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Acts 17:22-27 “Talking about a Known God”

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Acts 17:22–27 HCSB
22 Then Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that you are extremely religious in every respect. 23 For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it —He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. 25 Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things. 26 From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. 27 He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.
acts 17

Sub: “Talking about a Known God”

Intro: Paul began his address to the Athenians by highlighting their religious interests (17:22). This address is a good example of how to communicate the gospel. Paul did not begin by reciting Jewish history as he usually would do when addressing Jews, for that would have been meaningless to his Greek audience. He began by building a case for the one true God, using examples the philosophers understood (17:22-23). Then he established common ground by emphasizing what they agreed on about God (17:24-29).

I. The Work of God

22 Then Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that you are extremely religious in every respect. 23 For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed:

TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.

Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it —He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands.

22 Then Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that you are extremely religious in every respect. 23 For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it —He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands.

Paul knew the One true God that they did not know— Paul was about to give them a major revelation about the UNKNOWN God! He moves from all the false gods that they worshiped, to the One true God that they should worship! John Phillips wrote, “(Paul) had known Him as Elohim, Adonai, and Jehovah, as Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Nissi, Jehovah Tsidkenu. He had known Him as Creator and Sustainer of the universe, as the Rock of Ages, the Shepherd of Israel, the fountain of living water. As a Christian he knew Him to be the Incarnate Word, God manifest in flesh, Jesus Christ the Lord.

Paul reveals the Lord God as Creator. He is the God that made the world and everything in it! Paul starts with The Doctrine of Creation is a direct attack on the doctrine of evolution! John MacArthur wrote, “The truth that God is the creator of all things is widely rejected—even by some who profess to believe in His existence. They see Him as a remote first cause, who merely set in motion the evolutionary process and can make no claim on anyone’s life. But the creator God can and does. Sinful men are uncomfortable with the thought that they are accountable to One who created them and owns them.” God is creator of all things and He is Lord over all things. Paul says, “since He is Lord of heaven and earth” The work of God is clearly seen from day to day. The earth is thousands of years old and yet God’s creation still testifies of the Creator God! When people are messed up about God and they worship false idols we need to take them back to the One true God who made all things and who is Lord of heaven and earth! Paul reveals to the philosophers about the work of God.

Paul talks about the Work of God, now he talks about the Worship of God.....

II. The Worship of God

t the Worship of God

24 The God who made the world and everything in it —He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. 25 Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things.

24 The God who made the world and everything in it —He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. 25 Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things.

Paul now starts to pinpoint their problem. He begins to preach with personal application. The God who created them and is Lord of heaven and earth does not dwell in temple made with hands. Athens was full of idols and idol temples and idolatry! Paul says the One true God, who is Creator, does not live in temples that man has made, created, invented, or imagined!

In verse 25 Paul says that the Lord is not worshiped with men’s hands.

→No sculptor can craft Him,

→no artist can draw Him,

→no builder can reproduce Him,

→no museum can unveil Him

→no mind can conceive Him

→no eye has seen Him

John Phillips wrote, “It is not the work of men’s hands God wants, it is the worship of men’s hearts. It is impossible either to comer God in a temple or to conceptualize Him with an idol.” Paul is revealing some fundamental facts about God! He is our Creator—that speaks of the work of God. He is not fashioned in our likeness, but we are made by Him! We do not approach Him on our terms, but we come to Him on His terms.

William Barclay said, “God is not the made but the maker; He who made all things cannot be worshiped by anything made by the hands of man. It is all too true that men often worship what their hands have made. If a man’s God be that to which he gives all his time, thought, and energy, many are clearly engaged in worshiping man-made things.” Paul goes on to say, “as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.” God is not the created, but the Creator! He is not given life by someone else, but He is the giver of life for everyone and everything. God is not a needy God—He gives life to all, breath to all, and all things to all people. God is to be worship and God alone!

He does not need a temple to reside in because He is everywhere present.

He does not need light to see with because He is the Light of the world!

He does not need rest because He does not get faint or grow weary!

He does not need food for strength because He is all powerful.

Paul talked about the Work of God.....the Worship of God.....now he talks about the Will of God..

III. The Will of God

26 From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. 27 He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. 28 For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’

26 From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. 27 He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. 28 For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’

There are many seeking and finding words in 17:27-28: "search," "grope," "find," "not far," "in him," "we are his." These words and phrases would have been heard by those in the audience who were seeking for the truth.

Paul was exposing three false Greek ideas:

(1) God was unknowable;

(2) God lived in man-made temples;

(3) God was not involved in human affairs. Paul asserts that the human race was created by God so that people are in fellowship with him. Beyond the (physical and) historical existence of the human race, God created human beings so that they would “seek” (ζητεῖν) him, that they would try to find him.

Paul asserts that the human race was created by God so that people are in fellowship with him. Beyond the (physical and) historical existence of the human race, God created human beings so that they would “seek” (ζητεῖν) him, i.e., that they would try to find him.

The use of this verb here implies that human beings do not know God and that they do not know how or where to find God, but it also implies that they desire to find him and have a relationship with him.

The Jack Andrews Expository Studies - The Jack Andrews Expository Studies – Understanding Acts - Volume 5.
Life Application Bible Commentary - Life Application Bible Commentary – Acts.
Schnabel, Eckhard J. Acts. Expanded Digital Edition. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012.
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