Acts 17:22-23 – Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, 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 you ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you. (KJV)
Recalling my trip as a tourist in Athens, Greece, many years ago, my most memorable experience was visiting the Parthenon, one of the most prominent of all ancient Greek temples. There I also had the opportunity to see the historic "Sound and Light" performance, enjoy outdoor dining, and a breathtaking view of the beautiful Acropolis, so close to the actual spot where the apostle Paul preached his sermon on Mars Hill.
Though I had little biblical knowledge at the time, now whenever I read Paul's message, I can envision the remnants of the ancient world in which Paul made every effort to communicate the Gospel of Christ. In today's Scripture, Paul confronted the intellectuals and scholars of the city in his day.
Paul's encounter with these scholars can give us good insight into evangelism. First, Paul found common ground with those who had no knowledge of the true God. Secondly, he laid the foundation for salvation by explaining the nature of the "Unknown God". Thus, starting with the basics, Paul outlined the greatness of God first. Then he pointed out God's desire to have a personal relationship with all who seek Him; even quoting their own poets: "As certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring." (Acts 17:28b KJV) Therefore, if we are God's offspring, man does not create God, He creates us.
The end result of Paul's preaching was to warn the Athenians that God requires all people to repent and has provided evidence by the One whom He raised from the dead to judge the world in righteousness. Not surprisingly, reaction to Paul's message was mixed: "And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter." (Acts 17:32 KJV)
Nevertheless, I have no doubt that Paul's "Sermon On Mars Hill" had a powerful influence for years to come. And Paul's method of witnessing to those with no biblical knowledge is a great model for evangelism in today's modern society where many are still worshipping the "Unknown God". By following Paul's example, we, too, can better understand how to interact and relate with those of different persuasions.
Prayer: Lord, we thank You for the great testimony of the apostle Paul and for his powerful ministry to the Gentiles. Allow us to follow his example in witnessing, so that by all means possible, we may also communicate the Gospel of truth. In Jesus' name. Amen.