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The Unknown God

                                                 Acts 17:15-34


[The picture in our PowerPoint is of an actual altar discovered in 1820 on the Palantine Hill of Rome.  It is an altar to the Unknown God.]


Thessalonica/Berea/now Athens…

The city of Athens in Bible days attracted a lot of  “sight-seers”.  The Greeks were famous for their art, sculptures, architecture, etc.  But Paul didn’t go as a sight-seer but rather as a soul-winner.  When he arrived his heart was broken to see the city immersed in a cultural paganism of idolatry. 


v. 16        “wholly given” = totally immersed.  Historians tell us that in those days the Greeks worshipped as many as 30k gods and goddesses in their mythology.  They were make-believe gods, but they took them very seriously.  They would erect statues and monuments and altars to them.  The streets were lined with these gods, and it has been said that it was easier to find a god than a man. 


They were afraid that they had perhaps even missed some gods, so they erected an altar to “the unknown god.” 


v. 23        They didn’t want to sleight any unknown god, making him angry…they wanted to be open-minded to others who may come to the area and not find “their” god represented. [Ecumenicalism]


Another historian visited Athens and wrote a 6 volume set on their religious beliefs.  But Paul summed it up in just 4 words:  “wholly given to idolatry”.  And Paul knew these were false gods…this was demonic…he knew that wood and stone couldn’t save a person’s soul. 


Paul was up against a lot.


v. 18        Epicureans were all about indulgence…their chief goal in life was pleasure.  They believed man was just another animal that returns to dust/no afterlife…so, eat, drink, and be merry.  These were “playboys” who satiated every animal appetite they had.


Stoics were all about indifference…their chief goal was to not care, not believe anything…be dead to feelings and emotions, even if you have a death in the family, major illness, catastrophe, etc. 


These 2 philosophies are at opposite ends of the spectrum.  One said “enjoy life”, the other said “endure life”…but 1 thing they had in common was hatred for Paul and his preaching.


v. 18        they called him a babbler = seed picker…the idea of birds like you see in parks, hopping around picking up seeds.  They were saying he was one of these who just grabs thoughts from here and there and everywhere and repeats them as his own, w/ no real thought or understanding of his own…just babbling!  They were looking down their noses at him as if he knew nothing.


Paul preaches to them in v. 22-23 [read]

        He started where they were…he went to them, and used a clever opening line in saying I notice that you are aware that there’s a god you don’t know…I wanna talk to you about Him!


Paul told them 4 things:


1.     Our God is the God of creation

v. 24-25           This is where we have to begin…who created it all, and how can we even be having this conversation?  If you’re wrong on this 1st point you’ll be wrong on everything which follows that.  Like an algebra equation…if the first number is wrong, everything following it will be…don’t even bother continuing the rest of the problem.


This flew in the face of these 2 groups of philosophers.

The Epicureans believed that matter was eternal and had no creator.

The Stoics were Pantheists and believed God was in everything…rocks, trees, the river, etc.


Creationism is unpopular still today, because people don’t want to be accountable to God.  Evolution today is taught as a fact, when it’s not even a good theory.  Scientific theory is supposed to be based on observable facts in controlled conditions.


2.     Our God is the God of personal involvement

v. 27        This really flew in the face of Greek mythology.  They thought of their gods as being far away, having little to do w/ mankind, not wanting to be troubled by man.  And I agree w/ Paul, for He’s right here in my heart!  And He Who is the Creator didn’t just make it all and then turn His back on it…He’s personally involved down to the hairs on our heads, or in the drain!


  • He knows my name

John 10:3

    To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.

        That is a blessing to me, because of Revelation.


The antichrist doesn’t know our names, but what?  Our number!


  • He knows my needs

Matthew 6:32

    (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.


How many here can testify to a time when you had a need, prayed, and God supplied?

Philip. 4:19

    But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

  • He knows my nerves—how I feel.


Hebrews 4:15

    For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.


If you came to church tonite discouraged, He knows, and wants to lift you up.  Depressed?  He wants to cheer you up.  Feeling spiritually dirty?  He wants to clean you up!  He knows how you feel…and furthermore…He cares!


Ever felt rejected?  He’s been there!  Physically worn out?  He’s been there!  Disappointed in others?  Burdened?


He who was the bread of life began His ministry hungry.

He who was the water of life ended His ministry thirsty.

He who was weary is our rest.

He who paid taxes is the king of the universe.

He who was called a devil cast out demons.

He who prayed hears our prayers.

He who wept dries our tears.

He who was sold for 30 pieces of silver redeemed the world.

He who was led as a lamb to the slaughter is our Good Shepherd.


He’s a personal God!


Ill.—a man visited a friend/noticed picture of Jesus on the wall/eyes looked like they were looking right at him/made him feel uncomfortable so he moved across the room/it still appeared that way/said, “doesn’t that make you uncomfortable?” / “no, that picture tells me that He loves me so much, He can’t keep His eyes off me!”


God of creation, personal involvement…


3.     Our God is the God of repentance

Paul steps on their toes now.

v. 28        He quotes the Greek poet Erastus. 

v. 29-30   He shows them the utter folly of mythology.


“God winked at…”  means God has been patient w/ you, but now God has brought you more information and w/ that goes more responsibility…so away w/ these gods of gold, stone, wood.  [I can just imagine him waving his hand in front of the statues faces, getting no response!]


Christians, don’t ever make the mistake of thinking you have gotten away w/ sin.  Just because judgment hasn’t come yet for something doesn’t mean it won’t come.  Lost people shouldn’t be duped into thinking that because they haven’t seen hell that it doesn’t exist, either!


God of creation, personal involvement, repentance…but if you don’t repent…


4.     Our God is the God of judgment

v. 31        People don’t have to believe in the judge for him to have that authority vested in him.

Ill.—Supreme Court Justice hearings/he’ll have much power/many won’t like him, but will have to abide w/ his courts decisions.

        Many stand in our courts today w/ hatred toward the judge, or after court go away in bitterness, but his decision stands!


3 responses:

v. 32-34  

  • Some laughed and blew it off, mocking.
  • Some procrastinated and said, not today, maybe some day.
  • Some believed.

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