Jacobus deVilliers - Second Convention, Williams, Western Australia - November, 2005

Hymn 395

I would like to say something today about another city and that is Athens: the time when Paul came to that city, walked through its streets, and saw many things. There were many temples that had been built, altars, idols and those people were building things in an attempt to find answers to many questions. The Greeks at that time, were the oldest nation and there were many intellectual people among them and they realised there were many unanswered questions. They wanted to know what is life for? Where does it come from? Where does it lead to – whether it be plant life, animal life, or human life? They were surrounded by so many wonderful things they couldn’t understand and they wished they had the answers. Those people were so highly developed that they started thinking and in their minds they tried to get those answers. There were those philosophers who tried to find the answers and they realised there must be a creator: some being so great, so wise who could think about all this. Who was the builder of all this? In their minds they tried to find the answer. They would speak to others about it and there were people amongst them who were master builders. Maybe as they listened they thought this great god must be worshipped so we must build a temple for him. One should build an altar so they could bring sacrifices. So they all tried to work with what they had and to find answers to their questions. There were those who had the ability to express their thoughts by making poetry and through them tried to express what they thought about this god.

He made mention about this God, that they should seek the Lord if haply they might feel after Him and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us, who had made all one blood and made all the nations of the earth. Paul said some of the poets had spoken of Him, that ‘we are also His offspring.' (Acts 17:28) All had tried to add a little something. They did the same things as those people who started building the tower of Babel; and by building they tried to express their thoughts about this great God - who He is, how they should serve Him, and by making use of what they understood.

Paul walked in those streets and could see these people were looking for an answer to all these questions about life. I wondered was it an accident that Paul was there? I am sure it wasn’t! When he was at Thessalonica, he preached there but the people got upset and they persecuted him and he had to flee. So he went to Berea: some listened and took heed but then those from Thessalonica sent men and they upset them. So they had to take Paul away and eventually they brought him to Athens. It wasn’t where he wanted to go but he was led there and brought there so it must have been God-guided. Why did God guide him there? I thought when the Jews had that feast, amongst these intelligent Greeks, they heard about the Jews that they had some idea about God and it was different to what other people thought about Him. They served according to laws that were given by the servants of God. They thought, “We want to go there and find out. Who is this God that they are serving?”  So they left Athens to go to Jerusalem to try and find out whether he was the true God and they went there looking for an answer. They were like the Queen of Sheba: she left the country where she lived to go to Israel to find out about Solomon’s wisdom, to find the answer. We also heard about the Ethiopian going to Jerusalem hoping to find an answer there.

These Greeks went to Jerusalem and they went at the time of the Jewish feast and, while they were there, they did the same thing that Paul did. He tried to speak to people about what they believed in; what the truth was. When the Greeks got to Jerusalem they must have spoken to many. Some told them – “Our early prophets prophesied about the redeemer coming; and some think He is here amongst us now doing wonderful things. And we are wondering could it be that this is the Saviour that should come.” So these Greeks listened to them and decided that they would want to speak to Him, too. They thought, “Maybe He has the answer.” And they went up to his disciples and said, “Sirs, we would see Jesus. Maybe you can tell us and give us an answer to these questions that trouble us?” They expressed their desire to see Him. We don’t read that He came forward so He could see them eye-to-eye, but He sent a message, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” They got this kind of answer about a corn of wheat falling into the earth and dying. The Lord knew how they studied life and they tried to find out the secret, and He gave them an answer – something that they could work on and help them. It wasn’t the time for Him to reveal Himself, and those people with their depth of ability to speak, knew that this might be the secret. “This is the city: this is something that may lead us to the true answer.”

