A True Knowledge of the True God, Part 2 (Selected Scriptures)

Let’s continue what we began this morning
and open your Bible to the seventeenth chapter of Acts. I know it’s a little unusual for me to begin
a sermon on a Sunday morning and wrap it up on a Sunday night, but it is unusual because
this is the Sunday that I am introducing to you the series on the attributes of God. I tried to establish this morning how important
it is to know our God. You remember, don’t you, the prayer of our
Lord in John 17 where He prays to the Father, “And this is eternal life that they may know
You, the only true God and the Lord Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” The prayer of our Lord is that we would have
a true knowledge of God. And you remember that the Lord spoke through
the prophet Jeremiah in chapter 9 and verses 23 and 24 and said, “If you’re going to boast,
don’t boast about your wisdom. If you’re going to boast, don’t boast about
your might. If you’re going to boast, don’t boast about
your riches. If you want to boast, boast that you know
Me.” And then God goes on to say, “It is in that
that I delight.” And then we were instructed from Hosea 6 and
verse 6 where God speaks again through the prophet and says, “It is not sacrifice that
satisfies Me, it is not burnt offering that satisfies Me, it is the knowledge of God that
I desire that we may know Him so that we may worship Him in truth…in truth. We read this morning from verse 16 to the
end of the chapter, I’m not going to read that again because most all of you were here
this morning and we find that in the narrative of the book of Acts, the Apostle Paul arrives
in the great city of Athens, one of the great cities of the ancient world. And he is basically there to rest. He’s there to catch his breath after having
to flee from the prior cities, Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea because of hostility and anger at
the preaching of the gospel. He’s there alone. He’s waiting there for the arrival of his
two friends and partners in ministry, Timothy and Silas, who are not there yet. And the idea is for him to have a little bit
of anonymity, to get away by getting lost, if you will, in the crowd in this great ancient
metropolis. However, verse 16 says, “While he was waiting
for his friends, his spirit was provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. This is a kind of provocation that stirred
up his heart emotionally. It stirred it up in a very passionate way
because what he saw was a very religious city, maybe as religious as any city in the world,
well known for its obeisance to an endless array deities, a polytheistic culture to be
sure. But there was no knowledge of the true God. He saw religion as a blight, he saw religion
as, of course, of what it really is, false religion, the greatest most universal damning
influence of human history. He sees religion but it isn’t good because
with all the gods that they identify and all the idols that they have to worship, they
don’t know the true and living God. They cannot boast that they know Him. They do not know the one true living God. Religion did not encourage him, it discouraged
him. He felt about it as Jesus did when He went
into the temple at the beginning of His ministry, made a whip and cleaned out the house of prayer
because they had turned it into a den of robbers. Religion stirred up his emotions. The widespread religion in that city was far
from the truth and he burned with emotion inside. I told you this morning that I understand
that, that few things exercise me the way false religion does. There are lots of philosophies in the world,
there are lots of psychologies in the world, there is a lot of worldly wisdom being offered
from a purely secular vantage point that is to be rejected but nothing is as concerning
to me, nothing raises the fire of my passion more than a false representation of religion,
a false god, an idol, a misrepresentation of Christ or God or the gospel. And I told you this morning that it abounds
in our society. And sad to say, it abounds in the name of
Christianity. A few weeks ago I was preaching back in the
south and preaching the gospel and I enjoyed the opportunity to do that in a somewhat unlikely
place where I knew there would be people who didn’t understand the gospel and didn’t understand
the God of the gospel or the Christ of the gospel and now I’m starting to get letters
from them, asking me to recant, asking me to change my view, saying it’s not fair that
anybody and everybody be excluded who doesn’t believe the gospel the way I believe it. I told you this morning there is not only
widespread misunderstanding of the gospel, there is widespread propagation of a false
God all around us. We looked in particular at the popular god
of evangelical Christianity as manifest in the TV preachers and Trinity Broadcasting
Network is the haven where all of them seem to find a place. This deeply pains me. It is a somewhat excruciating experience for
me to have to watch this, but I need to. My wife doesn’t understand why I do. But I need to watch this because I need to
