To the Unkown God

Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  59:11
0 ratings

A. Rapport for the time
B. Reading of the text
C. Review of the text
D. Relevance of the text

I. Attracted to Something New

Acts 17:16 ESV
16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.
Paul is waiting for Timothy and Silas and finds himself in Athens, Greece. Athens is has been the cultural center of Greece for a long time. At its greatest between 475 bc-375 bc you have philosophers that people study to this day. Names like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, and Zeno. Athens is a city of thinking people who desire to know and understand. This society of thought has brought them to have some 30,000 gods. Of course some are more popular than others. Names like Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Athena, Ares, Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis, Hephaestus, Hermes, Dionysus. Each of the gods controlled something in this world. Such as Hermes, his idol is a head on a rectangular base. Hermes is the messenger god, who was also the protector of travelers, communities and houses, entrances and exits, as well as flocks. He was often set up along thoroughfares and boundaries, at gates and also at tombs. It is thought that the road to Areopagus that Paul will be speaking on in just a few verses is lined with Hermes idols. (Met Museum)
Picture of Areopagus today.....
All the idols “provoked” Paul. Provoked is defined as be angered, irritated, distressed..To be provoked or upset at someone or something involving sever emotional concern. Word is used:
1 Corinthians 13:5 ESV
5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
Paul is upset because he stands in the middle of Athens surrounded by people who are thinking their way farther from the one true God and leading themselves astray. He is upset but for a good reason which we know is the correct reason because of how he handles himself amongst these people.
Acts 17:17–18 ESV
17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.
Epicurean—founded by the philosopher Epicurus
Acts (1) The Athenians’ Curiosity (17:16–21)

Epicureans were thoroughgoing materialists, believing that everything came from atoms or particles of matter. There was no life beyond this; all that was human returned to matter at death. Though the Epicureans did not deny the existence of gods, they saw them as totally indifferent to humanity. They did not believe in providence of any sort; and if one truly learned from the gods, that person would try to live the same sort of detached and tranquil life as they, as free from pain and passion and superstitious fears as they.

Stoic—founded by Zeno
Acts (1) The Athenians’ Curiosity (17:16–21)

The Stoics had a more lively view of the gods than the Epicureans, believing very much in the divine providence. They were pantheists, believing that the ultimate divine principle was to be found in all of nature, including human beings. This spark of divinity, which they referred to as the logos, was the cohesive rational principle that bound the entire cosmic order together. Humans thus realized their fullest potential when they lived by reason. By reason, i.e., the divine principle within them which linked them with the gods and nature, they could discover ultimate truth for themselves. The Stoics generally had a rather high ethic and put great stock on self-sufficiency. Since they viewed all humans as bound together by common possession of the divine logos, they also had a strong sense of universal brotherhood. The mention of these schools is not incidental. Paul would take up some of their thought in his Areopagus speech, particularly that of the Stoics, and thoroughly redirect it in line with the Creator God of the Old Testament.

As they listen to Paul some call him a babbler. But is draws an amazing picture in the Greek.

A term (Gk. spermológos “one picking up seeds,” fig. one who is always “picking up” some information and prating about it without understanding its import

They claim Paul has picked up scraps of ideas in his travels and put them together for himself but does not understand it at all. That is what they are claiming.
Acts 17:19–21 ESV
19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.
They take him up to Areopagus not to stand trial but to defend his position and way of thought. They are curious about what Paul has said because they have not heard it before. This curiosity will be used by the Lord on this day to bring people to salvation.

II. Sharing with Religious People

Acts 17:22–23 ESV
22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.
vs. 22—religious—the service and worship of God, an institutionalized system of religious beliefs and practices.
MacArthur describes this as literally “in fear of gods”
Apart from the one true God all false gods are to be feared. You see false gods are made by man and man knows nothing of the grace of God. False gods are meant to be appeased in some fashion that you might move them to do what you want them to do. Religion is a construct of man to set up a set of rules that we might follow that might make us feel pious and better than others who are not as religious.
vs. 23 to the unknown god
Man after creating some 30,000 gods is still thinking that they have not covered all the bases and are in need of a catch all “the unknown god.” Understand it is fear that drives them. A fear that they might offend a deity they do no know for not giving proper worship. (NAC) The people in Athens had built altars to make sacrifices to worship something that they know nothing about. Can you imagine living this way? In fear of what you don’t know? (This is the world we live in today—people reacting to that fear on a daily basis.
As Paul has met the people where they are he begins to share with them the work of God in the Past, Present, Future.
Acts 17:24–26 ESV
24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,
—God gives; humans receive. He provides life and breath to all things. He is the sustainer and upholder of all things, while their idols need to be born. God is independent of Man--
Acts 17:28–29 ESV
28 for “ ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “ ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ 29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.
vs. 28 is a quote from a famous poet of the day—one of the most widely read poems in the ancient world
Genesis 1:26–27 ESV
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Acts 17:27 ESV
27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,
Acts 17:30 ESV
30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,
Vs. 27—seek God--
Isaiah 55:6 ESV
6 “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;
Feel their way toward him—Reach out—refers to groping of a blind person or the fumbling of a person in darkness
Psalm 145:18–20 ESV
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. 19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. 20 The Lord preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.
vs. 30—Repent
Acts 17:31 ESV
31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

III. Responding From the Heart

Acts 17:32–34 ESV
32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.
In the book of Acts this is the reaction that we have seen recorded by Luke time and again.
Mocking group—Doubting the resurrection from the dead—but at least they are not dragging Paul out into the street to beat him..yet..
Believing group—with Names—Dionysius is recorded by the historian Eusebius to become the pastor at the church at Athens
But I want you to notice the group that says…we will hear you again about this…Beloved think for a moment how you came to know Christ. The Lord moves in amazing ways in the lives of people but many who respond to the word of God do so after they have heard the truth of the Gospel many times.
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more