Summary: Preaching the good news
THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTIONS
Have you noted that among the first questions we ask when we meet someone is the question “What’s new?” In Acts 17 the apostle Paul came to Athens. He came to Areopagus, one of the “Seven Wonders of Ancient World.” The people in Athens did the same thing, “All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas" (Acts 17:21). Interesting enough is that to this day the saying in Athens goes like these, “What’s new?”
Three are the lives most important questions: “Where did I come from?”; “Why am I here?”; “Where am I going?” Science attempts to answer the first one, and philosophy wrestles with the second, but only the Christian faith has a satisfactory answer to all three. Heaven’s plain answers to man’s most perplexing questions are recorded in Acts 17:24-31, in Paul’s sermon on the famous Areopagus.
I. WHERE DID I COME FROM? (24-26a)
A. Charles Darwin introduced the theory of evolution that life on earth suddenly appeared from one living cell that developed itself millions of years ago. To that theory other “scientists” added the “Big Bang Theory.” With these thoughts, they introduced the accident as fact.
B. Sigmund Freud Argued That God is an Illusion Created by Helpless Humanity
1. Man’s fear of nature (storms, etc.) prompted him to imagine a god who could control nature.
2. Man interpreted disasters as sent by an angry god who needed to be appeased.
3. Man suffered under the oppression and brutality of his fellow man and thus wished for a God who would punish evil doers and save the sufferer.
4. Man, conscious of his mortality, wished for a God to give him eternal life.
5. Freud thus concluded, “Man created God; God did not create man.”
C. Objections to Freud’s Thinking
1. Freud’s argument does not disprove God’s existence.
2. Man’s need for God confirms the Biblical teaching that God created man.
3. Batsell Barrett Baxter suggested that men like Freud possess great pride in their achievements and come to believe they are the most intelligent people in the universe and thus worship themselves instead of God.
4. Men like Freud want total freedom to live as they desire and refuse to subject themselves to God’s moral restrictions.
D. The world of Paul’s Day was not any different.
1. They had created one god after another. They had so many god-made that one has teased the Athenians in saying that it was easier to meet a god or goddess in Athens main street than it was to meet a man.
2. William Barclay suggests that, “There were many altars to unknown gods in Athens. Six hundreds years before this a terrible pestilence had fallen on the city which nothing could halt. A Cretan poet, Epimenides, had come forward with a plan. A flock of black and white sheep were let loose throughout the city from the Areopagus. Wherever each lay down it was sacrificed to the nearest god; and if a sheep lay down near the shrine of no known god it was sacrificed to “The Unknown God.” From this situation Paul takes his starting point.”
E. Paul says, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth…” (24-26a).
1. First, Paul makes a clarification as he points out not to many but to one true God.
2. Second, Paul said that the God is Creator.
a. “…the world and everything in it…”
b. “…From one man he made every nation of men…”
3. Third, Paul says that Lord of heaven and earth is self-sufficient. He does need human hands to serve Him.
4. Finally, Paul says that God is the Source of man’s life. Not only God created man, but He continues to sustain the man’s life.
II. WHY AM I HERE? (26b-28)
A. This is a question that philosophy has tried to answer for centuries. In the times of Paul there were two main philosophies that were dominant.
1. There were the Epicureans.
a. They believed that everything happened by chance.
b. They believed that death was the end of all.
c. They believed that the gods were remote from the world and did not care.
d. They believed that pleasure was the chief end of man. They did not mean fleshly and material pleasure; for the highest pleasure was that which brought no pain in its train.