be able to discern the error and I need to be able to help protect people from its insidiousness. Paul had that same feeling. All this religion and they didn’t know the
true God. In our case, we might as well have a sign
in the midst of contemporary evangelicalism that says we are devoted to the unknown God,
or we are devoted to the God of our own devices, the God of our own imagination, the God of
our own creation. We have managed to make a God who suits us
like Isaiah 44, metaphorically we’ve taken a piece of wood and we’ve carved our own God. We’re comfortable with this God. He’s not really the God who should be honored
in all things. He is a God who is limited in power. He is a God who is limited in knowledge. He is a God who is limited in wisdom. He’s a God who is limited in holiness. He is a God who is limited in authority, as
we saw this morning. He’s a God who is limited in uniqueness and
we’ve camped on that a little bit because we share His powers and we can by our faith
create our own worlds. This is not the true God and any manufacturing
of a false God is a form of blasphemy that dishonors God. I keep going back to John 17:3, “This is eternal
life, that they know You the only true God.” There is no eternal life for anyone who doesn’t
know the true God and the Lord Jesus Christ whom He sent. A true theology, a true Christology absolutely
essential. Well the Apostle Paul has all of these emotions
burning within him. He cannot restrain himself. He sets his time of rest aside and in verse
17 his pain drives him into public discourse. He needs to set the record straight. He needs to advocate the true gospel of the
true God and the true Christ. So he is reasoning in the synagogue. He goes to the place where he is most at home,
where he is most familiar and where at least he can begin with the God of Abraham, Isaac
and Jacob and introduce them to the fact that the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob is
also the God who is one in essence with the Lord Jesus Christ. As he always did in every place that he went,
he starts in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles that is a reference
to Gentiles who had joined Judaism. And that’s where he began to proclaim the
gospel of Christ and the gospel of the cross and the gospel of the resurrection, to introduce
them to the true God who is one in nature with the Lord Jesus Christ. And then passing beyond the synagogue, he
goes to the marketplace every day with those who happen to be present. Could we say that he’s a street preacher? Absolutely. He goes right out into the agora, right out
into the open. He knows what he will meet, he will meet contempt
in the synagogue and he will meet contempt in the street as well. But his pain over the dishonoring of God drives
him into this discourse. Now we are further introduced to the people
with whom he engages himself in verse 18. “And also, some of the Epicurean and Stoic
philosophers were conversing with him.” Epicureans were those who followed the teachings
of Epicurus who lived about 350 B.C. and formed this kind of religion that is still around
these hundreds of years later. He’s a famous philosopher who lived and taught
in the city of Athens. He believed that everything happened by chance,
okay? Everything happened by random chance. Death, he said, was the absolute end of existence,
there is no afterlife…no afterlife. All you get is what you get here and you get
nothing else. He said, “There are gods but they don’t care,
so since this is all there is, live it to the max and the Epicureans believed in pleasure
as the chief end of life. So they gave themselves over to pleasure without
any hesitation. He also engaged with the Stoics. The Stoics belonged to the philosophy of Zeno
who also plied his philosophy several hundred years before the arrival of Christ. This philosophy took its name not from Zeno
but from stoa…stoa is a word for porch and that is best understood as a porch where Zeno
taught in Athens. Now Zeno believed that everything was God
and everyone was God. He was a pantheist, we talked about that this
morning, and I tried to let you know that there are sort of modern quasi-pantheists
in the Health/Wealth/Prosperity Faith Movement because they believe that part of God is in
you, at least enough of God is in you that you can activate your own creative powers
and create your own world the way you want. Well Zeno was a pantheist. Everything he said is God and everyone is
part of God. He also taught that everything is determined
by fate. And every so often he said the entire world
disintegrates and starts all over. If you haven’t seen that happen, it just didn’t
happen in your life time. The soul, he says, is ultimate and every person
has the power because he is part of God to change his own life. You design your own destiny. Hmm…that’s very close to what we heard this
morning, isn’t it? You are the one who designs your own destiny. It sounds like Invictus, doesn’t it? “I’m the master of my fate, I am the captain
of my soul.” So here are these representative philosophies
of the many philosophies in the city of Athens and Paul is grappling with them, endeavoring
to communicate with them the truth about the true God. So the Epicureans Stoic Philosophers were
