"You men of Athens, I perceive that you are very religious in all things..."
3 Miles Per Hour
Apostle Paul's speech at the Areopagus is sometimes considered a textbook example of a perfect sermon. And it was well constructed all right: Paul showed extraordinary skill bringing together and contrasting the Greek religious thinking with the gospel. In his sermon he appealed to the intellect of his audience and strived to find a common ground with the ideological currents of his time. He even claimed the people of Athens were trying to serve God - albeit unwittingly, along with their other gods.
There was just one problem. The sermon did not seem to reach the desired goal. A modest intellectual interest was triggered and some questions raised, but only few hearts were opened to the gospel. There was no Christian church to be born in Athens as the result of Paul's effort.
Leaving Athens behind, the apostle travelled to another pagan city, Corinth. It wasn't a very long journey, only about 50 miles. By car, it would have taken an hour. But it was probably good that Paul had no car. Because of that he had plenty of time to chew over his experience in Athens.
When Paul finally arrived in Corinth, his approach had changed. Later, he writes about it in his first letter to Corinthians:
"When I came to you, brothers, I didn't come with excellence of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith wouldn't stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." (1 Cor 2:1-5)
It is hardly a coincidence that Paul's preaching had such a different effect in Corinth, compared to Athens. Many were converted through the simple, anointed message. Eventually, a strong Christian congregation arose in Corinth as the fruit of the revival. Paul ended up staying there for 18 months teaching the word of God.
So, what's there for us to learn? World Carfree Day is such a brilliant idea...
- Markku Sarento