Who and What are You Worshiping?
This morning we will be looking at a passage that speaks to the very time of the disciples as they have walked with Jesus, they have seen Him crucified and they have been visited by Him after His resurrection and before His ascension. It is now time for them to take what they have learned and begin the work of
And Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the age.”
sharing and spreading the Gospel. So today’s passage brings into our view one of those times when the word of God is being shared and expounded on in light of what Paul saw and understood while preaching the word in Athens.
Now for a moment I want to set the stage. Paul, Timothy and Silas had been traveling and sharing the word of God. At one point Paul and Silas are imprisoned because of the word of God. In the chapter that we are in this morning at one point it says in
But the Jews were filled with jealousy and, taking along some worthless men from the rabble in the marketplace and forming a mob, threw the city into an uproar. And attacking Jason’s house, they were looking for them to bring them out to the popular assembly. And when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brothers before the city officials, shouting, “These people who have stirred up trouble throughout the world have come here also, whom Jason has entertained as guests! And these people are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king, Jesus!” And they threw the crowd into confusion, and the city officials who heard these things. And after taking money as security from Jason and the rest, they released them.
Can you imagine that the word of God would cause such an uproar and yet that is the case. The word of God causes great turmoil because this word causes us to have to question what do we believe.
So before we go any further this morning I want to define a word that is key to the sermon this morning it is the word Worship
WORSHIP is defined as the act or action associated with attributing honor, reverence, or worth to that which is considered to be divine by religious adherents. Christian worship is often defined as the ascription of worth or honor to the triune God. Worship is more fully understood as an interrelation between divine action and human response: worship is the human response to the self-revelation of the triune God. This includes: (1) divine initiation in which God reveals Himself, His purposes, and His will; (2) a spiritual and personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ on the part of the worshiper; and (3) a response by the worshiper of adoration, humility, submission, and obedience to God.
Worship may be understood in either a broad or narrow context. In a broad sense, worship is seen as a way of life (Rom. 12:1). In this context all of life is viewed as an act of worship or service before God (1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17). Worship is also pictured as an act of the assembled people of God, as seen in the worship prescribed by God in the tabernacle (Exod. 25–40; Lev. 1–7) and temple (1 Chron. 22–29; 2 Chron. 3–7; 29–31), as well as in the worship of the NT church (Acts 13:2; 1 Cor. 11–14). In addition to the various congregational descriptions, worship sometimes involves individual encounters with God (Gen. 29:35; 35:11–15; Exod. 3:1–22; Josh. 5:13–15; Isa. 6), family worship (Gen. 4:2–5; 8:16–9:17; 35:2–7), and includes a few descriptions of worship in heaven (Isa. 6; Rev. 4; 5; 7; 15; 19).
The concept of the divine initiation of worship is seen in several biblical texts. It is apparent that God enjoyed communion with Adam (Gen. 3:8–24), His newly formed creature. The Bible states that the Lord created man to bring glory to God (Isa. 43:7), and man’s refusal to function in this capacity is seen by the Apostle Paul as a fundamental offense against the Creator (Rom. 1:21–23). God demonstrated initiative in His worship relationship with Israel when He commanded Moses, “They are to make a sanctuary for Me so that I may dwell among them” (Exod. 25:8 HCSB). In the tabernacle instructions, God prescribes: (1) sacred space (qadosh, “holy place”); (2) a sacred time, the Sabbath (Exod. 31:12–17; 35:1–3); and (3) His desire to dwell among His people. God promised to be present with His people (Exod. 25:8; 29:45–46; 33:14–15) and to reveal to them His glory (Exod. 29:43; 40:34–37). The Lord continued this relationship with Israel in temple worship.
Now I want you to reflect on the word worship as I have defined as we move along the road with Paul. Let us now look at our scripture text this morning. As we walk with Paul and see the world and the people that he encounters as he shares the word of God. Think also is there any difference then from now.
So Paul stood there in the middle of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I see you are very religious in every respect. For as I was passing through and observing carefully your objects of worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed, ‘To an unknown God.’ Therefore what you worship without knowing it, this I proclaim to you—the God who made the world and all the things in it. This one, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands as if he needed anything, because he himself gives to everyone life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of humanity to live on all the face of the earth, determining their fixed times and the fixed boundaries of their habitation, to search for God, if perhaps indeed they might feel around for him and find him. And indeed he is not far away from each one of us, for in him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said: ‘For we also are his offspring.’ Therefore, because we are offspring of God, we ought not to think the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by human skill and thought. Therefore although God has overlooked the times of ignorance, he now commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in righteousness by the man who he has appointed, having provided proof to everyone by raising him from the dead.” Now when they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some scoffed, but others said, “We will hear you about this again also.” So Paul went out from the midst of them. But some people joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.
Prior to our text this morning
Now while Paul was waiting for them in Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he observed the city was full of idols. So he was discussing in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.
We would say that Paul was the first apologist. An apologist is a person who offers and argument in defense of something controversial.
As Paul walked through the city of Athens he saw what was reflected as the religious life of the people. So as we come to Acts 17:22 we can understand Paul’s statement to those gathered with him in the Areopagus.
Paul say’s to them I see that you are very religious and not just very religious but he says in every respect. Now I want to give you some information as to why he makes this statement.
Often when we think about the Greeks we think about the god’s they worshipped such as Zeus and others. The Greeks worshipped thousands of dieties. There were the 12 main dieties.. and then those in the province... those in the land those in the town and those in other towns and then those in their homes. You see these people were steeped in worship and yet the reality was that their worship was more obligatory because they felt that all this worship protected them and provided for them. They felt that a god was associated with every aspect of life and they did not want to offend any god. Thus Paul says, “I even found an altar on which was inscribed, “To an unknown God.” This had to cause Paul to pause for moment. Can you see Paul as he is walking through Athens and he probably sees on every corner at every house or business there is an altar of worship set? And then he comes upon this one that says literally, “To an unknown God.” This reminds me of the thought covering your bases just in case there is a God I forgot to venerate I have this one altar to catch what may have been forgotten.
I wonder this morning is that how we treat God? If people were to come into our places of life what would they see? Would they encounter our worship to the gods of finances, things, success or even people? What would they see and then would they look and see in a corner our worship to the the just in case God is real, God.
It is from here that Paul begins to share the word. Now, what is important is that we are not sure exactly who they were thinking of when the constructed this altar to the “Unknown God” but what Paul did is he took the time to share with them about the God of the universe. He knew that it was this God that they had no idea about because he knew if they did then they would not be worshiping any other God.
For you will not bow in worship to another god, for ‘Yahweh Is Jealous’ is his name, he is a jealous God,
However, Paul knew that this was not the God they knew and he begins to lay out the reason they need to stop their idol worship and turn to the one true God. Let’s hear again what Paul says about God.
the God who made the world and all the things in it. This one, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands as if he needed anything, because he himself gives to everyone life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of humanity to live on all the face of the earth, determining their fixed times and the fixed boundaries of their habitation, to search for God, if perhaps indeed they might feel around for him and find him. And indeed he is not far away from each one of us, for in him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said: ‘For we also are his offspring.’
God of all creation.
God of heaven and earth
God that does need to dwell in temples made by human hands
God of life and breath and everything
God of beginning and ending
God that can be searched for and found
God in whom we exist
This is the God that Paul presented to them that day over 2,000 years ago and this is the God that I present to you today. But, I can’t stop right there. Like Paul I want to point out that we are the offspring of God and because of that God has and is so gracious to overlook who we have become and He still invites us to relationship with Him.
(Look at the scripture to finish.)
Nelson, D. P. (2003). Worship. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (pp. 1686–1687). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.