To know God
So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: “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. “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. Acts 17:22-25
Most men would have been overwhelmed at the invitation to speak before such a learned and impressive body of people, but Paul welcomed the opportunity with enthusiasm. Paul assessed his audience well and spoke to their needs. He began by quoting from one of the Grecian poets. Paul was brave in his presentation, and yet he was not offensive. He knew that the Athenians were familiar to a frank and open sharing of different ideas without becoming offended or yielding to anger. Paul recognized that the people of Athens were quite religious. In the ancient world, Athens did have a reputation of being a religious city, a reputation enhanced by its many temples and shrines. As Paul had walked around the city, he had noticed among the many idols an altar to an unknown god. Apparently the Athenians, lest they accidentally offend one of the gods by ignoring him, had built a shrine to his honor. He used their uninformed piety as a means of introducing them to the one true God. Paul begins with his hearers where they are and attempt to lead them to where they ought to be. He argued that the true God was a universal God, not just a God of a select group. Paul’s point was that the true God was the creator of the world and everything in it. The Greeks has hazy and often contradictory myths about creation. Since God had created the world, it was logical to understand that He was Lord, the ruler of everything. Further, the true God, since He had created the universe, could not be confined to man-made temples. God did not live in physical temples, nor, for that matter, did He need the things that man could give Him, such as animal sacrifices. God has given even life and breath to man. Since He is the very source of life, He could hardly be dependent upon men’s lives for His support. Paul’s message was to lead people to understand who God is, the Creator, and the Giver of life. This is where we ought to be, to realize our need of God and receive the life that He offers.