32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.” (Acts 17:32–34)
The Gospel of Jesus Christ always, always solicits a reaction. The response may be negative, positive, or an ambivalent in-between, but the Gospel always solicits a reaction. What is true now was true in biblical history. There were three reactions by the Greek philosophers and the Athenian citizens who heard the apostle preach concerning the One, True God of the Bible and the person and work of Jesus Christ. What were those three reactions?
First, there were those who mocked the message: “Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked.” The Greek word for mocked (χλευάζω; chleuazo) means to jeer, to joke at something, or to make jest or fun of. The grammar indicates that this mocking was done continually, personally and actively by many people.
The second reaction to the Apostle Paul’s message is what I refer to as “deferred interest.” To defer something, or someone, is to postpone, reschedule, adjourn or suspend. Interest means to pay attention, to notice something, to be curious, and aware.
The third reaction was repentance and belief. Some of the people joined Paul. The word “joined” (κολλάω; kallao) means united. The verb is in the passive voice though. Therefore the literal meaning is “But some men were joined to him.”
The moment when these men were united in faith with Paul was a work of God upon their souls and not a human work of their own doing.
Luke lists some of the notable Greeks, who placed their God given trust, dependence, commitment and worship of Jesus Christ. These people included were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. Dionysius was a member of the city’s ruling council. He would have been a person of great notoriety in Athens.
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “In this passage we see three frequent reactions to the Gospel: ridicule (Jude 17-18), intellectual interest (2 Timothy 3:1-7), and acceptance. The very real harvest the Gospel reaped in pagan, hard-hearted Athens should reassure us that it can penetrate hearts anywhere.”
The reason the Gospel penetrates the hearts of fallen sinners is not because of stirring oratory and motivational, and dramatic speakers. Rather, it is because of the Holy Spirit’s work in the soul of the sinner through the preaching of the Gospel (I Corinthians 3:5-9).
Soli deo Gloria!