Paul Preaches to the Philosophers

Read: Acts 17:16-34

Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along . . . I found also an altar with this inscription: “To the unknown god.” (vv. 22-23)

Last year my wife and I went on a Mediterranean cruise, and one of the stops we made was Athens. There on top of the Acropolis stands the remains of one of the most majestic of all Greek temples, the Parthenon. At the foot of the Acropolis is the Acropolis Museum where I spent several hours walking among the statues, many of them images of Greek gods and goddesses. I felt a bit like Paul must have felt observing all the idols.

The Athenians were known for their philosophical discussions, so Paul had no trouble in finding some people to discuss his views on God. His observation was that the Athenians were “very religious.” One inscription especially caught his eye: “To the unknown god.”

Paul approached the Athenians differently than he did the Jews. He wanted his hearers to come to know this God that until now had been unknown to them—a God not made with hands, but the maker of all things (vv. 24–25). His approach was more of a Christian philosopher. It was an example of what Paul would later say: “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). With all the diversity around us, we often face the same challenge.  —John Koedyker

As you pray, ask God to help you witness to the gospel in this diverse world.

About the Author

Rev. John Koedyker has been a pastor in the Reformed Church in America for more than forty years. His ministry began in Japan where he served as a missionary for ten years. After that he has served churches in Iowa and Michigan. He has served as the Stated Clerk of Muskegon Classis, RCA, for the past sixteen years and also presently serves as pastor of congregational care at First Reformed Church of Grand Haven, Michigan. John has written a number of times previously for Words of Hope and he has a bi-monthly religion column in the Grand Haven Tribune. He is married to Marilyn, and they have four grown children and seven grandchildren.

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