What does Acts 17:31 mean?
ESV: because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."
NIV: For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead."
NASB: because He has set a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all people by raising Him from the dead.'
CSB: because he has set a day when he is going to judge the world in righteousness by the man he has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead."
NLT: For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.'
KJV: 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.
NKJV: because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
Verse Commentary:
Paul is finishing his monologue to Epicurean and Stoic philosophers at the Areopagus in Athens. The gist of his argument is that the Creator God is too big and majestic to be limited to temples or represented by human-carved statues. Their idol worship is wrong. Although God has overlooked their ignorance, He will judge them now that they know the truth. They need to repent of the past behavior—turn away from it and turn toward behavior and worship that shows they understand the truth (Acts 17:24–30).

This is the most overtly Christian part of Paul's speech. Just as God determined the dates and places of nations (Acts 17:26), He determined when judgment would occur. He will judge based on what is right and wrong; not on how people think they should live their lives, but on how He intended us to live our lives. God the Father has commissioned God the Son to be the judge (John 5:22–23). He will divide those who are saved from those who aren't (Matthew 25:31–46), He will reward the works of those who are saved (1 Corinthians 4:5), and He will determine the punishment of the unsaved (Revelation 20:11–15). Jesus has the authority to judge because He is righteous, as validated by the Father raising Him from the dead.

Unfortunately, neither the Epicureans nor the Stoics believe in the resurrection of the dead or judgment after death. Stoics were somewhat pantheistic. They tried to live according to the logos—the universal law that reflects the truth of the universe—and death, to them, meant you join that logos.

The Epicureans, on the other hand, believed people cease to exist after death. In Epicurus's letter to Menoeceus, he explains it is no good to fear death because death means the end of all feeling. "Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not. It is nothing, then, either to the living or to the dead, for with the living it is not and the dead exist no longer."

When the philosophers first heard Paul, they called him a "babbler" (Acts 17:18). They thought he had picked up bits and pieces of philosophy like a bird picks up pieces of grain. For most, Paul's argument does not disavow them of that judgment. Some, however, understand and ask him to say more (Acts 17:32). A few even believe (Acts 17:34).
Verse Context:
Acts 17:22–34 contains the second of two sermons which Luke records from Paul. The more typical sermon explains to synagogues how Jesus is the Messiah (Acts 13:16–41). Here, however, Paul is speaking to a group of Athenian philosophers. Paul uses lines from classical poets to introduce the Creator God who cannot be represented by an idol. He calls his audience to repent of their idolatry lest they face judgment by the representative God has resurrected. But they don't believe in the resurrection of the dead or final judgment. The majority dismiss Paul as a fool and go on their way.
Chapter Summary:
Acts 17 describes how Paul's ministry travels down the coast of Greece. In Thessalonica, some Jews and God-fearing Gentiles believe while other Jews start a riot (Acts 17:1–9). The Bereans study the veracity of Paul's statements—until the Thessalonian Jews arrive and threaten to start another riot (Acts 17:10–15). Paul flees to Athens where the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers accept Paul's argument when he uses Greek poets to introduce God as the creator of the world, but lose interest when he mentions the resurrection from the dead (Acts 17:16–34).
Chapter Context:
Acts 17 continues Paul and Silas' travels out of Macedonia and on to Greece. The two have been through modern-day Asia minor where they picked up Timothy in Lystra and Luke in Troas (Acts 16:1–10). They have established a strong church in Philippi but were forced to leave after being falsely imprisoned (Acts 16:11–40). They now skip down the coast to Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens. From here, they will spend a considerable amount of time in Corinth before heading back to Judea and Syrian Antioch (Acts 18:1–22).
Book Summary:
The summary of the book of Acts is provided in Jesus' words in Acts 1:8: ''But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'' In Acts 2:1–13, the Christ-followers receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:14—7:60 describes the rapid growth of the church in Jerusalem. Chapters 8—12 find Jewish persecution inadvertently spreading the gospel throughout Judea and Samaria. And in chapters 13—28, Paul and his companions spread the good news throughout the Roman Empire.
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