Acts 17:22-31 says;Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:
TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood[c] every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
It amazes me that in our day and age, we as ‘God’s People’, can read these verses in Acts 17 and yet so easily pass over this verse, the one I have highlighted in blue.
I have been a believer in Jesus Christ for over 30 years, well over half of my life, and I can still remember the first time I heard this portion of scripture. It was on the night I got born again.
The grey headed old man who sat there in a Christian coffee shop in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, one Saturday night back in November of 1984 spoke those words to me.
That is not where it ended though. He went on to speak to me for about an hour about the love of God in Jesus Christ and the provision of a Redeemer for all of mankind. This man knew the gospel and more importantly, he knew Jesus.
That night Ed presented the gospel to me in no uncertain terms. Ed presented what he knew. He presented the truth, or should I say, he presented The Truth.
Then the Holy Spirit stepped it up a level and said this through Ed, ‘This is a command, we are commanded to repent. This is not an invitation, there is a big difference. If it were an invitation by God to us we would be well within our rights to decline that invitation without any consequences.’
But it is not an invitation. God has spoken clearly through the mouth of Paul and has said the same to every man, woman and child on the face of the earth through-out all of history, REPENT.
In doing so, the Holy Spirit left no room for me to side step what God Himself was saying to me through a mere mortal. God used a man to present the gospel to me. I had to make a decision there and then on the spot.
Paul the apostle was inspired by the Holy Spirit to speak these words in Acts 17 to a group of learned philosophers. These guys were no dummies. They knew their stuff. They spent all day every day talking about all sorts of new ideas that were coming up all around them. Paul called them ‘very religious’.
Here was Paul, standing in the midst of a lot of spiritual darkness, in a city that was known for its idolatry, the writer says that ‘his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was given over to idols.’ Acts 17:16.
We read in Deuteronomy 32:15-17
But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked;
You grew fat, you grew thick,
You are obese!
Then he forsook God who made him,
And scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation.
They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods;
With abominations they provoked Him to anger.
They sacrificed to demons, not to God,
To gods they did not know,
And again Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:18-22,
‘Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?’
These are just a few of the many scriptures I could point out that detail how there is demonic activity behind every idol, whether it is a physical object or an idol in our hearts.
We are told that we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities etc. Paul knew exactly what he was talking about. He had had first hand experience in the demonic realm.
So, Paul is standing in Demon HQ on Mars Hill in Athens. Greece. These people were given over to idols. These entities ruled the lives of those who worshipped them. You only need to look at the world we now live in and see for yourself what is going on.
We become like the thing we worship. If we love and worship God we will become like him. If we love and worship men over God we will become like those people whom we set up to be more important than God. If we worship false gods/demons we will become like those demons. This is plain and simple. It is spelt out clearly in the scriptures.
Psalm 135:15-18 emphatically teaches this principle:
“The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths. THOSE WHO MAKE THEM WILL BE LIKE THEM, AND SO WILL ALL WHO TRUST IN THEM.” (Emphasis added)
Paul stood on Mars Hill and preached one thing, Repentance. This was not an invitation, it was a command.
John the Baptist preached repentance, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Matt 3:2
Jesus, from day one, preached repentance, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
And what did Peter preach on the day of Pentecost, repentance!
Let me make it plain and simple, the gospel with out repentance is not the gospel.
There are many churches out there now who have left out things like repentance, sin, the Blood and hell. There are many supposed world renown speakers and teaches who no longer preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are preaching a watered down version of the message that Christ himself set out for us.
Seeker Sensitive, Emerging or Purpose Driven, Universalist, Dominionists and so on. All of these groups in one way or another have changed the gospel. What they now preach is not what Paul preached.
Look at Galatians chapter 1, God was very clear about this issue as He inspired Paul by the Holy Spirit to pen the following:.
6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. Emphasis added
This is not an Old Testament warning, it is Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and speaking to the early church.
How is it that we think we can get away with it now? Has God’s Word to us changed? No, it has not. This warning still stands today as a reminder that we do not add to or take away from God’s Word.
Who are we to change the message? Who are we to think that we can come up with a better gospel than that which was delivered to us by Jesus, John Baptist, Peter and Paul?
Who do we think we are to say to God that the message that was given to us by God is just not good enough?
Who do we think we are? Are we better or smarter than God himself?
All who call upon the name, that Holy Name of Jesus Christ need to search their hearts and allow the Holy Spirit to shine His light into our lives and deal with us if we have gone down this path
.On that day there will be many who will stand in the presence of the Holy God who cannot look upon sin and they will say, ‘Didn’t we do this in your name and that in your name? Didn’t we preach the gospel and tell people to follow Jesus and all their problems would be solved?’
By then it is too late.
And what of the many who supposedly come into the kingdom on such a message?
They may have seen the kingdom but I doubt they have entered. Yes, I know, only God knows who will make it in and you are right to say this but scripture is very very clear, entry into the kingdom is by one way only, Repentance.
God commands all men everywhere to repent.
Repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.