Chapter Seventeen — Part Three: The Book of Acts

By: Pastors Rodney & Adonica Howard-Browne

Publish date: 06/12/2022

Foundation Scriptures:
Acts 17:18-23

1. Strange Gods.
a. Acts 17:18 KJV — Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.
b. The Epicureans and Stoics called him a babbler.
c. Babbler (Greek spermologos) — name of a small bird: a seed-picker (as the crow); chatterer; empty talker; a scatterer of words; a gossip or trifler in talk; (figuratively) a sponger, loafer; beggarly; parasite; getting a living by flattery and buffoonery; a person who gathers scraps of information from others.
d. They were calling into question Paul’s sincerity and motivation.
e. A “setter forth” is an announcer, or proclaimer.
f. They thought of the message of Jesus and the Gospel as just another one of the “strange gods.”
g. Strange (Greek xenos) — strange; stranger.
h. Gods (Greek daimonion) — the divine power, deity, divinity; a spirit, a being inferior to God, superior to men; evil spirits or the messengers and ministers of the devil.
i. Strange gods: foreign demons.
j. Daimonion is translated “devils” 52 times and “gods” once, here.
k. It was forbidden to preach strange gods in Rome and in Athens.
l. In their heathen theology, they believed that the “theoi” were the gods of nature and the “daimon” were deified men.
m. Paul taught that Jesus was a Man, Who was crucified, rose from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of God.
n. In their way of seeing things, it was no different than their heroes who were honored and deified for their services and great deeds for mankind.
o. To them, Jesus was not one of the gods of nature, but a deified man (daimon).
p. They took Jesus for a new god, and the resurrection—anastasis—for a new goddess.
q. They missed the whole point of the Christian doctrine when they tried to treat it as just another pagan dialect.

2. Mars Hill.
a. Acts 17:19a KJV — And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus…
b. They decided to bring Paul before the council of the Athenians, where he would be expected to receive a fair and impartial public hearing.
c. Areopagus, also known as Mars Hill, where the great council of the Athenians was held.
d. Mars Hill was where the magistrates met for their public business, and where the courts of justice were kept.
e. It was the theatre where learned men met to discuss their ideas and opinions.
f. The court that met there was famous for its strict equity—fair dealing and impartiality—therefore, both sides were generally satisfied with the result.
g. They only allowed facts and reason—no emotional displays to sway the audience.
h. And their decision was binding.
i. Some were condemned and put to death for denying their gods, and no new God was admitted without their permission.
j. They brought Paul there, not to be tried as a wrong doer, but to be heard as a candidate.
k. Acts 17:19b KJV — …saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?
l. They had access to so many books and so many doctrines, but clearly not the divinely inspired five Books of Moses, or else it would not have been such a new (unknown) doctrine to all of them.

3. New Doctrine.
a. Acts 17:20 KJV — For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean.
b. Because it was a new and strange doctrine, they were interested to hear about it so they could decide what to think about it.
c. They wanted to hear it simply because it was new—not because it was, or might possibly be, the Truth.
d. Acts 17:21 KJV — (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)
e. The new or newest thing—the latest idea.
f. They spent all their time inquisitively meddling in other people’s business.
g. 1 Timothy 5:13 KJV — And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.
h. Acts 17:22 KJV — 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.
i. Too superstitious: addicted to religion.
j. Paul was not preaching to a mixed crowd of Jews and Gentiles, as before, but he was preaching to a wholly heathen crowd.
k. His most difficult challenge was to convince these people of the Truth, with no common ground or understanding between them.

4. The Unknown God.
a. Acts 17:23 KJV — 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.
b. Paul was no doubt led by the Holy Spirit here to begin his preaching this way.
c. They acknowledged that there was an Unknown God.
d. They had so many gods, but did not want to miss one, so they added an unknown one, whom they ignorantly worshipped.
e. Ignorantly (Greek agnoeō) — to be ignorant, not to know (through lack of information or intelligence); not to understand, unknown; to err or sin through mistake, to be wrong; by implication, to ignore (through disinclination):—(be) ignorant(-ly).
f. Paul was not adding to their gods by bringing them a new god—only introducing them to the One they had already acknowledged.