While waiting for them in Athens, Paul became indignant in spirit at the sight of this city full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with those who worshipped God, and daily in the square with those who met him. Some of the epicurean and stoic philosophers began to dispute with him; and some said: “what he wants to say this Suslov?”, and others: “it seems that he preaches about foreign deities,” because he preached the gospel of Jesus and the resurrection to them. And they took him, and brought him to the Areopagus, and said: can we know what this new doctrine is that which you preach? For you are reading something strange in our ears. Therefore, we want to know what it is? The Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing more willingly than to talk or listen to something new.
Acts II. 17:16–21
If you conduct a survey in an average city, the majority of the population will say that they want to lead a spiritual life. It seems that everyone understands that spiritual life is necessary. Usually, when I ask what exactly they mean, they start the answer with the phrase “I want…” in Other words, they take care of themselves in this case. I want peace of mind. I want meaning in my life. I want inner strength to achieve my goals. But the problem is that Christianity does not fit into such a framework. On the one hand, Christianity really revives the inner world of a person, but on the other hand, these changes change the view of what is important.
Here’s an example. People usually think this way about religion: imagine a room where there is a celebration, there are 20 people and you need to communicate with them, but you do not have the energy or desire to do it at all. At the moment, you are too tired to show love and behave confidently. You don’t know what to do, and then God appears, touches you, and you are now full of energy and joy.
Now you can communicate and do everything properly. But Christianity has a different way of looking at how God touches you. Christianity is when you are at a celebration, and there are a lot of people and you do not have the strength to pay them the slightest attention and God touches you, and now instead of 20, you see that there are actually 80 people in the room! In addition to the 20 you noticed, the other 60 were completely invisible to you.
So the difference between when God really touches you and when he doesn’t, the difference between Christianity and religion is this: when God comes into your life, you start seeing things differently! You begin to feel differently about the world around you, about your previous interests, about people, about your work, about your neighbors, about the government, and about yourself. Everything changes! And the difference between a man who has met God and a man who has not yet met him is not in his inner powers, but in his Outlook, I would even say in his sanity! Because if you are a person that God has not touched, you are looking at a person that God has touched, and he is walking around joyfully and talking to the air! You only see 20 out of 80 people! And that person is happy because he sees something and hears something that you can neither see nor hear.
Christianity does not just change you from the inside out, but changes your attitude to everything that exists! If you are already a Christian, but still do not know how to achieve this change, I will try to give you some advice.
What does it mean that becoming a Christian changes everything in my life? The modern world believes that Christianity is something personal. Christians themselves believe that God touches the very depths of the soul, but this is not a personal matter, because everything around them changes.
Usually, most people who do not believe in Christianity simply have a wrong idea of what it is. Those who say that they have been to Christianity and remained indifferent, simply do not even know what exactly they are indifferent to! And there is a certain danger in this. Very often, people think in their already established categories when they are told about Christianity, but to understand the essence of Christianity-you needs to create new categories of understanding the world.
Let’s take a look at the Bible passage we’ve read, and how Paul reacts to this situation. Namely, we will try to answer the questions: Where did he go? How did he feel? What did he see? What did he do?
Where he went — in the very first verses we read that he went not only to the Jews or not just to a place where God is worshipped, he went to the square. Hagar’s square in Athens — this was the place where the Central market was located. We need to remember history.
The city of Athens at that time was the capital of art and philosophy. And in the middle of Athens was this square — Agara. Historians describe it as follows: on this square, there were temples to various gods, tents offering various services (such as legal or educational), there were concert stages, shops, theaters and galleries. What kind of people were there in such a square? All who are not lazy! Since there was no modern technology in those days, everyone was there. It took a judge or a lawyer, artists or money changers, merchants or just to get news from the heralds — everyone came to this central square.
There was no other way to communicate in those days. There were also groups of different representatives of philosophical trends, and if someone wanted to practice their thoughts, they could not just buy another magazine on their favorite topic. To do this, you had to come and participate in debates with others.
There were no exchanges, no computers, no Internet. Everything was done face to face, in person. And all this was happening in the square. There is nothing like this now. There were only three such squares in the Roman Empire at that time: in Rome, Athens, and Alexandria. And these three places had the greatest impact on society in the entire Greco-Roman world. Paul goes to this very square with his faith.
