Recently I read that Oprah is going to interview Lance Armstrong concerning his using performance enhancing drugs to help him will seven consecutive Tour de France’s. As you well know, Oprah has interviewed a number of interesting people concerning a variety of topics.
Suppose Oprah wanted to interview you and she gave you an open door to talk about anything. No censorship; nothing off the table; you can talk about whatever you want. What would you say to her and the world? Would you talk about politics or the economy? Would you want to discuss AIDS or world hunger? Would you use that precious opportunity time to express your views on gun control or immorality? Would you talk about the weather or sports? What would you say to the world if you had the opportunity I can tell you what the Apostle Paul would say –
1 Corinthians 2:2 For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
Epidemics like AIDS or issues like world hunger are real problems and very important. So is our economy and the increase of violence. But first and foremost the Apostle Paul would talk about who Jesus Christ is and why He came to this earth. Paul would choose that topic because he would know that all these other issues are actually symptoms of the real problem. The real problem in the world today is the human heart and only Jesus Christ and Him crucified gives us the answer.
I have good news for you today. Most messages are three points. This one is only two. And to make it even better, I’m only going to cover point 1 today and the 2nd point next week.
I. The Simplicity of Paul’s Message
Paul said that telling others about who Jesus is and what He did was his number one priority. Why was Paul so determined to talk only about Christ?
A. Paul’s Frustration at Athens
To better understand this we need to go back a little bit and see where Paul had just been before he came to Corinth.
The Apostle Paul was one of the church’s first missionaries. He traveled throughout the Roman Empire, preaching the gospel wherever he could find an audience. According to one source, he may have traveled as much as 10,000 miles during his lifetime , and all for the sole purpose of telling people about Christ and Him crucified.
On his second missionary journey, Paul traveled through regions we today might know as Syria, Turkey, and Greece. Along the way he came to a major metropolis are known as Athens.
Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world. It has been in existence for at least 7,000 years. It has been called the “Intellectual Capital of Mankind.”  Socrates was born there and so was Plato. Aristotle, one of the greatest minds ever known to mankind, lived there and so did the philosopher Epicurus. Athens was known for its:
– Art and Architecture
– Mathematics and Sciences (Physics, biology)
– Political Sciences (Cradle of Democracy)
In Acts 17 we read of Paul’s time in Athens –
Acts 17:16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.
The Greeks believed in a number of gods. I’m sure that you’ve heard of Greek mythology. At the time Paul visited the city, there were hundreds, if not thousands of idolatrous statues throughout the city. To see so many people caught up in such foolish made Paul sick to his stomach.
As usual, Paul’s first stop was the local Jewish synagogue. The Bible says that the gospel is ‘to the Jew first.’ There Paul would preach about Christ and reason with men from the Old Testament. After some time, the news about this “new philosopher” spread across the city and Paul was invited to come to the Are-o-pagus, which was the place where the leading men and philosophers of the city would come to discuss philosophical issue. The Bible says that the Athenians spent their time in nothing else, but either telling or hearing new things.
Acts 17:19 And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? 20 For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. 21 (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) 22 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. 23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription , TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. 24 God that made the world and all things therein , seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; 26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed , and the bounds of their habitation; 27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him , though he be not far from every one of us: 28 For in him we live , and move , and have our being ; as certain also of your own poets have said , For we are also his offspring. 29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. 30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at ; but now commandeth all men every where to repent : 31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained ; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
Paul said to them – “There was a time when God was willing to overlook the ignorance of men who foolishly worshipped idols; but now He has commanded everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to Him, for there is a day coming when God will judge the world for its sin and He will do so by a Man whom he has divinely appointed. God has proven that this Man bears His authority by raising this man from the dead.”The Man Paul spoke of was the Man, Christ Jesus.
Acts 17:32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.
I say this to encourage some of you who are trying to share your faith in places that sometimes seem hostile. The Bible teaches us that there are many who won’t believe. Some may even mock usu. Yet there are others who will believe, therefore we must keep sharing the gospel.
Romans 10:12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard ? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
The only hope the lost have is that someone will love them enough to tell them about Jesus.
