The Message and the Messenger

When Paul came to Mar’s Hill in Athens during his second missionary journey, he was completely by himself. Timothy and Silas, his associates in ministry had been left in Berea, while he was sent away by the brethren due to the dangerous and escalating conditions there (Acts 17:13). The unbelieving Jews who had stirred up the crowds in Thessalonica were intent on doing the same in Berea and consequently the apostle had to flee the area for his own safety.

Arriving in Athens, the apostle discovered a culture steeped in pagan idolatry. Surrounding him were the abundant evidences of man’s dark and fallen nature. The scene deeply provoked his spirit as he witnessed firsthand the grip that sin has over the hearts and minds of people, whom God had created in His own image. Not one for standing idle, the former Pharisee made a beeline for the local synagogue reasoning with the Jews and devout Gentiles and daily with those in the marketplace who would meet with him. Others, like the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers adversely encountered him, ridiculing and questioning his new and unique message of Jesus and the resurrection (v. 18). Not backing away and always ready to give an answer, Paul certainly relished the opportunity to clarify his message to these religious curiosity seekers (v. 20), who brought him to Mars Hill, the central meeting place in town. What followed was a concise, yet effective presentation of the Gospel in all its simplicity, demonstrating that is the power of God unto salvation—a message for everyone regardless of their cultural background or personal persuasions. It clearly shows that the Gospel can stand on its own and does not require any props or apologies to ramp up to its audience, no matter how diverse that audience may be. It is also a display case of the qualities and attitudes that are behind any successful Gospel ministry. What were some of the qualities and attitudes that Paul exhibited in this proclamation of the truth, qualities that we need to likewise embrace in our diverse, but depraved culture?

First, Paul demonstrated the quality of boldness. Without spiritual back up, Paul might have been tempted to waffle at the opportunity speak to the crowd assembled on Mars Hill. But standing in their midst, surrounded by an adverse and potentially dangerous audience he boldly proclaimed the truth of the Gospel. The scripture reminds us, “the righteous are as bold as a lion” (Prov. 28.1) and certainly Paul was that as he single-handedly preached the Word to them—“a stranger in a stranger land” with a “strange” message to a really strange audience. Paul was bold in the Lord and we need to be bold in the Lord, too.

Paul also exhibited respect. Even though he knew that he had to speak the truth in love, he also knew that he needed to “adorn the doctrine of God” (Titus 2: 10) and emulate the Savior who brought a message that was both “grace and truth” (John 1: 17). He knew that many, if not all of them were lost in the darkness of sin and were fundamentally opposed to the Gospel of Christ, but still there was no attitude of condescension in his opening remarks. Rather, he acknowledged what they were—not superstitious but religious and devoted to their cause. He commended them for their intensity (albeit misdirected intensity) and by so doing gained a listening ear, at least initially. We also need to be respectful in our presentation of the truth.

Paul was also direct in his message. He was frank about the core issue – ignorance of God and His way of salvation. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you” (v. 23). The altar dedicated and inscribed with the words “to the unknown God” only heralded their misconception of the true God. Paul did not “beat around the bush” or sidestep the issue, but was direct in his words, dealing with the real matter at hand. “The night is far spent, the day is at hand” Paul reminded the believers in Rome (Rom. 13:12) and the time is short for us as well. “Let the redeemed of the Lord, say so!” (Ps. 107:2).

Paul was also logical in his presentation. He was orderly in his argument. The major tenets of his message were: 1) they were religious, but ignorant (vv. 22-23); 2) the God Whom they do not know controls them and not the other way around (vv. 24-27); 3) we are the offspring of a personal God, and therefore should not worship Him with fanciful images and carvings (vv. 28-29); 4) their ignorance in the past God overlooked, but now calls people to repent based on Christ’s resurrection from the dead (vv. 29-31). At first, there was resistance to the message, but that resistance was countered by Paul’s powerful refutation, which was clear, orderly and logical in its development. Our messages should be the same. “The Preacher …set [s] in order many proverbs” (Ecc. 12:9).

As is often the case, whenever the Gospel is preached there is a varied response to the message. In this case, here there was ridicule and indifference (v. 32) but also belief unto the truth (v.34). The fact that there were not more “decisions” for the Lord was not because Paul did not effectively present the truth–it was because wherever the Gospel seed is sown there will always be hard ground that prevents it from taking root as well as indecisive hearts that have not yet been willing to release their grip from the pull of the world.

Paul’s message at Mar’s Hill was brief, but it was long enough to show us some of the essential qualities of the simple Gospel message that we also need to exhibit regularly in our preaching of the Word. May we be bold and respectful, direct and logical as we too bring the Gospel message with us, wherever we go.

God At Work


What God can accomplish despite difficult circumstances

Acts 12

The account of Peter’s imprisonment under King Herod and his subsequent release through an angel of the Lord (Acts 12) is not only a dramatic example of what God can do in the life of a Christian, but also a powerful example of what He can do in the life of a non-Christian as well.

