This article identifies three responses to preaching in Acts 17:32-34.

Source: The Banner of Truth (NRC), 1987. 2 pages.

Fruits Upon Preaching

And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them. Howbeit certain men clave unto him and believed.

Acts 17:32-34a

Mockers, Hearers, and Believers🔗

According to Acts 17, Paul preached on Mars' hill in Athens. He was allowed to preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ before the Greek intellectuals of that time – the philosophers and orators. No, Paul was not ashamed to proclaim the simple preaching of free grace to those who considered it foolishness. They were too superstitious (v. 22). This means that they were more religious than others in every respect! But notwithstanding all their external knowledge, they were still ignorant of the internal ways of salvation. They worshipped an unknown god!Fruits Upon Preaching

Paul declared the great Creator of heaven and earth unto them – the God in whom we live, move, and have our being yes, we are His offspring. Paul associated himself with their way of thinking. It strikes us when he said: "As certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring." In order to gain subjects to King Jesus, Paul became a Jew among the Jews and a Greek among the Greeks. He pre­sented to them the severe claim of God's justice. He proclaimed that God commands all men everywhere to re­pent. For the day is near when God will judge the world in righteousness, and that by a Man whom He has ordained, whom He has raised from the dead. Yes, you can believe that Paul, the Christ-preacher par excellence, preached the Father but also the Son. He preached Christ and Him crucified who died for the sins of His elect – He who is the only Name under heaven and given among men whereby we must be saved – Jesus who has been delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification and who, as a consequence of this, still saves sinners! Yes, Paul preached Christ who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

Happy servant of God's Word is he who may declare and proclaim the se­crets of free grace as revealed in Christ. He will be delighted in God's eternal good pleasure. In such preaching God receives His honor and the sinner, by God, receives love and salvation. Such a servant will receive the approval of God's dear Holy Spirit upon his labors.

But, of course, this kind of preaching will not be without response. With Isaiah God's true servants must some­times sigh: "Who has believed our report?" God's Word asks for an answer. One time that answer will have to be given! God's Word shall not return unto Him void, but it shall accomplish that which pleases Him.

Sadly, there are so many remarks after attending a worship service. For one person, it was too hot in church; another had trouble with some draft from the open windows; a third person makes a visiting appointment, and another one found the minister to be … and on and on! Yes, one could fill the daily paper with all the complaints. How very few cry from deep impression of soul: "Please, Lord, sanctify this sermon to this poor sinner's soul"?

Fruits Upon PreachingPaul described his audience as consisting of three different types of persons. The first were mockers! This they had been before they heard the proclamation of the Word, and they remained mockers even after the sermon. Why did they mock? It's not very hard to explain this. They mocked with the Word because they felt inwardly that it was the truth! Often this is the weak spot in mockers. They know very well that they cannot argue against what they have heard and that is why they ridicule it. They mock venomously, their eyes glittering with hate. Why? Because of their defeat! I would not be able to write this if practical experience had not taught it to me, and this is also found in God's Word. Are you such a mocker? Don't forget that there is One who says: "I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh!"

There was another kind of listener upon Mars' hill! They were the ones who said: "We will hear thee again of this matter." Unfortunately, they usually make up the greater part of the audience. They are very faithful worshippers. They would not skip a service for anything in the world. They want to hear the Word of God – yes, even eagerly – especially sound, scriptural, experiential preaching. They want to hear it every Sunday and, if possible, also during the week. "We will hear thee again of this matter." But even with all of this, nothing happens. Why is this? Because they are only hearers of the Word, and not doers!

Oh, young and old, how sad! Hearing and not listening! In eternity it shall be exactly the other way around. God shall then hear your lamentations in damnation, but He will not listen to you anymore! It shall be too late then forever! All the sermons that you have heard in your whole life shall add to your damnation eternally.

Then the text says: "So Paul departed from among them." And when Paul left, the gospel left Athens also. When Paul left, the candlestick was extinguished. Therefore, hear the solemn warning of the Lord: "Except thou repent, I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place."

Dear reader, you are still alive together with your children! Seek ye the Lord, before it shall be too late! God's Word still comes to you as a light that shines in a dark place.

Finally, it seems that Paul's preaching had not been entirely fruitless for it is stated in verse 34: "Howbeit, certain men clave unto him, and believed." Some were converted by means of the preaching of law and gospel, justice and grace. For them the preaching of the Word became a savor of life unto life. Those wise Greeks lost all their wisdom and the understanding of the prudent was brought to nothing. Their foolishness and blindness were discovered and they were taught to plead: "Show me Thy ways, O LORD, teach me Thy paths!"

Fruits Upon PreachingThey cleaved to Paul. Why? Because by means of God's Word they were attached to Paul. By means of the Word of the Spirit they had been effectually and irresistibly called from death to life. They cleaved to Paul because they could not live without the preaching of the gospel of free grace – yes, because they could not live anymore without the God of His Word, or without the Christ of the Gospel!

"…and believed!" What a blessing when by means of preaching, unbelief might be expelled; when there might be an unconditional acquiescing to the Word of God! The gospel of Christ then becomes the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes.

On the one hand, God's Word dis­covers sinners, but on the other hand it comforts them. This results in ties – ties of love – with God and with His Word, His service, His servants, and His people. In all their sadness God's Word is their comfort because it guides them in the way of justice and righteousness which are declared and revealed by grace in Christ.

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