June 29, 2020

What Does This Babbler Wish to Say?

Acts 17:16–34

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Paul in Athens

16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

Paul Addresses the Areopagus

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,1 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

  “‘In him we live and move and have our being’;2

as even some of your own poets have said,

  “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’3

29 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.


[1] 17:24 Greek made by hands
[2] 17:28 Probably from Epimenides of Crete
[3] 17:28 From Aratus's poem “Phainomena”

What Does This Babbler Wish to Say?

Key Verse | Acts 17: 24-25, 28

"The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. . . . [F]or '[i]n him we live and move and have our being.'"

Bio | Amy Merritt

Hello! My name is Amy. Wife to Chuck for 13 years, mom to Ava (9) and Wyatt (6), and redeemed daughter for eight years. God in His lovingkindness pursued me for 32 years before I turned and saw Him. He pulled me out of the pit from the effects of childhood sexual abuse and gave me a new song to sing. You will find me serving at Watermark Urgent Care Plano. There I get the honor to share God's grace and truth with Collin County, pointing patients to Jesus—the only One who heals the brokenhearted. 

To hear more of my story, you can listen to my re:generation testimony.


Central Truth

God gives us life; Jesus gives us a new life. The Holy Spirit allows us to walk out our faith in love toward others.

Devotional | Acts 17:16–34

Have you ever shared your faith and felt like those listening didn't understand what you were saying? Some may be shocked when we share confidently and boldly about a relationship with a loving...

Have you ever shared your faith and felt like those listening didn't understand what you were saying? Some may be shocked when we share confidently and boldly about a relationship with a loving Father. We can learn from Paul how to observe, listen, and love. And then we can be faithful truth-tellers and ambassadors of God.

Serving at Watermark Urgent Care, we get the privilege of walking in Paul's footsteps, bringing the good news of Jesus to patients in Dallas and Collin County. Just like in Acts, when we share the good news of Jesus, some come to know the goodness of God, but others choose not to. Paul shared all along his journey from Thessalonica to Ephesus; he told everyone about what he experienced. His confidence was in Jesus, whom he knew personally; and his life was eternally changed. Paul did not identify as a murderer, angry, or vengeful. He saw himself as redeemed, beloved, forgiven. There was nothing holding him back from sharing the good news of Jesus with anyone.

I often wonder why little ol' me gets the opportunity to tell people about Jesus. I mean, most of the time, I feel like Moses in Exodus 4:10-13. I don't have the right words to say, and I know I am going to stumble trying to communicate clearly. But then I remember the pit from which God pulled me. I once believed that I was worthless, abandoned, dirty, and covered in shame; but God showed me His unconditional love and grace. Now I am a new creation, a chosen daughter, pure, blameless, and without a single fault (Ephesians 1:4). I am humbled and honored to give an account for the hope that I have (1 Peter 3:15).

No matter what you share—your story, a truth you believe, or a promise you have seen fulfilled—do your best to leave others with a sense of awe and wanting to ask questions to get to know the God you love.

God doesn't save us for ourselves; He wants us to go and tell! Now when I get to talk with people, my "are you kidding me, God?!" has turned to "wow, God, what a privilege, here I am."

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Discussion Questions

1. Paul's spirit was provoked as he listened and observed those he encountered—is yours? Do you experience grief or sorrow over the lost? Read Isaiah 61:1—you are provision for others to hear the good news of Jesus. Do you believe it? 

2. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus tells us to make disciples. We can't do this if we don't know how to communicate our own story of grace. An easy way to do this is to fill in the blanks: Before Christ, I was                     ;  Jesus changed my life by                     ; now I am                     . Would you share this with someone today?

3. Do you know the stories of those around you in your workplace, school, or neighborhood? You can show others dignity because we all are made in the image of God. Find out who others are; where they are from; and, at the right time, share your story of grace. With whom can you initiate a conversation today?

4. While Paul is an excellent example from whom to learn, God gives each of us our own story to glorify Him. For example, the Samaritan woman in John 4:39 gave an incredibly short testimony that brought others to Jesus. The sin He redeems us from and the ways He gets our attention are unique to us, but they are also a way for others to see Jesus in our life. If the grace and love of God have truly impacted you, everything about your life should change like the Samaritan woman's. Whom can you tell about what God has saved you from?

9 Comments available

Patrick Gibbons 7 months ago

What a wonderful devotional. And your Regen testimony is one of the most powerful I’ve heard, truly expressing God‘s love and power and grace and tenderness. Thank you Amy. Grace and peace to you.

Jennifer Kling 7 months ago

Amy! It was a joy to see your face and read your wisdom this morning. I’ve missed getting to hear that wisdom on a regular basis. Thank you for such a powerful reminder.

Sue Bohlin 7 months ago

Beloved Amy! How you glorify the Lord through your beautiful life!

I had 2 takeaways from this passage.

First, Paul modeled not only a powerful method of sharing the gospel, but also the mark of a master teacher: he connected the dots between where his hearers already were and what they believed, and the good news of our good God. That first dot was an obsession with novelty, which interestingly is the same dynamic driving a porn addiction. Some things don’t change much over the millennia . . .

Second, Paul quotes a Cretan poet from 600 BC, “In him we live and move and have our being.” Having just finished a week of apologetics and worldview teaching at our Mind Games Camp, I recognize the counterfeit of this truth in pantheism, which says, “In IT (impersonal godness) we live and move and having our being.” Love that dot-connecting!

Greg Jones 7 months ago

Areopagus, same court Socrates was tried in 400years earlier. Paul definitely fairs better than Socrates.

Luke’s Greek readers are probably more familiar with Socrates trial than we are now. One irony we can know, some Socrates students cause big problems in Athens stirring up trouble back in the day. Good chance that’s why Socrates was put on trial and met his fate. For Paul, it’s not his students that are stirring up trouble, it’s his detractors. A classic Greek ironic point. No

The Jewish equivalent is-Paul teaching the Jerusalem council letter then circumcising Timothy. When Paul introduces Timothy to the certain Jews Luke has mentioned, they will say, “a gentile who will never be like us.” Paul can now say, “you’re right,” pull Timothy’s toga up, and say, “but now, you’re just like him, Galatians3:28.”

Michael Scaman 7 months ago

Here, Paul says Jesus resurrection is the proof Jesus is the one the world will be judged through.

Often said that Jesus died for sins and his resurrection is proof that God accepts that as atonement for sin, the check cleared.

Both right.

Judgement and salvation both through Jesus.

Robert Owens 7 months ago

Amy, What an insightful and tender devotional. Very well thought out and presented. Thank you. Robert Owens Mason, Texas

Hope Harris 7 months ago

GM JTJ Peeps, Today passage (22-34) contains one of my favorite messages from Paul.

Dr. Ray Pritchard states that it is the basis for the doctrine of Christian Equity:

All people are equally created in God’s image. All are deeply loved by God. All are stained and tainted by sin. All are able to be redeemed.

All people regardless of their background are significant, loved, fallen, and redeemable.

Paul’s point is clear. Since we all descend from the same person, there is no room for inordinate pride or a feeling of superiority over others. We’re all in this together—and we all need the saving touch of Jesus Christ.

Lord I am grateful that you are the one true God who wants to redeem and restore all people

Amy Merritt 7 months ago
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Praising God with you Hugh! His ways are so much better than ours. Thankful you and I both had our eyes opened to truth and life!

Hugh Stephenson 7 months ago

These people worship the “unknown god” as a catch-all; in case they missed one, (https://www.gotquestions.org/unknown-god.html).

For many years I asked myself, “Could God actually be known?” The issue was that I didn’t really want to know Him as I knew it would change my life. Forever. I was miserable in my sin but the familiar was better than unknown change.

In 2013 I leaned there really is a way to prove by reasoning from the scriptures who He is. And that the resurrection is true. And that the Bible can be relied upon as the revealed Word of God.

In faith conversations I encourage others to “consider the evidence” for the resurrection of Jesus and for the reliability of the Bible. Like the men in this passage some express interest but most just keep on going in the same direction. I am thankful for God’s patience, mercy and grace.

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