Christians are losing their power and influence … because they are losing their separateness.- Charlene Kaemmerling
When Robert Ingersoll, the famous atheist, was lecturing, he once took out his watch and declared, “I will give God five minutes to strike me dead for the things I have said.” The minutes ticked off as he held the watch and waited. In about four-and-a-half minutes, some women began fainting, but nothing happened. When the five minutes were up, Ingersoll put the watch into his pocket. When that incident reached the ears of a certain preacher, Joseph Parker, he asked, “And did the gentleman think he could exhaust the patience of the Eternal God in five minutes?” 
The world outside of God’s sheepfold is fond of playing this game of spiritual chicken. “Come on God prove to me you exist.” As Paul faced the religious skeptics in Athens, he explained a foreign concept to them, the patience of God. People are familiar with the wrath of God, or so they think, but patience is a concept far from the mind of the skeptic. In this post, we will cover the final two ways Paul turned their religious thinking on its head and left the learned spinning in their philosophical seats.
Jesus is the Savior (v. 30).
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. As Paul brought his arguments to a close, he summarized the clear evidence of God’s patience and the power of His grace. For centuries, God was patient with man’s sin and obliviousness.
“This was to show God’s righteousness because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” Romans 3:25
Let’s not get things confused here. This by no means indicates that humanity was not guilty, as You will see below in Romans 1.
For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So, they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Romans 1:19–23.
What Romans 1, does reveal is that God withheld His divine wrath. Does that fit the narrative of a God who wants to punish all humanity in a whimsical sort of way? It instead exposes a different side of God that we Christians know all too well; God is a God of love. In His time God sent a Savior, and now He commands all men to repent of their foolish ways. This Saviour was killed and then raised from the dead, and one day, Jesus will return to judge the world. The proof that He will judge is that He was raised from the dead.
Paul wipes away the prideful Greek culture by calling it “times of ignorance.” With all their knowledge and learned thinking, and being the height of culture, the Greeks failed to find the true nature of God. If humanity just repents and believes, God is ready and will forgive no strings attached.
Jesus is the Judge (v. 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.” Acts 17:31
There will come a day when God will judge. God has appointed a day of judgment, and the Judge will be His Son, Jesus Christ. Why that should give us comfort is that this is not some distant judge, but one who understands our struggles and our temptations because he has experienced them Himself. For us as believer’s, judgment day is not a day of dread but a time of celebration. If we trust Christ through faith in His death and resurrection, He will save us. However, if we reject Him, tomorrow He will judge us.
The people of Athens responded with three different attitudes toward the Gospel. Surprisingly enough those responses are still relevant today. 1) Some people openly oppose the Word, 2) some will mock it and even openly challenge God to prove His existence as in the opening illustration, and 3) some receive the Word gladly and believe. We cannot control the response. We are not called to, that is all the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit produces faith.
God calls us to be seed-planters and not to grow tired and discouraged.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
The proof of the pre-eminence of Christ is the resurrection. It is no unknown God but a risen Christ with whom we have to deal. And this Christ has died and risen from the dead for you and for me, and invites us to believe on Him and live forever with him in Eternity. Does it make sense to the learned, NO? It is a message and a gift that we receive by faith alone. The Holy Spirit makes the Unknown Savior, Jesus Christ the God of our Salvation.
The other post in this series: