Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Heart and center to the conflict in Acts 17:16-31 is the identity of this God proclaimed by Paul. As he has been discussing the Gospel with the Jews, he also finds himself talking with some of the Greek philosophers. What is this new message? It is one which, if we think about it, runs completely counter to all our expectation. We have virtually no experience with this idea.
I often speak with young Christians who are confused by this very confusion. Why do we find it confusing? Within the Christian culture it is fairly normal to talk about a God who makes demands, some form of forgiveness of our disobedience to those demands, and an attitude of favor from God despite whatever else might be wrong. This has become second nature to many Christians.
What message does natural revelation give us? It is a completely different message. We live in a world which is best characterized by “eat or be eaten.” Life is rough, then you die. You reap what you sow. If anything good happens in your life, it must be because you did something good. You scratch my back, I scratch yours. You stab me in the back, I would wish I had a chance to stab yours.
This is exactly what the Jews and the Greek philosophers were expecting. The idea that God himself took upon himself the penalty of all our wrongdoing by going willingly to death, then rising from the dead to bring eternal life to all who believe, rather than those who did enough heroic or charitable acts - this is absolutely crazy talk!
Paul makes a very persuasive argument in Acts 17. However, it is not widely accepted by those who hear him. He is faithful about the identity of the true God. However, only a few people believe. Our world, as a whole, is not ready to accept such teaching. But to all who do receive it, they are promised the very same life of resurrection that Jesus has. This is the true Gospel.
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