Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Unknown God- Acts 17:23



I was reading my Bible study this morning and found Acts 17:23-32 very inspiring, refreshing thought provoking and above all filled up with promises. So let us begin.

For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. (Acts17:23)

Paul preached passionately to the people about the price that Jesus paid for our lives. One time he was speaking at the Areopagus in Athens to a group of people who were so religious that they even had an altar to the "Unknown God." Paul then told them that the God he worshiped was their "Unknown God."

Acts 17:22-23, Worshipping an Unknown God

Paul preached passionately to the people about the price that Jesus paid for our lives. One time he was speaking at the Areopagus in Athens to a group of people who were so religious that they even had an altar to the "Unknown God." Paul then told them that the God he worshiped was their "Unknown God."

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

Have you ever given this verse much thought? Apparently, the Athenians sensed there was more to the divine than what they currently recognized, for they had set up an altar to worship the unknown. Content to honor a mystery, they stood in awe of something or someone indescribable.

Apparently, it is possible to worship God without knowing him. But Paul wanted the Athenians to move beyond reverence, and actually experience God. To “know” God, as the creator of heaven and earth, the source of “life and breath and everything else.”

‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ –Acts 17:28

This, says Paul—blending our whole being into the mystery that is God—is how we ought to experience the divine.

Bill Vaughan, from Grace Bible Church of Auburn, Ca. wrote a Research Paper on Acts 17:22-34  titled "Paul’s Address to the Areopagus". It is wonderful and exhaustive. It begins with Paul began the body of the address by proclaiming the existence of God. 

Paul established their religiosity by calling on the facts of Romans 1:19-23 in saying “I observe that you are very religious in all respects” (Acts 17:22). Then he got right to the point of his invitation before the Areopagus as he focused their attention on the altar to the unknown god (Acts 17:23). Paul knew the answer to the question “can man know the unknown God?” This is seen when he reminded the Galatians about the time when they knew other gods and the true God was unknown to them (Gal 4:8). So, there was no problem moving forward with his speech focused on the unknown god! Focusing on the unknown god got right to the point of the weakest part of their epistemology. They had “unknown” gods but also had enough knowledge to know they existed! 

I believe Paul knew that they had followed the downward spiral from revelation (natural) of God (Rom 1:19-20) to rejection of God (Rom 1:21) to righteousness of self (Rom 1:22) to religion of the creature (Rom 1:23).

Therefore, Paul knew they were in a state of culpable ignorance per Romans 1 and had now established a reference point within their worldview to call them to repentance (Acts 17:30). 

Paul continued, “Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you” (V.23). Calling on the established point of their ignorance (which he will keep stressing and comparing to God’s revelation of Himself), Paul labeled his next move – he was going proclaim God to them. Paul was about to proclaim who God is. He was faithful to His God and used God’s word as His starting point, i.e. as his authority. Paul first established Christianity as the only Bible Church 

In Acts 17:24-28 Paul proclaimed the Person of God – who God is and what God is. In this section Paul quoted the Old Testament almost directly, i.e., using much Old Testament language. In these five verses Paul proclaimed God as the Creator, the Lord, the self-existent and absolute Being, the Giver, the Determiner, and the findable God! All of these proclamations not only establish the knowledge of who God is but also establish the Athenian’s accountability in V.27. Each of the following references to a proclamation is accompanied by a representative list of Old Testament verses that establish that Paul was entirely Scripture-based in his presentation.

First, God is the Creator: “who made the world and all things in it” (Acts 17:24a; Ps. 33:6-7,146:6; Jer. 10:10-14; Zech. 12:1). Second, God is the Lord: “since He is Lord of heaven and earth” (Acts 17:24b; Gen 14:19; Ps 24:1; Is 40:12-28). Third, God is the self-existent and absolute Being (does not need His creation): “does not dwell in temples made with hands nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything” (Acts 17:24c-25; 1 Kg. 8:27; Is. 66:1; Jer 32:17). Fourth, God is the Giver of all: “gives to all people life and breath and all things” (Acts 17:25b; Ps. 104:14-24, Is. 42:5). Fifth, God is the Determiner: “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 habitation” (Acts 17:26; Ps. 31:15; Dan. 2:36-45; Is. 10:12-15). Sixth, God is the "findable" God: “that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him” (Acts 17:27; Jer. 29:13; Ps. 145:18-19). God creates, gives, and determines so that men would “see” God in all of the previously mentioned revelation. Paul structured Acts 17:24-28 into a single sentence that reads “The God who made…that they would…” The word “that” in V.27 begins a purpose clause. God’s purpose is that men “would seek God,” “grope,” and “find Him” (Acts 17:27). 

I agree with Adrian Rogers when he said that people sometimes can’t understand why they don’t understand the Bible. Well, the way to understand the Bible is to obey the Bible. And the way to understand the verses you don't understand is to obey the verses you do understand.“More than the ancients” is a way of saying the accumulative wisdom of the ages. David is saying, “ I haven't been off to the university perhaps, or I haven't studied abroad, but I keep God's Word and therefore God reveals to me His truth.”

The only way you can really understand the Bible is for God to reveal it to you, and God doesn't reveal it to rebels.

Keep God's Word, and through it God will reveal His truth. Some of you know what God wants you to do, but you're not doing it. And you wonder why you've come up against a roadblock when you try to read the Bible.



Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju


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