth.
Are we not all mortals? Do we not at times feel pain, suffering, frustration, remorse, anger, and the agony of defeats as well as the joy of victories in our lives? Does Christ not know the burdens that we bear and the feelings and emotions that sometimes accompany those burdens? Indeed He does. And He has promised us, just as He did the Apostle Paul in his time of affliction, that His grace is sufficient and that He will never give us any more than we can possibly bear.
The Scriptures tell us that Jesus wept (See John 11:35). The Scriptures also teach us that He got angry. See Him in the Temple as He overturns the tables of the money changers because they were turning the Sacred House of the Lord into a den a thieves when they should have revered it as a place that had been consecrated and set apart as Holiness unto the Lord – a place of order, a place of prayer (See Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46). Come now to the Garden of Gethsemane and see Him as He kneels in prayer throughout the night interceding on our behalf. Hear Him as He earnestly communes with the Father and asks that if it be the Father’s will that He would take the bitter cup from Him. Hear Him still in that same Divine conversation as He relinquishes His own will and yields totally and completely to the will of His Father (See Luke 22:42).
This life is a test that is filled with challenges and obstacles that we must face and overcome along the way. But, we need not face those obstacles and challenges alone. In times of distress and trouble the Savior bids us to come unto Him and He will give us rest for our weary souls.
During His earthly ministry as both God and man He felt of the same emotions that we sometimes experience. The main difference is that even though He may have had those same feelings and emotions, He was able to press forward at all times and do the will of His Father who had sent Him – praying in earnest, “Father, not my will, but thy will be done”. We, as mortals, on the other hand, often feel inadequate, too tired, or just plain defeated in our struggles, and so it becomes easier for us at times to just give in and give up believing that our burdens are just too much to bear. However, we should take heart in knowing that He is our Great Burden Bearer. When the weight of the world presses down heavy upon our shoulders, He is right there to lift us up and to make our load easier to bear. Listen closely now as He bids us, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (See Matthew 11:28-30).
While on his second missionary journey, the Apostle Paul visited the city of Troas on the Mediterranean coast. While in Troas, a vision appeared to Paul in the night. In that vision “There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us” (Acts 16:9). After he had seen the vision, Paul, Silas, and Timotheous (Timothy) immediately “endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called [them] for to preach the gospel unto them” (Acts 16:10).
They boarded a ship at Troas, crossed the Aegean Sea, and “came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; and from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and [they] were in that city abiding certain days” (Acts 16: 11-12).
As we open the seventeenth chapter of Acts, we find Paul leaving Philippi and traveling through Amphipolis and Apollonia, and then entering “Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews” (Acts 17:1).
And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ (Acts 17: 2-3).
Some of the Jews were envious of Paul’s success and caused uproar in the city. “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews” (Acts 17:10).
Luke’s estimation of the residents of Berea was that “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). Then the Jews from Thessalonica came to Berea and stirred up the crowds again and “then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still. And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheous (Timothy) for to come to him with all speed, they departed” (Acts 17: 14-15).
The distance between Berea and Athens was 250 Roman miles — a journey of three days by sea or twelve days by land.
In Acts 17:16 we learn that “while Paul waited for Silas and Timotheus (Timothy) at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry” (Acts 17:16). Before examining the sermon that Paul would preach in this city on Mars Hill, it would prove helpful to know of some of the things that Paul saw that became the foundational structure for that sermon.
Supposing Paul arrived by ship, he would have landed at Piraeus and would have gone north from the harbor and entered Athens by the “Double Gate” on the west side of the city, where 4 highways converged. Before passing the gate, however, he would have gone through an extensive cemetery, where he would have noticed the graves of many distinguished Athenian citizens, the most famous being Menander, the son of Diopithes.
Passing through the gates, Paul would have seen the Temple of Demeter with statues of the goddess and her daughter. A little further on, he would have passed the statue of Poseidon hurling his trident. Beyond this, he would have seen the statues of Healing Athena, Zeus, Apollo, and Hermes standing near the Sanctuary of Dionysus.
While Paul waited for Silas and Timotheous (Timothy), he must have explored the city in the same way tourists do today. He could have visited the Royal Colonnade, the Metroum or Sanctuary of the Mother of the Gods with her reputation.
In the Agora he would have passed what is sometimes called “the Music Hall at Athens,” the Odeon, a small roofed theater. In the Agora the Athenians had an altar of Mercy, which stood in a grove of laurels and olives. Close to the Agora, in the gymnasium of Ptolemy, there was a stone statue of Hermes, and a bronze statue of Ptolemy.
