Acts 17—Natan’s Commentary Notes: Confronting the Modern Philosophers

Acts 17

Acts 17:6, Turned the world upside down. Can it be said of us that we have turned the world around us upside down for Yeshua with the message of the gospel? Has the reputation that we are “Bible thumpers” and “Jesus freaks” preceded us as it did these saints in the book of Acts? Are we, as they were, persecuted and badly treated because of the witness of our faith?

Acts 17:11, Searched the Scriptures daily. Let us not forget that the only Scriptures the saints at this time was the Tanakh or Old Testament, which, in itself, contains the entire gospel message and all that humans need for salvation. The Testimony of Yeshua or New Testament is simply “frosting on the cake” in that it merely confirms the Truth of the Tanakh and is the only divinely inspired commentary on the Tankah.

Acts 17:17, Reasoned [discussed or disputed]…in the marketplace. What is our modern market place? With whom in the public arena are we discussing the gospel on a regular basis? Are we being lights on a hill and being salt and light to the world as Yeshua instructed? Let’s be honest. There is always room for improvement in our fulfilling Yeshua’s command, known as the great commission, to go ye therefore into all the world and to preach the gospel.

Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. The missionary minded saints of Athens placed themselves in the marketplace of ideas where they reasoned or disputed with the proponents of the leading philosophies of the day including Epicureanism and Stoicism. By that day, belief of divine influence (i.e. god and goddess worship) was waning and humanistic philosophies involving individualistic paths of spirituality were the fad of the day that were replacing organized religion and the superstitious belief systems that accompanied religious systems. This is not unlike our day where church attendance is down and people are seeking spiritual alternatives to fill the void that irreligious lifestyles and secular mindsets leaves in their wake. The saints’ response to this religious confusion in society was to preach the gospel and to reason with those who were lost and confused. 

In light of this present societal condition, what is the evangelistically mind saint supposed to do?

Before answering this question, an issue first needs to be discussed. A problem exists in our day that did not exist in the days of the first century believers. The secular Greeks had never heard the gospel message before, and so it was a new and potentially exciting philosophy. We, now, are confronted with the reality that most people have heard of Christianity, about the Christian church and know something about the gospel, even though it may only be a sparse tidbit of information or some twisted caricature of the truth. Nevertheless, most people, based on this scanty or misguided perception, have chosen to reject the message of Yeshua the Messiah, and so preaching the gospel to those who have wilfully closed and hardened their hearts and minds to the good news provides a challenge to those seeking to fulfill the great commission of Yeshua to preach the gospel to the world.

Upon closer look, the philosophies of ancient Greece are not all that dissimilar than many of the prevailing and popular spiritual and philosophical paths that people are following in our day. For example, Epicureanism was a philosophy that sought to enjoy this physical life to the fullest without going to extremes. It championed the idea of self-fulfillment and trying to be a basically good person, while, at the same time, indulging the physical senses and satiating the basic pleasures of the flesh. Does that not sound like a lot of people we know who try to live a good life while having fun and refusing to be constrained by the strict and rather archaic values and morals of the Bible? Its chief competitor was Stoicism, which can be summed up as rolling with the punches while trying to be a good person. Let’s look at these philosophies a little closer and then compare them with what we see going on around us today.

“Epicureanism is a system of philosophy founded around 307 BC based upon the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus. Epicureanism was originally a challenge to Platonism. Later its main opponent became Stoicism… Epicurus was an atomic materialist, following in the steps of Democritus. His materialism led him to a general attack on superstition and divine intervention. Following the Cyrenaic philosopher Aristippus, Epicurus believed that the greatest good was to seek modest, sustainable pleasure in the form of a state of ataraxia (tranquility and freedom from fear) and aponia (the absence of bodily pain) through knowledge of the workings of the world and limiting desires. Correspondingly, Epicurus and his followers generally withdrew from politics because it could lead to frustrations and ambitions which can directly conflict with the Epicurean pursuit for peace of mind and virtues…Although Epicureanism is a form of hedonism insofar as it declares pleasure to be its sole intrinsic goal, the concept that the absence of pain and fear constitutes the greatest pleasure, and its advocacy of a simple life, make it very different from “hedonism” as colloquially understood…Epicureanism flourished in the Late Hellenistic era and during the Roman era, and many Epicurean communities were established, such as those in Antiochia, Alexandria, Rhodes, and Herculaneum. By the late 3rd century CE Epicureanism all but died out, being opposed by other philosophies (mainly Neoplatonism)” (