conversing with him. Here’s what they said. Some were saying, “What would this idol babbler
wish to say?” And that’s a term of derision, that’s an expression
of derision…by the way, the word babbler is literally seed picker. It’s a funny word, isn’t it? Seed picker. It refers to gutter sparrows who were all
over the place as they are even today, picking up seeds and crumbs off the ground. It’s a way of saying this man is no legitimate
philosopher. This man has no cohesive system. This man has no intellectual integrity. This man has demonstrated no great powers
of cohesive reasoning, he’s like a sparrow who just goes along in the gutter and picks
up a bit of this and a bit of that. These are the kind of designations that they
would give to a poor person who didn’t have acceptance in the culture, who roamed the
marketplace and picked up scraps of garbage, a kind of parasite who lived at the lowest
level off his very base widths. That’s Paul, he’s a lowlife. He’s a seed picker. Their derision implied that Paul’s message
had nothing but bits and scraps of throw-away religion, not worthy of consideration, picked
up in the gutter of anti-intellectualism and proclaimed by an ignoble nobody. He is an uneducated babbler, trying to act
as if he has some kind of profound insight and his ideas are just the lowest of the low. That’s typical reaction, by the way, to the
preachers of the gospel by philosophers. Not only in Paul’s case, but throughout history…even
today, check the philosophy department of any university you want in the country and
you will get the same kind of attitude toward biblical preachers. Well some thought a little better of Paul,
according to verse 18. And others said he seems to be a proclaimer
of strange deities. They weren’t attacking the lack of systematical
rational thinking in his philosophy, but rather they said he’s talking about deities we have
never heard of. That’s not necessarily bad, since they were
happy to embrace any deity that hadn’t come along yet, evidenced by the fact that they
put up a sign or a statue to an unknown God. But what it does tell us is they had never
heard of the true God. They had never heard of the one true God,
the only true God and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. What was the nature of this strange God about
which this man spoke? Well he was preaching Jesus as that God, and
the resurrection. This is a very hard sell and I think you would
be very aware of that, right? He’s preaching Jesus which means he has to
define who Jesus is. Jesus is a Jew who was crucified by the Romans. Now the Romans know and the Athenians know,
as well, because they’re part of the ancient world very familiar with Roman things. They would know that anybody who was crucified
would be considered the lowest of the low, only the most ignoble base people were crucified
by the Romans and a Roman citizen could never be crucified, it was to ignominious a death
unless he was guilty of sedition against the Emperor himself. So to say that a man, a Jewish man was crucified
by the Romans and is now risen from the dead, and is the Savior of the world, and is God
a very God is indeed a strange story. In fact, Paul acknowledged that it is so strange
in writing to the Corinthians, that it is to the Gentiles foolishness, right?…foolishness,
stupidity, an unacceptable story that a crucified man, an act of execution reserved only for
the lowest of the low criminals could be God and that God would die and rise again in the
form of this Jewish criminal is just beyond comprehension. That is why in the city of Rome today, you
can go to the Circus Maximus and you will find there an inscription on stone that’s
barred off so people don’t continue to rub it away, it’s a picture of a cross and hanging
on the cross is the body of a man with the head of a donkey. And there’s a man bowing down and the inscription
says, “Alexamenos worships his God.” How foolish is that to worship a crucified
man? It’s a joke, it’s a cartoon. This is some strange God who is crucified,
so impotent, so powerless, who dies and rises from the dead. So, they were having a hard time accepting
this message. It was to them foolishness…foolishness. But it was entertaining and it was novel. And they loved the idea of the new, and the
novel and they needed to be entertained. And though Paul, at least according to the
Corinthians, was not an impressive person, and his speech is even contemptible, his presence,
they said, was unimpressive, his speech was contemptible. At least it’s something new and it’s something
novel. So verse 19 says, “They took him and brought
him to the Areopagus saying, “May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming?” Areopagus is a hill, the hill of Ares, or
Mars, the god Mars, the god of war. That hill was where the Supreme Court of Athens
met…the Supreme Court of Athens. So this was so novel, they wanted to expose
this teacher and his new teaching to the Supreme Court in Athens. This is the very court that once had tried
and condemned Socrates centuries before. It was at one time the most celebrated tribunal
in the world. The court took care of philosophical issues,
