The Apostle Paul was on the run and had been sent to Athens from Berea (250 miles away), Athens was the center of Western culture and civilization. The city of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The birth place of Democracy, Modern Medicine and the Fine Arts. The city was considered the greatest cultural, intellectual and religious center of it's time.
As Paul took in the sights, he wasn't awe struck at it's buildings and art work, rather "his spirit was provoked." Provoked in English doesn't do the original justice. In Greek it means "to become greatly disturbed, angry, even infuriated." It's the same word used in the Greek Septuagint (Jewish Old Testament in popular use at this time) to describe God's reaction to His people's unfaithful idolatry against Him.
What was it that caused Paul to be so provoked? "The city was full of idols." In Greek it's the sense the the city streets were choked with idols. It was said that Athens had more idols than any city in the world at this time, including one for the "Unknown God," just in case they forgot one. Paul was provoked because of the very things that provoked God. He also got provoked by false teachers trying to lead God's people away from the true Gospel. Are there any things we're placing above God, which are choking the spiritual life out of us?
In Athens, Paul was provoked because God's glory was being defamed and people were being deceived. But Paul wasn't simply moved to anger, he was grieved. He was provoked to righteous indignation for God's glory --- AND --- heartbroken compassion for lost Souls. His concern for God and his compassion for people, would lead him to --- appropriate action.
What is it that provokes us? What moves us to tears? Do we get angry at the right things in the right way? Or, have we become unaffected and unmoved by the sin and suffering we come in contact with --- desensitized by the culture around us? If we're Christians, does it grieve us when counterfeit churches promote a counterfeit Gospel? Would we even know the difference? Paul's World View caused him to interpret the world around him differently --- to "think biblically." Paul saw humanity for who we are --- broken people in need of the Good News (that God loved us, cares for us, and had sent His Son to die and be resurrected for us --- to free us from the bondage of sin and death).
Bob Pierce, the founder of both World Vision and Samaritan's Purse once prayed, "Lord, break my heart with those things that break yours." That's a dangerous prayer to pray --- God might just answer it.
(For Pastor Bob's complete audio sermon on the topic, listen to Acts 17:16 dated 09/30/2018 at www.HeartCry.church)
We desire to see God glorified through the liberating power of the Gospel by leading people to freedom in Christ, and positive, biblical life-change.