Paul’s experience at Athens was somewhat frustrating; therefore I believe that it heavily influenced him when he made his next stop which was Corinth.
B. Paul’s Focus at Corinth
The Bible says,
After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. (Acts 18:1)
Corinth was also a part of the Greek world and culture. Though not as intellectual as Athens, it was nevertheless heavily influence by Greek thinking. Therefore Paul feared that human wisdom and reasoning might again stand in the way of men hearing and receiving the gospel. Therefore Paul said –
1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
Paul said, “I did not come to try to draw a gathering to me. I did not try to impress you with my human wisdom. I did not want you to focus upon me. I wanted you to focus upon Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
1. Paul’s Weakness
1 Corinthians 2:3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
Apparently the Apostle Paul got nervous just like the rest of us. The Athenians called Paul a ‘babbler.’ My mom used to say that there were some people who loved to talk to hear their head roar. That’s what they said of Paul. The word ‘babbler’ refers to a crow. “This fool is cawing like a crow.” Not very flattering. Note Paul’s response in 1 Corinthians 1:23
1 Corinthians1:23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
Humanly speaking, Paul was weak in many ways. Some of his enemies said of him, ‘His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.’ Many believe that Paul was a short, bow-legged, bald-headed Jew. Yet Paul didn’t mind their criticism because all he wanted was to bring glory to his Savior.
Galatians 6:14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
If 21st Century Christians are going to impact the world the way 1st Century Christians did, we’re going to have to adopt a similar philosophy about life. As long as we’re worried about being cool, we’re going to be influenced by the world, rather than influencing the world.
2. Paul’s Witness
1 Corinthians 1:4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing [persuasive] words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration [manifestation] of the Spirit and of power: 5 That your faith Should not stand [exist based upon] in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Paul was extremely intelligent and perhaps equal to any Greek philosopher on Mar’s Hill. As a matter of fact, during his message to them he quoted from one of their resources.
Yet Paul did not want men to glorify him or to trust in his philosophical wisdom. He wanted men to trust in God and to experience first-hand the undeniable life-changing power of the gospel.
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
‘I’m not ashamed to talk with anyone about Jesus, for I know that the gospel message concerning Him has the power to penetrate a harden heart and to bring men to salvation.’ Some of us don’t witness because we’re afraid that we don’t know enough to tell them how to be saved. Listen brethren, we don’t save people. God saves people and He does so by the power of His gospel.
What is the gospel? The word ‘gospel’ means good news. What is God’s good news? Look with me at 1 Corinthians 15 –
1 Corinthians 15:1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
The gospel is simply this – God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to this earth to die for our sins. “Christ died for our sins”, Paul said. Why did Jesus die for our sins? Let me give you three reasons:
a) Because we are sinful and thus unable to help ourselves
b) Because the wages of our sins is eternal damnation in a place called hell
c) Because Christ’s death on the cross has: the power and authority to:
(1) Pay the penalty in full for all of our sins
(2) Provide the possibility for complete forgiveness
Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
And to prove that Christ’s death on the cross is sufficient to save us, God raised Jesus from the dead.
1 Corinthians 15:4 And that he was buried , and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
To prove that Christ’s death has such power and authority, God the Father raised Him back to life after His death. Jesus is not still in a tomb somewhere in Palestine. Jesus is seated at the right hand of authority beside the Father and one day He is coming back to this earth to rule and reign.
More than anything else, Paul wanted them to know this, for only through faith in this simple message can a man be saved and enter into heaven.
C. Our Faith in the Gospel of Christ
Paul preached this glorious message to the Athenians and many mocked him. Those mockers are in torment right at this very moment. They left this world laughing and entered into the next screaming. I am thankful for the last verse in Acts 17-
Acts 17:34 Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Ar·e·op·a·gite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
A man by the name of Dionysius and a woman by the name of Damaris believed and were born again. They are in paradise at this very moment.
What about you my dear friend? Which group are you a part of? Are you a part of those who mock or those who believe? Christ died for your sins and He rose again the third day to prove His ability to forgive. Have you ever received Him as your Lord and Savior?
Go to: HOW TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN