Read This Week: Acts 26
At this point, Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.” “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” The king rose and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. After they left the room, they began saying to one another, “This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.” – Acts 26:24-30 NIV
Christian Apologist, William Lane Craig that is known as one of the great scholars and thinkers of our time, said this about belief and the reasonable nature of saving faith in Jesus Christ:
“People who simply ride the roller coaster of emotional experience are cheating themselves out of a deeper and richer Christian faith by neglecting the intellectual side of that faith. They don’t know the riches of deep understanding of truth, of the confidence inspired by the discovery that one’s faith is logical and fits the facts of experience, and of the stability brought to one’s life by the conviction that their faith is objectively true.”
The Apostle Paul is making the same assertion to Agrippa in Acts chapter 26. He is defending himself and does so as he has before by sharing his testimony of conversion and life in Christ. He states, in a logical and reasonable way, what he experienced, learned, and observed in himself and others as a follower of Jesus.
At one point, his testimony causes the crowd to erupt in anger, and Festus, the governor, interrupts and accuses Paul of being insane. But he does so not because he believed Paul had lost his mind, but because Paul’s message of salvation through Christ had convicted his heart. Paul knows this and says in verses 25-27:
“I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”
Before Paul responds to Festus, he offered a summary of the gospel in verse 23. So, the two officials had now been confronted with a spiritual decision because they had heard the truth. Festus refuses faith through the accusation of madness and Agrippa eludes it by his superior attitude and belittling Paul’s witness to the gospel. He said, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
Their responses are not unlike so many today. When a person refuses to come to Christ, it is usually not because of a lack of evidence or the reasonable tenets of the gospel. The rejection comes because people ignore and reject the truth and the Holy Spirit drawing on their hearts. Unbelief is a spiritual problem, not a reason or intellectual one.
Just like Paul testified to in this chapter, ours is a reasonable faith. The Christian life and experience is not based on a mystical fairy tale or ambiguous data from ancient times that are unsubstantiated. There is historical, factual, and philosophical evidence that not only points to the story of God but the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of this, there is no conflict between faith and reason within Christianity.
This is how we should live our lives and share our faith with others. Our confidence should come from the ongoing affirmation that our faith is logical and syncs with observable experience. At the end of the day, the truth is undeniable and no one can effectively argue against a changed life.
Read This Week: Acts 25
Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, where the chief priests and the Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. Then Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.” Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?” Paul answered: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving of death, I do not refuse to die. – Acts 25:1-2, 8-10 NIV
Acts 25 is a continuation of Paul’s trial that seems to be going on for an inordinate amount of time. He has more than adequately defended himself and disproven all the charges against him with eloquence, grace, and truth. Now he is in front of the new governor, Porcius Festus, who does not even know anything about the original Jewish plot against him. So Paul finds himself having to make his case again.
Governor Festus does not cooperate with the schemes of the Jewish leaders, but he does invite them to confront Paul again so he can review the case in person. At this time, Paul remains resolute and stands up with clarity and says, “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.” He affirms his innocence again of any crime and does so with inspiring confidence in the Lord and his mission.
When Festus raises the stakes on Paul in verse 9 and asks him if he is willing to go on trial before the court in Jerusalem, the Apostle takes an even bigger stand. He says in verse 10:
“I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving of death, I do not refuse to die.”
With this tremendous statement of faith and courage, Paul undermines and destroys both the intent and case of the Jews. The religious leaders could not intimidate or make him denounce the gospel of Jesus as the Son of God because he was willing to face death for the mission. Their desire to kill him had no effect on Paul because his heart was already prepared to die for the calling that had been placed on his life.
This chapter communicates to us the reality of our trials. Sometimes they go on for longer than we want them to. Sometimes we have to endure the same attacks over and over again. Sometimes the Enemy is persistent in his accusations and desire to destroy us. But through it all, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we have to stand up. Stand up to the challenges that we face in this life and persevere with faith, strength, and an undying commitment to God’s mission.
Paul, the same person who stood trial before Festus in this chapter wrote these words in Ephesians 6:13, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” After we have done all we can do, sometimes the victory comes in just being able to keep standing up.