The other prevailing Greek philosophy was Stocism. This philosophy is also alive and well in our day, even as Epicreanism is. Defined, “Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the early 3rd century BC. It is a philosophy of personal ethics informed by its system of logic and its views on the natural world. According to its teachings, as social beings, the path to eudaimonia (happiness, or blessedness) is found in accepting the moment as it presents itself, by not allowing oneself to be controlled by the desire for pleasure or by the fear of pain, by using one’s mind to understand the world and to do one’s part in nature’s plan, and by working together and treating others fairly and justly. The Stoics are especially known for teaching that “virtue is the only good” for human beings, and those external things—such as health, wealth, and pleasure—are not good or bad in themselves (adiaphora), but have value as “material for virtue to act upon”. Alongside Aristotelian ethics, the Stoic tradition forms one of the major founding approaches to virtue ethics. The Stoics also held that certain destructive emotions resulted from errors of judgment, and they believed people should aim to maintain a will (called prohairesis) that is “in accordance with nature”. Because of this, the Stoics thought the best indication of an individual’s philosophy was not what a person said but how a person behaved. To live a good life, one had to understand the rules of the natural order since they thought everything was rooted in nature” (

As we can see, the influences of Epicureanism and Stoicism are still with us today. Should we be surprised? After all, there is nothing new under the sun!

So now returning to our original question, what is the saint to do in light of the societal trend to abandon the Christian religion, church and biblical values for any one of a number of popularly trending philosophies or admixtures thereof that are bobbing about on the seas of human ideas and vicissitudes? The bottom line is that in reality nothing has changed. Humans are still humans. They are still sin-bent, still have a hunger for spirituality, while at the same time rebelliously disinclined to submit to the instructions and laws of the Creator as found in the Bible. At the same time, Yeshua’s marching orders to his disciples have never changed: preach the gospel message of hope and love, be salt and light to those around us, love one another and those around us by manifesting the fruit of the Spirit, lift up the name of Yeshua and the message of the cross, and be a spiritual seed planter wherever one goes. Let YHVH through his Spirit do the watering and fertilizing of that seed by convicting the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. YHVH will bring in the harvest to his kingdom how and when he wants. It is our job to be our Father’s business and to leave the rest to him.

Acts 17:24–32, Paul’s model for one-on-one evangelism. In Paul’s encounter with the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill, he uses the five step evangelistic approach that Yeshua used as recorded in his encounter with the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17–22). This five-step approach is as follows:

  • Paul first establishes the character and nature of the one true YHVH Elohim who is the Creator of all things and man should seek him, for man owes all to him (vv. 24–28). 
  • Then Paul shows how the Greeks have not been following the true Elohim, but have been sinning by worshiping false gods (i.e. idolatry), which is a violation of the Torah (v. 29).
  • Next, Paul further alludes to the Torah by establishing that Elohim’s divine nature or character (which is revealed in the Torah) transcends idols, material possessions or anything else devised by men whether artistic or philosophical in nature (v. 29). These things were the chief false gods of the ancient Greeks, for which Paul was taking them to task.
  • Paul then tells the Greeks that Elohim is calling men to repentance for ignorantly following man-made idols and philosophies, (which is sin, or Torahlessness, 1 John 3:4) (vv. 30–31).
  • After this, Paul points the Greeks to Yeshua (vv. 30–31). 

From this evangelistic encounter, Paul gained some converts (v. 34).


If Yeshua Calls YOU a Priest, Then Act Like One!

Exodus 28

Scripture reveals that the saints are to be a holy or set-apart (kadosh) priesthood,
not a profane (worldly and polluted) one. Which are you? Kadosh or profane?

YHVH Is Preparing His Saints to Be a Kingdom of Priests

In the Bible, YHVH declared that it was the destiny of the Israelite nation to become a kingdom of priests (Exod 19:6). As such, he commissioned them to become a light to the heathen nations around them and to lead them to YHVH—the one true Elohim (Deut 4:6–8). This is why YHVH in his sovereignty positioned the nation of Israel at the crossroads of the major trade routes of the ancient world—between three continents: Africa, Asia and Europe. Israel did not fulfill this prophetic destiny because of sin and rebellion. They desired to conform their lives to the standards of the wicked nations around them rather than conform to YHVH’s standards of righteousness as revealed in the Torah-law. While ancient Israel failed in its divine mission to evangelize the world, in these last days, through Yeshua the Messiah, YHVH has raised up his people (the Israel of Elohim, Gal 6:16) to be that holy priesthood tasked with spreading the good news of the kingdom of Elohim globally (1 Pet 2:9; Dan 7:18; Rev 1:6; 5:10; 20:6; Isa 66:21). Let us now explore how YOU be a part of fulfilling this divine commission.