it took care of religious issues. It took care of criminal issues. It prosecuted murderers, it prosecuted other
felons and the court also rewarded various works of nobility by the citizens of Athens. They were the ones who were responsible for
arraigning and prosecuting criminals who blasphemed the other deities. They were the protectors of the religions
of Athens. So there’s a new teacher in town. And the new teacher in town has a new God
that they had never heard of…this…this Jew who was crucified and supposedly rose
again who is the Savior of the world. Paul then is espousing something no one has
ever heard. That means that he needs to go before the
Supreme Court and give an account of his teaching. That’s where they take him. I’m not sure this is where he planned to end
up, but it was inevitable. The protectors of the religions of Athens
would see to it. And in so doing, Paul gets a hearing for the
gospel at the very highest court in Athens. The Lord opened all kinds of doors for him. They may have appeared to be back doors, but
nonetheless he was ushered into the very important place. He was not there to defend a personal philosophy. He was not there to add another imaginary
deity to their long list. He was there with one purpose, and that was
to introduce them to the true God, the only true God, the one true God…the one true
God as revealed in Holy Scripture and as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. As I told you this morning, our country is
happy to give God a place, “In God We Trust” on the coins. “Under God” in the flag salute, we’re happy
to give God a place as long as we don’t narrowly define Him. As long as there’s room for everybody to feel
free in defining God the way they would like to define Him. But it’s un-American, it’s intolerant, it’s
unacceptable, it’s unconstitutional to affirm that there’s only one true God and that is
the true God as revealed on the pages of the Old Testament and the New Testament, the God
and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Well Paul is in that same dilemma. He is in a position of having to present the
one true God who negates all the deities of Athens. He is there to introduce the one true God. Now his approach, and we finally get to it
in verse 22, is very, very basic and I want to just give it to you very simply, you can
dig a little deeper on your own. The first thing I want you to know is Paul
lets them in on the fact that God is knowable…God is knowable. “So Paul,” verse 22, “stood in the midst of
the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens, I observe that you’re very religious in all
respects, for 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.'” It really is a brilliant strategy because
he doesn’t begin by eliminating all their deities. He doesn’t go on the attack and obliterate
the whole pantheon. He simply finds a point to begin to proclaim
the true God. But it is obvious from what he says that I
am going to eliminate your ignorance. I am going to proclaim to you the God you
do not know, the God you admit you do not know. The assumption then is that He is knowable,
that He is revealed. They’re very religious. Pausanias, an ancient writer, said, “The Athenians
greatly surpassed all others in their zeal for religion.,” Lucian said, “On every side
in Athens there are altars, victims and temples and festivals.” Petronius wrote, “It is easier in Athens to
find a God than a man.” They were everywhere. And there were actually many altars “To The
Unknown God.” They were trying to cover every base. Why did they develop that? Why did they insist on identifying this unidentifiable
God? Why would they want to give some kind of homage
to an known God? Six hundred years before Paul arrived, there
was a terrible pestilence that hit the city and nothing could stop it. There’s a Cretan poet named, maybe familiar
to you, Epaminondas who came up with a plan to stop the plague. A flock of black and white sheep were set
loose through the city from the Areopagus. Wherever each laid down, it was sacrificed
to the god nearest to that animal. If it wasn’t near a god, it was sacrificed
to an unknown god. So wherever there wasn’t a statue to a god
as a result of all these animals going all over the city and being sacrificed, they raised
an altar to an unknown god, they were everywhere. There were many of them. This is just one of them. I think that they were very well aware of
the fact that they had not been able to tap into divine help. That’s understandable, isn’t it? Who were they praying to? All the gods of the nations are demons, the
Old Testament says. First Thessalonians 4:5 says the Gentiles
know not God. Galatians 4:8 says, “When you didn’t know
God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.” So they groped the way people do today who
worship the wrong God. There are agonies in Agnosticism. There are agonies in not knowing the true
God. They realized the impotence of their deities. Maybe there’s a God out there that they haven’t
been able to identify cause they aren’t getting the help that they wanted from the gods they
have identified. So Paul uses their self-confessed ignorance
and says, “What therefore you worship in ignorance, I’m here to proclaim to you. Let me introduce you to the unknown God and
