The Apostle Paul was a man of great learning. He had an elite education. He was, by any reasonable standard, an effective writer. While in Athens, the crown jewel of Greece and Greek culture, Paul followed his typical pattern of proclaiming Christ in the synagogue among his fellow Jews. From there he expanded his witness to the Gentiles. It was during this time that certain men of influence invited Paul to make his theological arguments before the gathered philosophers in the amphitheater (Areopagus) on Mars Hill.
The Greeks, like most of the peoples in the Ancient Near East, conceived of a rather chaotic universe overseen by a multiplicity of gods. These gods were variously gifted with different powers, authority, and spheres of influence. Like their human creators, the gods could be kind or cruel, thoughtful or capricious, faithful or duplicitous, honorable or immoral. They were at times jealous of one another to point of engaging in warfare. The gods were also amorous, engaging in sexual relations with each other and/or various human consorts. The religious world of the Ancient Near East, including the sophisticated Greeks, was one of superstition.
Paul’s address to the philosophers in Athens aimed directly at their superstitious view of reality. He confronted them with a vision of the world which was certainly supernatural but not at all superstitious. The universe was created intelligently and orderly. The world did not spill forth from the chaotic fumblings of the gods. Ours is a world created and upheld by an eternal and self-sufficient God. Furthermore, it is a world which has been frustrated and broken by sin.
As Paul proclaimed on Mars Hill, now is the time for repentance; the time for sinners to turn away from their sin. Rebellion against God and the ruin it has caused must be reckoned with in a just universe. God has been patient. He has withheld judgment. But the day is coming when Jesus Christ himself will judge the world in righteousness. And God has not left us without a witness to this coming day. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead – an historical fact witnessed by many hundreds of people and confirmed through 2,000 years of attack – is the assurance God has provided that, while judgment is coming, salvation for everyone who believes is also held forth freely. The authority of Jesus to judge the hard-hearted and to save all who believe was confirmed in his glorious resurrection from the grave. Jesus is both our dying Savior and risen Redeemer and King.