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. Acts 17:16
In Acts 17:16, we read that as Paul waited for the arrival of Silas and Timothy in Athens, he became “provoked” at what he saw. The city was filled with images of idols. Men had erected statues and monuments to gods that did not exist—the evidence of an inner need to worship something or someone greater than themselves.
Being “provoked” as the apostle Paul was did not mean being angry as we know it. Here the word provoked means “stimulated to action.” At the sight of the spiritual ignorance of the Athenians, Paul was provoked to speak the truth concerning Christ and His messiahship.
Because Paul, a scholar in his own right, knew that words delivered in anger are rarely worth considering, he challenged the Athenian philosophers to a debate. He was amazed at their attempts to worship every god imaginable, even to the point that they made sure they did not leave one out.
Warren Wiersbe comments on Paul’s effort: “Paul’s message is a masterpiece of communication. He started where the people were by referring to their altar dedicated to an unknown god. Having aroused their interest, he then explained who that God is and what He is like. He concluded the message with a personal application that left each council member facing a moral decision, and some of them decided for Jesus Christ.”
Dear Lord, stimulate me to action in behalf of lost souls. Provoke me to respond.