Paul was a remarkable man. A Jew by birth, he was a relentless persecutor of Christians until he had a personal encounter with the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). He was instructed by the Lord that he would be an Apostle to the Gentiles. What a vessel the Lord had chosen to carry the Good News of Christ’s redemptive power to most of the known world of that day. Paul was a man of vast knowledge who received his education at the school of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), one of the most noted rabbis in history. The education he received was in his ancestral law, yet he also had broad exposure to classical literature, philosophy and ethics. He spoke Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and Latin. Paul could go toe to toe with the most brilliant minds he encountered.

Paul’s knowledge of Greek philosophy and literature is clearly seen in Acts 17:16-34 when he encountered Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in Athens. As Paul engages them in a conversation in an attempt to introduce them to the resurrected Christ, he uses quotes from their own philosophers as a way to connect with them and as springboard to point them to Christ. Paul in his tactfulness quoted shadows of truths found in their own philosophers to “declare” that in Christ is found more than shadows of truth but the full Light of God’s Truth (Acts 17:23).

Paul no doubt had the Athenian’s  attention as this Jew quoted and alluded to philosophers with whom they were familiar. He begins by saying, “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24). Paul is drawing from Seneca, the prominent Roman Stoic philosopher, who wrote, “Temples are not to be built to God of stones piled on high…the whole world is the temple of the immortal gods.”

In verse 25 Paul continues, “Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.” Once again Paul alludes to Seneca who stated: “God wants not ministers. How so? He himself ministereth breath to the human race.”

In verse 26-28a Paul says, “26And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; 27That 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: 28For in him we live, and move, and have our being,” Again, the Apostle shows his knowledge of the writings of Seneca who wrote, “We are members of a vast body. Nature made us kin, when she produced us from the same things and to the same ends” and “God is at hand everywhere and to all men.”  and again, “God is near thee; he is with thee; he is within.”

In verse 28b Paul says to the Athenians that he is quoting from “certain of your own poets” when he says, “For we are also his offspring.”  The poet to which Paul was referring was Aratus who lived in the third century BC, who wrote that “all are the offspring of God.”

In verse 29 Paul declares, “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.” Paul once again alludes to the Stoic philosopher Seneca who stated: “Thou shalt not form him of silver and gold: a true likeness of God cannot be molded of this material.”

Grabbing the attention of the Athenians with his knowledge of Greek philosophy and literature, Paul calls on them to repent for God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by Jesus whom He has ordained and by raising Him from the dead has given to man the assurance that He is the ultimate truth (Acts 17:30-31).

Paul in his proclamation to the Athenians used his knowledge of Greek philosophy and literature as a way to connect with his hearers and grab their attention. While Paul acknowledged there were shadows of truths found in human philosophy, the full Light of Truth was found in Jesus Christ who reveals to us the Divine and in whom is found the fullness of God (John 1:16; Col. 2:9). The Greeks sought after wisdom (I Cor. 1:22), but Paul sought to point them to the truth that true Wisdom is found only in Jesus Christ (I Cor. 1:30).

From Athens Paul traveled to Corinth where he clearly states that the philosophical wisdom of man compared to the wisdom of God is foolishness and will never bring forth the answers to life which man is searching (I Cor 2:1-7). Only the Christ of the cross, which transcends the wisdom of man, is sufficient to redeem a lost humanity and supply man with the answers to life’s age-old questions. While Paul over twenty times in his epistles alludes to shadows of truths found in Greek philosophers like Plato, Socrates, Epimenides, Menander,  and Seneca, he did so as a way to affirm there are certain universal truths that connect all humanity, but the brightness of full truth and wisdom is only found in the revelation of the Light of Jesus Christ who “is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).

As a reader over the last fifty years of many philosophical meanderings of man, this writer finds it glaringly notable that philosophers down through the ages have not yet attained answers to man’s reoccurring  major questions: “Is there a God and can he be known?” “How can a man be right with God?” “How can one find forgiveness of their sins?”   “Is there an answer to the evil that abounds?” “How can man’s behavior be changed?” “If a man die shall he live again?” These questions and many more, philosophers have grappled with down through the ages, yet their philosophical systems are all inadequate in finding answers to these important questions.

Paul informs us that the Wisdom for which man searches is found in Christ who answers man’s most burning questions. The difference between Christianity and philosophy is that the latter is human thinking and wisdom, while Christianity is the revelation and wisdom of God.  Christ is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). He is the fulness of God who clothed himself in human flesh to reveal the Divine to humanity (John 1:1-3, 14). He is the One who can forgive all our sins (I John 1:7-10). He is the One who can make a thief honest, the impure pure, the drunkard sober, the addict clean, the prideful humble, the weak strong, the hater one who loves. Found in Christ is the One the searching heart longs to discover.