First, who are you? Knowing this will enable you to understand your divine calling and mission.

Those who come to faith in Yeshua the Messiah become children of Abraham and are thus Israelites (Rom 4:16; 9:8-11; Gal 3:7, 9, 14, 28-29) who have been grafted in to the olive tree of Israel (Rom 11:11–32); they are the current “Israel of Elohim” (Gal 6:16). Ancient Israel never fulfilled its divine calling to be a kingdom of priests and a light to the nations of the world. YHVH’s calling and purposes for Israel are without repentance (Rom. 11:29). What ancient Israel failed to accomplish because of disobedience, rebellion and faithlessness will be left to grafted in Israel—the one new man in Yeshua the Messiah—to accomplish. Yeshua commissioned his disciples to preach the good news (or gospel) of the kingdom of Elohim to the world (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). But more than that, his disciples were to become that kingdom of priests that ancient Israel missed the opportunity to become.

We read in the Testimony of Yeshua (or New Testament) that the saints of YHVH will be called kings and priests (or a kingdom of priests) of YHVH-Yeshua the Messiah and will reign with him during the 1000-year Millennium or Messianic Age.

[T]o him, the one who loves us, who has freed us from our sins at the cost of his blood, who has caused us to be a kingdom, that is, cohanim [priests] for YHVH, his Father… (Rev 1:5–6, CJB)

[At] the cost of blood you ransomed for YHVH persons from every tribe, language, people and nation. You made them into a kingdom for YHVH to rule, cohanim [priests] to serve him and they will rule over the earth. (Rev 5:9–10, CJB)

Blessed and set-apart is anyone who has a part in the first resurrection; over him the second death has no power. On the contrary, they will be cohanim [priests] of YHVH and of Messiah, and they will rule with him for the thousand years. (Rev 20:6, CJB)

During the Millennium, Messiah will be the King of kings. His government will be a theocracy with him, as the High Priest-King, at the head. The children of Israel operated under a theocratic from of government with Moses as the priest-king (he was from the priestly tribe of Levi and was called a king in Deut 33:4-5) as the human head of state. David Stern in his Jewish New Testament Commentary (p. 10) describes the role of the biblical priest to be like that of a prophet and to serve as spokesman and mediator between YHVH and man. The prophet speaks to man on behalf of YHVH, the priest to YHVH on behalf of man. In terms of practical job-description their primary duty was to offer sacrificial animals on the altar.

Of those who will be the priests to reign with Messiah during the Millennium, Christian commentator Matthew Henry says in his commentary on Revelation 1:5-6 that Messiah has made believers kings and priests to YHVH and his Father. As such they overcome the world, mortify sin, govern their own spirits, resist Satan, prevail with YHVH in prayer, and shall judge the world.”

This is an apt description of those who will qualify to become priests in YHVH’s kingdom, but let’s define some words Henry uses in his descriptions. How does Scripture define sin? Sin in its simplest definition is the transgression of YHVH’s Torah-law (1 John 3:4). Henry says that the Saints as priests will “judge the world.” What does this mean? Do you know of any secular judge who makes judgments without following some legal code upon which civil law is based? Of course not. What legal code is Scripture based upon? The Torah-law YHVH gave to the children of Israel through Moses. In numerous places YHVH instructed the priests and kings of that time to rule and judge on the basis of his Torah-law. When they failed to do so YHVH sent prophet after prophet to warn them to turn from their wicked ways and return to following YHVH’s laws. 

What standard of righteousness do you think YHVH’s kings and priests will rule and judge from during the Millennium? There is only one standard of truth outlined in Scripture: that is the Torah (Ps 119:142, 151), which is YHVH’s Torah, which by strict etymological and scriptural definition simply means YHVH’s “instructions, teachings and precepts in righteousness.” Since YHVH’s standards of righteousness do not change, for his character and nature do not change (Mal 3:6) despite what religious men may say or do, it stands to reason that YHVH’s kings and priests will be Torah-obedient set-apart or holy ones (or the saints). In fact, this is how the book of Revelation defines the saints: they keep the Torah-commandments of YHVH and have faith in Yeshua the Messiah (Rev 12:17; 14:12). Yeshua goes on to say in Matthew 5:19 that those who keep his Torah-law will be called the greatest in his kingdom (i.e. they will be kings and priests), while those who do not keep his Torah-law will be called the least in his kingdom. In other words, the higher the level of obedience to Torah the higher will be one’s rewards and responsibilities in YHVH’s kingdom. Yeshua told his disciples that if they loved him they would keep his (Torah) commandments (John 14:15, 21).

