Books of the Book: Acts

The Unknown God

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript

Participants: Jim & Mark Howard


Series Code: ABOTB

Program Code: ABOTB00019B

00:01 Welcome back to Books of the Book.
00:02 Before our break, Mark, we were walking through this experience
00:07 of the Apostle Paul where he was ministering in Berea and as
00:12 we've seen in other places, there was a group that didn't
00:16 believe and stirred up the crowds and once again Paul was
00:21 kicked out of town. And so Paul was sent off to Athens and we
00:26 pick up in verse 16 of the story in Athens, which is an
00:29 incredible story. Let's begin there in verse 16 reading.
00:33 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens his spirit was
00:37 provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to
00:41 idols. Now just think about that for a moment. The Apostle Paul
00:46 was provoked, his spirit was provoked within him. Here he is,
00:51 he comes into this place where there's such little knowledge of
00:55 the true God and he looks on the crowds and his spirit is
00:59 provoked. You can sense the love for souls, the love for the
01:04 salvation of humanity that Paul had and it reminds me of Jesus.
01:08 I remember in the gospels it speaks about how Jesus when he
01:13 looked upon the multitudes that he was moved with compassion.
01:17 And it says that he saw that they were like sheep without a
01:22 shepherd. So here we have this group of people who should have
01:27 been given the knowledge of salvation by now if God's people
01:32 had done their work, but instead they're in this ignorance of
01:36 their salvation. They're not just idolatrous.
01:38 They're given over to idolatry. They are steeped so deeply where
01:41 Paul probably wonders, how am I going to preach to these people.
01:45 They're entrenched. So then in verse 17 it says, Therefore,
01:50 therefore because of his deep love and his spirit being
01:54 provoked he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with
01:58 the Gentile worshipers and in the market place daily with
02:02 those who happened to be there. That sounds like everybody
02:05 doesn't it. So there were the Jews, the Gentiles who were
02:09 going to the synagogue and who were worshippers and then
02:13 anybody really who breathed.
02:15 This wasn't a meeting in the market place. This was those who
02:19 happened to be there. There wasn't scheduled anything.
02:20 So you get this sense that the Apostle Paul was involved in
02:24 what we might call lifestyle evangelism. He wasn't just
02:29 somebody who only was on the clock during certain hours and
02:32 off the clock in others. Wherever he was he was preaching
02:36 the Lord Jesus and there he was in the market place and whoever
02:39 happened to be there he was sharing the word. So you get the
02:42 sense too that there's these worshipers, they're the ones
02:45 who have an understanding of God. They don't have a full
02:48 understanding of God and he needs to definitely communicate
02:51 to them and try to reach them, especially the Gentile
02:54 worshipers who have less of an understanding than the Jewish
02:57 ones. But then there's also this class that we might call
03:00 unchurched today. They've got no understanding and he meets with
03:04 them in the market place. He's spreading his message to
03:07 everyone. Then it says in verse 18, Then certain epicurean and
03:11 stoic philosophers encountered him and some said what does this
03:16 babbler want to say. Other's said he seems to be a proclaimer
03:20 of foreign gods because he preached to them Jesus and the
03:23 resurrection. This is where it gets interesting. Verse 19. Then
03:29 they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, may we
03:33 know what this new doctrine is of which you speak. For you are
03:37 bringing some strange thing to our ears. You would think that
03:41 would be a negative thing. You bring some strange thing. But
03:44 then it says, Therefore, we want to know what these things mean.
03:47 Just the fact that it was strange didn't deter them and we
03:51 find out why. It says in verse 21, For all the Athenians and
03:55 the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else
04:00 but to either tell or to hear some new thing. So the fact that
04:03 he was sharing some strange thing, that didn't upset them or
04:07 make them not want to hear. In fact, it made them want to hear.
04:10 And there they were sitting there doing what they always do,
04:14 wanting to hear some new thing. It fascinates me that...
04:18 I've known Christians like that.
04:20 Yeah. This is not altogether gone. This is certainly talking
