June 13 – Acts 17:16-34


This week is the final week of our series; next week we’ll begin our summer series in Psalms. On Sunday, June 20, you’ll hear more about this, but be on the lookout for our Psalms daily devotionals for adults and students/kids.

Here in Acts 17 we find Paul in Athens, which was a giant intellectual and cultural center in his day. Interestingly, Paul was here unplanned; he had to bolt from Thessalonica in 17:10, and ended up in Athens while waiting for Timothy and Silas to meet up with him. But in verse 16 we read that, while he was in Athens, his “spirit was provoked” by what he saw in the city, and while he was on layover there he started evangelizing. Clearly Paul was looking for opportunities anywhere and everywhere for the gospel.

He started at the synagogues like he normally did, and then went to the marketplaces to talk to anyone and everyone. Amazingly, his interaction with people on the street got him invited to the Areopagus, a prestigious open-air building where professional orators made presentations. This was like the 1st century version of TED Talks. There Paul makes a wonderfully contextualized appeal for the gospel; he presents well, he references their city, he even quotes Greek poets his audience was familiar with (rather than Bible verses they weren’t). In this we see a whole host of tactics for evangelizing in which we meet people where they are, learning about their culture in order to build bridges for the gospel.

But above tactics, Paul’s heart for others is the most relevant thing for us in this passage. While walking around the city, seeing the widespread worship of false gods, Paul was compelled to share. And note, once he’s in the Areopagus, he doesn’t lay into them for worshipping idols. He simply points to a better, true story, that what the Greeks had been hunting in philosophy and polytheism had been revealed with perfect clarity in Jesus. When we read this we should ask ourselves, do we feel the same? When we drive through our city, talk to our coworkers, or watch TV, and we’re confronted by others’ need for Jesus, is our spirit provoked within us? This isn’t a point of guilt by any means, but a point for reflection in your relationship with the Lord. Before your spirit can be provoked by those around you, it must first be provoked by the work of Jesus within you.

Questions for Discussion

• This is the last week of our Acts series. What’s something from this series that has been significant for you?

• Would someone read Acts 17:16-34 for us?

• What stood out to you in this passage?

• What does this passage tell us about Paul’s tactics for telling people about Jesus?

• In verse 28 Paul quotes from two Greek poets. Why do you think he did that?

• What do you think was going through Paul’s mind while he was in the Areopagus?

• In verse 16, Paul’s “spirit was provoked within him.” How does that help you think through your own desire to share what you believe?

• Rather than preaching a sermon, what could it look like to have a conversation with someone based on Paul’s tactics here?