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  • Writer's pictureChristy Schuette

An Unknown God

June 22


2 Kings 7-8

Psalm 74:1-4

Proverbs 16:14-15

Acts 17

An Unknown God

 

“For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed:  TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.  Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.  The God who made the world and everything in it—He is Lord of Heaven and Earth and does not live in shrines made by hands.  Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things.”  Acts 17:23-25 HCSB

 

Several days ago, we looked at the account of Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. Today we see a very different approach by Paul.  I think the key here is to know your audience.  Elijah recognized that his job on Mt. Carmel was to display God’s power and to prove that He is the one and only God.  He accomplished that in a mighty way. Paul, however, is in a different situation.  He was in Athens at the Areopagus.  The Areopagus was a small hill covered in stone seats northwest of the city of Athens, Greece.  It was once used as a forum for the rulers of Athens to hold trials, debate and discuss important matters.  In Paul’s day, groups of respected local men met there to discuss and investigate spiritual and philosophical ideas.  Paul was called to speak to them when word of his teaching in Athens began to gain attention.  The Greeks were known for their love of knowledge.  The message Paul was preaching was “new”, so they were intrigued.  Paul used the opportunity to deliver one of the most dynamic evangelistic speeches in the New Testament. 

 

When Paul came to Athens, he was very troubled because the city was full of idols.  The Greeks were known for their worship of multiple gods. I have said before that Satan really doesn’t have new tricks.  He has used the same methods throughout the ages.  He does not have to convince people to worship him; he only needs to convince people to worship anything other than the one true God.  He provides options.  In biblical times, he did that through multiple gods. There were gods for everything:  the sun, love, wind, music, war, medicine, constellations, darkness, water, etc.  Today he does that through various religions: Hinduism, Mormonism, Islam, Buddhism, being a good person, etc.   His message is that there are many ways to get to God and that any way you choose to come is the same.  That is a lie.  There is only one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ, His one and only Son, who came to Earth to be a sacrifice and provide the way to bring us to God.  There is no other way. Any religion that does not proclaim that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” is a false religion. 

 

Paul’s approach at the Areopagus was very different than Elijah’s approach on Mt. Carmel. Instead of ridiculing them for their belief in multiple gods which were nonexistent, he was not afraid to find some point of common ground with his audience. He quoted from several philosophers to show that God is indeed Lord over all. He did not water down biblical truth to reach his audience. Paul clearly outlined the claims of Christ and gave a concise and thorough presentation of the gospel.  He was respectful and courteous. He did not insult them or do anything that would be considered offensive. As a result, some people decided they wanted to hear more about Jesus, and some people believed. There were not huge converts from the Areopagus, but they listened and had the opportunity to evaluate for themselves the truth. That is our goal. We do not determine the outcome. We cannot make people believe no matter how much we may want to. Our job is to present the gospel concisely so that they have the opportunity to believe. Paul gives us an excellent example of how to do this in a way that is respectful and yet does not compromise the truth.   It is important that we spend time in prayer asking God to give us the right words and the right attitude as we witness to those He places in our path. It is important to know our audience and seek His wisdom to know what approach will reach their heart.

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