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Acts #64 (chapter 17:19-32)
The Book of Acts
The God of Resurrection
Acts 17:16-34
It's always interesting to listen to those who run for public office and all the solutions they have for the problems that plague society. And unfortunately, if anyone is bold enough to suggest that the real problem is of a spiritual nature and the only solution we have is Jesus Christ, then they are ridiculed and ignored as some kind of nut.
But there was a man several centuries ago who stood before a major world city and offered to that city exactly what they needed. And the critical thing to notice from the account of that event is that his message to that great city 2,000 years ago is still relevant today and is the most needful message in our city and, for that matter, in every city on the planet.
That man's name was Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ and the message was delivered to the city of Athens. The details are found in Acts 17.
Now it needs to be noted that at the time Paul addresses the leaders of Athens, it was the most religious place in the world. In fact, Athens offered a home to almost every god that had been invented in the pagan pantheon. And nearly every public building, along with many temples and shrines, nearly every public building in Athens was also a shrine or a temple to a god.
But what they had missed, and what they needed the most, was the story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And that is the focal point of the ministry and message of the early church. In the first half of the book of Acts, the central figure is Peter and he preaches the resurrection. In the second half, it is Paul and he delivers the same message.
Notice how that message is delivered in Athens. Remember, Paul is alone in Athens. He is waiting for the arrival of Timothy and Silas. In the meantime, he takes a look around the city and discovers the entire city is given over to the worship of idols.
What he saw moved him to do something about . So he goes down to the local synagogue and engages the local Jews and God-fearing Gentiles in discussion about God as he shared with them the message of the cross and the resurrection. He also spent time out in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be present.
And what he does catches the attention of some of the religious and philosophical leaders. Some of the them dismiss him as a babbler, others are intrigued by what he has to say and make arrangements for him to speak before the supreme court of Athens. It is called the Aereopagus, Mars Hill in today's language.
They had the assignment of protecting existing religions in Athens from blasphemy. So when any new philosophy or religion came into town, they had to check it out and see if it was blaspheming an already approved religion.
So Paul's appearance before them is in an official capacity. Christianity is being put on trial before a human tribunal.
It's interesting that they are actually the ones who are on trial but they will hear from Paul and make a determination about the validity of his faith. Notice,
verses 19-21
The court wants to know what are you talking about. You're in the synagogues. You're every day in the marketplace and we've never heard anything like what you are preaching.
Now, this invitation gives Paul a great opportunity. He is there with the elite of the city, the philosophers, the leaders, the judges, the authorities, and they are asking him to tell them what he believes.
You want to know about my religion? I'm glad you asked because I'm not here to defend another personal philosophy. I'm not here to add another imaginary deity to your pantheon of gods. I am here to introduce you to the one true, living God.
Now it needs to be noted that Paul's answer, in effect, would blaspheme all other gods. If there is only one valid God, then the message that presents that information, of necessity, will blaspheme every other god's claim to validity.
Paul, in typical, Baptist form, has three points.
Point one: God is Knowable
verses 22-23
God created man with a built-in need, a desire for God. Everyone has it.
But for some reason, we are convinced that we have to go out and find that God. He's hiding or playing games, or even worse, He is unknowable. Or He must be appeased and approached with gifts and offerings.
This is the agony of lost humanity. You don't know God. So you hope and look and search and try and experiment. That's where this society was living. And in their desperateness, not wanting to miss God, they had idols to all the gods the human mind could conceive.
And remember, in their city, all those gods had been sanctioned by the Aereopagus. They were legit, as far as human recognition and approval went.
And just to cover all the bases, they erected an altar to "the unknown God", just in case they missed the real one! Obviously, they were trying to figure out how to know and relate to God. since they didn't know God, they didn't know how to connect with God. They didn't even know who was God, and that's why they kept adding more and more and more and more gods, hoping that they would land on a god who would respond to them.
But Paul says, "I know the unknown God! He is knowable! And while I respect you're sincerity and understand your search for God, you need to know, I came to town to introduce you to the real thing!"
He is knowable!
Second point, God Is Recognizable.
So if the unknown God is knowable, how do we know Him? How is he recognized?
First of all, Paul introduces the true God to them as
- the Creator
verse 24
Epicureans, by the way, denied Creation. They believed that matter was eternal. Stoics were pantheists. They believed that God was matter, and matter was God. And Paul shoots all of that down and says, "Matter is not eternal, and you're not God. God is God, and He made everything, including you. God is the God of Creation. God is the God of time and matter."
Secondly, he says, God is
- the Lord of Heaven and Earth
verse 24a
That means He is the owner of everything He created. He is the Lord of everything." The earth is the Lord's...Psalm 24:1 says...and the fullness thereof; the world and those who dwell in it."
Thirdly, he says, God is
- transcendent
verse 24b
He doesn't live in these temples or shrines you've built. He is beyond the bounds of the physical. He is that Eternal Spirit. You don't make God; He made you! God is not the God you made with your hands. God made you. He is the Creator. You are not the possessor and owner of your private gods. He is the possessor and owner of everything He created, including you. He is not confined to your idol. He is not confined to your shrine. He is not confined to your temple. He does not dwell in temples made with hands. He is beyond time and beyond space. He is transcendent."
Fourth, God is recognizable as
- the giver of life and sustainer of life
verse 25
You don't give to God anything. He gives to you everything. He gives to you everything. Life and breath and everything. He is the sustainer. He doesn't need anything from you. He is the giver.