let me let you know that He doesn’t need to be unknown anymore. He is knowable. It reminds me of Einstein who said, “Of course
there’s a cosmic power, not to believe that is foolish. But…said Einstein…we could never know
Him…we could never know Him.” Einstein couldn’t find Him in the Quantum
Leap so he thought He was unknowable. The same dilemma now. God is out there somewhere, we don’t really
know Him, we can’t really know Him and so we go on in the folly of our confused religion,
unsatisfied, needs unmet without any real divine intervention. Nothing is getting better, it all seems to
be getting worse. Where is divine help? So Paul gives us the good news. Gives the Athenians the good news, I’m going
to tell you about the God you don’t think you can know…you can know Him. So God is knowable. The second thing he tells them, God is eternal
Spirit…God is eternal Spirit. Paul puts the one true living God at the center
of the universe and leads them away from idols to the one true God. Without saying anything about the idols, he
assigns everything to the one true God and there’s nothing left for the supposed gods. He is not something you make. He is Spirit. He is not a statue. He is not the product of your own invention. This Spirit God is the one true God. That becomes obvious as the words of Paul
roll out that day on the hill. First of all, he says, “This God is the Creator.” This God is the Creator. Of course the pantheon of deities in a polytheistic
world of religion split up the creative powers to many gods, like Mormonism today. You’ve got all kinds of gods, all kinds of
emanation from God rising up and down a sort of ladder of importance and all these gods
play some role in the fact that this is and that is and the other thing is and this is
and that is, and, of course, to the Mormons, for example, the God of the Bible is not really
the original God, He is simply a God that proceeds from the original God and all these
deities share elements of creative expression in the way things are. But what Paul says is this, “The God that
I’m talking to you about is the God who made the world and all things in it, He made the
world and all things in it. He is the Creator God.” Epicureans, by the way, denied creation. They were the original Darwinians. They believed that matter was eternal. Stoics were pantheists, everything was God. Paul is saying matter is not eternal, God
is eternal. God is the eternal Spirit who created matter. God is not what the Mormons say, God is not
a perfected man who was a creature like us. He is the one who made everything that is. Maybe he quoted for them Psalm 146:5 and 6,
“How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob whose hope is in the Lord his God who
made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them.” Maybe he told them the words of Isaiah, Isaiah
40:28 about the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth. Maybe he quoted to them the Old Testament
words of the weeping prophet Jeremiah, “But the Lord is the true God, He is the living
God. He is the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes and the nations
cannot endure His indignation. Thus you shall say to them, ‘The gods that
did not make the heavens and the earth will perish from the earth and from under the heavens. It is He who made the earth by His power,
He who established the world by His wisdom and by His understanding He stretched out
the heavens.’ There’s only one Creator and that’s the true
God.” So he introduces them to the God they do not
know, who is the sole creator of everything that exists. That strikes a blow at the divided responsibilities
of their pantheism, their many gods and the fact that they believe that God was everywhere
and in all of them and therefore sharing this creative power on a broad level. He is the sole creator. Secondly He is the ruler, let’s just put it
that way, He is the owner. It says in verse 24, “He is Lord of heaven
and earth.” They would understand kurios to mean master. The earth is the Lord’s, Psalm 24:1, and all
it contains, the world and those who dwell in it. He is in charge of everything. He owns everything. The Old Testament says the cattle on a thousand
hills are His, everything is His. At the end of the horrible judgment that fell
on Nebuchadnezzar, according to Daniel 4…. The end of that period, “I, Nebuchadnezzar,
raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me and I blessed the most high
and praised and honored Him who lives forever, for His dominion is an everlasting dominion. His Kingdom endures from generation to generation
and all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will
in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth and no one can ward off His hand
or say to Him, ‘What have you done?'” Nebuchadnezzar learned through that judgment
who is the owner of absolutely everything that exists in the created universe. There are not many gods, there is only one
God. Every beast of the forest is Mine. The cattle on a thousand hills, I know every
bird of the mountains. Everything that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry I wouldn’t tell you for the
