The Acts of christ through the apostles by the power of the holy spirit (25) – 12/16/11
Jesus tells us in one verse the essence of life: "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3) We see in other verses that the only way to know the only true God is through Jesus (God the Son). (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 John 5:11-13) In this chapter we see three kinds of people: 1) those who think they know God but do not (the religious Jews in verses 5-9; they represent all people who believe there is a God (or gods) but who think their religion or good works makes them right with God self-righteous people- see John 8:54-55; Matt. 9:13); 2) the Bereans who read God's Word and came to know Him (salvation by grace through faith in Jesus) and 3) those who reject God's revelation through creation and conscience (17:30) and those who hear His Word but reject it (see Romans 1:18-23 and Acts 17:32). Note the eternal fate of all people who do not "know God" seen in 2 Thess. 1:6-10.
God gives general revelation (creation and man's conscience) to all mankind (Rom. 1:18-23; 2:14-16) and special revelation (the Bible and Jesus Christ) to all who respond to His general revelation. So man is responsible (able to respond) to believe that God exists (Heb. 11:6; Rom. 1 & 2) and to seek to know Him as He really is (Matt. 16:13-17) by reading and obeying His Word (Acts 17:30-31; John 8:31-32).
V. 21- "Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new." "Nothing sells worse than old newspapers. It is only good for wrapping fish and starting fires." (R. C. Sproul) "The quest for novelty overshadows the search for reality, and philosophers live on man's explanations, but we are pilgrims living on God's promises." (Warren Wiersbe) "Man reads the Times but God calls us to read the Eternities."(Thoreau) Paul was provoked by all the idols he saw in Athens. Here was the cultural and intellectual center of the Roman empire even though it was in decline from its former days of glory when Greece ruled the world. And mankind's elite, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were worshiping idols of all kinds – "the glory and majesty and excellence of the immortal God were exchanged for and represented by images, resembling mortal man and birds and beasts and reptiles." (Rom. 1:23) Money, sex and power and worship of "stars" (man) are our modern idols. Jeremiah's words call us to repent: "This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me." (Jer. 9:23-24)
V. 27 …"That they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us." Paul says that as man responds to the revelation that God gives to everyone (Rom. 1&2) that God will reveal Himself to those who seek Him. In other words, man cannot know God unless God reveals Himself but God says man is responsible to seek Him. "So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. 23 For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you." Now Paul begins to preach how God has revealed Himself in six ways here in Acts 17:
1) As creator – "God who made the world and all things in it." Isaiah 45:12, 18: "I have made the earth and created man upon it. I, even My Hands have stretched out the heavens and all hosts have I commanded." "For thus saith the Lord who created the heavens, God Himself who formed the earth and made it, He hath established it, He created it not in vain, He formed it to be inhabited. I am the Lord and there is none else."
2) As ruler – "Seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth." God rules the universe. He not only made it; He continues to uphold it and to rule it. Jeremiah 23:24: "Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him, saith the Lord." Listen. "Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord." God rules the entire universe. He dominates it. He fills it with His very presence. Daniel 4:34: "I blessed the most High and I praised and honored Him who liveth forever whose dominion is an everlasting dominion and His kingdom is from generation to generation and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing and He doeth according to His way in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. And none can stay His hand or say to Him" what are You doing." God rules heaven and earth.
3) As giver – God …."does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things." God does not need us or our service but allows us to participate in His redeeming work. We don't help God out as if He lacked anything. He deserves our service but in the end we are the ones who ultimately benefit from it.
4) As controller – " He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation." Even geographical locations of people and nations are determined by God. God is more than the deists believe Him to be. He not only created all things and all people He is active in history. History is ultimately – His Story! Psalm 31:15 "My times are in your hands." "Surely the wrath of man shall praise you." (Psalm 76:10) From Pharaoh to Hitler God turns man's evil to His purposes and good.
5) As Jesus – God the Son, Savior and Judge – 30 "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness [through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven." (Heb. 1:3) 18"No man has ever seen God at any time; the only [e]unique Son, or the only begotten God, Who is in the bosom [in the intimate presence] of the Father, He has declared Him [He has revealed Him and brought Him out where He can be seen; He has interpreted Him and He has made Him known]." (John 1:18) What does this phrase mean: "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance? It seems to refer to God's passive judgment as seen in Romans 1:24-32. – He gave them over to their sin and its consequences but since Jesus' life, death, and resurrection we are in the last days and final judgment is coming. Repent of trusting our own righteousness versus Christ's perfect righteousness and repent of trusting any Savior but Jesus (idols, false religions). (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; 1 Cor. 5:21)
6) As revealer -"That they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us." God has clearly revealed Himself as creator, ruler, giver and controller and most clearly through Jesus so man would respond to Him and seek to know Him. God's ultimate objective in creating people and His vast and beautiful universe is to reveal Himself in His glory so that man would worship Him instead of idols made in the image of created things like birds, beasts, reptiles and man. We become like that we worship. Psalm 135:15-18 emphatically teaches this principle: "The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths. THOSE WHO MAKE THEM WILL BE LIKE THEM, AND SO WILL ALL WHO TRUST IN THEM." We are commanded to worship God and Him alone both in the OT and NT and as we do we become more and more like Him -like Jesus Christ the God-Man: " Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (emancipation from bondage, freedom).18And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit." (2 Cor. 3:17-18)
Vv. 32-33 – Their response: some sneered (rejected the message); some said come back later ("I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation." 2 Cor 6:2); and some believed ("Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.)"
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1) Even believers can be "practical atheists" when it comes to trusting the God we know through salvation. Of the ways God reveals Himself, which aspects of His character do you least understand and thus trust in?
2) What aspect of God's character may we be tempted to leave out and why?
3) What do we need to know about our culture today to share the gospel effectively? What world views do people hold today?
4) V. 21- "Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new." "Nothing sells worse than old newspapers. It is only good for wrapping fish and starting fires." (R. C. Sproul) "The quest for novelty overshadows the search for reality, and philosophers live on man's explanations but we are pilgrims living on God's promises." (Warren Wiersbe) "Man reads the Times but God calls us to read the Eternities."(Thoreau) Do you read man's news more than God's news (Bible)? How may this affect your day to day belief in God's promises?
5) Psalm 135:15-18 " 15"The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of men.16 They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; 17 they have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths. 18 Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them." What idols does modern man worship and how do they become like what they worship?
6) "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (emancipation from bondage, freedom).18And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit." (2 Cor. 3:17-18) Based on this passage, do we change ourselves to be more like Jesus? If not, what is our part in growing into His likeness?