In Acts 17.1-15 Paul deals with and destroys 9 popular myths that we are prone to believe:
1. Religiosity can save you
If religiosity could save anyone, it would have been first century Jewish people. Many lived in Gentile cities and held fast to their traditions and distinctives. It is interesting to note that Paul went to these religious types first to tell them about Jesus (v1). Jesus saves, not religion.
2. The Old Testament is irrelevant
Paul explained from the Old Testament scriptures that Jesus was the promised king (v2). The OT people, practises and prophecies prepare us for Jesus and elsewhere in the New Testament Paul explained that the OT was written for Christians (Romans 15.4). The whole bible is God’s word to us.
3. Christianity is an irrational leap of faith
Many of our friends equate believe in Jesus with belief in unicorns. However, v2 tells us that Paul reasoned, explained and proved that Jesus was the promised king. Christianity is a rational, logical, historically-verifiable belief in a supernatural God.
4. Jesus can mean different things to different people
I’m sure you’ve heard your Greenpeace-supporting friends say something like, “My Jesus is far more affirming, enabling and non-judgmental.” According to v3 (“this Jesus…is the Christ”) there is only one Jesus – the historical Jesus of the Bible. Either you are following him or you are following a non-existent figment of your biased imagination.
5. More people will become Christians if we have a Christian government
You might be surprised to note the Paul’s priority (and Jesus’ priority) was not to start a political party, take over the government or even establish a NGO. Paul went around talking about Jesus in order to plant churches. Without negating the need for Christians to be engaged in every sphere of society, including government, we must remember that the only way to transform society is for individuals to be persuaded (v4) to follow Jesus.
6. Christians should not suffer or face hardships
This is a no-brainer. Simply read the New Testament, including our passage. Paul faced more hardship especially because he was a Christian.
7. Your faith is a private matter between you and God
According to the Bible this can never be true. Jesus influences our thoughts, priorities, speech, actions and worldview. V6 tells us that that the early followers of Jesus, in one translation of the Bible, “turned the world upside down”. There is no such thing as closet Christianity.
8. Jesus can be your saviour without being your lord
Part of the charge against the early Christians was that they were “defying Caesar’s decrees, saying there is another king, one called Jesus” (v7). Caesar was venerated as a god by the Emperor Cult. We are not in danger of worshipping Caesar, but we are in danger of venerating modern day “gods” like self, lifestyle and family. These idols are good gifts from God that we are tempted to treat as gods. Gods always demand obedience and sacrifice. We either worship Jesus or another “god”, and if Jesus is not our lord and king, he cannot be our saviour.
9. Preachers are always right
Acts described the Bereans as noble (v11) for two reasons: they were eager to listen to the bible explained and they always checked that what the preacher said was backed up by the bible. In other words, take your bible with you to church!