Use one or both of these questions to introduce the lesson:
1. Why do many tall hotel buildings not have guest rooms on the thirteenth floor? What are some other popular superstitions in our culture? Do you think most people really believe that certain things are bad luck? If not, why might they avoid them anyway?
2. Apologist G. K. Chesterton is often credited with saying, “When a man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything.” What does that mean to you? What evidence have you seen supporting it?
Read Acts 17:16-21.
1. Was Paul’s trip to Athens planned? Explain by referring to Acts 17:1, 5, 10, 13-15. How might Paul have felt at that time? What motivated him to preach in Athens (v. 16)?
2. Paul had preached in synagogues, but now was preaching in the marketplace. How does the question asked in verse 19 require a different answer than synagogue questions? Where might a missionary go today where he or she would have to begin at square one when explaining the gospel message?
3. Verse 18 indicates that Paul was asked to distinguish his faith in Jesus from three other views of how one should live: life is good if we make sound decisions (Epicureanism); life is hard so we must be tough (stoicism); and our lives are determined by capricious gods (determinism). (The word for resurrection is similar to the female name Anastasia, so it sounded like Paul was promoting a couple made up of a god and a goddess!) How would you distinguish Christianity from those three worldviews?
Read Acts 17:22-31.
4. An old gospel song carries the title, “Jesus Is the Answer.” In response, some skeptics quipped, “So what’s the question?” How was Paul’s approach to his pagan audience focused on the questions their culture asked? (See verses 23, 27, 28.) How could we use a similar strategy today in cross-cultural evangelism?
5. Skim through verses 24-31. Try to summarize Paul’s view of the God not known by the Athenians with some simple statements beginning with “God is . . .”.
Read Acts 17:32-34.
6. We talk about a figurative “line in the sand,” a point at which one must decide to continue in a course of action or to turn back. What was the line in the sand for the Athenians first hearing the gospel of Christ? Why is the resurrection of Jesus an essential doctrine of the church (1 Corinthians 1:18–2:5)?
7. Although we don’t like to admit it, the culture in which we live has uncritically accepted many outright pagan ideas. Try to compose your own Areopagus address that briefly challenges our culture to accept the answers offered by the gospel.