Paul left Macedonia in a hurry when it became clear that the Jewish vigilantes there were not going to leave him alone. Silas and Timothy were able to go discreetly back to Philippi, leaving Paul to wait alone in Athens. But Paul was not one to sit idly, paralyzed by memories of persecution and prospects of ridicule, even in a sophisticated city like this one. So despite or even because of the conflict in Macedonia, the gospel came to Greece, the cradle of the culture that dominated the known world.
As you read about Paul's time in Athens and Corinth in 17:16-18:23, try to put yourself into those cities in Paul's place, or think of yourself as one of the people who heard Paul. Ask God to show you Himself at work.
Contrast Epicurean and Stoic beliefs (about God, the origin of things, man, after-life, and how people should live) with what Paul says in 17:24-31.
24 "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 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. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.' 29 "Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone--an image made by man's design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead." 32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, "We want to hear you again on this subject." 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.
Epicureans: Atheistic. Material is all there is. Apparently, the world just happens to be there. No purpose, just an accident. When you die, that's it. You're gone. There is no soul, no judgment, therefore, no right or wrong. The gods exist on another plane, they too are material. (Alternate/Multiple Universes). Apparently, they have no bearing or effect on our existence. Ultimate aim of life is nothingness, so eat, drink and be merry. I'll do my thing, you do your thing. It doesn't matter. Everything is pointless and without meaning.
Stoics: The founder of the Stoics was Zeno, who flourished about B.C. 300. He taught his disciples that a man's happiness consisted in bringing himself into harmony with the course of the universe. They were trained to bear evils with indifference, and so to be independent of externals. Materialism, pantheism, fatalism, and pride were the leading features of this philosophy. We are part of God/the world soul. God is an impersonal force. We have no importance as individuals. Tree Huggers. Christian Scientists, Unitarians, Hindus'.
Paul tells the Athenians that the world is not an accident. God, a person, created it and everything in it. He also tells them that God is the one who gives us and all creatures our life and He also provides everything that we need. He is also not made out of material or matter. He isn't like us. Paul also tells them that our lives are not pointless accidents without meaning or purpose. In fact, he tells them that God has actually placed everyone in a specific place and time for the express purpose that they might seek Him. He tells them that God is not far from each individual. So therefore, people are important as individuals. Along this line, Paul also tells them that one day, we as individuals will be judged by God. HOW WE LIVE MATTERS!