Summary: How great is our God? This four-sermon series is all about the greatness and glory of God. In part one, this expository sermon from Acts 17 explains that our God is a creative God, a caring God and a commanding God.
HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD (part 1)
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 4/15/2012
At a Youth for Christ rally a curious college student once posed a provocative question to the great mass-evangelist, Billy Graham. He asked, “What kind of guy is God?” He may not have realized it at the time, but that’s a mountain of a question. How would you answer it? If some asked you to tell them about your God, what would you say?
Mull that one over for a minute, and then let me take you back in time nearly two millennia to the ancient city of Athens.
In Acts 17, as the apostle Paul approached the great city of Athens, he came not as a sightseer, but as a soul-winner. He arrived with open eyes and a broken heart. Athens was in a period of decline in the early first-century. It had a famous university and numerous beautiful buildings, but it wasn’t the influential city it once had been. The city was given over to a “cultured paganism” that was nourished by idolatry, novelty, and philosophy.
The Greek myths spoke of gods and goddesses that, in their own rivalries and ambitions, acted more like petty humans than gods; and there were plenty of deities to choose from! Someone once said that in Athens it was easier to find a god than a man. There was even an altar dedicated to “the unknown god” (sort of like our memorial to the Unknown Soldier) just in case they had missed one. Paul saw that the city was “wholly given to idolatry”—to the worship of false, non-existent gods—and it broke his heart.
So, as always, Paul spoke in the synagogue with the Jews and he witnessed in the marketplace to the Greeks. It didn’t take long for the local philosophers to catch wind of Paul’s preaching, so it was only natural for the Council of the Areopagus (which was responsible for watching over both religion and education in the city) to investigate this “foreign god” Paul was teaching. They courteously invited Paul to present his teaching at an informal meeting of the council on Mars’ Hill. After all, the Bible says that the Athenians “spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas” (Acts 17:21 NIV).
Taking center stage in the Areopagus, Paul cleared his throat and announced: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about” (Acts 17:22-23 NLT).
What an introduction! Paul connects immediately with his audience. He says, “See this god that you worship without even knowing his name? That’s the God I’m going to tell you about and he’s not just a God—he’s THE God!”
Then Paul proceeds to answer the question that would be posed to Billy Graham twenty centuries later: What kind of guy is God?
In eight insight-infested verses Paul unfolds three foundational truths, three attributes of God that help us to understand just how great is our God!
• A CREATIVE GOD
What kind of guy is God? First, He is a creative God! Paul begins his introduction of this Unknown God by saying, “He is the God who made the world and everything in it” (v. 24 NLT). He is the Creator God.
Paul’s audience that day consisted of primarily two schools of thought—the Epicurean philosophers and the Stoic philosophers. The Epicureans believed in a deity that was distant from humanity. They were materialists at heart who thought that the universe and everything in it was eternal—it’s just always been here. The Stoics were somewhat pantheistic—that is, they believed that the universe and everything in it was god; that the universe itself was a sort of sentient being. But Paul boldly affirmed what Moses penned long ago: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth!” God made the world and everything in it. He is not a distant God, divorced from His creation; nor is He an imprisoned God, locked inside creation. He is a creative God—the Creator of heaven and earth.
The universe and everything in it was custom-tailored by a creative God—a God who expresses His imagination and artistry all throughout our swirling galaxy. All throughout the world, and even the universe, we see the fingerprints of God—the evidence of His omniscient mind at work. Take “the world and everything in it” for example.
We live on a very privileged planet. The Earth is just the right distance from the Sun so that water can exist in its liquid state, which is vital for life to exist. If the Earth was 5% closer, our atmosphere would be more like Venus with temperatures up to 900º F. If it were 5% more distant, then it would be more like the frozen planet Mars. Our Moon stabilizes the Earth’s axis, thereby giving us the seasons and the tides which are vital to life. Our atmosphere is rich with the oxygen needed to support life and it blocks gamma rays, UV rays, and x-rays. The light that does penetrate is just what is needed for life. Even our address in the Milky Way is located within the relatively narrow subdivision beneficial for life to exist.