04:24 about Athens but this idea of some new thing, you know.
04:27 Sensational ideas. So many come to an understanding of the truth
04:33 and they're growing in it but for whatever reason they begin
04:37 to get bored with it and they move on and they start coming up
04:42 with sensational, fanatical views and they move from one
04:45 view to another. Certainly that happened in this day with the
04:49 philosophies of the day here in Athens. But I can't help but
04:54 think also that it's possible that even the study of the Bible
04:59 and theology can lead someone down a wrong path if all they
05:03 do is spend their time researching and trying to study
05:08 some new thing. The study of the Bible should never be disparaged
05:12 but let's look at the Apostle Paul as an example. He was
05:16 someone, he spent time studying, he wrote letters that are full
05:21 of theology but when you look at his life he spent it focusing on
05:25 the purpose of that theology and the focus of that theology which
05:29 was the salvation of humanity through Jesus Christ. So he was
05:34 focused on the mission and the cause of God and that focus
05:38 helped him to understand the true meaning of the theology
05:43 in the scriptures that he was a student of.
05:45 That's right. There's a practical side of theology that
05:48 helps us to better understand the theology. I can't help but
05:52 think, and I'm sure our viewers will relate to this, at least
05:55 some of them, especially the fathers who have had to put
05:58 together toys for their children and you get that page of
06:02 instructions and you say to yourself when you're halfway
06:05 through it, I wish the guys who put these things together, these
06:08 instructions together, had to put one of these toys together
06:12 with their own instructions just once. You know there's a theory,
06:18 but the practical side of things really tempers the theory
06:22 sometimes. As you're mentioning in theology if all we're doing
06:26 is entertaining ideologies, grand themes of Christianity,
06:31 sometimes they will lose any practical significance for the
06:36 common people. And they actually become a
06:38 little bit distorted and you can't really truly understand
06:42 them until they're put into practical application and then
06:46 their full understanding comes to light.
06:47 That's right. Well it's interesting as we go on here
06:51 then. Paul is meeting here in Athens, meeting in the market
06:56 place and what have you and he's got an appointment with these
07:00 epicurean philosophers and others to share with them.
07:04 We're going to verse 22. The Bible says, Then Paul stood in
07:08 the middle of the Areopagus. Now this was a place in Athens
07:13 that was the place for sharing what they understood to be
07:16 knowledge and truth and here Paul has this opportunity to
07:20 share with these men of Athens. And he says, Men of Athens, I
07:24 perceive that in all things you are very religious. For as I was
07:27 passing through and considering the objects of your worship I
07:31 even found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God.
07:35 Therefore, the one whom you worship without knowing him I
07:39 proclaim to you. Now this is a really crafty idea by the
07:44 apostle. He's looking for an opportunity and he just happens
07:48 upon this monument or altar that says to the unknown god. He
07:53 already sees that the gods that they are worshipping in
07:57 character are totally different from the true God. So he takes
08:01 this opportunity to introduce them to the unknown God and he
08:06 says to them in verse 24, God who made the world and
08:10 everything in it since he is Lord of heaven and earth does
08:14 not dwell in temples made with hands nor is he worshipped with
08:18 with men's hands as though he needed anything since he gives
08:22 to all life, breath and all things. Now what's interesting
08:26 here, Jim, is the mindset of their religion, of pagan
08:30 religion and in reality, truth be told, all false religion, is
08:34 that man has to do something to come into good favor with God.
08:39 God needs something from us in order to act. And Paul makes the
08:43 point here that God made everything. He doesn't need
08:46 anything from us. He is the originator of everything and the
08:50 giver of every good gift. God who made all things is not
08:53 worshipped with men's hands. That was totally different from
08:57 the gods they knew. It truly was an unknown god. So he goes on
09:02 to say, God is not needing from us, he's the one who gives life
09:07 and breath and all things. Verse 26, And he has made from one
09:12 blood, speaking about going back to the origins now of Adam, from
