Our Response to the City

When the Apostle Paul went to Athens, he was entering one of the largest most influential cities of his time. As he looked around that impressive city, his heart was broken by the lostness of the people. But believing God had called him there to share the gospel, Paul engaged the philosophers and city leaders, challenging their world view and inviting them to rethink their concept of God. As our own city grows and changes, we must ask ourselves if we are prepared to approach Jacksonville the way Paul approached Athens. We can choose to ignore what’s happening in our city. We can become isolated and resist the changes, or we can embrace these changes as being from God. How can we expect non-believers to change their hearts and minds if we are unable to change our hearts and minds to embrace them? 

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

Acts 17:16-34

Principles (KNOW THEM):

1. Don’t ignore changes in our city.

2. Don’t hate changes in our city.

3. Embrace our city.

Practices (DO THEM):

1. Pray for our city.

2. Ask how you can help. Be involved.

3. Share the gospel, always. When necessary, use words.

Daily Readings:

Sunday: Acts 16-17
Monday: Acts 18-19
Tuesday: Acts 20-21
Wednesday: Acts 22-23
Thursday: Acts 24-25
Friday: Acts 26-27
Saturday: Acts 28

Suggested Resources:


Paul: A Biography, by N.T. Wright
Paul: A Man of Grace and Grit, by Charles Swindoll

Sermon series on ssbc.org:

Journey to the Ends of the Earth (2018)