Years ago, I attended a Convention in England. I can’t remember a thing apart from one little sentence somebody said, “A thought is a spark and meditation makes it a flame.” I have often thought about that; sometimes something comes into our minds as a spark. It’s going to go out unless you fan it, meditate on it, and it motivates us. Those words offered a spark, giving them something about a corn of wheat and if it dies it will bring forth much fruit. So they went away and worked on that. They realised it wasn’t the full answer but would lead up to it. This matter of the corn of wheat: they went back to Athens in Greece and tried to think about it and God had heard their prayers. Their request was, “That we would see Jesus.” They didn’t get to see Him as they thought they would, but got that little message. Their prayer was heard and God remembered and honoured that, so when the time was right God moved His servant Paul to go to that place. He didn’t go there by choice: God-guided. He knew those people desired to know the truth, wanted to see Jesus. He couldn’t give it to them at that time, reveal himself to them – they had to wait. But God had heard, so Paul went, and this question could be answered, and he saw all these buildings. He had opportunity to speak. They asked him, “We would all like to know, please come to this place and tell us.” They were gathered on Mars’ hill.

Some years we were on the island St Helena: and the more educated people had a gathering once a month and they called it the Socrates Club. They were Greek philosophers and once a month they would come together and ask someone to speak to them. They had the same desire and wanted answers to certain questions. So I went to one of them. The head teacher of the island was there too, and he came and spoke to us, and said, “I have heard about your fellowship and I thought it was something that came from South Africa, but now I know it’s all over the world. So I would like to know and others would like to know. So would you like to come to our Socrates Club one evening and speak to us?” Well, it wasn’t easy for me to say yes, but I couldn’t say no.

In a smaller measure, the same thing happened to Paul. So we had to go there that evening and God helped us wonderfully. He enabled us to tell a little about our fellowship. Those people wanted answers to these questions and Paul had the opportunity to speak to them and made mention of what he saw, “I can see that you want to know God and serve God,” and he tried to speak to them about God. He spoke about the very beginning; about this God who had made of one blood all nations of men. In some translations it says, “He has made of one man all the nations of men.” He started to speak to them about the seed; the smallest beginning, and out of one man he made all the nations of the earth which eventually grew out of that little God-made seed. A God-given life and God blest it that it grew out and became a nation.

Now as I said when they came to Babel, God decided that something must happen - Some plants have a seed pod that develop and grow and at a certain moment all those seeds jump out free from where they were. The people were there building that tower in search for an answer, yet there God did something to that seed: He made it pop out. It was no longer one nation, one family. But in the twinkling of an eye it was changed to many nations, many languages. He may have told them that that’s where the Greek nation started from. But he told how out of the seed God made many nations of people spread over the earth, and God put before them times and limitations. “He hath determined the times before they were appointed.” God decided, just as He decided how any plant would germinate and grow. God determines the times when things should take place and this was the time that they could now hear something that would bring them closer to what He wanted them to understand. And this was the time Paul could go there and tell them what was life for and determined their times and the bounds of their habitations, “That they who seek the Lord if haply they should feel after him.” In the Dutch Bible it says, “They that seek the Lord gropingly.” Just like some of these insects; when they walk the way they do when they touch something they stop. The tried to find God and wanted to know the answers and they touched many things: the seed – this plant life. They were as a blind person building up these buildings and altars in an effort to try to find God. Paul said, “In whom we live and move and have our being.”

Then verse 29, “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. At the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.” He tried to tell them about God, that he is not one to be found in a building; that it was a time of ignorance and that they should let bygones be bygones.

Verse 31, “Because He hath appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead.” He told them of the one who was going to give His life, yet God would raise Him up again. He spoke of the seed that would fall into the ground and die and going through this process would bring forth much fruit and bring forth eternal life. I wondered how those people felt, “We are getting close to the answer now; we are beginning to understand what life is for.” And they got their answer when they realised this is God’s purpose of life and we have to accept this man. We have to repent and admit that He is the Son of God and God created Him as much as God made Adam and all those nations.

This is the crucial moment: just like with Babel when everything changed. Now, another moment because of Christ being here on this earth, given His life, died and rose again. God is going to touch all nations and bring change in their lives. And they had the answer to all their questions. I have received a little spark at this Convention and I wish to work with and to know it will lead up to a flame which will enrich me for the future. It is the desire that we would have life and have it more abundantly. That our joy, our happiness could continue to grow and we would have joy in our hearts when we think of the future that is laid out by God.