world is Mine and all it contains,” Psalm 50 says. So Paul is unfolding to them the knowledge
of this true God which knowledge is knowable because it is revealed in Scripture. He is also transcendent. Go back to verse 24 again. “He does not dwell in temples made with hands.” You can’t confine Him to a building. He is beyond the bounds of the physical. The idols, of course, were placed in temples,
in shrines. This is ridiculous. It is inconsistent with the transcendence
of God. That is why we are told in Exodus 20 to make
no graven image. Of course, that’s how the Ten Commandments
begin. That diminishes God. That reduces God. That confines God. He is not confined to a human image. He is not confined to a physical structure. Psalm 139 says, “O Lord, Thou hast searched
me and known me, Thou dost know when I sit down and when I rise up. Thou dost understand my thought from afar
to scrutinize my path, my lying down aren’t intimately acquainted with all my ways, even
before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before. You have laid Your hands on me, such knowledge
is too wonderful for me, it is too high, I cannot attain it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You’re there. If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell
in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, Your right hand will
lay hold of me. If I say surely the darkness will overwhelm
me and the light around me will be night, even the darkness is not dark to Thee and
the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are the same to You.” He’s everywhere, transcendent, not confined
to a temple. They’re beginning to get a theology here. And then, not only is He Creator and owner
and transcendent, He is the sustainer of everything. Verse 25, “Nor is He served by human hands
as though He needed anything.” Nobody contributes to His purposes. Nobody contributes to His power. Nobody contributes to His plans. He doesn’t need anything. He doesn’t need any help. He Himself gives to all people life and breath
and all things. It all comes from Him. God needs nothing from anyone. He is the giver. From Him every good thing comes, James 1 says. He is the one, Hebrews 1 says, who upholds
all things by the Word of His power. No wonder the doxology of Romans 11 says,
“O the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable are
His judgments and unfathomable His ways. Who has first given to Him that it might be
paid back to Him again? For of Him and from Him and through Him and
to Him are all things.” And so, Paul leads them to an understanding
of God as the one who sustains everything that He Himself alone has created. And then he introduces them to the one who
is the ruler of all things in verse 26. “And He made from one…that’s Adam…every
nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed
times and the boundaries of their habitation.” That is to say He has created every human
being. Individually and collectively He has designed
every nation, He has determined their place in history and the boundaries, the geography
of their habitation. This would strike a blow at the popular Athenian
philosophy. They thought of themselves because city states
had so much pride in the ancient world and they had more than most because they were
more prominent than most. They had come up with the theology that they
had sprung, these Athenians, from the soil of their native Attica, they had arisen beyond
the uncultured and despicable barbarians. Remember the whole world for them is divided
into the Greeks and the Barbarians. Barbarians were called Barbarians because
it’s an onomatopoetic word…bar-bar-bar-bar-bar-bar-bar. They couldn’t understand what they were saying,
they didn’t know their language and that’s how they expressed their identity. They thought that they by somehow their own
powers had arisen to the prominence that they had attained and had separated themselves
from the barbarous people. But on the other hand, they hadn’t. God made every one of them from one man. God brought their nation into existence on
the face of the earth, along with every other nation on the face of the earth. God determined their appointed times and the
boundaries of their habitation. Their place on the map even was designed by
God. Their geography even was designed by God. Their time in history was designed by God. Their place on the world’s stage was designed
by God. Deuteronomy 32:8, “When the Most High gave
the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of
the peoples,” Deuteronomy 32:8. They existed as a nation because God brought
them into existence. The same truth can be said of every nation. Every nation in every period of time, including
this nation and every other nation. You say, “Would that be true of Irak and Iran
and Afghanistan? Absolutely…absolutely. Are they enemies of the gospel? Yes. But they serve within the framework of God’s
purpose. That doesn’t give them divine right to do
evil, it doesn’t give anybody divine right to do evil. And it doesn’t deliver them from just judgment
when they do. But nonetheless is true, that God controls
everything. He is just systematically eliminating every