Read This Week: Acts 24
My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me. However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. – Acts 24:12-16 NIV
Some define having a clear conscience as “an inner feeling that acts as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior.” For the follower of Jesus, a clear conscience comes by the Holy Spirit to ensure no discernable hindrance in our connection with God or anyone else. It means avoiding sin against God or others with words, actions, or attitudes. To have a clear conscience toward people means being able to look others in the eyes without shame and know things are right with them.
In Acts 24, Paul is before Felix, a Roman Governor, addressing the charges being brought against him by the Sanhedrin. He has to listen to a presentation from Tertullus detailing his charges coming from the Jewish people. Then he is given a chance to respond to a personal charge, a political charge, and a doctrinal charge leveled against him. Felix does not examine Paul but simply gives him the chance to speak.
At this time, Paul puts on a clinic in how to properly address accusations. He does so with patience and grace, yet defends himself with boldness and confidence in the truth. He never gave up his faith, he knew his intentions of being in Jerusalem and was assured of his mission. These factors allowed him to speak with clarity and conviction about who he is. Verses 13-15 illustrates this in answer to his accusers:
They cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me. However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.
Paul systematically disposes of the three charges, affirms the truth of the gospel, and proclaims his allegiance to Christ in the context of his defense. He then finishes with a declaration of assurance about the rightness of his words, actions, and behaviors. He says in verse 16: I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. That was Paul’s spiritual mic drop moment. His conscience was clear before God and man. He not only defended himself against false accusations but further declares that there was no obstruction in his relationship with God and other people. He was clear.
This chapter in Acts is a tremendous example for any follower of Christ who is fielding accusations of wrongdoing or simply sharing and contending for the gospel. We should speak with clarity and conviction while maintaining faith in God’s Word, holding to the reality of what is true, and staying clear in our conscience before the Lord and other people. These things are all present in an impactful and successful life with God.
Read This Week: Acts 23
The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen. I wanted to know why they were accusing him, so I brought him to their Sanhedrin. I found that the accusation had to do with questions about their law, but there was no charge against him that deserved death or imprisonment. When I was informed of a plot to be carried out against the man, I sent him to you at once. I also ordered his accusers to present to you their case against him. – Acts 23:11, 27-30 NIV
We live in an accusatory world. The daily headlines are seemingly dominated by stories of accusations, allegations, and indictment of someone. The stories range from criminal to scandalous to centered around personality disputes and political affiliations. Accusations are serious things and can often lead to the destruction of a person’s life and work even if the allegations are false.
In Acts 23, Paul finds himself dealing with some false accusations and charges from the Jewish community because they did not like his preaching faith in Jesus. Because of these baseless allegations, he was nearly killed, arrested by the Roman government, and would have to stand trial before the Sanhedrin. Because his countrymen did not like or agree with his message, they sought to slander, stop and even end his life. This ancient story seems to parallel modern society.
Alleged wrongdoing, threats, and charges of conspiracy were nothing new for Paul. His life had been filled with allegations, false charges, and danger from the beginning of his ministry. The Hellenistic Jews tried to kill him during his first visit to Jerusalem (Acts 9:29), and he was driven out of Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:50-51) and threatened in Iconium (Acts 14:5). He was stoned in Lystra (Acts 14:19-20), and the Jews tried to get him arrested before in Corinth (Acts 18:12-17).
Through it all, Paul was not deterred or hindered in his mission. He knew the gospel, and the proclamation of saving faith in Jesus for all was bigger than the allegations, accusations, and attempts of the world to stop it. God always delivered him, preserved his name and ministry, and did so again here. Verses 28-30 tell us of Claudius Lysias, the Roman commander intervening on Paul’s behalf:
This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him… I found that the accusation had to do with questions about their law, but there was no charge against him that deserved death or imprisonment. When I was informed of a plot to be carried out against the man, I sent him to you at once.
The word allegedly means to be “accused but not proven or something that is questionably true.” In our current world, the term has taken on the new meaning of assumed guilt without proof. This is a scary proposition for followers of Jesus and those who hold to, espouse, and communicate a message that is not popular or liked by the forces of our day. Yet, God intervenes on behalf of His children, and He makes way for them to continue their mission. The gospel and the kingdom will always be more powerful than empty allegations and attempts to stop the advancement of truth.
