Monday after the Second Sunday in Advent
Scripture: Acts 17:16-34 (NKJV)
16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. 17 Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. 18 Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? 20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.”
21 For all the Athenians and the foreigners who 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 the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” 33 So Paul departed from among them. 34 However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
The Athenians, like all people, knew by nature that God existed, and that they owed Him their worship and service. But they didn’t know who God is or how He is to be served, so they invented worthless idols and sinfully worshiped the work of their own hands, for which they would surely be condemned. But then God gave them a precious gift: He put St. Paul in the right place, at the right time, to proclaim the true God to them, so that they might know Him, repent of their idolatry, believe and be saved before the great day of the Lord’s judgment.
God’s impending judgment on the world highlights the urgency for unbelievers to repent, because the very same Jesus who was born of Mary, crucified and raised from the dead, will soon come to judge the earth, and when He comes, all who are found outside of Him will face the severe judgment of God’s holy Law. But those who are found in Christ will escape God’s judgment, because the Holy Spirit, through the Means of Grace, has brought them into the Christian Church, “where there is nothing but pure forgiveness of sins.” Now is the time to know and to worship the true God by hearing and believing His Word. Now is the time for the saints to walk in daily repentance and faith, that we may be prepared on the day when God will judge the world in righteousness.
Collect: Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of Your Only-Begotten Son, so that by His coming we may be enabled to serve You with pure minds; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.