TODAY’S READING: Acts 17
Whenever a Muslim friend tells me Islam and Christianity are compatible, I slap him on the shoulder or knee with a big smile and say, “I am so glad that you believe that Jesus is God!” They immediately protest and then we have a genuine conversation. Paul entered Thessalonica and preached the deity of Jesus, for resurrection proves His deity, it proves Jesus is the Christ, God who came down to save. The gospel message must center on the deity of Jesus. This focus will provoke hostility and charges of turning the world upside down (Acts 17:6). If only that charge were true of the church today. It is certainly what Paul did wherever he went, including Athens. While Stoics opposed pleasure, Epicureans worshiped it and avoided pain at all costs. Both errant philosophies are still with us in various forms, for some yet worship the body and others neglect it. Paul corrected both errors by preaching Jesus as the God who came in the flesh, died in the flesh, and rose again in the flesh, living in holy pleasure and enduring great pain for glorious good.
What Paul did not do was soft serve the gospel. If you don’t understand Middle Eastern indirection, you miss the force of Paul’s assault on errant thinking. First of all, Paul’s spirit was provoked; he was angry at idolatry. The fact that the philosophers called his reasoning “babbling” showed he was confronting them, not accommodating, as he clearly preached the deity of Jesus, a doctrine new to them. This leads to a trial. In other words, just like in Thessalonica and Berea, Paul preached Jesus as God in Athens and was in hot water, but he did not back down: “I see you blockheads even have an altar to a god you do not know, so I will inform you blockheads of whom you ignorantly worship. Only blockheads think God dwells in temples made from human hands. Only blockheads think He is worshiped with human hands. God has overlooked your blockhead ignorance for a time, but now commands you to repent, and you better do so quickly because Jesus who is God is coming to judge you.”
The fact that Paul quoted some Greek poets does not mean non-biblical scriptures can be used to make theological points. Paul based his argument squarely on the nature of Jesus, the God who became flesh in order to show us through the pain of the cross what sanctified pleasure should be. Paul slapped both sets of philosophers across their spiritual faces with the reality that Jesus is God. We have no other way forward in missions. We must affirm both the humanity and the deity of Jesus boldly, winsomely, and unapologetically. The result was that some mocked and some believed as is ever the case when Jesus is proclaimed as the God made man who died on the cross and rose from the dead. Wherever we go, we must preach Christ crucified and risen from the dead. Wherever we go, we must proclaim that Jesus is God.
 “By the 1st century A.D. the council of the Areopagus had regained much of its former authority. The assembly to which Paul preached was again the chief governing body in Athens, a position it would keep until the advent of Christian domination in the 4th century A.D.” The Chronological Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008. 1290.
 My paraphrase of Acts 17:22–31.