An exercise in contextualizing the gospelIntroduction
The importance of Paul's sermon to the Greeks at the Areopagus, Acts 17:22-31, lies in the fact that it is presented to Gentile non-Christians who have little or no understanding of the Bible. As such it is an extremely relevant gospel presentation for 20th century people.
i] Paul carefully presents a basis for his message by defining the person of God and the state of humanity.
ii] The main thrust of his message is that the centre of our created being is found in our capacity to relate to God, a capacity presently unfulfilled. We are therefore lost.
iii] There is little reference to Jesus other than Daniel's reference to the coming "Son of Man" - the man who judges, v31. This is evidenced by God "raising him from the dead."
iv] Jesus' fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy is not mentioned.
v22-23. Paul is probably stating the fact that the people are religious. They are concerned about knowing God and willingly admit that they don't know everything about Him.
v24-25. God is defined. He is creator of all things, Lord, independent and sustainer (he gives life).
v26-28. Humanity is defined. We are created, of one entity/flesh, located in the environment of the earth, limited to time/space continuum, and in the "image of God (ie. Our being centres on God and only finds fulfillment in relationship with him).
v29. The human condition, sinfulness. We have worshipped and sought after the creature rather than the creator.
v30. God's demand and our response - repent.
v31. Warning. Judgement for those who fail to respond. The resurrection is the guarantee of this. It is the punch-line of the sermon.
1. Arrange the Areopagus sermon to fit the Kingdom of God gospel structure outlined in A Theology of the Gospel.
God, his existence and creation
The human condition
i] The time is fulfilled
ii] The Kingdom of God is at hand
Not yet: Blessings and cursings
iii] Repent and believe
i] Sin and it's result - A lost relationship with God.
ii] The time is fulfilled - The person of Jesus, crucified but victorious at his resurrection.
iii] The blessings of the Kingdom - a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
iv] Repent and believe.
3 Contextualize the sermon. Rearrange the sermon, add to it and develop it if you wish, but explain the reasons for each change from the original in Acts.
4. Assess the following presentation based on the Areopagus sermon and once used widely in Australian Evangelical circles. In relation to A Theology of the Gospel note changes in structure, additions and points missed or understated.
This is God's world and we belong to God. We are not our own to do as we like. God has made Jesus Christ master in his world, and he has the right to control our lives completely.
All men have rebelled against Jesus Christ's right to control their lives. They wish to be independent. This rebellion may be active or passive but it is real. God does the only thing you would expect him to do. He calls on everyone to stop rebelling, to turn back and submit to Jesus Christ.
If a person does turn back and stop rebelling, general amnesty is awarded them. They are no longer treated as a rebel, but are given the treatment that a loyal person is given. Their past rebellions are forgiven because of the death of Jesus on their behalf.
If a person continues in rebellion and will not turn back, then they must be overthrown in the end. Not because God is angry, but because Jesus Christ is master in God's world.
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