The fact that Paul went there may not make sense in the eyes of modern people who believe that religion is something personal and for themselves. It is for your own joy, for the inner world, and it is not brought to the square. The Bible is different. In the parables in the first Chapter, there are verses that Paul must have known. God does not speak — my wisdom is for you personally, for your peace of mind — of course not! The Bible says: “Wisdom proclaims in the street, in the squares, it raises its voice. In the main places of Assembly she preaches, at the entrance to the city gates she speaks her speech” (Prov. 1:20).
The reason why this is strange for us now is that we have become pagans again. In paganism, everyone believes in their own territorial God, such as the God of Athens, the God of Ephesus, the God of Commerce, or fishermen. Everyone has their own God and that is why the fisherman prays to the God of fishing, and will never preach his God to people who are engaged in trade. Similarly, those who worship the God of Athens do not worship the God of Ephesus. But if there is a God who is the Creator of all things, then He must also be the Master of all things, that is, of trade and fishing and all cities — this is just common sense. And such a God is difficult to just keep to yourself.
Some might argue that Paul was a preacher. He goes to the square and preaches to himself, as far as I am concerned, but I am not a preacher. And this is true, but we can take a good principle from it for ourselves. 4 Samuel 5 describes the magnificent story of Naaman, the Syrian General. Naaman was a Gentile and was sick with leprosy. He came to Israel and received healing through Elisha and proclaims: “Now I know that there is no other God but the God of Israel.” What will he do next after receiving physical and spiritual healing?
I will answer this question later, but what is interesting is that there are two things that Naaman did not do. He doesn’t say to Elisha, ” let me stay here, where I come from — just pagans and idolaters.” Instead, he tells us that it is his duty as a General to go with the king once a week to the temple of the idol of Rimmon and worship it with the king. But Naaman does not say that he will no longer do this and will rather stay here with the faithful.
No way! Also, he does not think that he can keep his conversion to himself and behave the same as before. In this way, it does not ignore its culture or sabotage it. He does not run away from his environment and is not going to hide anything from it. What Naaman decided to do surprises-both believers and non-believers.
And Naaman said: if not already so, then let thy servant will land as two mules carry because will henceforth thy servant to bring burnt offerings and sacrifices to other gods, but God; now, may God forgive your servant: when my Lord into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and apreda on my hand, and I bow down in the house of Rimmon, something for my worship in the house of Rimmon, may God forgive thy servant in the case of SEM.
4 cor 5: 17,18
Practically, he says here that he will continue to do his work, but when I enter the temple, the land of Israel will be with me, which the servants will scatter on the floor, and when I kneel on it, everyone will see that I worship the God of Israel. The earth in this case is a symbol that testifies to faith. By doing this, Naaman shows everyone around him exactly what he believes in. He is ready to be asked, and he is ready to answer questions. He practically says that I will not live anymore, as I did before. But in all that I do, I will bring glory to God. As a military commander, he does not run away from his duties and does not hide! He brings his faith to the social sphere of life, to the square if you like.
This is my first piece of advice. No one can tell you how to bring faith from the inside out in your situation, Paul did it in his own way, Naaman in his own way. You have your own situation and you will do it in your own way. But you will need to think carefully and find a solution to your situation.
Often people say: “You are Christians, you live by a book where you have answers to all the questions written for you.” Written answers for me? The Bible does not give any unambiguous answers. The Bible, on the contrary, sets you tasks! And if you see this, you understand that as soon as the truth is revealed to you, you will need to break your head properly to apply it in a specific life situation!
An example of unambiguous and simple answers can be the following: “There is no such thing as truth, so whatever you believe in, live it. There is no need to break your head, there is no pressure, there is no set pace — do what you want! This is an unambiguous and simple answer to life situations!”.
Or another example — the other extreme. If you want to make your faith public, you should do it this way, all 2000 people present now, should write down these 5 steps there and go do it the same way, all the same. But in neither case is this what the Bible says it is. That is, in the Bible, we take principles for ourselves. Pavel goes to the square. What can we take from this?
In General, when we open the Bible in order to find answers to specific life situations — whom to marry, what to do in life, what kind of work to do and when — the Bible does not give direct answers, but it talks about how to become a person capable of understanding the Will of God, able to make the right decision in accordance with His Will.
We don’t like it because we want to solve very important issues: how to stand in the face of death, how to experience suffering, and the Bible in response to us — this is what you must become, this is what kind of heart you just have to answer these questions. And we respond to this, so I need to know already, and the character and heart-it all take a very long time. No, you won’t be ready to answer these questions now, but if you don’t start now, you will never be so ready.
