Paul fled persecution and was brought to Athens. Silas and Timothy stayed behind in Berea presumably to strengthen the new Christians there or to do some other work related to the kingdom. But now Paul is all alone in Athens as he waits for Silas and Timothy to arrive. How did that Spirit-filled Christian spend his time? The answer to that question reveals what Paul's evangelism was really like.
Being a loving and God-fearing man, as Paul was, he became distressed at the sight of the many statues that were all around Athens. It is common for the righteous to be distressed in that way. (Lot too was tormented in his soul by what he saw and heard while in the wicked town of Sodom, 2 Pet. 2:7,8.)
To rectify that horrible spiritual problem in Athens, Paul did not try to get some new law passed to forbid idolatry, as some religious people in our day seem to think is the cure-all. Instead, Paul battled that spiritual problem with a powerful spiritual weapon—God's word (truth).
Since idolatry is associated with lost souls, deception and ignorance, the remedy is learning truth and reality, which is only found in the word of God (the Bible). Hence, Paul declared the truth of Scripture in the synagogue and in the marketplace. Since the marketplace is where every kind of person, religious or not, would walk through, Paul's evangelism got the word out to a wide variety of people. What he did there was similar to soul winning on a busy city sidewalk in our day.
It was Paul by himself against a group of ungodly philosophers! Some were insulting to the point of calling the man of God a babbler. Paul's message centered around the Lord Jesus, the remedy.
This time those people were going to hear the most important message they would ever hear and might never have heard a second time. The medicine they were presented and desperately needed for their souls centered around the Lord Jesus. Paul's message to those non-Jews was different from the type of salvation sermon he preached in a synagogue where Scripture was believed, but both there and everywhere else his message would focus in upon Jesus. Compare to Acts 13:16-41.
Mars Hill (KJV) is the same as the Areopagus (NIV). The Amplified Bible gives this interpretation, which is also backed by the Greek:
... you are most religious (very reverent to demons).
Paul's opening statement is a mind-blow when read in the Greek. He said they were religious to demons! [Scripture informs us that demons are associated with idols (1 Cor. 10:19-21)! ] That is not the way preachers in a day of compromise, like ours, preach. Paul' evangelism didn't mince words, even when all alone.
Their worship of something unknown was what Paul was going to start his message with. He would use that to bring up Jesus' resurrection, but he first starts with God.
Paul cited three elementary facts about God tailored for them: (1) He is the creator of everything and everyone, (2) He does not dwell in temples, and (3) He is not served by human hands.
This second point is a devastating blow to the Catholic idea that God does dwell in a man-made tabernacle in the form of the unconsumed communion wafers, which they call the Eucharist and worship as God.
Paul, referring to Adam, shows he believed he was a literal man and not representative of a group of people or something else strange like that. Paul literally interpreted the Scriptures, which is shown all through the New Testament by the Lord himself and his disciples.
God determined when and where you would be born physically, but has given all mankind free-will to accept his truth and receive eternal life or reject it to their own harm and damnation.
God did that so people would seek and reach out to him. Seeking God and reaching out to him is something a spiritually dead person can do, unlike how Calvinism may portray him. (Again, Calvinism is shown to be false. In fact, the sooner you realize Calvinism is demonic the better it will be for you.)
As someone said, God is a prayer away. That is true if the prayer is sincere, repentant, humble, asking God for mercy and placing a submissive faith in Jesus (Luke 18:13,14; Rom. 10:13; Lk. 8:21; Acts 20:21; etc.).
If we have the true God, as Paul just described, we have it all. He is essential for everything and without him we have nothing of real value and worth.false prophet and deceiver like Joseph Smith, Jr. (of Mormonism), Charles Taze Russell (of the Jehovah's Witnesses), the Pope (of Catholicism), etc. Paul knew who the devil was using in that hour and what they were saying.
Paul quoted their pagan poets to help them learn about the true and living God, as opposed to their darkened and deadly concepts. He chose a common point of agreement.
Verse 29 describes the kind of religious statues they had in Athens. Just like in the Old Testament, idols were adorned with gold and/or silver. Surely, those idols in Athens were well-made and looked beautiful, but they were still a tool of the devil to lead people into idolatry and damnation. Some might think those idols had value because of the gold and silver, but that is only what the devil used to help snare one's soul through those idols.
In Moses' day, Aaron made a solid gold idol in the form of a calf. Notice how Moses treated that solid gold idol, which could have had much worth money-wise just for the gold content. Moses wrote:
And the LORD was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him, but at that time I prayed for Aaron too. Also I took that sinful thing of yours, the calf you had made, and burned it in the fire. Then I crushed it and ground it to powder as fine as dust and threw the dust into a stream that flowed down the mountain. (Deut. 9:20, 21)
That is how Moses rightly disposed of that sinful thing.
Salvation is open for all because God commands EVERYONE to "repent." Hence, Calvinism is again shown to be wrong. Also, idolatry is always a reflection of spiritual ignorance. This doesn't mean, however, that intelligent people can't be caught up in this, for many are. It just shows the lack of spiritual understanding such have.
Paul's gospel was destructive to idolatry and idol-making. As the truth is spread, idolatry decreases:
A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: “Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all.” (Acts 19:24-26)
For God to command all people everywhere to repent is clear in showing God has not predestined some to damnation, as Calvinism teaches. That statement also disproves the fallacious idea that one can find salvation without repentance. If those two dangerous concepts were totally eliminated, the religious world of our day would be a much better place.
Paul now refers to Jesus, without mentioning his name. Jesus is the God-man. Here Jesus is referred to as man, but elsewhere he is also shown to be deity (John 1:1; 20:28; Acts 20:28; Phil. 2:6-8; 1 John 5:20; etc.). BTW, the false prophet Watchtower Society of Jehovah's Witnesses, who aggressively attacks the deity of Christ, does this by focusing in upon the humanity of Christ, distorting Scripture, misrepresenting what Christians believe about this and avoiding relevant verses of the Bible. Again, Jesus is both God and man.
The mention of Jesus' resurrection was enough to cause some in that group to sneer. Others wanted to hear more at another time. (There is no record they ever got that request!) That was the abrupt end of Paul's salvation message to people who didn't accept the Scriptures, as the Jews did.
When Paul was alone in Athens he preached the good news of the kingdom and that resulted in some coming to salvation. [NOTE: Paul's evangelism and preaching the good news of the kingdom was NOT like anything the Jehovah's Witnesses preach when they declare their false 1914 good news of the kingdom!] Of that number was a woman named Damaris and a member of the Areopagus (Dionysius). That man might be considered an amazing salvation conversion. He heard the truth once and responded, even though he was in a position like that. We never hear of him again and there is no mention of a congregation starting in Athens. Only in the kingdom will we know if they endured to the end to be saved (Mt. 10:22; Heb. 3:14; Rev. 2:10,11). Certainly great good came from Paul's evangelism in Athens and Mars Hill when he was all alone reaching the lost.