As we read this chapter, it is hard not to be impressed with the commitment of Paul to his calling. He did not look for the easy way out and he didn’t cower in the face of lies, false assumptions, and persecution from alleged wrongdoing. He was willing to suffer it all, become a prisoner, and even die for the gospel. We also see the incredible providence of God as He cares for, protects, and shields His servants from allegations that aren’t true. May we be encouraged that He will do the same for us.
Read This Week: Acts 22
“‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. “‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me. The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!” As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. – Acts 22:8-9, 22-25 NIV
There was a great Christian song that came out at the turn of the century written by Charles Billingsley, and part of it goes like this: “These are the marks of the mission. These are the proof of all I’ve been through, the evidence of sin forgiven. All that I have I offer to you. I followed the call wherever it led me. It was worth every step of the way. I’ve come through the dark bearing the marks of the mission.”
The lyrics to this chorus could be the life song of the Apostle Paul after his conversion on the Damascus road. We see this summarized in Acts 22 during Paul’s message in Jerusalem about his conversion to Christianity and his mission beyond that time. We also observe what happened when he proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ as the savior for the Jew and Gentile alike.
In his sermon, Paul talks about his early conduct and his persecution of the church and followers of Christ. He then tells the crowd of his amazing conversion and affirms that Jesus is alive and that he saw His glory and heard His voice. Paul then sums up his talk with his special calling and mission to carry the gospel far away from Jerusalem to the Gentiles and the outer stretches of Asia Minor. At this point, the Jews would not permit him to continue and they became enraged and combative toward him. Verses 22-23 tell us:
The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!” As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks.
Then something miraculous happens. Paul appeals to Claudius, the commander, and tells him that he is being punished illegally because he is a Roman citizen and has not been found guilty of a crime. The commander realizes this and releases Paul to have a fair trial before the Sanhedrin. With the help and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, Paul knew how to make use of his Roman citizenship for the cause of Christ.
Acts 22 is filled with more examples of the marks of Paul’s mission. He had been beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and snake-bitten on his missionary journeys. He was not afraid of being flogged or the serious misunderstandings of his message that were taking place in Jerusalem. He simply considered all of this the evidence of his forgiveness and the will of God. It was worth it to him to carry the marks.
What are the marks of your mission? Perhaps you’ve never been beaten, whipped, threatened, or physically harmed for the cause of Christ. But maybe you’ve suffered the loss of relationships, a job, friends, and emotional hardship because you call yourself a Christian, and you choose to love and follow Jesus. These are just the proof of what you’ve been through. Proof of a beautiful life with God.
These are the marks worthy of the Savior who loves us and gave His life for us. May we embrace the privilege to bear the marks of the Lord’s mission and press on with joy.
Read This Week: Acts 21
When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” – Acts 21:12-14 NIV
Sometimes in life, there will be causes, purposes, and endeavors that will feel so vital and necessary that nothing and no one will be able to stop us from pursuing them. We will lay aside all inhibition, fear, and hesitation to make sure we can accomplish what we feel God is calling us to do. When compelled to go, we will go to great lengths to be on mission.
The posture and attitude described above are the exact conditions of the heart of Paul in Acts 21. He desired to go to Jerusalem and deliver the love offering from his third missionary journey and unify the church in Judea. However, his friends told him that a visit there would be hard and even dangerous. But Paul knew this because the believers had been saying to him repeatedly for a while not to step foot in the city. Verse 12 says:
When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem.
This pointed plea and repeated warnings would not deter Paul from His mission and the plan God had for his life. He knew that his presence in Jerusalem could create issues for the church, but God revealed His will to him, and nothing was going to prevent him from going and sharing the good news of Jesus. He is, in fact, the same person who wrote in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” His words to the disciples in verse 13 are powerfully similar:
“Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Paul’s faith and resolve in this chapter beg some questions for the modern-day believer and follower of Christ. What compels us to be on mission? What would it take to stop us from doing what God has definitively called us to do? How do we gain such confidence in the Lord’s work?
