Paul’s Rage in Athens (Acts 17:16-34) October 30, 2011
Everyone gets angry. On a positive note, it means they are alive. Of course there are many people who get angry for petty and insignificant reasons (It becomes stress and poison that cause diseases and harms interpersonal relationships). But sometimes that rage can change you and the world (Libya incident, Seoul Mayoral Election, South Korea, and etc.). But there is something that God’s people must get angry over (spiritual anger, holy rage, and God’s rage). There were times Jesus appealed to his anger. When he saw the temple that was supposed to be a place of prayer became a marketplace (Jn.2:13-17), when he saw the clerks and Pharisees (Mt.23:33), and when he saw Peter worrying over physical matters without considering God’s work (Mt.16:23). Today, we see Paul’s rage in today’s passage. It is expressed as he was “distressed”. What was he distressed for? He went into the region called “Athens”, and he was outrageous when he saw how that region was covered with idolatry.
1. What made Paul really angry in that region covered with idolatry? It was at least because of two reasons.
1) First was a spiritual reason. It says in today’s passage, “He was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.”
a. What is an idol? It is a method by which those who have the innate spiritual nature try to meet God. Unbelievers call this religion. “Doesn’t it mean that they were just looking for other gods?” They say there are many methods, but ultimately they are all the same. But they are not the same. Idols are what men create. Because they cannot see God with their physical eyes, they make something visible, pray before it and wait until they get something. But that is the power of evil spirits. That is why it says in 1Cor.10:20 that all religions are idol worshipping.
b. Then what makes Christianity different? Man became spiritually dead after leaving from God (Eph.2:1). That is why they cannot see the spiritual being God nor can they see Him. That is why God Himself wore the flesh of man and came. He is Christ and we call this the Gospel (good news).
c. How ignorant is mankind? They say they are the most intelligent beings, but they replaced God’s glory with man who will eventually decay (New Age), and consider things they made themselves and even animals and bugs as divine (Rom.1:21-23).
2) This power of idols and evil spirits completely took over the city where the greatest elites of the age were living.
a. What kind of city was Athens? It was a place where the Western culture and philosophy most blossomed (Hellenistic civilization and philosophy). Hellenistic philosophy is the first thing you learn when you study Western philosophy (Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Pythagoras). It mentions in Acts 17:18 the two greatest schools of thoughts: Epicurean and Stoic. The beginning of philosophy is a question about the essence of all things. The pondered upon this question and talked about gods, and that was how the Greek Mythology came together. Many literary works were created, and it eventually led to the Renaissance.
b. Why are we talking about this? This Godless culture and demonic culture not just cover the entire world, but they penetrate into the elite group that influences the respective age. Steve Jobs’ autobiography is shaking the whole world, but in fact he is the most pitiful person from the spiritual perspective. He did change the world into a more comfortable place, but he had to go through a disadvantaged childhood and family relationship, fell into the New Age ideology, and after he was diagnosed with cancer he was so desperate for an answer that he even went to a psychic.
c. What is more shameful is that unbelievers who are held by these idol and demonic culture are laughing at Christians. That is how the New Age began. They became the top 1% of the world and is taking control over politics, economy, culture, and everything else.
2. This is the reason why we are trying to raise our future generations as Gospel elites who have this mystery through the Remnant movement.
1) Eventually the 1% elite decide all policies and drive the world. But what happens when the Darkness conquers them (Eph.6:12)? That is why things like polarization and dictatorship happen.
2) Our children, the Remnants who have the Gospel must stand in that place. It is okay if we just have one person established. That is how God can be glorified and His living can be testified (at school, and like Daniel at work). Only when they move the politics, economy, and society, and culture the Darkness within them is broken and the world becomes happy and comfortable. That is the very reason for calling us as the Remnant. We are the “holy seed” (Is.6:13), “holy nation, and a royal priesthood” (Pet.2:9). The LORD will make you the head, not the tail (Deu.28:13), and You will trample down on their high places (Deu.33:29).
3) Success or becoming the elite is not our goal. We have a reason. We must save the world, and everything is for the glory of God. When David decided to fight Goliath, he held onto this reason (1Sam.17:29).
3. All believers, especially Remnants, must hold onto these three things.
1) In this land full of idols and Darkness, we are the ones who will save this world, others, and our fields (identity). For that reason, God has chosen us, saved, us, and said He will give us evidence in all aspects. Because we lose hold of who we are, we keep on getting deceived, falling, and losing direction.
2) Hold onto the solution you can give to every problem we face and every person we meet. That is today’s passage.
a. It is certainly God who created the universe and all creatures (verse 24). Our life or death depends on Him.
b. He is not someone who is trying to receive something from you because you are lacking. He has given you all life, breath, all creatures, and everything else (verse 25). That is Christ. Idols and religions are something you have to do on your own. But He has given you everything. We possess that Christ.
c. God desires us to live by His strength and be aware that He is in fact near us (verses 27-28). That is why we do not need anything else. Enjoy God who is within you and your life.
d. There will come the Judgment Day and our eternal future (verse 31). It is our eternal background and reward.
3) Pray in full scale starting now. Pray for God’s true strength and for Him to open all the doors.
a. Do not just pray. You must do so with the holy rage that will save the world in the midst of idol and demonic culture. Are you powerless? Do you keep on failing? Do you have fatal problems? You must fight the spiritual battle against Satan with the holy rage.
b. Have victory today through prayer and prepare for your future in prayer. When you pray, never lose hold of two things. First, there are invisible spiritual works (Holy Spirit) that arise. Angels are mobilized and the Darkness fades away. Second, our prayers are delivered to God in gold bowls (Rev.5:8 & 8:3-4). There are answers that come when you just think about them (Eph.3:20), answers that come when you ask (Eze.36:37), and answers that come when the volume is full. When we pray for others altogether (intercessory prayer), it has great strength (recommended reading – “God’s Ambassador”).
I hope we all have this holy rage like Paul did. I bless and hope that rage may be all answers and blessings in the field.