By Larry Ray Hafley
There were three reactions to the gospel following Paul’s discourse in Acts 17. “And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. . . . Howbeit certain men . . . believed” (Acts 17:32-34). Let us examine these responses.
(1) “Some mocked.” One ordinarily does not mock a thing unless he believes it to be ludicrous, ridiculous and incredible (cf. Acts 25:19; 26:8). This is probably the view of Paul’s audience (Acts 17:18). Their mocking, though, showed their failure to consider the evidence that had been presented. The apostle did not simply say that a man named Jesus died and arose. He outlined a basis for belief.
Occasionally, one will mock that which he inwardly fears may be right. Feeling the force of a position unable to overthrow the weight of proof, one may resort to ridicule in order to direct attention from truth. Have you never felt the blows of logic and reason, and, seeing your stance eroded, attempted to regain your place by lashing out emotionally? Perhaps that is why “some mocked” in Athens. Do not be overly discouraged at such a reaction. Some can still be reached and won (Acts 5:17,18,40; 6:7).
(2) “Others said, we will bear thee again.” They were not quite convinced and converted. Shaken, but not toppled; staggered but not fallen-almost persuaded. There is hope for such souls. This seems to have been the status of certain ones in Antioch (Acts 13:42,43). This condition is fragile. It can go either way. If truth has made a dent or crack in the armor of their error, they must not be neglected or ignored. They must be given time to think, to ponder, to pray, but do not let them drift and be hardened. It is a delicate time. Judgment, discretion and patience are essential. Ask for questions. Set another appointment and encourage them (Acts 13:42,43).
Sometimes people will say “We will hear thee again,” just to be polite. In other words, “I’m not impressed; maybe some other time (never).” There is not much hope for such people. It would be better if they were extremely angry!
(3) “Certain men . . . believed.” This is the reaction all speakers seek. It is the climax to evidence presented. Jesus said, “Every man therefore that hath heard and learned of the Father cometh unto me” (Jn. 6:45). Note the action verbs — “heard, learned, cometh.” Next, observe the order in which they are listed. It cannot be otherwise.
What swayed and persuaded these men? It was not Paul’s eloquence and personal attractiveness. It was not a popular position where men jump on an emotional bandwagon. It was not a grand display of human intelligence and ingenuity. What, then? It was the barrenness and weakness of idolatry-of their gods, their righteousness, their grace, their hope-all devoid of eternal power, purity and promise. The glorious gospel of goodness, on the other hand, fulfills the enduring needs, calms the awesome fears, and forgives the condemning sins of all men. They heard a message that would not leave them enslaved in guilt and burdened with human ordinances that provided no satisfaction to the flesh or spirit. They saw a God whose gospel would not lead them in chains to the dark and endless bed of the grave.
They heard; they believed; dost thou believe?
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 16, p. 498
August 15, 1985