Acts 17: 22-31 So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. 23“For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24“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; 25nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ 29“Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. 30“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31because 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.”
In a recent discussion regarding making the most of our opportunities to witness the gospel, this scripture came to mind. Since Paul is the Apostle that I look to most as the role model of how I should witness to others, I am convinced we can gain much wisdom here.
Paul was speaking to the men of Athens, the literary capital of the ancient world. Athens was the most cultured city on the earth, and every Roman who was seeking a finished education traveled to Athens to complete his studies. This was the home of philosophers, orators, sculptors, painters and poets, and the great university where many thousands of strangers gathered for study.
“The Gentiles in general, and the Athenians in particular, in their devotions were governed, not by their philosophers, many of whom spoke clearly and excellently well of one supreme God or Numen, of his infinite perfections and universal agency and dominion (witness the writings of Plato, and long after of Cicero); but by their poets, and their idle fictions. Homer's works were the Bible of the pagan theology, or demonology rather, not Plato's; and the philosophers tamely submitted to this, rested in their speculations, disputed them among themselves, and taught them to their scholars, but never made the use they ought to have made of them in opposition to idolatry; so little certainty were they at concerning them, and so little impression did these things make upon them! Now Paul here sets himself, in the first place, to reform the philosophy of the Athenians (he corrects the mistakes of that), and to give them right notions of the one only living and true God, and then to carry the matter further than they ever attempted for the reforming of their worship, and the bringing them off from their polytheism and idolatry.” Paul was a stranger in a proud and educated land, and so he was careful not to offend but at the same time bold as he proclaimed the one and only living God. How should we witness to our cultural elite? Paul shows us here.
Paul’s wisdom in recognizing and referring to their Unknown God clearly shows his message was inspired. It completely disarmed his audience and got them into a discussion about Jesus Christ, the Creator of the universe. This brings to my mind a conversation I witnessed between a pastor that I admire and a highly educated intellectual agnostic who was claiming to have biblical knowledge. Rather than point out his obvious shortcomings biblically, my pastor friend simply asked; “what is your view on redemption?” The intellectual’s response clearly showed he had very little Biblical knowledge at all, and clearly stopped his rhetoric.
The men of Athens, in spite of their superior knowledge in many fields, had erected an altar to an unknown god, thus drawing Paul’s attention to their point of ignorance spiritually. Paul was preaching the gospel to heathens here, very religious men, but men who worshipped false gods, and who were without the only true God of the world. Why is this important in America today? Because, America is the Athens of our modern world. Intellectual America has fallen for the same false religions that Athens fell for. Next, America has allow atheistic secularism to control our society in the name of "separation of church and state." When God is silenced, Satan wins. It is perfectly fine to teach atheistic philosophies and theories (ie: evolution, abortion, and naturalism) in our public schools. Additionally, America has accepted many false forms of Christianity … many that do not teach Jesus is God, or that the Bible is the inspired word of God. Some offer the false teachings that Jesus was only a good man and teacher, and that we only need to follow his teachings to gain God’s promise of eternal life. All in the spirit of freedom of religion, tolerance and political correctness. Was Paul concerned about offending these other pagan false religions? Did he give them any validity whatsoever? Not hardly. By today's standards in America the apostle Paul would be totally politically incorrect. He did not insult the people. In fact, he made an effort to befriend them, but His One God and only One God gospel surely offended many. The modern teaching that all religions are valid, that whatever is true for you is your truth, and that good deeds are enough to get into heaven are an affront to our Lord and Savior, as well as the apostle Paul. All of these well intentioned ideas are actually leading people away from God. Paul begins by commending their diligence, rather than putting them down. Paul simply proclaims to them that the God which they have previously noted and worshipped as the unknown god is the one who created the world, and who came in the form of a man to save all men from their sins, and that although they do not know Him, He is the God that Paul has come to proclaim to them.
The clear goal of Paul’s sermon is to bring them to the knowledge of the only living and true God, as the single and only object of their worship. He is careful to lay the foundation, there is only one God and that is Jesus the Christ, who was raised from the dead. He is the God who made the world and all things in it, and that since He is Lord of heaven and earth, and He does not dwell in temples made with human hands. He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things. And He made from one man ... every nation of mankind ... to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lives. Do you see my friends how important the story of creation is to a true and meaningful Christian witness? This scripture alone should make it clear that accepting the theory of evolution is an insult to the Creator of the universe. Paul's sermon makes it clear that without the truth of who God is and what he has done our witness becomes empty. And Christianity becomes ... just another religion.
If you have been misled by a sincere but misguided teacher or pastor, it is not too late. Reject that false teaching. Accept Jesus as your Savior and Lord. Study the word of God, not the ideas of false religions or mere men. Repent … turn away from the ways of the world.
“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people 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.”
God Bless you my friends, Bob
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