Paul’s choked. He’s bent out of shape. He’s irritated. Or, to use biblical language, “his spirit was provoked within him” (Acts 17:16). At what? At Athens, a city full of idols. Objects of worship on every street corner. Altars for worship never very far away. High-minded philosophers willing to bow down to the next latest and greatest deity. Religious people who are dead to spiritual realities. And the longer Paul waited in Athens for Silas and Timothy, the angrier he got (MSG).
And, as Paul wanders about a dark city, he comes upon an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.
There it is! That’s “the hook” . . . there’s Paul’s in . . . this is the bridge, the connect point. They recognize an unknown god and Paul says, “Him I proclaim to you” (17:23).
And Paul proceeds to reason with them concerning this God. He identifies their “unknown God” as the Creator of all things . . . including all mankind. So, he reasons, if man is the “offspring” of God, then it’s ludicrous to think that “that the Divine Being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man” (17:29). Paul further declares that God has said “enough” to this ignorance and has revealed Himself through Jesus, a Man He has appointed to judge the world in righteousness on a day already set; “and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead” (17:31).
There it is. From ignorance concerning an unknown God to revelation of His resurrected anointed One. So now what?
And it’s the responses of these philosophers that’s captured my attention this morning.
Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” . . . But some men joined him and believed . . .
(Acts 17:32, 34a ESV)
Three different responses to divine revelation. Some mocked; some put it off; some believed.
And while these men were responding to the gospel message, I’m thinking it has applicability to any matter requiring faith. I’m thinking that, in this, there is a warning to me.
That, from time to time, I too am presented with truths concerning God that might seem kind of out there or too good to be true. Or truths that I might think are really more applicable for some other believer, but not so much for me. Or portions of God’s word that challenge me, that take me out of my comfort zone and force me to make a decision about whether or not God’s word is to be believed at a “next level.”
And in those instances, I’m thinking, I can respond in one of three ways.
First possible response? Mock it. Make fun of it. Brush it off and make light of it. Hopefully this is a very rare response . . . as in non-existent. But if I’m honest with myself, are there times that I’ve thought, “Might be true for those in bible times, but not for me, now?” Or, “That’s just a pat answer. Only the naïve would bet on such simplistic platitudes?” I’m thinking I need to beware of taking God’s word lightly.
Secondly, and more likely, rather than responding with mockery, I might be prone to just saying, “Hmmm . . . interesting . . . I’ll deal with that later.” Not putting it down, but putting it off. Not brushing it off, but placing it on the shelf. How dangerous can that be? When I start ignoring the voice of God, when my heart is pricked and I just choose to defer it and move on, what might happen then? What are the chances that if I keep turning a deaf ear to God’s voice, eventually He stops talking? Not a good response to presume that, at some more convenient time or season, that then I’ll deal with revealed truth.
Or, my response to the things of God can be like those who joined Paul and believed. To receive truth, believe truth, and act on truth. To be a “verb believer” . . . an active believer . . . one who readily exercises their faith in response to the precepts and promises of God’s word. Who won’t settle for being a “noun believer” . . . someone who just wears the title “believer” because they’ve accepted Christ as Savior.
To be a believing believer. To be a man of faith. Ready to hear God’s voice. Ready to receive God’s word. Ready to be shaken from my status quo. Ready to follow.
“I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 ESV)
By God’s grace . . . for God’s glory.