The answers to these questions don’t have to come at one time and don’t always have to be evident. That is where our faith in God’s perfect will comes in. That is where our trust in His heart, character, and goodness takes precedence over our human frailty and unbelief. That is where our love for Christ and the gospel overtakes any obstacle presented to us in life. That is when, like Paul, we can’t be dissuaded and say as he did no matter what, “The Lord’s will be done.” That is when we’re compelled to go.
Read This Week: Acts 20
Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. – Acts 20:32-38 NIV
Goodbyes are hard. It is a difficult thing to say farewell to people that have meant a great deal to us; that we have spent a considerable amount of valuable time. But parting ways can also be a beautiful testimony to the deep connections we have made with others and to the things we experienced and accomplished together.
In Acts chapter 20, we see Paul saying goodbye to some of the people that had meant so much to him. He was ready for another part of his journey and wanted to make one more visit to the churches that he helped start. Although he went to take up another collection for the poor and needy in Jerusalem, his purpose was to encourage and strengthen the believers so that they might remain faithful to God and continue the mission and movement of the gospel. Paul tells them in verse 32:
Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
Paul desired a spiritual legacy for his friends and those building the kingdom in Macedonia, Achaia, and Asia. He gives a farewell message to convey to them the importance of the church and how they should lead and protect it. In addition to proclaiming the Word of God, he tells them out of the example of his own life what they need to do to secure their spiritual inheritance. He writes in verses 32-35:
I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. These hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: It is more blessed to give than to receive.
A Godly legacy is secured by being careful (v.31) and staying alert to the price one has to pay to speak the truth. It is had by staying close to God (v.32) and being built up daily. It comes by avoiding covetousness (v.33) and being focused on what the Holy Spirit wants to do in our lives instead of what others have. A life that leaves a legacy is not lazy (v.34) and is diligent in the mission. Lastly, if a person wants to honor God, they must strive to overcome selfishness (v.35). Authentic ministry means serving and giving, not consuming or getting.
Read This Week: Acts 19
When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way, the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. – Acts 19:17-20 NIV
The society and environments that we exist in are full of variance, shiftiness, and fluctuation. Nothing is ever as it seems, and reliability on the people, circumstances, and institutions is at an all-time low. Doubt and uncertainty permeate our lives when it comes to everything from national events to relationships to daily activity. We all need and clamor for the things that leave no doubt and that we can base our lives on.
Uncertainty, confusion, and doubt seemed to be the order of the day in Ephesus. There was competing religious thought, Jewish and Greek influence, and even witchcraft and the dark arts. But Paul’s ministry was powerful in this region, and God was giving him opportunities to share the truth and the gospel. Everyone knew what Paul was saying and doing to the point that even his enemies had to admit it (19:26).
The ministry foundation laid by Paul in Ephesus led to some unbelievable events in Acts 19. God enabled him to perform special miracles, demonstrating His authority and power through the apostle in a place that the Enemy had gained a foothold. In this chapter, we see people practicing sorcery, a violent attack by a demon-possessed man, and others trying to perform exorcisms in Paul’s name. It was chaos and confusion caused by evil spirits and opposition to the Holy Spirit and the gospel message.
If these people had succeeded and continued in their ways, it would have damaged the movement of Christianity and the name of Jesus. But God used His power to turn their own evil schemes around on them and not only defeat these forces but leave no doubt in who was supreme. Verses 17-18 say:
The name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done.
Many of the believers who had been deceived by sorcery were convicted and confessed their involvement in it. The name of Jesus and the Word of God was held up in high esteem and because of this, it spread more rapidly and powerfully. Verses 19-20 say:
A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way, the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.
This is an incredible example to the modern-day believer and follower of Jesus. There can’t be any variance in our devotion to God and His word; no room for indecision, noncommitment, and experimenting with the things of this world. In a society gone mad, the Christian must leave no doubt about who they base their life on, put their faith in, and give their allegiance to.
Read This Week: Acts 18
Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria came to Ephesus. He was a learned man with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. – Acts 18:24-26 NIV
Teachability is the one human characteristic that seems to separate those who thrive and those who struggle in every walk of life. Those who are teachable, and stay in that frame throughout their journey, usually succeed in whatever they are attempting. By contrast, the unteachable usually fail.
