Paul was nothing if not bold. It was one thing to proclaim the kingdom in a synagogue. Another to take it to the streets and engage people in discussion in the marketplace. But to stand in front of a crowd of full-time philosophers would, I imagine, take things to a whole new level. To address those who did little but hang out and listen to the TED Talks of the day could have been, I think ,a bit intimidating. And then, choose the topic “Making the Unknown God Known?” Well, like I said, Paul was nothing if not bold.
So having spent a bit of time walking the streets of Athens, his heart becoming increasingly vexed as he saw the city full of idols, Paul accepted the invitation to the Areopagus, to Mars Hill, philosopher central. But rather than speak against all the inanimate objects of worship he had encountered, he chose instead to speak in defense of one of them. He drew attention to an altar bearing the inscription, “To the unknown God.” And Paul, in effect, says, “Let me tell you about Him.”
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 God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”
(Acts 17:22-25 ESV)
Religious men, focused on the divine. Seeking men, ready to hear whoever they thought might have the latest insight on connecting with the deities. Yet blind men. For all the gods they had discovered, there remained One who was still a mystery. For everything they had learned to bow before, there was still a hole, still something missing. Something they sensed might be filled by an unknown god.
So how come? How come these askers weren’t finding any real answers? Why weren’t these seekers finding? Why, though they kept knocking, did the door remain shut? Because they were looking in all the wrong places.
They thought God was something that they needed to discover rather than Someone who had purposed to reveal Himself. That somehow He had to be defined within what they could conceive. That He’d be happy to dwell wherever they determined to build Him a house. That, though God, He somehow needed them to meet His needs. Thus, they made gods fashioned after their own imagination and wisdom. Having set themselves as the center of the universe, they looked out from themselves to find the divine–looking in all the wrong the places.
Instead, they needed to look around and ponder, “Who made the world?” They needed look in the mirror and ask, “What manner of creative power enabled me to be so fearfully and wonderfully made?” They needed to look up and wonder, “Who rules as Lord of heaven and earth?” And, having done so, they’d have realized that a god who is truly God has no needs. That a god who is truly God cannot be represented by anything made with human hands. That a god who is really God doesn’t need mortal men to service Him. That a god who is really God “makes the creatures; the creatures don’t make Him” (MSG).
And what grabbed me especially this morning is that while this unknown God patiently waits to be known His overflowing grace pours out from heaven as “He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” Even while mankind determines to worship idols of their own making; to follow the religions of their own convenience; and to service gods who in the end they hope might benefit them. Even to these, God extends abundant common grace.
Because my God is a longsuffering God, “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2Peter 3:9). Ready to take His place as the unknown god beside myriads of lesser gods while His Spirit moves through His ambassadors to call men and women to Himself.
My God seeks to be the known God. His existence made known through creation. His nature made known through His Incarnate Son. His love made known through the cross. His redemption made known through the gospel.
Our is a God who has gone to great lengths to reveal Himself and be known. We just need to stop looking in all the wrong places.
And that too, will be by His grace.
So that in all things He might receive the glory.