“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)
Paul arrived in Athens alone. As he awaited the arrival of Silas and Timothy, he toured the city and was amazed at the proliferation of idols he saw. Rather than rant and rail against the Greeks and their false belief and with righteous indignation as many Christians do today, Paul used this as an opportunity to preach the gospel with compassion, logic and understanding. To him, the vast number of idols not only signified the uncertainty of the Athenians regarding who or what God was but also that they were seeking the truth.
Paul began to reason first with the Jews and Gentile worshippers in the synagogues but soon carried his argument into the city marketplace. There he attracted the attention of Athenian philosophers and intellectuals because he spoke of Jesus and the resurrection, concepts new to them and therefore of interest.
Paul’s method of approach contains principles for us regarding how to present the gospel to people who know little or nothing about Jesus or Christianity. First, his desire was not merely to impress them or win an argument, but to win them over to Christ. Then he started with something which was familiar to them, the statue of the unknown god. He complimented them on their religion as a sign of their desire for truth. Once he had their attention he continued to hold it by quoting pagan literature to convey truths about God. He presented the Biblical concept of a loving, personal and Almighty God who was interested in the salvation of all mankind. From what was familiar to his listeners, Paul brought forth those things which were unfamiliar the cross and the resurrection. He reasoned that a God who created men in his image must have intelligence and a design and plan for all men. That design and purpose was fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus. And he ended with a warning about judgement and the need for repentance, for faith without repentance from sin is empty and useless.