The Unknown God
Text: Acts 17:16-34 | Listen to Message
Who Is God?
Athens was the philosophical center of the ancient world – home to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Zeno, and Epicurus. It was the cradle of Western civilization, the birthplace of democracy, and a mecca for the arts and sciences. But when the apostle Paul walked the streets of Athens, instead of being impressed, he was discouraged. Everywhere he looked, from the Acropolis to the agora to the Areopagus, Athens was overrun with temples, statues, and inscriptions to idols.
And Paul didn’t just pity the idolatrous Athenians; he was perturbed. He was irritated; he was distressed; he was indignant. How could people claim to be so intelligent, so open to truth and reason, yet worship gods they fashioned with their own hands – all the while ignoring the glory of the one true God?
Paul’s experience could’ve led him to self-righteousness or pride. But instead, he was moved with compassion – and then to action. He confronted the unbelief of the Athenians head on by telling them about “the unknown God” they’d never made an effort to understand. He showed them how this God is their Creator, Sustainer, Ruler, Father, and Judge. And he showed them how to find mercy with this God through the death and resurrection of Jesus. He taught them that, even when they weren’t reaching out and seeking God, God was pursuing them in love.
Is it possible that we don’t speak as Paul spoke simply because we don’t feel what Paul felt? And that, in turn, is because we don’t see things as Paul saw them?
Think about it: When you walk or drive through the city, what do you see? What do you notice? How do you feel about what you’re seeing? Like most people, you probably see a mix of things that attract and repulse you. You feel satisfied one moment and disgusted the next, all while feeling stressed with your own concerns.
But what we ought to be doing is praying something like this: Lord, give me your eyes to see people as you see them; break my heart for what breaks yours. Help me to love your glory so much that it hurts me to see you dishonored. Give me the courage and the compassion to tell others who you are and what you’ve done for them. Amen.