22” So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 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.” (Acts 17:22–23)
Luke often recorded the Apostle Paul preaching and teaching in the synagogues within the various cities to which he and his companions traveled. However, in today’s text Paul is not preaching and teaching in a synagogue but rather he is standing in the midst of the Areopagus, otherwise known as Mars Hill.
His presentation of the Gospel is masterful. He does not openly condemn the Athenians for the blatant idolatry. Rather, he used their very idolatry as an object lesson tool.
Paul began his message by saying, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious.” Paul expressed that he understood the widespread religiosity of the Athenians. He also did not say that they were just religious, but rather that they were devoutly religious. Realize that this statement can be understood in either a positive or negative way. Certainly, Paul had in mind the latter and not the former.
Paul then wisely points to one of the Athenians very own idols. He said, “23 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 did the inscription “to the unknown god” mean?
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Possibly a reference to the Altar of the Twelve Gods of Athens, erected to ensure that no god is left out of their worship Paul uses this point of contact to begin his discourse about the God who made the world, who is not carved out of stone or confined to any temple, and who controls the times and the seasons where people live.”
Paul then said, “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.” The word “unknown” means to be unaware or ignorant of something, or in this case, someone: namely God. It is this One, True God who Paul would now proclaim to the Athenians in attendance.
What point of contact can you use to those who you know who do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior? What objects do you observe your friends, or family members, worshipping and honoring? Use this as a starting point to explain the Gospel and the reality of the One, True God of the Bible.
Soli deo Gloria!