Believing the "Unknown God"
“Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about... “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist...“God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:22-23, 27-31
The world is filled with varying images of God. Most Americans when asked if they believe in God will say they do believe in some form of God. It is not enough to believe in God or some form of god. It matters which God you believe in for that will determine not only how you will live your life in this world but also what will happen to your eternal destiny. From the text the apostle Paul was in Athens, a city known for its culture and philosophical debate. It was then the center for the thinkers of the world. During the time when Luke wrote the Book of Acts, one of the historians claimed that there were 30,000 gods in Athens. So, when Paul came to the place where they had these numerous display of their religious artifacts, he began by affirming the people of their religiosity. He commended their desire to find and know God. Paul noticed that the city had a statue with an inscription to an “unknown God”. Paul used this occasion to declare to them who this “unknown God.” He told them that this God is the one “who made the world and everything in it” (v. 24). Since He is the Great God, He “does not live in temples built by hands” (v. 25). He affirmed the Supremacy of God and that since He is the Creator of everything, nothing in this creation could contain His glory. God is the One who sustains everything and He keeps all things going. Then he told them that God did all these so that men would “seek Him and perhaps reach out 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.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘we are his offspring’” (vv. 27-28). God is the One who created us, sustains us and leads us. He is doing all these because He wants us to know Him. Paul’s argument is clear; if there is a God who is the Creator, Sustainer, and who Designed everything, then we should offer to Him our allegiance and bow before Him. He has proven that He is our life and our only hope. Paul then challenged the people to consider all these and come to God in repentance and stop ignoring Him. He urged people to repent because of what is at stake; a day of judgment is coming. The proof of this coming day is the reality of Christ raised from the dead (v. 31). There are those that mocked Paul’s declaration (v. 32a), others asked him to tell them more about God (v. 32b), but there were some that joined him and became believers (v. 34).