"Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoics, encountered him..." (Acts 17:17-18).
When Paul came to Athens, the Scripture says that his "spirit" was "stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry" (Acts 17:16). Immediately, he set himself to lift up his voice to this idol city. He first took the Gospel to the Jews and the "devout persons" - the Jewish proselytes - in the synagogues. Then he proceeded to take the Gospel to the place of public concourse - the "market" - the public square, if you will. This was where the businessmen and philosophers met to converse and reason.
While in the "market," the Scripture tells us that "certain philosophers" "encountered him." They met him face to face. Actually, they argued with, opposed, and attacked him. Why? Because the Gospel he preached came up against their ruling principles.
Who exactly were these "certain philosophers"? Which sects did they represent?
The first group was called the "Epicureans." They were a group of philosophers who initially denied that the world was created by God. They also believed that God was basically careless about human affairs - that He exercised no providence over them. They were noted for their belief that pleasure was the chief good, and that man's best course was to get as much pleasure in life as he possibly could. The "Stoics," on the other hand, believed that the universe was created by God. Nonetheless, they still held on to the belief that everything in life was fixed by Fate and not God. Unlike the "Epicureans," they advocated that man's passions and affectons should be restrained and that he should strive through life to get the mastery over them. They insisted on self-righteousness and the pride of intellect.
It is important to note that Paul confronted these two philosophical "schools" on their own "turf" - in their own home, if you will. He preached the Gospel to them, and what was their reaction? They "encountered him" - that is, they contended, opposed, and attacked him.
These two schools of thought are two of the greatest enemies of the Gospel. They represent Pleasure and Pride - two opposing forces to salvation. Each time the Gospel is preached, these two philosophical lies will be the first to "stick up their ugly heads" and oppose the truth of God's Word.
When was the last time that you witnessed for the Lord? Whenever you did, did you come face-to-face with Pleasure and/or Pride? Did they attack you as they did Paul?
Whenever you are presenting the Gospel, be sure to be on the alert for these two ruling and reigning schools of thought to viciously oppose you.