The Unknown God Preached

Witness to the world: Book of Acts  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  54:31
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A Grecian look

Having a decent background and set up will help us to appreciate the sermon Paul is going to deliver in Athens. So, let’s call this sermon prep if you may.
Paul had been sent away and came to Athens (Act17:13-15)
Acts 17:13 NASB95
13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there as well, agitating and stirring up the crowds.
Acts 17:14–15 NASB95
14 Then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea; and Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Now those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they left.
Paul was alone there but never missed an opportunity to preach the Gospel for he was not ashamed (Rom1:14-16) in fact felt indebted to it.
Romans 1:14 NASB95
14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.
Romans 1:15–16 NASB95
15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
(Insert Athens picture here)
Athens was a Grecian city that was not in his heyday anymore, it was on the decline with the exception of it was a place of learning, of education, great universities and a place for philosophers such as Socrates and Aristotle hailed from.
The city was given over to a “cultured paganism” that was nourished by philosophy
Acts 17:21 NASB95
21 (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)
(insert Athens picture here again)
IT was said
“More statutes of gods in Athens than in all the rest of Greece combined — it was easier to meet a god than a man.”
The Athenian culture was comprised of
They believed that death was the end of all things.
Pleasure was the highest good - drink, eat and be merry for tomorrow you die.
Everything that happens was by chance and that there was no order of things.
Epicurus the founder of this philosophy was a existentialist who sought truth by means of personal experience, not by reasoning. They were materialists and atheists.
The believed everything was a god, everything was a world god. They were pantheists (worship that admits or tolerates all gods)
Everything that happened was god’s will; so they believed in personal discipline and self-discipline
They also believe in a regenerated world, that from time to time the world would disintegrate and be reinvented and started over again.
“Epicureans said ‘Enjoy life’ and the Stoics said ‘Endure life!’ - this will be an open door for Paul to discuss how to enter into eternal life with the eternal God and creator of all things.
In acts we have seen several examples of preaching (of sermons) which included
Peter (Act2, 3, 10)
Philip (Act8)
Paul (Act13)
To this point the sermons had been to more monotheistic people
Jews, Samaritans, Gentile God-fearers like Cornelius
Now we will get to here Paul take advantage of a preaching opportunity to pagan philosophers.

The Setting

Paul’s arrival in Athens and not missing opportunities to reason with man about the gospel.
Acts 17:16–17 NASB95
16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. 17 So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present.
Acts 17:18–19 NASB95
18 And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, “What would this idle babbler wish to say?” Others, “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming?
Acts 17:20–21 NASB95
20 “For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.” 21 (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)
What did you see, what did you notice, what sticks out to you?
Gleaning from the scripture:
Question: What was Paul doing upon arriving in Athens (vv.16-17)?
He was waiting, he was observing (v.16) and he was reasoning (v.17)
Question: What were the philosophers doing and what did they do with Paul (vv.18-19)?
They were conversing with him, and about him (v.18) and they brought him to the Areopagus (v.19)
Question: What was the desire of the philosophers (vv.19-20)?
They wanted to know what Paul was preaching.
Question: What was consuming the time of the Athenians and strangers (v.21)?
Telling or hearing something new
(Transition) Gathering some thoughts from the scripture now.
Paul had arrived to the center of learning of artistry, a place where everywhere he looked he sees idols. Paul, alone, but not forgotten is ready to cease the opportunities to preach Jesus. To reason with the people
Reasoning in the Synagogues (no surprise there)
Reasoning in the market place
And he did it everyday, with anyone who was there and willing to listen (remember the people there loved to listen and hear something new).
Paul got the attention of the philosophers who were wondering what he was preaching of some strange deity (God)
(insert picture of Mar’s hill)
They then brought him to the Areopagus (aka Mar’s Hill) to hear from him.
The Areopagus was also the name of the court, the body of men (about 30 of them) that had court there hearing arguments on major issues such as murders, etc.
The court was responsible to look over both the religion and the education of the city.
Paul was not on trial here, He was there to explain the strange things they are hearing to them.
According to HCSB Dictionary Mars Hill is a rocky hill about 370 feet high and was not far from the Acropolis and the Agora (marketplace) in Athens.
(Transition) Now comes the time for Paul to deliver the message a masterpiece of communication that we can learn from too.

