Summary: In Athens, Paul saw their mythology, inc. the statue to any "unknown" god they may have missed. He said, "let me tell you about Him!" Link included to formatted text, PowerPoint template, and handout.

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The Unknown God

Acts 17:15-34


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The city of Athens in Bible days attracted a lot of “sight-seers”. The Greeks were famous for their art, sculptures, architecture, etc. But Paul didn’t go as a sight-seer but rather as a soul-winner. When he arrived his heart was broken to see the city immersed in a cultural paganism of idolatry.

v. 16 “wholly given” = totally immersed. Historians tell us that in those days the Greeks worshipped as many as 30k gods and goddesses in their mythology. They were make-believe gods, but they took them very seriously. They would erect statues and monuments and altars to them. The streets were lined with these gods, and it has been said that it was easier to find a god than a man.

They were afraid that they had perhaps even missed some gods, so they erected an altar to “the unknown god.”

v. 23 They didn’t want to sleight any unknown god, making him angry…they wanted to be open-minded to others who may come to the area and not find “their” god represented. [Ecumenicalism]

Another historian visited Athens and wrote a 6 volume set on their religious beliefs. But Paul summed it up in just 4 words: “wholly given to idolatry”. And Paul knew these were false gods…this was demonic…he knew that wood and stone couldn’t save a person’s soul.

Paul was up against a lot.

v. 18 Epicureans were all about indulgence…their chief goal in life was pleasure. They believed man was just another animal that returns to dust/no afterlife…so, eat, drink, and be merry. These were “playboys” who satiated every animal appetite they had.

Stoics were all about indifference…their chief goal was to not care, not believe anything…be dead to feelings and emotions, even if you have a death in the family, major illness, catastrophe, etc.

These 2 philosophies are at opposite ends of the spectrum. One said “enjoy life”, the other said “endure life”…but 1 thing they had in common was hatred for Paul and his preaching.

v. 18 they called him a babbler = seed picker…the idea of birds like you see in parks, hopping around picking up seeds. They were saying he was one of these who just grabs thoughts from here and there and everywhere and repeats them as his own, w/ no real thought or understanding of his own…just babbling! They were looking down their noses at him as if he knew nothing.

Paul preaches to them in v. 22-23 [read]

He started where they were…he went to them, and used a clever opening line in saying I notice that you are aware that there’s a god you don’t know…I wanna talk to you about Him!

Paul told them 4 things:

1. Our God is the God of creation

v. 24-25 This is where we have to begin…who created it all, and how can we even be having this conversation? If you’re wrong on this 1st point you’ll be wrong on everything which follows that. Like an algebra equation…if the first number is wrong, everything following it will be…don’t even bother continuing the rest of the problem.

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Juan Salas

commented on Nov 22, 2014

Thank you!!

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