Paul Preaching at Mars Hill – “From Mythology to Theology”

Rev. Dr.  Nicholas Hood III at the foot of Mars Hill in Athens, Greece
Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III at the foot of Mars Hill in Athens, Greece

Acts 17: 32 When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some scoffed; but others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 At that point Paul left them. 34 But some of them joined him and became believers, including Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris, and others with them. [1]

Greece Rome Trip 2015 Log – Wednesday, September 15, 2015

(55 persons are traveling with me to Greece and Rome to focus on the “Footsteps of the Apostle Paul)

Lunch in Athens, Greece (Greece- Rome 2015 Tour)
Lunch in Athens, Greece (Greece- Rome 2015 Tour)

Today, our travel group which is tracing the “Footsteps of the Apostle Paul” began at Mars Hill where the Apostle Paul argued with some of the governing men of the community about the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Mars Hill is just west and below the Acropolis. As our group gathered I spoke with them about the significance of being at the base of Mars Hill where the Apostle Paul, in evangelistic fervor, showed up at the place where the leaders of the community met, to introduce them to Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. The group he met with was known as the Areopagus.

Equilla Wainwright at the  Temple of Poseidon
Equilla Wainwright at the Temple of Poseidon

Prior to the Roman era, hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, the Areopagus was the decision making body for Athens. It is the fore runner of the concept of democracy. The leading men would gather at Mars Hill and discuss the issues of the day and make decisions to help govern their city. As an evangelist committed to promote Jesus Christ, Paul had some basic routines.

Cheryl Childress, Brenda McGAdney, Mildred  and  Wanda Williams in Greece
Cheryl Childress, Brenda McGAdney, Mildred and Wanda Williams in Greece

One technique of Paul’s was to show up where people who believed in God might be. This included synagogues and temples where the Jewish people worshiped, but it also included a river in Philippi where people of faith gathered as well as in the case in Athens, Mars Hill. The group of primarily men who were at Mars Hill were there to discuss the issues of the day which may not necessarily started with conversations regarding faith in God. Paul somewhat inserted himself into their meeting and sought an audience to introduce Jesus Christ. Paul was not immediately successful at Mars Hill, but one member of the Areopagus was converted. His name was Dionysius. There also was one woman who converted to Jesus Christ at Mars Hill. Her name was Damaris.

Dinner on the  shore of the Aegean Sea
Dinner on the shore of the Aegean Sea

One of the greatest challenges faced by Paul was to change the mindset of the people of Athens from believing in a mythology that revolved around a system of gods who were created in the minds of the people to help explain the natural phenomena of life to “A God not made with hands.” For example, we were told today that the people of Athens had statues of the goddess, Athena, without wings so she could not leave them by flying away. When I heard this, I thought about the Apostle Paul and how he most likely had a field day with the Greeks in arguing about how ridiculous it was for them to devote their worship to a god they had created, could shape and order to their own desire-as opposed to a “God who was not made with hands.”

Sunset by the Aegean Sea (view from the restaurant where the Greece-Rome trip had dinner this evening
Sunset by the Aegean Sea (view from the restaurant where the Greece-Rome trip had dinner this evening

One of the tour guide/historians today summed it all up like this: “Paul challenge the people to move from believing in a mythology to a theology.”   I encourage you to read the argument of Paul that he outlined in his speech on Mars Hill. As you read his speech think about the significance he achieved in challenging a system of beliefs that was in existence hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus Christ. In the end, Paul and the other Apostles not only changed the world, but brought the world to a new understanding of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Acts 17: 22 Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 23 For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26 From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,

‘For we too are his offspring.’

29 Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 30 While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

32 When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some scoffed; but others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 At that point Paul left them. 34 But some of them joined him and became believers, including Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris, and others with them. [2]

 

Questions for Reflection:

  1. In what ways do you identify with the Apostle Paul as an evangelist?
  2. Do you think it is appropriate for modern Christians to focus more on converting people who already believe in Jesus Christ than to encourage non-believers to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior? Why?

Prayer:

Lord, I thank you for the legacy and ministry of the Apostle Paul and your other apostles who took and shared the Word of Jesus Christ and established the church. Lord, make me unashamed to tell others about you. Lord, make me aggressive in sharing the good news of your truth with all who are lost and desire salvation with faith in you. Lord, free me that I might be an effective witness for you. Bless me, that I might live a life of faith, service and love. Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior we pray. Amen.

Written by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III

Photos by Nicholas Hood III

Additional Prayers, Photos and Meditations from Rev. Hood at https://nicholashoodiiiministries.wordpress.com/

Learn more about the ministry of the Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III and his new book, “The Test, the Strength, the Endurance and the Way Out” at www.nicholashoodiiiministries.org

Book cover
Book cover

[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Ac 17:32–34). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Ac 17:22–34). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.