Third, Paul says that God not only sustains the universe but that he also guides the affairs of men. Verse 26: “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”
Paul’s address begins in verse 22. It is a classic. When you write a formal address or sermon, you generally begin with an introduction, have three or four main points and then a good conclusion. This is exactly what Paul does here. He has a short but brilliant introduction, followed by four clear points. His first point is that God is the Creator of all things. His second point is that God is the sustainer of all things. His third point is that God is the ordainer of all things. His fourth point is that we should seek Him. Then there is a conclusion, which says that we should repent since we have not sought God as we should. To this he appends three sharp inducements.
Paul’s late missionary efforts centered on the cities of his world. At the beginning, when he first set out with Barnabas, he passed through Cyprus from one end to the other, and we are told almost nothing about any specific ministry in towns. But after he went to Asia Minor, which we call Turkey, he worked in some cities there, small ones at first, then larger cities. At last, when he came to Europe, his ministry was focused almost entirely on the great cities: Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, and now, in this chapter on Athens, the greatest city of them all.
The church Paul founded in Thessalonica soon experienced persecution. Those who did not believe were jealous and moved to round up certain bad characters—the kind you find hanging around on street corners everywhere—and with these started a riot in the city. They went to Jason’s house because that is where Paul and Silas were staying. They did not find them. They found Jason and a few other brothers instead. So they dragged them before the city officials, shouting, “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus” (vv. 6-7).
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