Christian Family Fellowship

Scripture of the Week

Ephesians 4:26-27 (ESV)

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
27 and give no opportunity to the devil.


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INL April 1, 2005

Oh, To Be a Babbler

  The sermon Paul preached at Athens in Acts 17 is one of the greatest presentations of God’s Word ever recorded. Paul had been rushed away from Berea and was waiting for Silas and Timothy to join him. This time waiting was time well spent. While Paul was waiting his spirit was stirred within him as he sees the rampant idolatry. He responds immediately and goes to the synagogue to reason with the Jews and to the marketplace to reach the Gentiles.

  When Paul spoke, he preached Jesus and the resurrection. This was revolutionary. They had heard about most every god and goddess, and they even had idols erected to them. This preaching of Jesus and the resurrection was something totally new. The intellectuals in Athens called Paul a “babbler” and then brought him to Mars Hill to learn more of what he had to say.

  Calling Paul a "babbler," as the KJV states, sounds like a term of derision that showed lack of respect for Paul. However, if he had been derided in the marketplace why would he be brought to Mars Hill for further discourse? A proper understanding of the Greek word translated "babbler” sheds a much different light on the situation.

  The Greek word for babbler is "spermalogos." "Spermalogos" literally means a “seed-picker” and was used of birds, which spend their time picking up seeds. It was applied to men who traveled and picked up scraps of information from others. Rather than being maligned, Paul was seen as one who could make a significant contribution to their understanding. The Areopagus of Athens was much like our Federal Supreme Court; the most important issues were brought there for discussion and dissemination.

  Paul was seen as traveler who picked up "seeds of wisdom" along the way. Verse 21, is a parenthesis to explain why Paul was brought there. It seems that the Athenians and the strangers that passed through enjoyed nothing more than to tell, or to hear some new thing. They had no newspapers, TV, radio, or internet, but they got the "news" from what they were able to "pick up" in the market place! The intellectuals of Athens heard Paul preach about "Jesus" of whom they are not familiar. When Paul reached the Areopagus at the top of the hill, he saw a perfect opportunity to introduce Jesus to the intellectuals of Athens.

  Knowing the law that he could introduce no new god, Paul referred to the alter with the inscription "TO THE UNKNOWN GOD." The Athenians had erected this alter in case they had missed a god that they didn't know about. Using this as his springboard he expounded Jesus and the resurrection. God opened a door of utterance, and Paul takes this perfect opportunity to tell them about the one true God, the God unknown to them. So, in the Greek, we have a completely different picture, and find that the Athenian intellectuals had great respect for Paul, and excitedly invited him up to the Areopagus to hear the "seeds of wisdom" that he had picked up in his travels!

  Of course the preaching of the resurrection caused quite a stir. The three responses he received to his preaching are the same three we will have today.

Acts 17:32-34:
And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.
33 So Paul departed from among them.
34 Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

  Some will mock, and some will put us off, saying, “I’ll hear you again on this matter.” But, there will be others who will cleave unto us and find in the resurrection the newness of life that Jesus Christ came to make available. Oh, that we may make the same inroads into our culture that Paul made in his. If we will be about our business of preaching Jesus and the resurrection, who knows what doors God may open to us to speak at our service clubs, PTA meetings, civic groups, school assemblies, etc. Oh, to be a babbler and pass on the seeds of wisdom regarding Jesus and the resurrection.

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