09:16 one man every nation of men to dwell on the face of the earth
09:20 and has determined their preappointed times and the
09:23 boundaries of their dwellings. That would be the time periods
09:26 that men live in and the geographic locations they live
09:31 in. God has a plan for every one of us and he puts us in a place
09:37 and a time where we can make a difference. Not only where we
09:41 can make a difference but where he can reach us and we see this
09:46 in the next part. He determined the place where they were going
09:51 to be, determined their preappointed times and the
09:53 boundaries of their dwelling. Verse 27, So that they should
09:58 seek the Lord in the hope that they may find him though he is
10:02 not... that they may grope for him and find him though he is
10:06 not far from any one of us. It's interesting language there.
10:10 To grope for something is as if you're blind, in darkness, and
10:14 you're groping for something that's hard to find, but then
10:17 he makes the point, he's not far from us. He's not hard to find.
10:21 The reason that we don't find him sometimes is because of the
10:25 way that we're searching or not searching for him. Maybe we're
10:28 looking for a different kind of god. So he presents this God
10:31 to them, the unknown god, For in him we live and move and have
10:33 our being as also some of your own poets have said for we are
10:37 also his offspring. Therefore since we are the offspring of
10:41 God we ought not to think of the divine nature like gold or
10:44 silver or stone, like these men's idols and what have you.
10:48 Then he says in verse 30, Truly these times of ignorance God
10:52 overlooked but now commands all men everywhere to repent because
10:57 he has appointed a day on which he will judge the world in
11:00 righteousness by the man whom he has ordained, etc. So he says
11:03 you may have been in ignorance but God has given you the
11:08 opportunity and in the times of our ignorance God overlooks it
11:11 but we are in ignorance no more. I'm presenting something to you
11:14 he says and now you need to make a decision for the real true God
11:18 That's right. Amen. You know you look at verse 32 to see the
11:23 response and you find out... I think that somehow Paul was
11:28 I don't want to say cut off, but he was no longer going to be
11:33 heard by most of those who were listening because in verse 32 it
11:37 says, And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead some
11:41 mocked while others said, We will hear you again on this
11:45 matter. So some mocked, which certainly... They didn't believe
11:50 they were Greeks. Remember that the Apostle Paul says that
11:54 Christ crucified is to the Greeks foolishness. So the whole
11:58 idea of these supernatural experiences of the resurrection
12:01 were also foolishness. So they weren't going to hear that, they
12:04 were mocking. Others, because they were interested in any new
12:07 thing, said hey we'll hear you again, but we don't have record
12:09 of that happening. But then in verse 33 it says, So Paul
12:14 departed from among them, however, some men joined him and
12:20 believe, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named
12:24 Demaris and others with them. So you get this idea that there
12:28 some that responded. But I want you to notice what happened
12:32 in previous places like in Thessalonica. Go back to chapter
12:37 17, verse 4, in Thessalonica and it says, A great multitude of
12:43 the devout Greeks responded. In chapter 17 verse 12 it says,
12:49 Therefore, many of them believed in Berea but here in Athens just
12:54 some men joined him. You don't get the sense that this crafty
12:59 argument worked all that well in Athens. The Apostle Paul is
13:03 about to go to Corinth and he makes a decision at the end of
13:07 his ministry in Athens that has a deep effect on his ministry in
13:11 Corinth and we find that in the book of I Corinthians chapter 2.
13:16 He says in verse 1, And I, brethren, when I came to you did
13:19 not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to
13:23 you the testimony of God for I determined, I decided, not to
13:27 know anything among you, the Corinthians, except Jesus Christ
13:31 and him crucified. So here in Athens he used logic and
13:35 argumentation, but he discovered that that wasn't as effective
13:39 as simply speaking and appealing to the heart about Jesus Christ
13:43 and him crucified. How about you viewer? Are you ready to accept
13:46 Jesus Christ and him crucified. We hope you'll join us next time
13:50 as we dive in further on Books of the Book.


Revised 2014-12-17