The Saints Are Called to Be a Set-apart (Kadosh) Nation

If you have repented of your sins, been washed in the blood of the Lamb and been born of the Holy or Set-apart Spirit (Heb. Ruach haKodesh) you are part of a set-apart priesthood. This is your identity according to Scripture. Get this into your spirit and every day live out the reality of it!

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Explaining the Correlation Between Faithfulness and Miraculous Faith

Luke 17:5–10, Increase our faith. As if often the case, Yeshua’s answer to the disciples’ request to increase their faith is a bit enigmatic. Let us explore the connection between faithfulness and miracles of faith.

In this passage of Scripture, Yeshua answers his disciples’ request by making the terse statement that a small amount of faith produces great, even miraculous, results, and then he launches into a discussion about faithful attendance to duty, and ends the discussion there. What do these seemingly discordant statements have to do with each other? The implication is that faith comes as a result of being faithful, that is, by being a faithful doer of the master’s will. 

Let us dig deeper and demystify the connection between faith and faithfulness. Consider this. What is the relationship between faith and faithfulness? When one is faithful to his master’s will and is faithfully executing his responsibilities, what happens? By immersing oneself in the will of his master with one’s whole heart, one will be totally in tune with the master. He will know the heart, mind and will of his master. He will know the desires of the master, how the master thinks and what the master wants him to do, and what the master wants him to do next. On this basis and from this spiritual launch pad, the servant can extend his faith and predict the will of the master—what the master wants him to do next, and then the servant can step out in faith and accomplish it, even if it requires a miracle to do so.

As an example of the connection between faith and faithfulness, let’s consider Yeshua’s command to his disciples to preach the gospel to all nations. Referred to as “The Great Commission,” Yeshua promised that certain miraculous signs and wonders would follow his disciples when they faithfully fulfill this command (Mark 16:15–18). One often hears Christians wondering why signs and wonder why they do see many miraculous signs and wonders happening today. Maybe it is because they are not being faithful to the Master’s command to preach the gospel to the whole world or at least to boldly sharing the gospel with those around them. The preaching of the gospel is just one example of miracles of faith following obedience.

An example of stepping out in faith from the launch pad of faithfulness based on fulfilling the Master’s will is Yeshua the Master’s will for his redeemed believers to expand the kingdom of heaven by sharing the gospel with others. Sharing the gospel with others goes hand-in-hand with the Master’s will to reverse the effects of the kingdom of darkness by healing the sick and casting demons out of oppressed people (Mark 16:15–18). In this manner, kingdom of heaven is expanded one life at a time as per the heart and will of Yeshua. The preacher of the gospel should understand this correlation between faithfulness and miraculous faith, which is why after sharing the gospel with others, one can expect to heal the sick and cast demons out of the oppressed. 

It is really that simple; it is a matter of cause and effect. Faithfulness leads to faith resulting in miracles.


In YOUR discussions with others, are YOU loaded for bear?

Yeshua the Messiah was not your typical dinner guest. In fact, by today’s standards, he would have been considered impertinent, impolite, politically incorrect if not downright rude in how he treated his hosts. But since Yeshua was sinless in all that he did and totally led by the Spirit of Elohim, his behavior, as unconventional as it may seem, cannot be faulted. Why is this? This is because Yeshua always had one goal in mind: to advance the kingdom of his Father, to spread the light of Truth in the darkness of human delusion, lies and false concepts—to be spiritual salt and light wherever he went. Yeshua was always loaded for bear, so to speak. Luke chapter 14 is a perfect example of this.

Luke 14

Luke 14:1, House of one of the rulers. Yeshua was invited to a Sabbath meal at the home of a Pharisee who was a ruler (likely a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin). Had Yeshua been a typical man, he would have engaged in the customary small talk of a polite and gracious dinner guest not wanting to offend his host. Yet Yeshua was not there to schmooze—to curry anyone’s favor in an effort to gain personal influence. As he required his own disciples to maintain a salty or spicy demeanor at all times (Matt 5:13; Luke 14:34–35), he was definitely up to the task to lead his disciples by example. The following discussion that Yeshua initiates is what some may consider to be a prime example of how to insult one’s host and the other guests. 

First, Yeshua confronts a controversial issue head on by asking a question, and then by healing one of the other invited guests on the Sabbath, which was a Pharisaical taboo, though not contrary to the Scriptures (Luke 14:2–6). 