First, let’s answer the question, how did Paul feel? He was outraged by the spirit.
One of the commentators wrote about this verse: “The reason we can’t speak the way Paul spoke is that we don’t see what Paul saw, And we don’t see what Paul saw because we don’t feel what Paul felt.” Why focus on feelings at all? The first principle I want to give you is that you must have the same feelings as Paul if you want to succeed in a place like Central square.
The Greek word “resent” actually sounds like “paroxysm” in the Greek version, which means an attack of acute pain. This tells us a lot about the depth of feelings, but not about its nature. This does not just mean that he was angry. The same word is used in the old Testament to describe how God feels when he sees idolatry. But when God is outraged — it is because He is a Jealous God!
If you don’t have the anger of Paul, you don’t dare do what he did. But if you had only anger, then there would be no politeness and courtesy, you would not be able to answer their questions, or understand them. They wouldn’t feel any respect for themselves. In John 11, Jesus came to Mary and Martha, whose brother Lazarus had just died. Someone has noticed an interesting thing.
When Jesus came to Mary and she said that Lazarus would not have died if you had been here, Jesus wept. And when Martha comes up and says the same thing, Jesus says, ” I am life.” In the first case, he is filled with feelings. In the second — he gives a sharp answer.
Because Jesus is filled with both truth and feelings. The same can’t be said for us. Some are full of anger, some are full of politeness and love, but none of us have that perfect balance. But the important thing is that if you are only aggressive or only polite — you will not achieve anything in a place like Central square. How, then, can this problem be solved?
If you go to Central square only by the nature of your character, you will not be able to achieve anything there. Most of the way we Christians speak publicly and openly is either thoughtlessly aggressive or out of cowardice. Paul was neither one nor the other because he was very Holy, full of love and jealousy. But we don’t. We are either too cowardly to say anything, or we are too aggressive in trying to prove something to someone. How can we overcome this? Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
“When I first came to you, I trembled with fear and resolved to know only Christ and nothing when I was with you!» Paul was looking at the cross. There was a cross in his heart, too. The cross is a reminder that God is absolutely Holy on the one hand, that He is obliged to vent his anger and restore divine justice to sin and evil, and on the other hand-the same cross proves to us that our God is absolutely Loving and sends his Son, and even in our place.
And if you don’t understand the Cross, then your God is either too demanding — you need both to live-or he is forgiving, but whose love for us cost him nothing. But such gods cannot change you, and they have never changed anyone. Only the cross, only the gospel, tells us that Jesus died because he is Loving and Holy. Paul burned this into his heart, and therefore, he is something that we are not. Man is filled with love and pure jealousy. So he is outraged, and his heart is torn by what he sees.
There may be people among you who are not yet sure whether they are believers or not. You may have met some Christians who have said or done something wrong or continue to do something wrong. How do I feel about this? You are absolutely right to be upset. Why am I talking about this? Because people often say: “Yes, Jesus and the gospel are all fine. But don’t overdo it. No need to become a fan! Don’t go too far. We need to do everything in moderation.” No! This shows that you do not understand what Christianity is all about. If you meet Christians who are doing something wrong, it does not mean that they are fanatics, but it shows that they are not fanatics enough. Because the true gospel, if understood correctly and accepted, turns you into someone at once angry and loving, brave and courteous. Look at Jesus. Those Christians who upset you, are they too much like Jesus? They don’t look like Him enough! They probably don’t understand the whole picture. But if you imagine a person who really lives the gospel, accepting and realizing the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross, he will never make you feel uncomfortable or treat you aggressively. Such people will be successful on the square.
Where did Pavel go? On the square. What did he feel? Holy zeal.
The second principle — we go further, we need to see what Paul sees. What did he see? He saw nothing but idols. You will say – and what is wrong here, of course, you are in ancient Greece-of course there are only idols everywhere, the most famous of them are Aphrodite-the goddess of beauty, Apollo-music and arts, Ares — war and strength, Adonis-the God of fertility. You might say, of course, a lot of statues, but that’s not how the world looks at it.
The word “see” in the phrase “Paul saw in Luke “means” see ” from the word to get to the bottom, to see the bottom line.
And here is how to understand how to become a Christian in the world — Paul saw that behind all these works of art, behind business and government, behind all the philosophies, there are idols. The problem in this world is not the bad things, but the good things that have become the best. And he saw what we should have seen. This attitude to the world changes our behavior. All characters are idols, all psychological problems are idols, all cultures are idols, all moral, social, intellectual problems are idols. Theoreo means that he saw the ins and outs! This is how a Christian should live.