deity they have because they had spread the wealth among their deities making various
gods responsible for various things. And here Paul says there is one God and He’s
responsible for everything. Then he tells them in verses 27 and 28 that
He is imminent, meaning He’s near. He has chosen to reveal Himself. Verse 27, “That they would seek God.” Every nation that God brought together in
the world, every nation that He placed in human history, every nation whose borders
He determined, whose boundaries He established, He established so that they would seek Him. Amazing. Romans 1 says, “That which may be known of
God is in them,” right? Romans 1? The whole human race, that which may be known
of God is in them. “But when they knew God, they glorified Him
not as God and made idols.” Romans 2 says that He wrote the Law in their
hearts, inscribed it on their hearts and gave them a conscience as a reacting device to
the Law written in the heart. God gave evidence of Himself in man by means
of reason which takes you back to the first cause who is God, God gave evidence of Himself
in man by moral Law which is in every human heart, that’s part of being human. And He placed every man on this earth and
every nation on this earth so that collectively they would follow the path of reason to the
first cause who is God and they would follow the path of moral Law to the great judge,
God Himself. He designed to disclose Himself. If you go back to the fourteenth chapter of
Acts and verse 15, Barnabas and Paul again in a Gentile pagan area, in fact the people
start calling Barnabas Zeus and Paul Hermes, and the priests of Zeus gets engaged. But verse 14 says, “When the Apostles, Barnabas
and Paul, heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed into the crowd crying out, ‘Whoa,
whoa, whoa, men, why are you doing these things? We’re also men of the same nature as you and
preach the gospel to you so that you should turn from these vain things to a living God
because all your idols are dead who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that
is in them.” Whenever the Apostles evangelized the Jews,
they started with Scripture. Whenever the Apostles evangelized the Gentiles,
they started with creation because that’s the big issue to explain. And then in verse 16, “In the generations
gone by, He permitted all the nations to go their own ways, but He did not leave Himself
without witness.” You have the Law written in the heart, you
have reason which leads you to the ultimate cause for the massive effect of creation. You also have the witness in that He did good
and gave you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your heart with food and
gladness.” In other words, God put Himself on display
in reason, put Him on display in morality, and put Himself on display in beauty and goodness. Where did that come from? This is God displaying Himself. “And He allowed all the nations to go their
own way.” He created them, organized them that they
might seek after Him. But He allowed them to go their own way. When they failed to worship Him as God and
created idols, He let them go and that’s the cycle of history and it goes over and over
and over and over and we’re living it in America now, aren’t we? But God can be known, He is near, transcendent,
yes. He’s a Spirit who fills the universe, at the
same time, imminent, meaning present. Back to verse 27, “If perhaps they might grope
for Him and find Him though He’s not far from each one of us.” How far is He? “For in Him we live and move and exist even
as some of your own poets have said, we also are His children. He is near.” Psalm 145:18 says, “The Lord is near to all
who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. Paul was saying God is knowable. You can know the Creator. You can know the owner of everything that
exists. You can know the governor, the ruler of all
things. You can know the sustainer of all life. Yes He is transcendent, He is the eternal
Spirit, infinitely greater than His creation but He is alive in His creation. He is imminent, He is near to all who desire
to know Him. But you have to leave all of the non-gods
and come to the true God. Even your own poets have said, “We also are
His offspring.” That is the recognition of some poets of ancient
times who sought to communicate that the true God made them and cannot be a God they made. That’s pretty good, isn’t it? Pretty basic. You can’t make the God who made you. Those two poets were actually Epaminondas
and Aretas who showed that God, the true God, can be seen in His creation. They followed natural reason, cause and effect,
back to the original cause. If that is true, if God made us, then all
idolatry is eliminated. You can’t, as Isaiah 44 says, take a piece
of wood, use part of that wood to cook dinner and the other part to make a god and then
worship it as if it created you. There is one God, the eternal Spirit, whose
creator and ruler of the universe who is sustainer of the universe who is sovereign over the
universe who is knowable, He is the eternal Spirit, the one true God responsible for absolutely
everything. He is knowable. He is near. You live and move in His power. Third thing, God has spoken. This is really good news. God has spoken. Verse 29, “Being then the children of God,
