Unstoppable! 'The Core Is Always the Core' — Acts 17:22-26

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

So Paul, standing before the council of the city Athens, addressed them as follows: "Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: 'To an Unknown God.' This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I'm telling you about.

"He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn't live in man-made temples, and human hands can't serve his needs — for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries."

— Acts 17:22-26 NLT

Key Thought

Those who train missionaries today for contextual cross-cultural missions still use Paul's address to the Athenians as an example. Comparing Paul's messages to different audiences shows that the beginnings of the messages for Jews and Gentiles are quite different.* They both, however, end up leading their audiences to Jesus, his suffering on the cross, his death, and his resurrection. Paul knew that the message of the cross and resurrection** was a stumbling block to many. He also knew that these truths formed the core message of the Good News Jesus sent him to proclaim (1 Corinthians 15:1-7). I love the dexterity with words and the care Paul took with ideas. He used different approaches to his audiences based on what they knew, believed, and considered familiar but always got to the core message. I pray that we learn to be more aware of the backgrounds of those that we are trying to reach today and that we learn the best ways to approach them!

* Compare, for example, Acts 13:14-43 and Acts 17:2-4 (Jewish audiences) with Acts 14:8-18 and Acts 17:22-31 (Gentile audiences). As Luke made clear in Philip's approach with the Ethiopian "of great authority" in Acts 8:26-35, he began with where his audience was!

** See the Related Scripture Readings.

Today's Prayer

O Father, thank you for everyone who tries to share Jesus with others. We ask, dear Father, for the Holy Spirit to help so that our preparation and study of cultural understandings are effective and to help us follow the early evangelists' example of sharing Jesus in culturally understandable ways without sacrificing the core message of the Good News. We cannot do this without the promised help of the Holy Spirit. We ask for this grace in the name of Jesus, the one whose story we want to share. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

  • 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
  • John 1:1-18, 14:6; Acts 4:12; Hebrews 1:1-3

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Illustration

Illustration of Acts 17:22-26 NLT — So Paul, standing before the council of the city Athens, addressed them as follows: "Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: 'To an Unknown God.' This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I'm telling you about.

"He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn't live in man-made temples, and human hands can't serve his needs — for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries."

About This Devotional

Unstoppable! is a one-year devotional guide through the book of Acts. Each devotional consists of a scripture passage, a reflection and a prayer. The reflection opens up the day's scripture and shows how it challenges one to live for Jesus.

Unstoppable! is written by Phil Ware.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.