Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.
The Scriptorium

The Word to the Worldly

The God they know but don't know. Acts 17.22-28

Savior and King (5)

Pray Psalm 100.1-3.
Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands!
Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the LORD, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Sing Psalm 100.1-3.
(Truro: Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns)
Shout to the Lord with joy, O earth! With gladness serve His matchless worth!
Before Him sing with joyful words, and know that God alone is Lord!

Read Acts 17.1-28; meditate on verses 22-28.

Preparation
1. How did Paul begin his address?

2. To what did he appeal in making his points?

Meditation
Paul’s message is instructive. First, he commended the sincerity of their religion (v. 22). They were wrong, but they were sincere.Paul gave them credit as worshipers and did not chide them for their idolatry, which would only have put them on the defensive and been the end of his address.

Second, Paul was impressed by their honesty in acknowledging an “unknown” deity (v. 23). They didn’t pretend to have all the answers, and they were open and honest about the limits of what they understood about life and the world. Paul saw in this admitted ignorance an entry point for the Gospel.

Next, while Scripture is the foundation of his message, Paul quoted from two Greek poets to support his teaching (vv. 24-28). Every worldview provides resources for pointing beyond that worldview to the teaching of Scripture.

Paul led his hearers to compare the majesty and greatness of the God of Scripture – the God Who needs nothing from men (vv. 23-25) – to the gods of the Greeks, which needed to be placated by temples, devotions, and other accoutrements (v. 24). It is folly, Paul explained, to think that so great a God as the One Who exists beyond human knowing should be dependent for anything on mere mortals.

Paul was not trying to use philosophy to reason his audience into accepting Jesus. He was preaching the Word to these worldly Athenians and using their own philosophy to show that the wisest among them had intuited the truth, to some extent, of what Paul proclaimed.

Paul engaged the Athenians on their turf. He affirmed as much as he could of their worldview, and he graciously pointed out inconsistencies they perhaps had overlooked. He used whatever resources he could from their view of life and the world, yet he drove his argument straight to Christ, the resurrection, the coming judgment, and repentance and faith, as we shall see.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Often, we neglect to share the Good News of Jesus because we think we must have all the answers. Or, we must have just the right words of rebuttal, or convincing truths to shake unbelievers at their core.

Happily, the Holy Spirit knows all the ins and outs of the faith and can handle all the places where we might draw a blank. It just really isn’t about our cleverness. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with having a lot of knowledge about our faith and the ability to point out inaccuracies and inconsistencies where we find them, just as Paul did here at the Areopagus (Acts 17.22-31).

But at the heart of working our Personal Mission Field is our faithfulness and utter dependance on the Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit of truth, who will “guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you” (Jn. 16.13, 14).

As we read what happened in Athens, we can trust that the same timely help will be available for us (Heb. 4.16). Our babbling and proclaiming will lead some to “seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being…” (Acts 17.27, 28)

For the truth is that all people everywhere know God. Paul wrote that to the church in Rome and to us: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom. 1.18-21).

We can confidently say with Paul, to those in our Personal Mission Field: the UNKNOWN GOD, the One Whom you are worshiping, is the God Who made heaven and earth and everything in it. He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And this same God demonstrated His love toward all of us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5.8).

And that is the best Word to the world that could ever be told. Grand apologetics not needed.

For reflection
1. Paul assumed that those Greek thinkers had some knowledge of God. Why did he assume that? What’s the importance of that for working our Personal Mission Field?

2. Why must we be good listeners to earn the right to talk about Jesus?

3. Review Acts 1.8. How does the power of the Spirit work in us to make us witnesses for Jesus?

Then Paul says, “Nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything.” Even this affirmation by Paul, that he is in need of nothing, is not enough. For although this is a mark of divinity, something else must be added. Paul adds, “He himself gives to all people life and breath and everything.” These are the two proofs of divinity Paul points to, that he is in need of nothing and that he gives to all people everything. John Chrysostom (344-407), Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles 38

Pray Psalm 100.3-5.
Give thanks and praise to God for His salvation, mercy, goodness, and truth. Ask Him to show these through you to the people in your Personal Mission Field today.

Sing Psalm 100.3-5.
(Truro: Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns)
He made us all, and not our hands; His people, we before Him stand.
A faithful Shepherd, He will keep and care for us as His own sheep.

Enter His gates with thanks and praise; extol His Name through all your days!
Give thanks to Him, and bless His Name! His praise forevermore proclaim!

Good is the Lord, so good and kind; His love we evermore may find.
His faithfulness is ever sure; to every age it shall endure!

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can listen to a summary of last week’s Scriptorium study by going to our website, www.ailbe.org, and clicking theScriptorium tab for last Sunday. You can download any or all the studies in this series on Acts by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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