Wherever Paul turned, he must have seen statues, temples, and shrines. There was the Sanctuary of the Dioscuri, the Serapeum in the lower part of this city, the Temple of Olympian Zeus southeast of the Acropolis, the Pythium on the southern side of the Acropolis, the Sanctuary of Dionysus at the foot of the Acropolis, and many more.
Entering the Acropolis he would have passed two statues of horsemen facing each other on opposite sides of the road. On his right, on the western edge of the Acropolis, was the Temple of Victory Athena, the so-called Wingless Victory. He would have looked towards the sea and seen the Bay of Phaleron, perhaps with grain ships from Alexandria, Egypt.
He would have visited the most famous and beautiful of all Greek temples, the Parthenon, and then the Erechtheum standing on the northern edge of the Acropolis. Here his eyes must have fallen on the oldest and most venerated statue of Athena, which like that of Diana of Ephesus, was believed to have fallen from heaven (cf. Acts 19:35). Finally, there was the most conspicuous statue of the city-goddess, a dedication from the spoils of the Battle of Marathon.
There is an ancient proverb which declares that there were more gods in Athens than men, and wherever Paul looked, in niches and on pedestals, in temples and on street corners, were gods and demigods. Busts of Hermes were on every corner and statues and altars were in the courtyard of every home. Among this forest of deities Paul discovered one altar dedicated to the “unknown god.” There are many examples of similar inscriptions in the Greco-Roman world. The idea, of course, was that these altars to the “unknown gods” ensured that no deity was omitted from worship.
As was his policy in every city that he visited, he first took the matter before his brethren. “Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him” (Acts 17:17). Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoics, met him (Acts 17:18).
Although he was faced with a difficult audience to preach to, Paul did not start with making similarities between the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers; he started by teaching them about the death and resurrection of the Messiah. He did not begin with what they had, but what they did not have. It was then that some said, “What will this babbler say?” Others said, “he seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection” which was something that they had never heard of before. (Acts 17:18).
These philosophers of the day prided themselves with keeping abreast of the newest philosophies, and so they were intrigued by Paul’s message and were eager to hear these latest teachings.
And [so] they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, may we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean (Acts 17: 19-20).
Standing in the midst of Mars Hill, Paul began his sermon with the bold proclamation, “Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you” (Acts 17: 22, 23).
I cannot help but wonder if the Apostle Paul were to visit some of our modern-day cities, how different would he find them than that of the ancient city of Athens? As he took the time to tour our cities, what would be some of the false idols of worship that he would find? Would he find that we also have “altars” marked with the inscription, “To the Unknown God?” If he were to preach today, which group of people would we find ourselves being a part of?
- The Jews – people with a religious history, people who would consider themselves to be on God’s side by tradition.
- The devout persons – people who may or may not have a religious history, but people who are being, or at least trying to be, as religious or God-fearing as they possibly can.
- People in the marketplace – people who have no religious history or religious leaning. Just ordinary people who happen to be in the marketplace at the same time as Paul and just happen to casually bump into him.
- The Epicureans – people who are sensualist. If they cannot touch, taste, or at least see something, then they have no interest in it. Some of these people might be party people, people who live for the moment, or people who are out for instant gratification. Others may be hard-working, practical people.
- The Stoics – people who are materialists. They believe that everything comes down to matter or actually fire. They also believe in a cosmic order, that there is a greater good or orderly principle that somehow arranged everything on earth to be a functional expression of intelligence.
The word translated “superstitious” in verse 22 is deisidaimonia. It literally means God-fearing or religious. And so, here was Paul telling a group of party going, practical, and materialistic people that they were too religious. How could that be possible?
Religion or some aspect of religion is all around us no matter where we go. Turn on the television and you will be able to find various programs representing the beliefs of several different faiths and denominations. In the local grocery stores, among the books and magazines, there are Bibles and books on various religious topics. In the card section of stores there are cards for all sorts of occasions that have Bible verses in them. In almost every hotel a person can find a copy of the Bible placed in one of the bedside drawers. There are Christian bookstores, and even some of the top ten best sellers in secular bookstores are Christian, or written by Christian authors, not to mention the Christian magazines and posters that you can buy.As a person drives around town he also finds that there are churches of all different faiths and denominations.
Is all of this exposure to religion a bad thing? In and of itself it is not. However, I believe that there is a real danger in that for all the Christian posters that we see, cards and books that we read, and even good sounding words that we hear, there are people who are worshiping a God they do not know. There are people who may know His name, have attended Sunday school from their youth up, can quote many scripture verses by heart, can tell you about some of the main characters in the scriptures, and may have even been educated in a Christian institution. But, the real question is, do they really KNOW Him, or are they worshiping an “Unknown God“?