we ought not to think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image
formed by the art and thought of man.” I mean, how stupid is that? You can’t make a God and then say that God
made you. But that’s the way it’s been in the world. Instead of the nations of the world seeking
God, groping, desiring to find Him, and He’s near, He let them go their own way and they
went away from Him. And they made gods, they were idolatrous. Again Romans chapter 1, and the stupidity
of it is clear in that one statement of verse 29. But God didn’t leave us with no help. Verse 30 says, “Therefore having overlooked
the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent.” God is now declaring. Wow that’s good news. God has spoken. Many of those Greeks like their poets may
have kind of been at point two. God is near. There is a Creator. We can’t make God and then said He made us. Maybe there is a God. But has He spoken? Hebrews 1 says, “He spoke in time past through
the fathers by the prophets in many ways through many means and in these last days has spoken
unto us in His Son.” We can know that God is and we can know God. We can know the eternal Spirit because He
has revealed Himself to us. Notice that it says, “Having overlooked the
times of ignorance.” Since the Flood, twenty-five hundred years
before, God had not hit the earth with a massive judgment. The last massive judgment, of course, was
in Noah’s day and He destroyed the whole human race, millions of people, leaving only eight
survivors. God patiently tolerated sinners’ rejection
of Him then from the Flood to the present hour, still…still. It was twenty-five hundred years then, forty-five
hundred years now. It doesn’t mean that people didn’t die and
go to hell, they did. But there’s no special judgment. However, Paul says, you need to be warned. God is now declaring, verse 30 says it again,
God is now declaring that all men everywhere should repent because there is coming a judgment. He has fixed a day in which He will judge
the world in righteousness through a man whom He’s appointed, having furnished proof to
all men by raising Him from the dead. Who’s that? Christ. God is now declaring to all men everywhere
that judgment is on the horizon. Repent of your sin, come to Christ. That’s the message of the New Testament. Repenting means…well 1 Thessalonians one,
“They turned from idols to serve the living and true God,” 1 Thessalonians one. Repenting means to turn from idols, to turn
from sin to the true God through His Son Jesus Christ because He has fixed a day, appointed
a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a man. Read John 5:22 to 29, “All judgment has been
committed to Christ. He will bring about that judgment, not even
the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son. Truly, truly I say to you, who hears My word
and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life, doesn’t come in to judgment but is passed
out of death into life. Truly I say to you, an hour is coming and
now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear shall
live, for just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave the Son to have life in Himself
and He gave Him authority to execute judgment cause He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, an hour is coming in
which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice and all will come forth, those who
did the good deeds, evidencing their transformed lives by the gospel to a resurrection of life,
those who have committed evil to a resurrection of judgment.” Be warned. He warns the Athenians. We need to warn people today that you must
know the true God and the true Christ because there is eternal danger in a wrong view of
God and a wrong view of Christ. The proof is settled that Jesus is the judge
by the resurrection from the dead. What was the response when they heard of the
resurrection of the dead? Some began to sneer but others said, “We’ll
hear you again concerning this.” So Paul went out of their midst. Some men joined him and believed, among whom
also were Dionysius the Areopagite and the woman named Damaris and others with them. Some mocked, sneering, some postponed, hear
you again, some believed. Repenting and believing, that’s the right
response. They came to know the knowable God who is
the eternal Spirit, the Creator, Lord of heaven and earth. The one who has spoken. And what has he said? “Be warned, there is judgment, but you can
escape that judgment through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” There is no way to represent the true God
unless you represent Him based on the revelation of Scripture. So sometimes, as I said earlier, when we preach
the true God and the true Christ, and the true gospel, we have people who mock and sneer
and postpone, but also those who believe. It’s so important to know our god for who
He is. Well, all of that to introduce you to the
series of the attributes of God, so that you can know the fullness of God for all that
is true of God is also true of Christ, right? Also true of Christ.

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