Summary: God is as the "One True God" creating the "one human race" offering the "one way of salvation" and warning of the "one final judgment".
1. Please open your bibles to Acts 17:16&ff.
(1) The verses ahead of verse sixteen report about the travels of Paul’s second missionary journey. They tell us that due to the persecution from the Jews at Thessalonica, Paul had left from Thessalonica and went to Berea.
(2) While he was preaching in Berea, the Jews from Thessalonica came to Berea and stirred up the crowds.
(3) The brethren from Berea sent Paul to Athens. Silas and Timothy stayed behind at Berea.
(4) Let’s read Acts 17:16&ff, “16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. 17 Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. 18 Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. “And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus,”
(5) Let’s explain the word “Areopagus”. The Areopagus was the highest religious and moral court in Athens. It was the legislative body for the religions of Athens. It took its name from Mars Hill. “Mars Hill” was a high rock ledge from which one could stand and overlook part of the city of Athens.
The court of men may have on occasions assembled at Mars Hill. Through the years many speeches and sermons have been given from this ledge to people down below. In 1974 I had the opportunity to stand on “Mars Hill” and read Paul’s sermon from Acts 17.
As we have said, the Areopagus was composed of the most learned and outstanding men of Athens and was charged with keeping the religion and morals of Athens.
Paul was taken to this court and given the opportunity to explain Christianity. Since it was in the open, many who passed by and anyone interested could stop and listen. The audience was probably very large that day.
(6) Continuing to read from verse 19, “saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? 20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.” 21 For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.”
2. From verse 18, we learn that due to Paul’s preaching about Jesus and the resurrection, the people of Athens wanted to hear Paul preach about what they understood as a “foreign god”.
3. Our purpose in this lesson will be to discuss what Paul preaches about the God, not of idolatry, but the God of the bible.
I. FIRST, FROM ACTS 17:22&23 PAUL PREACHES TO THOSE OF ATHENS ABOUT THEIR “UNKNOWN GOD”.
1. In verse 22, Paul begins his sermon with a compliment. He speaks of them being “very religious” due to the many idols that they professed to worship. It was true that they were “very religious”, but they were religiously wrong!
2. Let’s read vs. 22&23, “22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious;
(1) “Very religious” comes from Greek words which literally mean demon fearing or reverencing.
(2) The Athenians took it as a compliment to be spoken of as those who reverenced their idol gods (spelled with a little “g”.)
3. Continuing to read v. 23 “for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you:”
(1) Paul takes advantage of the opportunity to start on common ground with his listeners.
(2) The people of Athens had an altar with the inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Paul takes advantage of the common ground agreement and begins to inform them of the Great God that he was serving and preaching.
II. SECOND, IN VERSE 24a PAUL PREACHED THAT GOD IS “THE CREATOR OF EVERYTHING THAT MAN KNOWS”.
1. Let’s read Acts 17:24a, “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.”
2. The Epicureans did not believe that their gods created them or the earth.
The Epicureans believed that pleasure was the chief purpose of man. They did not believe in life after death. They believed everything happened by chance. They believed there were gods, but they were far removed from earth and took no interest in man.