Knowing God: To The Unknown God!

The Apostle Paul, several times in the New Testament, reminds believers and unbelievers of the glory of knowing God the creator. This certainly was the situation when Paul was at Mars Hill in Athens, Greece. The account is found in Acts 17:16-34. First of all, we witness the reality of human religion in 17:16-18a. Second, in Acts 17:18b-21, we witness the reality in humans for the new. Thirdly, in Acts 17:22-23 we witness the reality of human worship.

“So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.”

The Apostle Paul begins his dialogue with the Athenians by acknowledging the obvious; the people of Athens were very religious. Paul mentions that ever since he arrived into the city, he has seen their objects of their worship. The apostle does not demean his audience, but seeks to establish a relationship with them. He acknowledges that they are a religious people.

Dr. R.C. Sproul explains, “The term very religious is ambiguous, in some contexts having a negative connotation and in others referring more neutrally to pious devotion to deities. Without endorsing the city-wide idolatry that has so distressed him, the apostle opens his discourse by acknowledging the abundant evidence of the Athenians deep desire to honor those superhuman powers that they believe influence their destinies.”

Paul’s transition point in the discourse is when he makes mention of an altar inscribed with the title to the unknown God. He uses the Athenian’s own words to transition into a sermon concerning the biblical God. Paul uses this point of contact to proclaim the person and work of Jesus Christ.

However, in sharing the gospel the apostle does not begin with the incarnation, sinless life, substitutionary atonement or bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Rather, he begins with the truth that God is the creator of the universe. He is the God who is not confined to temples and who controls the times and the seasons. He does not need humanity, but humanity certainly needs Him. Why? Because God is the creator of heaven and earth.

While I was in seminary, a guest speaker came and shared with the student body about the subject of sharing the gospel in the context of a post-modern culture. He remarked that in so doing, we cannot begin with the New Testament Gospels any longer, but rather we must begin with Genesis 1:1. People need to be first informed that there is a God and He is the sole creator of the universe. That’s where the gospel begins.

Take the time to observe potential transition points you may use in conversing with someone about knowing God. Observe positive qualities in other people which ultimately are sourced in the One, True God. Acknowledge to your friends that the positive qualities they possess are also found in the God of the Bible who they need to know; not only through creation but through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Soli deo Gloria!

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