Daily Devotional

October 11, 2019

Daybreak: Acts 17:1-34

“For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.” (Acts 17:28)

As young teenagers, my brother and sister were arguing over a matter of opinion. Since it was an opinion, neither could be wrong but they both could have been right. They went back and forth at each other for a while, and then my very frustrated brother hollered, “You just have no knowledge of being!” None of us listening had a clue as to what that statement meant, but it stopped the discussion and then eventually became quite a joke in our family. Now, when any of us want a conversation to end but also want the last word, we say something that makes absolutely no sense. That leaves our opponent with his mouth open and nothing to say. At various times, family members have discussed just what a “knowledge of being” was, but none of us ever came up with a good definition. However, the phrase has stayed with us for years now!

Recently, I read today’s focus verse, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being,” and it reminded me of that long-ago exchange. I understand, as did Paul the Apostle, that my true existence is through Jesus Christ. Paul was speaking to men in Athens. He had discovered an inscription in their city, “To the Unknown God,” and declared to them that he knew who this God was — the Creator of all! Paul told these men that God did not need to be unknown to them; He actually was ready to be found of them.

Before Jesus came into my life, I was breathing, talking, thinking, and functioning in my environment, but my life had no true essence or real meaning. Now, Jesus is my life! I know that I live and move in Him. I am His. I belong to Him, and I am who I am because He forgave my sins and made me His child.

People who have not given their hearts to the Lord do not understand what causes believers to have such loyalty and honor for Him. The “knowledge of being” is the answer. We can thank God that He is not unknown to us, and praise Him for giving us the wonderful, comforting, exciting knowledge of being His children. And then we can ask Him to help us share with others the love He has for them.

Background

After being released from the prison in Philippi, Paul and Silas continued their missionary journey. This chapter includes their visit to Thessalonica (verses 1-9) and Berea (verses 10-15), where they were joined by Timothy. The chapter concludes with Paul’s message to the people in Athens and their response (verses 16-34).

Thessalonica was located about one hundred miles southwest of Philippi. Paul and Silas traveled along Via Egnatia, the road between the Adriatic Sea and modern day Turkey. Amphipolis and Apollonia were significant cities along this road, and if the travelers were walking, they may have spent a night at each place. Thessalonica was the capital of Macedonia, a seaport, and a wealthy city.

Jewish people liked to study, discuss, and even argue about the Scriptures. Opening in verse 3 means “explaining,” and alleging means “to place alongside,” indicating that Paul used Scriptures the Jews knew to prove his statements about Jesus’ death and resurrection.

After three Sabbaths, the Jews no longer allowed the two men to participate in the synagogue. It appears that Jason was hosting the missionaries and the group of believers met at his house. Those opposing the Gospel “gathered a company” (verse 5), which means they formed a mob and caused an uproar. When the mob could not find Paul, they took Jason and some other believers to the city rulers, releasing them once they had paid security as a guarantee there would be no further trouble.

“The brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea” (verse 10), a city about fifty or sixty miles to the west. In that city, Paul and Silas again went to the synagogue, and those people were “more noble” (generous or of better disposition) and eagerly studied the Scriptures daily. Followers of the Gospel grew in number, but Jews from Thessalonica came and stirred up trouble, so Paul had to leave immediately.

Paul traveled alone to Athens (verse 15), which was the intellectual and cultural center of the ancient world. Art, architecture, education, philosophy, and idols abounded. Paul adapted his evangelistic strategies to his environment. Here he met with Jews in the synagogue, and with Gentiles in the marketplace. The Epicureans and the Stoicks were two of the primary groups of philosophers. The Epicureans were materialists, believing that matter was the fundamental substance of nature, life, and creation, and also that pleasure was the most important goal for living. The Stoicks were fatalists, and felt the supreme good was virtue and that reason was of greater consequence than emotion, so they taught a life of self-denial.

Areopagus is another name for Mars Hill, which was the location of the ancient Athens court. It also became the name used for the court itself. Thus Paul was brought before the supreme judges in Athens to explain his doctrine. Paul was well-educated, coming from Tarsus which had a prestigious university, and having studied under Gamaliel, the predominant Jewish teacher at that time. Beyond that, the Holy Spirit dwelt in him. His address to the court is given in verses 22-31.

Paul declared to them that their “Unknown God” was the Creator of the world who gives humanity life and breath. Beginning at verse 30, he introduced repentance and judgment by “that man who he hath ordained” (Jesus Christ) and the Resurrection.

Verses 32-34 give the response of those listening to Paul. At least one member of this imposing group, Dionysius the Areopagite, believed.

Amplified Outline

(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

IV.    The witness “unto the uttermost part of the earth”
    C.    The second missionary journey of Paul
        2.    The ministry in Macedonia
            d.    The ministry in Thessalonica (17:1-9)
                (1)    The message (17:1-3)
                (2)    The response of belief (17:4)
                (3)    The response of unbelief (17:5-9)
            e.    The ministry in Berea (17:10-15)
                (1)    The ministry (17:11-12)
                (2)    The departure (17:13-15)
        3.    The ministry in Achaia
            a.    The ministry in Athens (17:16-34)
                (1)    His message in Athens (17:16-30)
                (2)    The response in Athens (17:31-34)

A Closer Look

  1. What does God command all people to do? (verse 30)

  2. If God is “not far from every one of us” (verse 27), why is it necessary to seek Him?

  3. Paul adapted his style of witnessing to his audience. How can we know the best method of witnessing in a particular situation?

Conclusion

Is your life grounded in your relationship with Jesus Christ? He is waiting to be the focal point of your existence.

Reference Materials