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Sermon #5743

Paul Preaches at Athens

A Sermon on Acts 17:21


Acts 17:21 ESV KJV
Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new. (ESV)

Sermon Description

No one can turn the gospel into something ordinary; it is extraordinary! Look at the confusion of Corinth and the church today. Why do modern people not like the miraculous and supernatural? They are more concerned about this world than the next. Take heed, for one is temporal and one is eternal. In this sermon on Acts 17:21 titled “Paul Preaches at Athens,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones preaches on the essential truth of Christ’s resurrection from the dead to Heath Evangelical Church in 1977. If Christ was only a man who taught moral principles, there can be no assurance in the gospel. Christ’s resurrection announced that He had satisfied everything the Father required of humanity. One day His people will be perfected not only in spirit, but also in body. Jesus’s teaching alone only serves to condemn; no one can even keep their own standards. People often fail to keep a New Year’s resolution, so how do they think they can achieve their own righteousness? The world is as it is because of sin. One cannot fight the devil; Christ alone has conquered every enemy and can clothe people in righteousness. Christ builds His kingdom through individual conversions.

Sermon Breakdown

  1. Dr. Lloyd-Jones begins by introducing the passage from Acts 17 where Paul preaches in Athens. He notes that this encounter is important because it shows the conflict between Christianity and human culture/civilization.

  2. He then gives an overview of the great achievements of Greek civilization at the time, focusing on philosophy, politics, art, architecture, and science. However, he argues that this civilization was already declining and unsatisfying by Paul's time. The Athenians were always seeking some "new thing" to give them meaning.

  3. Dr. Lloyd-Jones says human civilization goes through periods of ascendancy and decline. We are currently in a period of decline and crisis. Many secular authorities like Henry Kissinger also recognize this. Civilization cannot provide ultimate meaning or purpose.

  4. The key characteristics of human civilization are that it starts from man, trusts in human reason and achievement, and looks down on ordinary people. But it ultimately leads to a lack of purpose, dissatisfaction, and even despair. The suicide rate was high even among philosophers.

  5. Although the Greeks had a magnificent civilization, Athens was full of idols and temples. This shows that human reason and philosophy were not enough - they still sought meaning in idolatry and superstition. "Where human learning most flourished, idolatry most abounded."

  6. The moral condition of Athens was extremely corrupt, as Paul points out in Romans 1. Their civilization led to moral decay and purposelessness. All civilizations eventually decline and fall.

  7. In contrast, Christianity starts with God, not man. It is based on God's revelation, not human reason. Paul preaches with certainty and authority because of this revelation. Christianity provides meaning, purpose and moral direction.

  8. Paul preaches that God created the world, but men have rebelled against him. God has appointed a day of judgment for the world, and he has given assurance of this by raising Jesus from the dead. People must repent and believe in Jesus to be reconciled to God.

  9. Christianity provides new life through the resurrection of Jesus. It gives ultimate meaning, purpose and hope - not through some new philosophy or idea, but through a new creation.

  10. Dr. Lloyd-Jones concludes by asking whether we trust in human civilization and reason, or in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Civilization ends in despair, but the gospel provides eternal hope.

Itinerant Preaching

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh evangelical minister who preached and taught in the Reformed tradition. His principal ministry was at Westminster Chapel, in central London, from 1939-1968, where he delivered multi-year expositions on books of the bible such as Romans, Ephesians and the Gospel of John. In addition to the MLJ Trust’s collection of 1,600 of these sermons in audio format, most of these great sermon series are available in book form (including a 14 volume collection of the Romans sermons), as are other series such as "Spiritual Depression", "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" and "Great Biblical Doctrines". He is considered by many evangelical leaders today to be an authority on biblical truth and the sufficiency of Scripture.