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The Testimony of the Redeemed – Psalm 107

“O give thanks unto the LORD, for He is good: for His mercy endureth for ever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy…” Psalm 107:1-2

God’s grace extends to people from all walks of life and to all corners of the globe. The Psalmist exhorts us not to be silent in our testimony for the Lord, but to “say so” proclaiming how He has redeemed us “from the hand of the enemy.” To the searching (vv. 4-9); the stubborn (vv. 10-16); the sick (vv. 17-22); and the storm-tossed (vv. 23-32), God’s hand reaches down to the children of men in different ways and under different conditions but all with same result: to underscore man’s desperate condition and to highlight God’s mercy and wonderful works to the children of men. Let us not forget that it was this same Lord who also came to our rescue and delivered us from “so great a death” (2 Cor. 1:10) with a “so great salvation” (Heb. 2:3). What a story!

We’ve a story to tell to the nations,
That shall turn their hearts to the right
story of truth and mercy, A story of peace and light. — Nichol

The Way of Faith – Genesis 28

And [Jacob] dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.” Gen. 28:12

And He saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. John 1:51

Jacob’s arrival at Bethel told it’s own story: the journey was long, the sun had set, and he was all alone. Taking a stone for a pillow, Jacob felt the cold, hard realities of his self-chosen pathway. But in the midst of this personal crisis came a message from the Lord by means of a ladder that bridged heaven and earth. Centuries later, the Lord Jesus would reveal to Nathanael that hereafter He would be that ladder which carried God’s message of a lasting relationship through faith in His Son. To those who find themselves in the same desperate condition, God often breaks through in timely fashion to reach hearts that have been prepared by their own Bethel experience. Man’s need, God’s provision – praise His Name.

” O safe and happy shelter! O refuge tried and sweet! O trysting-place where heaven’s love,
And heaven’s justice meet! As to the pilgrim patriarch, That wondrous dream was giv’n,
So seems my Saviour’s cross to me, A ladder up to heav’n.” — E. Clephane

The Path of the Just – Proverbs 4:18

“But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Prov. 4:18
The day began brightly but soon turned dreary as a thick layer of clouds blanketed the sky. First a drizzle, then a downpour followed by intermittent showers throughout the day. Any hope for a “nice” day looked doubtful. But before evening approached, an opening appeared in the clouds allowing in a ray of sunshine to pierce the gloom. Before long, the clouds had parted and the sun was shining in a full blaze of glory. How the events of the day were soon forgotten! Though the storms of life may rage and the brightness of life’s promises are obscured, don’t forget dear Christian that you are traveling on a path that will lead to an eternal Day — where there are no clouds to lessen our joy in which the Son is shining in all His glory. How soon the past will disappear and how great our joy will be!

While we walk the pilgrim pathway,
Clouds will overspread the sky;
But when trav’ling days are over,
Not a shadow, not a sigh. – Eliza Hewitt

A Case Study in Conversion – Luke 19

“… make haste and come down, for today, I must abide at thy house.” Luke 19:5
“ And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully”. Luke 19:6

There was perhaps not a more unlikely candidate for salvation than Zacchaeus. Not only was he an unscrupulous tax-collector, despised by his own countrymen with a reputation to prove it (v. 7), but he was also rich and from a material standpoint probably had need of nothing. Yet in his heart, there was an aching to find out more about this Man named Jesus, who was to pass his way. He was commanded by the Lord to “make haste” and “come down”, which he did with joy, something that friends and money never provided him. Friend, what is keeping you from coming to the Lord? Is it your reputation or work? Do people get in your way? Or are you simply reluctant to humble yourself and “come down” to see what He has for you? “Make haste” and “come down” and you too can receive Him joyfully.

Make not conscience make you linger, nor of fitness fondly dream,
All the fitness Christ requireth, is to feel your need of Him.

The Road to Recovery – 1 Samuel 30

“…David recovered all.” 1 Sam. 30:19

A sadder picture there could not be. David, out of the will of God stands with his men amid the smoldering ruins of Ziklag, lamenting their loss at the hands of the Amalekites who had ransacked their camp and had taken captive their wives, children and all their possessions. The anguish of heart that David experienced was the inevitable result from his brief defection to Achish, king of Gath. Stripped of self and pride, David now encouraged himself in the Lord and launched a counter offensive against the enemy recovering all that he had lost. He was renewed in the Lord and as a result recovered all.
Christian friend, have you suffered some loss as a result of your friendship with the world? Return to the Lord and find your strength in Him, and perhaps you too will recover all.

“ Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed;I, I am thy God, and will still give thee aid; I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand –G. Keith

Hebrews 10 – Bethel The House of God

Acts 10 – The Conversion of Cornelius

1 Corinthians – The Challenges to the Church

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