It doesn’t matter how much talent a person has, when they are, or become, unteachable, they will never reach their full potential in their career, relationships, or calling from God. The author David Murray once said, “Teachability gets people to the top. But if they lose teachability at the top, they won’t be at the top for long.”
Acts 18 captures a tremendous story and example of teachability and the impact it can have, not only on the individual being teachable but on those around them. It centers on Apollos, an exceptional man from Alexandria, a place of education and philosophy in the Roman Empire. Verse 24 tells us this about who he was and his ministry in Ephesus:
Apollos was a learned man with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue.
Apollos knew the Old Testament and was able to teach it with power, authority, and boldness but, he was preaching an incomplete gospel. He was stopping at the baptism of John the Baptist. He taught nothing of the cross, the resurrection, or the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. He had passion but seriously lacked the spiritual knowledge to proclaim the whole gospel of Jesus Christ. When Paul’s friends, Aquila and Priscilla, heard Apollos teach, they decided to intervene and help him. Verse 26 says: When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.
Aquila and Priscilla didn’t rebuke him or embarrass him in public. They invited him to eat, have a conversation, and explain the gospel to him in the privacy of their home. They told him about Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit. They instructed him to incorporate these important things into his teaching and impart it to the people. We don’t know all the ins and outs of their talk but we know Apollos listened and responded. Verses 27-28 shows us what happens when a talented, passionate person is teachable:
When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.
The outflow of Apollos’ teachability was of great help to others and a powerful instrument in the advancement of the gospel message. None of us are above instruction, correction, and exhortation. Not in our relationships, parenting, jobs, and especially not in our walks with God. When we are teachable and submissive to the Lord and people, things can happen for God’s glory and the good of others. When we have a teachable spirit, we find success in life, and others around us benefit.
Read This Week: Acts 17
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. – Acts 17:22-25 NIV
Religious pluralism and how one regards truth through their religion is not just a modern idea. It is an ancient concept and reality. The attempt to have different and even conflicting religious views and still live in harmony is something Paul encountered in the 1st century as he took his missionary trips to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is evidence of his challenge of religious pluralism and subjective truth in Acts 17.
Paul entered Athens, a city once known as the center of culture and education, but had now declined in its influence. It had descended into cultural paganism, idolatry, confusing philosophical thought that had divided the society (17: 16, 21). Paul notices this and addresses their pluralism and confusing philosophies in verse 23:
As I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship.
Paul then puts on a masterful display of communication and presentation of the gospel by helping the council on Mars Hill understand the one, true God. The One they were confused about and missing right in front of them. He refers to their altar to “the unknown god” and uses it as an opportunity to explain who God is. Paul outlines the greatness of God as Creator (v.24), the goodness of God as Provider (v.25), the transcendence of God as Ruler (vv.26-29), and the grace of God as the Savior (vv.30-34).
In this seminal moment, Paul points to the foundational and epistemic elements of a Christian worldview and where faith and belief are formed on a philosophical level. It is crucial to identify these things as we live, make decisions, and express our faith in a chaotic and confusing world of moral relativism and religious pluralism. God is the known God, and He is ever knowable through Jesus and the Holy Spirit guiding us into all truth when we need it most. Verses 27-28 illustrates this point:
God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.
Furthermore, what we believe and why is rooted in an empirical, historical, rational, and spiritual bedrock. It is a reasonable faith that is based on the truth of the known God. As followers of Jesus, we must understand that it is logical and soundly philosophical to base our worldview on the historicity, authority, and veracity of the Scriptures and other sources that point to a greater truth.
The Bible reveals the known God and erases all confusion about who He is and what He has done for us. And just because someone does not accept the Bible as true, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still say, reference, or back up our assertions with it especially when it is the very thing that we base our lives and beliefs on. The Scriptures, although argued and contested by some, are still empirical and are still the authority on which we base our faith. Therefore, we can reference it as Paul did in Athens. It is worth stating and we should never withhold where and on what we base our beliefs so that others may know the Lord.