While some see philosophy as a natural complement to theological reflection, Paul assures us that shadows of truth may be found in the philosophical wisdom of man, but the full Light of God’s revelation and wisdom can only be found in Jesus Christ who is Truth. It is impossible for human logic to find the truths found in Christianity. Let us not be satisfied with the shadows of truths of human wisdom, but embrace the revelation and wisdom of God found in Christ in whom is found answers, hope and strength in the face of everyday living and who “hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel” (II Timothy 1:10).


Dr. Dan



The other morning I was watching ESPN to check on a couple of ball scores. It seems two of the commentators had made a wager on one of the ball games. The one who lost the wager was to milk a cow live on air for viewers to witness. As they were leading ol’ Bessie in to be milked, the one who lost the wager curiously said, “If I have to milk a cow I want to know if it is a male or female.”Difference

Do what?!? Either he was kidding or he was a true city-slicker. Turns out after being questioned that he really didn’t know the difference in regard to whether it was a male or female that gave milk! The one who had won the wager laughed and said, “If I had known you didn’t know the difference I would have brought a bull in here for you to milk.” That would have been a sight to see! When it comes to milking a cow, it pays to know the difference between a dairy cow and a bull! It wouldn’t be wise to try and milk an ornery ol’ bull. The consequence might not turn out too well!

I got to thinking, as one goes through life it pays to know the difference when it comes to a variety of matters. Let me mention a few, and I am sure you can think of many more.

It pays to know the difference between what is truly valuable and what is not. Often we think the truly valuable is found in material possessions: a new car, fine house, wearing name-brand clothes, a bank account that is running over, having the latest smart-phone and the list goes on. Those “things” are all well and good, but they can all be lost at the snap of a finger. What is truly valuable is not found in “things” but are found in the richness of relationships, love, caring, family, faith, health and the precious gift of life we are granted each day by the Lord’s grace. When all the glitter of “things” is stripped away from us or the “c” word becomes part our vocabularies, then we quickly learn the difference between what is valuable and what is not.

It pays to know the difference between what is morally right and wrong. We are living in a day when many don’t seem to know the difference. They don’t know the difference because they have neglected the Manual that tells us the difference. The Bible is our eternal guide that contains within its inspired pages directions on how best to live morally so our lives will not end up being derailed because of morally bad choices. It is when we “do according to all that is written therein” that we “have good success” in life (Joshua 1:8).

It pays to know the difference between telling the truth and lying. Seems in our society today the line between telling the truth and lying has been blurred. Our nation’s leaders lie without giving it a second thought, their character to a great extent being a reflection of society. Lies are told because the person telling them has no core values. As a lad growing up my father, by placing his hand on a certain part of my anatomy, had a way of helping me remember there is a difference between telling the truth and lying and the consequences that occurs when an untruth is mouthed! Telling the truth keeps us from having to remember the lie we told and spare us from later grief.

It pays to know the difference between yes and no. Have we forgotten the power of those two words? They can be used negatively or positively. When we say “yes” to the good and “no” to the bad we can expect good consequences to result. However, if we say “yes” to the bad and “no” to the good then consequences of regret will be our companion.

It pays to know the difference between when to let go and when to hold on. We need wisdom to know the difference in many areas of our lives. Such wisdom is needed in regard to relationships, jobs, places of service, habits, attitudes, etc. Knowing when to let go and when to hold on determines continuing to experiencing the Lord’s blessings where we are or to walk through a new door of opportunity where awaits us new blessings from Him.

It pays to know the difference between the temporal and the eternal. The minute we are born the march to death begins, yet people seem to think they will never die and will never have to one day stand before the Creator and give an account for their lives. The Bible clearly says, “It is appointed unto man once to die after that the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Wise is the person who realizes that this life is temporal and only in Christ will we be prepared to face the eternity that awaits us all.

It pays to know the difference between a relationship with Christ and religion. There are those who will tell you any religion will do for we are all striving to get to the same “place.” There is just one huge problem in adopting such a philosophy, what about the problem of sin? What about our sins that have separated us from a holy God? How is that matter going to be dealt with, for we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)? The religions of man cannot answer the sin question. Thankfully, the Christ of the cross dealt with our sin which separates us from the Holy Father. He came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. He became our Substitute, living for us the holy life God demands and then incurring on the cross the just payment required for our sin. Only Christianity solves the sin problem. One’s eternal destiny depends on knowing the difference between embracing Christ in a faith relationship and the woeful inadequacy of man-made religion.

Yes, there are many matters in life it pays to know the difference. Knowing the difference when confronted with the many issues that demand wisdom and  discernment throughout our lives, not only determines our destiny on earth, it will determine our eternal destiny which is of the utmost importance.


Dr. Dan