Phil’s Points to Ponder for May 21, 2017

The Apostle Paul was completing his missionary journey when he stopped off in Athens. At that time Athens was the center of western civilization, the home of the great philosophers, and the intellectual center of the world. Being the intellectual giant he was, Paul probably enjoyed roaming the streets of the renowned town. As he walked, he was struck by the number of statues to the various Greek gods.
One day Paul had the opportunity to address the Athenian people from the famous Areopagus. Athenians loved to hear new ideas. Some of them came every day to this spot to listen to various viewpoints and philosophies. Some of them had heard Paul speak in the synagogue, others in the marketplace. The people were intrigued with his strange ideas. Paul was a novelty. The Athenians had inquiring minds; they wanted to hear something new.
Paul was standing in the place where the famous Greek philosophers once stood to address the crowd. He began by telling the crowd how much he had enjoyed walking through their city. Paul complimented them, “I see how extremely religious you are in every way.” It’s important for us to see that Paul didn’t condemn the Athenians for worshipping idols. He was smarter than that. Paul knew from experience that the best way to win people is with honey and not vinegar.
There is an interesting story about the French philosopher, Voltaire. He was visiting London in the year 1727. This was a time of strained relations between France and England. Walking along a street one day he found himself facing an angry crowd of Englishmen. “Hang the Frenchman,” they began screaming. Voltaire quickly took advantage of the situation. Taking a couple of steps backward, he called out, “Englishmen! You want to kill me because I am a Frenchman? Am I not punished enough already in not being an Englishman?” The crowd not only applauded; they saw to it that Voltaire got home safely. Paul used that same kind of strategy with the people of Athens.

WHEN WE START WHERE PEOPLE ARE WE HAVE THE GREATEST CHANCE OF WINNING THEM OVER TO CHRIST.

The Apostle Paul begins with a compliment, not a condemnation. He didn’t tell them they were way out in left field. He began his message where they were. He acknowledged their many statues to gods. This indicated their yearning for God and he complimented them on that yearning. While walking, he told them, he had seen an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.” The Greeks believed in many gods. They had a god for every occasion. Just to cover all the bases they built this altar to “an unknown god” in case they had left any god out. Paul says in a very friendly and non-coercive way, “I’d like to tell you about this unknown god.” That’s evangelism at its best. 

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