Who Made the World
Unknown until now
By Jon W. Quinn
Let us go with Paul to first century Athens,
Greece. Athens was the center of Greek culture, including religion. The
Acropolis was there, surrounded by statues of various gods and goddesses, as
well as buildings dedicated to their worship. As Paul beheld the sight, he
felt provoked within to spend his time doing something useful. He must tell
all who would listen about the true and living God and His Son, Jesus. Paul
went first to the Jewish synagogue and also to the market place. Some Greek
philosophers heard him and had varying first reactions. Some said, "He seems
to be a proclaimer of strange deities" because Paul taught about Jesus and the
resurrection (Acts 17:18). They took Paul to Mars Hill, or the Areopagus, to
hear further what he had to say (the Greeks loved that sort of thing; hearing
new ideas). This is a place in the midst of the city of Athens located on a
summit where the Athenian supreme court would meet. The judges were called "Areopagites"
and would determine if the teaching was unduly offensive. Perhaps Paul is
undergoing some sort of preliminary hearing.
Where does one begin in such a circumstance? These are heathen philosophers.
They are worshipers of many gods. The moral climate of the city is awful.
Where does one begin?
A Very Religious People
"And Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, 'Men of Athens, I
observe that you are very religious in all respects" (Acts 17:22). The word
translated "religious" is an interesting one for Paul to choose. In the Greek,
it can either be taken as a compliment or as a rebuke. It could mean that they
were very worshipful of their gods or it could mean that they were very
superstitious. The listeners would be asking themselves "Did he just
congratulate us or take a slap at us?" At any rate, he got their full
attention, which is probably what he meant to do!
The Unknown God
"For while I was passing through examining the objects of your worship, I also
found an altar with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' What therefore you
worship in ignorance, this I proclaim unto you" (ACTS 17:23). While Paul was
observing the many idols and the altars dedicated to them, he evidently ran
across a lone altar without an accompanying image. There was good reason; they
didn't know what the god looked like; hence the name "UNKNOWN GOD". And it is
true, this people had long since lost touch with the true and living God; a
God who creates and loves and cares and gives. Their distant ancestors had
rebelled against God and fashioned gods for themselves. God had truly become
"THE UNKNOWN GOD" to them! God is also unknown to many of our own culture and
nation. They need to know Him today as much as the
ancient Athenians needed to know Him.
The Maker of the World
"The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven
and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; neither is He served by
human hands, as though He needed anything, since He, Himself gives to all life
and breath and all things" (Acts 17:24,25). Already, Paul is establishing how
superior the true God is to their false gods and concepts. First, He is the
Maker of all things, their gods were made. The true God lives in a heavenly
place, not in human-constructed temples that needed upkeep. The true God needs
nothing from his creatures, but their gods had to be cleaned and polished.
Someday, Venus would lose her arms and end up in a museum. And finally, God is
the source of life itself. We exist only because of God.
He is the Maker of All Humanity
"...and He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of
the earth..." (Acts 17:26). There is no Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave
or free, rich or poor, white or black with God. One group is not more
important than the other. All are descended from Adam, wherever on this globe
they may be located. There is an important and needed lesson here!
God Rules the Nations
"...having determined their appointed times, and the
boundaries of their habitations," (Acts 17:26b). God's purposes will not be
thwarted by men. Kingdoms rise and fall but the will of the Lord endures as
God provides whatever is necessary to advance His goals. Unknown to mortal men
are the ways and means of God, but be assured that neither the ancient past
nor recent world events are only the result of random chance.
Instinctive Longing for God
"...that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find
Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and
exist...for we are His offspring" (Acts 17:27,28). There is a missing quality
of life and purpose when one fails to know God. This causes the human being to
grope for purpose. Sometimes, this causes one to seek and find God. But many
times, the search goes the opposite direction and ends with a less than
adequate substitute such as materialism, idolatry or humanism. Do not settle
for less than what only God can give!
A Day of Judgment
"...God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He
has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a
Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him
from the dead" (Acts 17:30b-31). God has already selected the day of Jesus'
return to judge the world. He knows the time; we do not. He calls upon us to
repent, that is, to change whatever is amiss in our lives and get down to the
serious business of fulfilling our God given purpose. Jesus is coming again.
Thus the preaching came to a close. Some sneered. Others wanted to hear more.
And some believed, including Dionysius, who was one of the judges. They obeyed
the gospel of the living God. So should you!
From The Bradley Banner 3/16/2014
Published by the Bradley Church of Christ
1505 E. Broadway