Harmony With God Part 3 of 3 -- By: Zane C. Hodges
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Harmony With God1
Part 3 of 3
Repentance And Idol Worship
The story of the conversion of Cornelius2 helps us to understand another important text on repentance. This text is found in the account of Paul’s speech on the Areopagus (Mars Hill) in the sophisticated pagan city of Athens (Acts 17:22–31).
As presented by Luke, Paul’s speech on the Areopagus has as its central concern the paganism that was everywhere so evident in Athens. Indeed the speech is even a classic model of the biblical and Jewish case against idol worship. There is not so much as a word in this speech about sinful practices. Instead its focus is on sinful worship.
It is from this sinful worship—from idolatry—that Paul calls on his readers to repent. He declares: Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to
repent, 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 (Acts 17:30–31; underlining added).
Obviously, the pagan idolatry of Paul’s hearers stood in the way of their turning to the true and living God in faith. No one who believed in the worship of images was prepared to accept the
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exclusive claims of the Creator and of His Son, Jesus Christ. According to Paul, the God he proclaimed was the Judge of all the world. Thus a man’s eternal destiny was determined by the true and living God, not by any of the countless pagan deities that Athens honored with her idols.
Thus Paul’s call for repentance from idolatry was intended to prepare his hearers to have dealings with the God who would judge the world in righteousness.
Cornelius, as we have previously seen,3 had already given up his idolatry before Peter came to his house. He was ready for Peter’s message. But where this readiness was not present—as it was not on the Areopagus—Paul’s message must lay the groundwork for that by challenging his hearers to turn to God from idols (see 1 Thess. 1:9).
Let us remember here too that the speech recorded in Acts 17:22–31 is the merest fragment of what Paul must hav...
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