When Naaman said that he would go back to his city and his work, he said that he would worship, but not the God Ramon — it was the God of Syria. And what does it mean to worship the God of Syria? That they worshipped their country, Syria! In those days, everyone had their own God and everyone thought that their God was omnipotent and thus felt superior to others, worshipping their God. Naaman decided that he would return to his own country and continue to be a General. But he is not going to worship his country anymore.
Here you can draw an erroneous conclusion. Some people realize that their career is their God. Apollo is the God of art. Is it bad to practice any art? No of course not! Is it bad to worship the arts? Yes! And what does it mean to worship the arts? To believe that he is the only one who has the whole meaning of your life. Moreover, to personify yourself with it, not to see in anything else the meaning of life as in art. Is it bad to do business? Is it bad to practice sports and participate in competitions? Is it bad to have fun? No, but if this is what gives you meaning (self-confidence), what you seek the strength to live in, what you rely on — this is your idol and you worship it. Even if you don’t use the word “worship”, but everyone has something like that. And if people lose it, they don’t want to live anymore. This is worship. Paul, however, saw it exactly on the square.
When the moment comes and you believe in God and are saved by grace, you begin to see it. Maybe someone will even say that I was engaged in business. Now I see what a fallen world this is, and I don’t want to have anything to do with it. It’s all deception and cannibalism. People only use each other for profit. I’d rather not do it at all. But this is not what Naaman did.
He decided to continue serving his country. But don’t worship it. If you feel that you need to run away from your idol, it means that you are still a slave to that idol. And in this case, you don’t just have to get rid of this idol, but you also have to get rid of the desire to be free. In other words, you must believe that Jesus Christ is my Glory and beauty, my righteousness and benefactor, my love, and my meaning of life. And when that becomes the case — you will be doing the same business, but in a different way than the others.
You will take a different view of what is profit and what is lost. You will think about people and serving them. Because just as Naaman returned to the temple for his work, but worshipped God both in his heart and in front of people, so can you. And what is idolatry-it is practically worshipping some part of creation, but it also means not noticing the Creator. But when we notice the Creator behind the creation and start honoring Him, your faith becomes whole and not broken into pieces.
Paul saw idols everywhere! If you want to understand how to behave according to your faith in the Creator in your workplace or in your life situation, look for your idols. If you want to understand the root of problems in your work or life-look for and get rid of idols! Then you will work in a different way, listen to music in a different way, make deals in a different way, and build relationships in a different way.
The last thing Paul did? He preached the gospel and the resurrection from the dead. It was a bold thing to talk about the resurrection in those days. But He wasn’t afraid to talk about Jesus Christ! The place where he speaks to Festus and Agrippa. I really like this place. Paul says: “Jesus was raised up,” and Festus started laughing. Pavel turns around and says: “Ask Agrippa.” Agrippa was a Jew and he grew up in Palestine, he was there at that time and knew about everything that was happening. He knows about this because all this did not happen in a secret place, that is, hundreds of people were and could have witnessed the resurrection of Christ. The fact that this is all real and true — makes Christianity strong and able to change you! This is exactly what Paul began to proclaim in the square. Other religions promise peace inside, but not in the square.
And yet, Paul called Him by his first name — Jesus! When Paul saw these idols, he became indignant out of jealousy. He wanted you to see the Love of God, the Love of Jesus, and how much you can be loved by Him! Paul wanted to say that the only way to get rid of idols is to love God! We must experience God! This is Christianity! The truth has become a Person and now it is possible to access the Truth through a relationship with Jesus Christ! This is how life changes!
Can you feel what Paul felt, what he saw and experienced, how he behaved? Do you see how people are saved by their idols? Do you distinguish between your idols? Do you still see only two groups of people — religious and not? Or do you see those who are saved by the gospel and those who are saved by their idols?
If you are still not Christians, you will probably say, Oh, I don’t have the ability to believe so rejected… I want to address you. My dear friends, you already have tremendous faith, but the problem is that this faith is not in Jesus, that’s the only difference! What do you believe in? Career, family life? Status? Power? Money? Entertainment? But I want to warn you that when you do not meet the expectations of your God, he will not leave you alone and will not forgive you. But if you get your God, you will never be completely satisfied with him. There is only one God who can comfort you, love you, and protect you. And only one name will save you — that’s Jesus!