Nov 08

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The question is far from being new, but it still needs continually to be addressed! However, never in my lifetime has there been a greater need that attention be given to it. Once the gospel was taken from the Jews of the first century, in that, the Jews having rejected it; the apostles turned their attention to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46). The Gentile world was mostly pagan, having many so-called gods. Luke describes Paul’s reaction: “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry” (Acts 17:16). Our spirit should/must be “stirred” within us as we see America today; they too are “wholly given to idolatry!”
What was Paul to do seeing such? Before answering the question, allow me to point out just a few things. First, Paul fully believed in the power of the gospel; as he wrote: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). Second, Paul viewed himself as “debtor” to all; as he wrote: “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise” (Rom. 1:14). That covered the whole of humanity in his time! Third, there was not a place that Paul was not willing to go, as he wrote: “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also” (Rom. 1:15). If every Christian had this same attitude; working through local congregations in which they are members; then, the churches of Christ would be able to say: “Which (the gospel, frw) is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth” (Col. 1:6).
Now, let us return to Athens and see what Paul did, his “his spirit” being “stirred” within him. First, let us notice that we might be prone to conclude, there is no need to preach the gospel in such a place as no one will be ready to receive it! Isn’t this what we so often think? Years ago, I was preaching a gospel meeting in a small area of Arkansas; where there was a man, who with his wife had given land so a building for the local church of Christ could worship. This man was not a Christian, he saw no reason to obey the gospel, even though he was in every worship. In this meeting, I used an old type of preaching with a flannel board to aid my preaching. One night I preached on the first steps of obeying the gospel and how it worked. The man, who was eighty years old, came forward at the end of the sermon and humbly obeyed the gospel to the saving of his soul. There was total silence, his wife could not speak a word; as no one could believe that this man, after nearly twenty years of being present for worship, hearing sermon after sermon but he never gave any indication of obeying the gospel but on this night he did. Afterward, when the good folks had gotten themselves together, asked him why he now had obeyed the gospel. His answer was one of simplicity: “I never saw the need before!” By using the physical aid of the flannel board, he was able to see clearly what baptism did! What he had never seen before was the purpose of baptism! Question: after all the sermons, all the efforts before, that had gone by, this man showing no interest in obeying the gospel, would you have thought that he was a good person to study with? Be honest now!
Well, the above was a man who did believe in God, but we are addressing the subject of those who do not believe in the existence of God. The Gentile world of Paul’s day was just such a word! Yet, this fact, never stopped the apostle from preaching the gospel to them. Let us return to Athens and see a little of what Paul said. Luke wrote: “Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious” (Acts 17:22). He addressed right where they were, spiritually speaking. They were without God and had no hope of life in the hereafter! They were not without “religion,” as Paul said, “ye are too superstitious,” and this word is the Greek, “deisidaimonesteros” and means “more religious than others” (Strong). Like those of today, they are not without “religion,” as our English word expresses the idea of “beliefs.” Get this now, even the person who says that he does not believe in the existence of God, has a “religion.” His “religious” beliefs are largely self-formulated. Many such people stand ready to individually debate you. He/she will stand by their self-made “religion” while laughing at you for being “religious!”
Question: What is the “god” of the America? It is largely the “god” of materialism; the “god” without mind, having no rights and no wrongs, other than what they believe today and is subject to change tomorrow. Paul’s answer to such, is right even for today: “For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you” (Acts 17:23).

Frank R. Williams

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