The Apostle Paul continues his sermon in Acts 17:24-26:
God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of bone blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.
Paul is teaching that it is God who made us, and if He made us than He owns us. Therefore, He has every right to decide our future. He is also teaching that God is still in control of all things. He did not create the world and then go and sit down and leave the world to its own devices.
Sometimes when we go to church we put on nice clothes, smile at everybody and do all sorts of good things because we know that God can see us. However, when we go back to the privacy of our own homes, sometimes we tend to think that it is alright to do whatever we like, or we go to our jobs and show our true natures. We need to remember that, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3). We must get out of our minds that God is only someone we meet at church. God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. He sees and hears everything, and He even knows what we are thinking at any given moment.
Paul is also teaching that God cannot be worshiped with works. Some people seem to think that by doing good deeds, or giving away large sums of money, or by any number of other pious activities that they are perhaps winning special favor with God. What they fail to realize is that God is the one who gives us life. Every breath we take, we take because God allows us to. God is also the maker of all things, and so everything that we make with our hands is constructed out of materials that He has already given us. Furthermore, God is not the partial owner of anything. He is the full and rightful owner of everything. A person may say that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. That is indeed true, but He also owns the hills, and furthermore He owns the grass which the cattle graze on those hills.
Paul further emphasizes these points as he continues his sermon in Acts 17:27-31:
That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
Again, Paul used an illustration the Greek philosophers would have known and understood by quoting from sources they were already familiar with. He wanted to establish the fact that we are beings created from a higher power. He reasons that if we are created, who then can create a god that supposedly created us? For we also know that in God we live and move and have our being. Paul begins with what they know, and then refutes and leads them to the true God, the only God who can save. There is no watering down the message here. Paul is condemning this culture for their ignorance and foolishness. He is not using their language style or reasoning. He is not trying to copy the culture, imitate it or simply “upgrade it” with a Christian message. But first, he uses it simply to start with a common point of knowledge. He is preaching the truth, in a relevant way they can understand.
Some Christians have no interaction with the world around them. They tend to stay within their own safe circles, never reaching anyone with the Gospel. The Gospel, which literally means Good News, was never meant to be kept to ourselves or contained within the four walls of a church building. Our faith needs to be spread to every area of life and the community surrounding us. This does not contradict the fact that we should be in the world, but not of the world. There is a difference between allowing the world to influence us and us influencing the world around us. Jesus Himself best illustrates this truth in His prayer found in John 17:13-18.
We cannot afford to simply adapt to the culture around us. In that case, we lose the Gospel message entirely. Instead of adapting to culture, we must seek to transform it. To do this, however, we cannot be ignorant of it. Christ has called us to go into the entire world and proclaim the Gospel. Therefore, we should be able to relate to those around us. A proper view of the Gospel forces us to understand we are all sinners in dire need of God’s grace. Because of our common depravity and need, we can relate to those around us. If we are following the Lord and doing what we know to be right, then we will not allow our shortcomings to hinder our efforts to share the Gospel with others.
Paul now begins to draw the net. He tells his audience that in the past, God may have tolerated their sin because they did not know the truth. But now however, they have been told the truth. They are told they must repent. They must turn from their wicked ways. They are left with no doubt of what it means to come to Christ. Paul speaks of the judgment that is to come. He also tells them they are completely without excuse, for Christ has raised from the dead. They know who the Savior is. They cannot plead ignorance. God Himself has made this known.
And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, we will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them. Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them (Acts 17: 32-34).
Not many were won over in this sermon, but that is not why Paul was there. He preached to a diverse group of people. He preached the same message without wavering or compromise. Some were saved. Not all, not many, but some.
There will be some who simply will never accept the truth. No matter what is said, no matter what evidence is given and no matter what line of reasoning is used – their hearts will remain hard. Do not get discouraged and frustrated by these people. Keep on doing what God has called you to do. The final results are up to Him, not you.
There will also be some who simply want to think it over. They want to ask a ton of questions and debate you into the wee hours of the night. They want to discuss, discuss and discuss, but never settle the issue. They want to explore other options, but consider themselves to be open to the possibility of accepting the Gospel and coming unto Christ. Do not get trapped into their snares. Often times they will trap you into discussions and never let go. They waste your time with meaningless debate that keeps you from sharing the Good News with others who really want to listen and come unto Christ. In all things, keep the faith and continue to be about the Father’s business!