Acts 17:16-In Athens, Paul's spirit was aggravated when he saw all of the idols to pagan gods.
The word “provoked” (NASV), means more than to just be irritated or disturbed…
primarily, "to sharpen" (akin to A, No. 2), is used metaphorically, signifying "to rouse to anger, to provoke," in the Passive Voice, in Act 17:16, RV, "was provoked" (AV, "was stirred"); in 1Cr 13:5, RV, "is not provoked" (the word "easily" in AV, represents no word in the original).
The sight of all of these pagan idols angered Paul.
Athens was known as a center of superstition when Paul entered its streets. William Barclay writes in his commentary on Acts, “It was said that there were more statues of the gods in Athens than in all the rest of Greece put together and that in Athens it was easier to meet a god than a man”.
He debated in the Synagogue and in the market place every day (:17). He talked with some of the Epicurean (Epicurius, 341-270 B.C., happiness is the goal of life; cf. http://www.religionfacts.com/greco-roman/sects/epicureanism.htm) and Stoic (Zeno, 340-265 B.C., emphasized the rational over the emotional) philosophers (both were pantheistic, emphasizing conduct "according to nature"; cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoicism). Some thought that Paul was teaching about two gods...Jesus and the resurrection (the word “resurrection” is feminine and they thought this was the female counterpart of Jesus). They took him to the Aeropagus (:19, the religious council of Athens that met on the Hill of Ares; cf. http://biblehub.com/topical/a/areopagus.htm) to explain his teaching to them. Luke tells us that the Athenians spent all their time listening to new and novel ideas (:21). Paul tells them that he sees that they are very religious and that he had even seen an altar with the inscription, "To An Unknown God" (:23). He tells them that this is the God he is speaking about. His introduction would appeal to them because he speaks about the creation of nature (:24-28)...even making reference to their own poets (:28). Paul then addresses their pantheistic beliefs (god is a part of nature) by saying that since God is the creator...we should recognize that He is not part of the creation (:29). He is not restricted to creation, as men are. Nor is he dependent upon creation, as men are. He reigns separately, supremely, and sovereignly above all of creation and needs nothing from it. Paul says that God is not dependent upon creation, but that creation is dependent upon God…”in Him we live and move and exist” (:28). Since God is not a part of nature…men should not worship gold, silver, or stone images of Him…as if that image was God. God has now revealed His true nature and is calling on men to repent of their incorrect beliefs (:30). God will hold men accountable for what they believe...and He has furnished proof of His ultimate authority over all of nature (including man, himself) by raising a man from the dead (:31, which shows that God is in control of nature since in the realm of nature once someone dies they remain dead). When Paul mentioned the resurrection the crowd became divided...some laughed, but others wanted to hear more. Some joined him and believed...including Dionysius the Areopagite, and Damaris, and others (:34).
Prayer: Lord, Paul began his reasoning with what the people thought...and then moved them to the truth. Please give me the ability to do the same. Help me to be a good and faithful witness for You...leading people to Jesus.