Next, Yeshua takes some of the guests to task who were prideful social elites and religious status-seekers. He challenges them to humbles themselves and let Elohim exalt them in the eyes of men (Luke 14:7–14). 

Yeshua then raises the discussion around the table to a higher level when he tells the Parable of the Great Supper (Luke 14:15–24). Doubtless, a few of the guests were made to feel awkward, since they likely resembled some of the characters in Yeshua’s story. 

At this dinner table, there was no small talk of sports, the weather, one’s job or other tidbits of gossip. On the contrary, Yeshua was showing his disciples, and us, how to be salt and light wherever we go, even at the risk of offending one’s hosts, and all for the greater good of expanding the kingdom of Elohim in the lives of men. 

Of course, it  should go without saying that in being salt and light, one has to be totally led by the Spirit of Elohim or else more harm than good will be done.

Luke 14:18–24, Make excuses. This passage is a continuation of Yeshua’s previous discussion and must be seen in that context. Buying a piece of property and a yoke of oxen and getting married is equivalent today to buy a new home, a new car and getting married. These are among the three most notable, expensive and life-changing events to happen in a person’s life. In the eyes of a secular-minded man, to put one’s religion ahead of these things seems weirdly strange. Such a person will likely be viewed as a religious fanatic, extremist, a Bible thumper or Jesus freak. Yet such a reordering of priorities in one’s life is required of a person who desires to enter YHVH’s everlasting kingdom (Luke 14:15). The path to this lofty goal is narrow and sadly few will choose it.

Luke 14:26–33, If any man comes to me. This discourse is also a continuation of Yeshua’s previous thoughts, both of which were part of a larger discussion relating to the kingdom of Elohim that Yeshua initiated while at the dinner party of a rich Pharisee who was a ruler (likely a member or the Sanhedrin, Luke 14:1). In this part of the discussion, Yeshua continues the line of thought on what is required to enter the kingdom of Elohim. First, one must count the costs to enter the kingdom, which in the world’s eyes is high. Next Yeshua sets himself squarely in the position of being the door to entering the kingdom, and then demonstrates in the most graphic terms that one must love him above all else including close family members and even one’s own life if he wants to be part of YHVH’s kingdom. Such a man, for certain, would be viewed by his secular contemporaries as a religious fanatic! Yet this is what Yeshua requires of his disciple (Luke 14:33).

Luke 14:26, Hate his father and mother. Some people will quote this verse out of context thus turning Yeshua into a cruel, hateful and demanding tyrant. The key to understanding this clause is to read the rest of the sentence, which ends with the word, “yes, and his own life also.” 

Unless they are psychotic, no one hates their own life. In fact, the Torah enjoins us “to love our neighbor as ourself,” which is part of the shema (Lev 19:18), and which is a partial summation of the entire Torah. 

Even though the Greek word for hate is miseo meaning “to hate or detest,” Yeshua is using hyperbole here to make the greater point that to be his disciple, one must love him more than anything else. The world calls this fanaticism, but the world’s evaluations are based on hypocrisy. No one questions the almost worshipful fanaticism of a sports fan (short for fanatic) or a rock star groupie! This is socially acceptable. Thousands will fill vast arenas and stadiums adoringly hooting and hollering over their favorite team or rock music star, but when it comes to getting excited about Yeshua, well, that’s fanaticism. 

What Yeshua hyperbolically is telling us in this verse is that we must love him more than anyone or anything including our closest family members…and even our own life. We must follow his example in that he laid down his life for us, and so we must be willing to do the same for him. The bottom line is that serving Yeshua must be the highest priority in our life!

Luke 14:34–35, Salt is good. Yeshua then ends his discussion with a pithy analogy involving salt. What is the hidden message in this? Elsewhere, Yeshua states that his disciples are to be salt and light in this world (Matt 5:13–14). In this passage, Yeshua implies the same thing and concludes that salt that has lost its saltiness is useless. 

Salt is a necessary ingredient to the body’s survival. It also helps to enhance the flavor of the food it seasons, and it stand out if too much is added. Salt also acts as a food preservative in that it prevents spoilage by killing pathogens. 

Yet Yeshua warns against salt losing its saltiness. How is this possible? This occurs through dilution. If Yeshua’s disciples are to be like spiritual salt to the world, then they can lose the quality as a seasoning, life preservative, killer of spiritual pathogens. This will occur if they allow their priorities and spiritual focus to become watered down, and if the cares of this life take precedence over the service and obedience to Yeshua as he outlines in the previous verses. This is a how a disciple of Yeshua loses his saltiness and becomes useless to the kingdom of Elohim.