The Sermon

Background given, culture described, and the setting made known now see how Paul delivers the sermon to a group of pagan philosophers.
Acts 17:22–23 NASB95
22 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.
Acts 17:24–25 NASB95
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; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;
Acts 17:26–27 NASB95
26 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, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;
Acts 17:28–29 NASB95
28 for 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.
What do you see, what do you notice what sticks out to you?
Gleaning from the scripture:
Question: What did Paul observe about he people as he stood in the midst of the Areopagus (v.22)?
They were very religious people in all respects
Question: What does Paul say they are doing in ignorance and why (v.23)?
They worship in ignorance for worshipping an unknown God.
Another key point to get from this passage
Question: After giving explanation about the unknown God (vv.24-27) what does Paul say we have in Him (v.28)?
That we live, move and exist in Him.
since Paul as revealed the mystery of the unknown god, has said what we have in him what they worshipped in ignorance was gone so now look down a little more
Question: Times of ignorance gone, now was does God require, and why (vv.30-31)?
God is declaring all men should repent. for there is a day of judgment that has been fixed.
Question: What were the different results to the gospel message preached (vv.32-34)?
Some sneered, others wanted to hear again, some joined him and believed
Now is the time for us to look at the content (theme, points) of Paul’s sermon to the pagan philosophers in Athens the most learned city of the world.
(Insert sermon on mars hill slide here)
The Theme (Act17:23)
Revealing the mystery of the unknown God
They were worshipping many gods’ even an unknown God and Paul uses that to point to the God who wants to be made known!
The set up (Act17:22)
I see, know you are very religious people
(expand on starting from where they are at: religious worshipping people)
The points
(note: the blanks on your outline are from the points of the sermon not from the scripture itself. I will point out each blank to you)
Unknown God is Creator (Act17:24; Gen1:3-27; Isa37:16)
He is the creator of the world (Gen1:3-27
He is the Lord of heaven and earth, creator of heaven and earth (Isa37:16)
Unknown God is sustainer of all things (Act17:25; Heb1:3; Ps55:22)
In Hebrews 1:3 it says He upholds (sustains) all things by the word of His power!
PS55:22 says to cast your burdens on the Lord and He will sustain you, hum, I think Jesus said something similar (Mt11:28-30) or Peter (1Pt5:7)
(expand on sustains us; how does He do it, is it through you?)
Unknown God is ruler of all nations (Act17:26-27; Dan2:20-21, 4:17)
According to Daniel God raises up and removes rulers (kings) and yet He is the ruler of all
All things designed by God and for God to draw people to God (i.e. Nebuchadnezzar)
Unknown God is Father of mankind (Act17:28-29)
From God we can and in Him we live, move and have our very being.
He is unlike the manmade idols of gold, silver and stone. For they have no power.
Just because we may not worship a statute does not mean we have not set up other idols (jobs, family, recognition, etc.) so we need this reminder
Unknown God is judge of the world (Act17:30-31; Jn5:22, 26-27, 12:48)
OK I have noted some scriptures in the other points of Paul’s sermon, but now it is time I need to put these verses back up in our faces
Acts 17:30–31 NASB95
30 “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 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.”
Paul has revealed the mystery of the unknown God, so what they worshipped in ignorance has now been taken away
With knowledge comes responsibility
With responsibility comes accountability; For judgment is coming, judgment in righteousness
Judgment is coming through the chosen, appointed and anointed one Jesus Christ
John 5:22 NASB95
22 “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son,
And just a few verses later
John 5:26–27 NASB95
26 “For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; 27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.
And how man is judged is found here:
John 12:48 NASB95
48 “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.
To offer proof of the identity of the unknown God. God raised Him from the dead (v.21)
(Transition) From the sermon, like all other sermons there is a response, or at least there should be a response. At Mars Hill, before the Aeropagus (court) there is a mixed response
At the mention of the resurrection (v.31-32) there as the response.
(Insert the response picture here)
The response:
Some mocked (v.32)
to many remember they did not believe in a resurrection they believed death was the end of all things (Epicureans)
(Expand: do people mock the gospel today?)
Others were willing to hear again (v.32)
(expand) - how many hear the gospel and keep coming to hear the gospel or are willing to but don’t surrender?
Others, some, joined him and believed (vv.33-34)
Even though there was not a great number noted here in Athens as there was a great response in Thessalonica, Paul was willing continue to preach.
(Transition) this now leads to one more point to make, well some observations to make from Paul’s preaching that we can learn and apply.
(Insert some observations picture here)
Regarding the delivery of the sermon
Paul used tact, respecting their religious nature , their spirituality and devotion (vv.22-23)
This opened the door to share the mystery so they may know the way of God more accurately (think of Act18:24-26)
Paul starts with the present spiritual condition of his audience (vv.23-28)
They believe in supreme beings, but did not understand the True God
With the Jews he started with the law
With the Gentiles he started with the nature and character of God.
(Application) who are we speaking with, what do they believe? We need to start there! And of course with love, gentleness and respect. (1Cor13:1-2; 1Pt3:15)
Paul also made use of an accepted authority (vv.28-29)
He uses their own prophets, and own poets to make his point
We may need to start outside the bible to bring to the bible, be willing to do that to help them then to come to know the authority and the sufficiency of the bible
Paul led them through the reason for the gospel (vv.30-31)
Our goal must be to get to a place to deliver the necessity of a response to the gospel. So, we need to be ready to deliver the gospel message.
Paul offered the resurrection of Jesus as the ultimate proof (v.17)
It proves the existence of God
It proves the truthfulness of Jesus claim to be the Son of God
It proves or emphasis the severity of sin and judgment and the necessity of repentance
In 1Cor15:1-3 Paul said the resurrection is of first importance, so we need to be prepared to defend the resurrection, for without it we are just a lost soul and a pitied bunch.
Regarding the response to the sermon (vv.32-34)
(expand on each of the above-watch your time though)
(Conclusion) Jew, Gentile, Philosopher or simpleton the Gospel is for all people. People may start in different places but the end has to be the same responding to the gospel and entrance into the kingdom of the beloved Son.
(Prayer) (Exit)
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