This is a good sermon. Paul compliments his listeners. He tries not to offend. He establishes his main point—the oneness of God. Paul explains God’s greatness in terms his listeners understand. He quotes two of their poets. He keeps his remarks brief. We might expect Paul’s message to bring the house down.
That’s why I suspect that Luke includes this story, in part, to encourage preachers. For preachers who wonder if anyone is listening, most of the sermons in Acts are disheartening. After Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, 3,000 join the church. Peter’s next sermon leads to 5,000 decisions. Those numbers are astonishing to everyone and depressing to preachers. Paul’s sermon in Athens is as good as Peter’s sermons in Jerusalem, but the reaction to Paul’s sermon is lukewarm at best: a few offer to listen to him again if he’s ever back in town.
We might guess that they do not like the section on repentance, but Luke says the crowd interrupted Paul when they heard of the resurrection (v. 32). Paul’s audience of philosophers does not know what to do with the idea of God raising Jesus from the dead because that puts Paul’s God above the other gods. They don’t like the suggestion that the God revealed in Jesus is greater than all the gods they worship, and certainly would balk at the idea that this God is the only God. The Athenians love to talk about religion, but they do not want to limit their choices. The problem they have with Paul’s sermon is that it is centered in the belief that there is only one God.
Every day we look for life in a variety of places. We need to recognize that God is the one source of everything that is good.
How do you look for life in the wrong places?
God, help me to see that you are the one who gives hope, joy, and love. Amen.