Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Unknown God


“Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 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” – Acts 17:22-23

Paul had a great task upon him when he went to Athens.  The city was seeped in idolatry, with temples and idols to every imaginable Greek god.  His task was to overthrow belief of their many gods in acceptance of the One True God.  But Paul was an intellectual man, and knowing the city was full of philosophers, he met them on their playing field. He sought to reach them intellectually, based on what they already understood of gods.
The Athenians had admitted their own ignorance in knowing the Deity of God in that through their worship of so gods, all attributed to some portion of God’s being, they had created an altar with an inscription “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD”.  They sought not to offend any god, and to worship all possible deities.  Paul considered their failed attempt at worshipping God.  He preached, introducing them to God as the Unknown God, who is the all-in-one God. 

In Acts 17:24-31 Paul tells them of the creator, saying “who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth”.
He preached of God’s omnipresence, His not being contained in one place, saying that He “does not dwell in temples made with hands.”

Paul preached of worshipping God in Spirit, and not with offerings made by man, saying “Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.” 
He introduces God the Father, saying “He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth” and explaining that we are all His children. 

He explained God’s holiness, saying “we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising”.
Then Paul preached repentance saying “these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent”.  He sought to show them the error of their ways in worshipping the Greek mythological gods.

He preached the final judgment of man saying “He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness”.  Paul knew that they must fear judgment in order to be made afraid of their sin, or they would continue in it.
And finally He preached Jesus Christ as “the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

Paul didn’t deliver just a smidgen of who God is – he delivered the whole package!  He introduced them to God the Creator, God the Father, Holy God, God the Judge, and God the Redeemer.  But he did this by meeting them on their own playing field, under the guise of explaining their own Unknown God.
When talking of God to those that have no basis to understand Biblical or spiritual things, we have to meet them on their level of understanding. We cannot explain creation to one who believes the big bang theory without defeating that theory first.  We cannot explain Jesus to one who does not believe the Bible as truth.  We cannot explain the law of sin to one who does not see their wrong as a problem.  There isn’t a one-size-fits-all sermon because we don’t all have the same understanding.  To believe that one sermon fits all makes about as much sense as teaching calculus to preschoolers.  Likewise, ministering to adults who have never been in church doesn’t mean we can teach them as we would those who have been in church all their lives.  How confusing it must be for a 60 year old new Christian to be placed in a Sunday School class with mature Christians speaking of things like ‘walking in the Spirit’ and ‘talking in tongues’!  Age does not determine maturity or level of understanding.  We have to meet people on their own playing field.

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