16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.
In Acts 17:16-34, Paul is in Athens. This section contains the apostle’s famous Areopagus speech, identifying their “unknown god” as the God who created everything (Acts 17:22-31).
Now while Paul waited for them at Athens,
Paul waited for Silas and Timothy to come from Macedonia. In the meantime, he experienced something of the life of Athens, where the city was full of more idols than people. Athens was the cradle of democracy. It also had a world-famous university. The city was full of beautiful architectural buildings, statutes, and pillars; it was a city of many art forms.
Athens was also the center of Hellenism, the intellectual and cultural center of the Roman Empire. Aristotle taught there. Athens was the leading city of Greece in the fourth and fifth centuries B.C. but had lost much of its glory by the first century. Corinth was the main city at the time of Paul.
his spirit was provoked [distressed] within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.
Although Paul was in one of the most amazing cities in the world, his spirit was provoked because of the many idols he observed there. The apostle was in a city of striking architecture, but what struck him most was a people given over to idolatry. He was no tourist.
A Christian should carry righteous indignation about particular ungodly passions.
An idol for a Christian is not only a statute but anything that one puts in the place of God. They are substitute gods. Idols can be things such as a mind given over to sex or pleasure, relentless pursuit of success or money, or any obsession an individual may possess.
Some things must “provoke” Christians to action. Without that, we will continue to worship our idols. We have become too accepting of our situation.