Acts 17:28 For in him we live and move and have our being.” As some of your own poets have said, “We are his offspring.”
In these last few verses we have seen how Paul knew the beliefs of those he was speaking to, those of the Epicureans and the Stoics.
But today in this verse we see how Paul knew their history also.
When I was a teenager, I remember singing a chorus (that’s what we used to call them back then!) with the words, “In him we live and move and have our being”. I truly believed these were words from the Bible and they are but not really!
In order for Paul to illustrate the gospel that God is the creator, sustainer, ruler of all and now he will be saying father of all, he quotes from their history. These are not words from the Old Testament and Paul will regularly quote from there in his writings. Paul is saying “God is near but you know this, look at your poets and what they have said.” In the first one he quotes from a 6th BC poet Epimenides of Crete. As we have already seen this poet was directly linked to the story of the Unknown God (see 19th May) who healed the city of the plague. He wrote, “In him we live and move and have our being”, “He is near and our lives are lived in him, it is how we were created to be.” The second is from a 3rd BC Stoic author Aratus of Cilicia. He wrote, “We are his offspring” and Paul is using this to show that we are the unknown God’s children. He is still speaking about their ‘unknown’ god. He is still building bridges. He does this by quoting 2 of their historical pagan poets who when writing were not thinking of his God. The point is Paul was culturally relevant.
In the aftermath of the terrible evil that happened at the Manchester it has been heartening to see the people of the city pulling together and helping one another. I believe if Paul was alive in Manchester today, in trying to present the gospel to them that though evil struck them they will get through this, may not of quoted the Old Testament scriptures but rather the opening song on that dreadful night that Ariana Grande sang. The words are “Baby, don’t you know All of them tears going to come and go. Baby you just got to make up your mind, We decide it. We’re going to be alright.”
The irony is moving. Little did anyone know how powerful these words would be for the devastated city, the grieving families, they were prophetic words.
Some will say but where is the cut and thrust of the gospel? Where is the ABC of salvation? The answer is look at Paul and how there are times when you need to go slowly. You need to demonstrate you are relevant, that you know something of the people you are talking to. We need to know their faith and the history of the people we are reaching and the words of Ariana Grande’s opening song of her set-list of that terrible night in Manchester. Maybe then people will listen to the gospel message.