“As I . . . beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you” (Acts 17:23).
The people of Athens were known to be quite religious, worshipping a host of nature gods. They even had set up an altar “to the unknown god.” Paul pounced on this point of contact to declare unto them the God they didn’t know.
He starts by laying the foundation: This God, he claims, is the Creator. He not only “made the world and all things therein” (v.24), but also is “Lord of heaven and earth.” To cause to exist and then to rule over all of creation, one must be omnipotent. He is much too great to dwell in “temples made with hands.” How ludicrous to think He might need anything, including the worship of men, “seeing He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things” (v.25).
This God “hath made of one blood all nations of men” and “hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (v.26). To know all men, their race, futures, and details of their lives, God must be omniscient, eternal, boundless. He has done this so “that they should seek the Lord” (v.27). He is not hard to find, for He is “not far from every one of us.” He is the sustainer and source of all life. “In Him we live, and move, and have our being; . . . we are also His offspring” (v.28), totally unlike gods of “gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device” (v.29).
But mankind has not known this God. He has been patient, but hates sin, and “commandeth all men every where to repent” (v.30), to gain forgiveness based on the work of “that man whom He hath ordained” (v.31) as a final sacrifice, or as righteous judge. We can be sure of this because, when the sacrifice was slain, God “raised Him from the dead” (v.31).
Some mocked at the declaration of this mighty God (v.32); some refused to act; but others believed (v.34). JDM