And then Paul says, God is
- Sovereign
verse 26
God began with Adam, and out of Adam came Eve, and out of that couple came Cain and Abel, and out of them, of course, came all of humanity down to Noah and his family at the flood. And then out of them the rest of humanity. He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.
And it was God Who determined their appointed times, and God Who determined the boundaries of their habitation. It was God who decided their place in history and their place on the map.
Now he's quit preaching and gone to meddlin'! The Athenians viewed themselves as a self-made people. They viewed themselves as being unique, sort of springing out of the soil of their native Attica. And they despised the uncultured and illiterate barbarians, as they were called.
But Paul is reminding them, they hadn't made themselves. They were what they were because of God. God had appointed them as a nation. God had appointed them at that place at that time of history. God was the sovereign over history.
This is the God they did not know! He is the Creator. He is the Lord. He is transcendent to His creation. And, yet, He Sovereign over His creation!
And then in verse 27 and 28, Paul reminds them God is
- Near
Yes, He's powerful enough to create the worlds and transcendent enough to be outside time and space, but He is also near. He is not far from each one of us. And you can know Him. God is knowable. And Paul says to these men, "You've been looking for God all your lives. You spend all your time and enrgy trying to find a god who can satisfy your heart and answer your prayers and provide for your needs.
And obviously, you aren't satisfied with the gods you've found so far because you've got a shrine to the unknown god. So let me introduce you to the only God there is, the One true Living God. And I'm happy to tell you, He's not so far away that you can never know Him. In fact, He is near to every one of us.
Don't you know that was good news? Can you imagine how tired and exhausting and unsatisfying and stressful it must be to never know God or know if you've found the right one?
Paul says. "God is knowable. You can know God as Creator and Lord, the Sovereign Sustainer of Life! He's near! He's beyond and above creation, not limited to the physical world, but he's present in His created world, and you can know him.
And then Paul even adds in
verse 28
He's quoting Epimenides and a man named Aradus, who had both written about the fact that there was a God Who had created man, and that God would have to be personal, and He'd have to be rational, because that's what man is.
And he's saying, "Some of your own brightest minds have pointed you in the right direction!. They understood there is a God Who is intimate enough to be a Father to you.
And then Paul makes his final point:
God is knowable, God is recognizable, and
Third Point: God Has Spoken
The information in points one and two is enough to damn you, but not enough to save you. And I'm sure there were some people along with those two poets who had concluded that God might be knowable, because they had concluded in His Creation certain things about Him. That we were His offspring. That He was the Creator. That He was powerful, obviously, and rational and personal.
But that's not enough to save you. God has also spoken. Natural revelation is enough to damn you but you need special, specific, verbal revelation to save you.
And so Paul comes to his third point, God has spoken.
verse 30
Isn't that amazing? This God Who is knowable and recognizable is speaking, communicating with men. So what's He saying?
He is telling us He has overlooked the times of ignorance in the past. God has been very patient throughout human history since the flood, when He destroyed the whole world. God has been very patient, and He hasn't destroyed humanity.
Sixteen-hundred-and-fifty years after the Creation, he drowned the whole world except Noah and his family. That's patience!
Some of us can't even give the person in front time to accelerate after the light turns green before we honk!
But God delayed judgment for 1,650 years! And when Paul is speaking in Athens, it's been another 2,500 years, and God hasn't destroyed the world. And here we are, 2,000 years later, and He still hasn't destroyed the world since the flood.
And Paul is saying, "God has overlooked these times of ignorance and rebellion. This time of agnosticism. This time of idolatry. God has been very, very patient. But God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent. It's time to repent from your sin. It's time to repent from your idolatry. It's time to turn to the true God and His Son the Lord Jesus Christ, Who lived and died and rose again for your salvation. The One and Only true God. It's time to repent."
Why? What's the urgency?
verse 31
When God told Noah to build an ark, God appointed a day on which He would judge the world. One week before the flood came, He said, "Get in the boat. I'm going to shut the door." And when the day came, the rains fell and the bowels of the earth broke open and, true to His Word, just like He said, God brough judgment of the world.
Well, Paul says, God has appointed another day of judgment. This time, judgment is coming by fire. He will in righteousness. That means He will judge it justly and rightly.
He will judge sin as it should be judged." And He's not only appointed a day, He's chosen a Man through Whom that judgment will be administered.
That's why it is so important that we be saved while we have opportunity. Judgment is coming! The day is fixed and the judge is appointed. And this God-appointed judge is recognized through one primary characteristic and that is God raised Him from the dead.
Want proof that judgment is coming? How about this: God declared it was going to happen and assured it with the resurrection of Jesus. Understand, God raised Jesus to be our Savior, but He also raised Him to be the judge of those who reject Him.
Jesus came out of the grave for two purposes. To save those who repent and embrace in the Savior and to judge those who don't. That's a pretty powerful message, don't you think? Jesus Christ was resurrected by God and He lives to be, either your Savior or your judge.
So how did they respond to the message Paul brought? Same responses the gospel always brings.
Verse 32
Some said "no", some said "wait" and some believed. So what's your response? What's your response? Mock the resurrection? Sneer or maybe your reaction is to say, "I'd like to hear more about this some other time." But we can only hope and pray that your reaction is to believe, to repent, to embrace Christ the Savior, so He will not be judge.
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