30.3.08

To the Unknown God (Acts 17.22-34)

As is my custom, here is an outline of the sermon I am scheduled to preach today at my church, Antioch Fellowship Baptist Church.
Introduction: While in Athens, Paul saw the idolatry and was moved to preach everywhere he went in the city.  This lifestyle was normal for him.  He used logic, the culture and a confrontation of their religious views and spiritual ignorance as an opening to share the truth found in the Gospel of Christ with those in Athens. During this he saw an altar dedicated "to the unknown god."  He would introduce the people of Athens to the God they did not know.
The Religion (v. 22-23) 
  •  Paul's spirit was "provoked within him" at the idolatry in Athens (v. 18) so he preached Christ
  •  He was taken to the Areogapus (a.k.a. Mar's Hill- Greek: the hill of Ares, Roman equivalent to Ares was Mars, thus Mars' Hill), the Athenian court- common for religious matters as well (no church and state issues there)
  • Paul perceived they were religious- the term was ambiguous, either meaning a compliment or superstitious in their religious life depending on context 
  • He pointed out an altar "To the unknown god."  He preached that God was their unknown god
  • Likewise, our spirits should be provoked within us over the idolatry in our society today
  • We can recognize ignorant religiosity around us- religion based on superstition or a denial of truth
  • Every church built on Christ that rejects Him is an altar to an unknown god; every oath that swears us by the name of God while the court or institution is secular is an altar to an unknown god; every person that comes to church and does not have a saving faith in Christ worships at an altar to an unknown God
The Reasoning (v. 24-31)  30 "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent..."
  • Paul preaches a message grounded in OT Scripture- citing God as the Creator, opposing idolatry and over every movement in history
  • God's plan is to lead people to Him, that He may be sought and found by them
  • Paul also uses the concept of "the unknown god, the words of their poets and the truth of judgment and Christ to reason with the people
  • The people of Athens were polytheists, but they had a far of offending a god that they might not have known, thus the altar
  • How many today give respect to an unknown God?
  • Paul said that God "winked at" (KJV) or overlooked (ESV- better in this case) ignorance in the past, but now is the time for repentance
    • "Behold,now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6.2 ESV)
  • Judgment is sure; the resurrection is evidence of this truth
The Reaction (v. 32-34) 
  • Some mocked- some reject the Gospel of Christ
  • Some put it off- some want to "wait until later" (no guarantee of "later") 
  • Some believed- some have been prepared to receive the Gospel and will be saved 
Conclusion: That leaves us where Paul was.  Some are Christians, it is our calling to preach the Gospel to those who do not believe as Paul did.  Some will mock, but "God is not mocked" (Galatians 6.7 ESV).  Some will delay, but they "do not know what tomorrow will bring" (James 4.14 ESV).  Some will believe.  If you are here today and have not received God's salvation through faith in Christ alone, which of these will you be?  Will you mock God (unsuccessfully)?  Will you delay?  Or will you bow before the King in surrender and believe?

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