The Known God
Read This Week: Acts 17
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. – Acts 17:22-25 NIV
Religious pluralism and how one regards truth through their religion is not just a modern idea. It is an ancient concept and reality. The attempt to have different and even conflicting religious views and still live in harmony is something Paul encountered in the 1st century as he took his missionary trips to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is evidence of his challenge of religious pluralism and subjective truth in Acts 17.
Paul entered Athens, a city once known as the center of culture and education, but had now declined in its influence. It had descended into cultural paganism, idolatry, confusing philosophical thought that had divided the society (17: 16, 21). Paul notices this and addresses their pluralism and confusing philosophies in verse 23:
As I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship.
Paul then puts on a masterful display of communication and presentation of the gospel by helping the council on Mars Hill understand the one, true God. The One they were confused about and missing right in front of them. He refers to their altar to “the unknown god” and uses it as an opportunity to explain who God is. Paul outlines the greatness of God as Creator (v.24), the goodness of God as Provider (v.25), the transcendence of God as Ruler (vv.26-29), and the grace of God as the Savior (vv.30-34).
In this seminal moment, Paul points to the foundational and epistemic elements of a Christian worldview and where faith and belief are formed on a philosophical level. It is crucial to identify these things as we live, make decisions, and express our faith in a chaotic and confusing world of moral relativism and religious pluralism. God is the known God, and He is ever knowable through Jesus and the Holy Spirit guiding us into all truth when we need it most. Verses 27-28 illustrates this point:
God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.
Furthermore, what we believe and why is rooted in an empirical, historical, rational, and spiritual bedrock. It is a reasonable faith that is based on the truth of the known God. As followers of Jesus, we must understand that it is logical and soundly philosophical to base our worldview on the historicity, authority, and veracity of the Scriptures and other sources that point to a greater truth.
The Bible reveals the known God and erases all confusion about who He is and what He has done for us. And just because someone does not accept the Bible as true, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still say, reference, or back up our assertions with it especially when it is the very thing that we base our lives and beliefs on. The Scriptures, although argued and contested by some, are still empirical and are still the authority on which we base our faith. Therefore, we can reference it as Paul did in Athens. It is worth stating and we should never withhold where and on what we base our beliefs so that others may know the Lord.
God gave me a poem from Acts 17 verse 2:
Every disappointment is with God, an appointment
He can bless you with hope and encouragement
Every heartbreak is a chance to find His love
Each sorrow besetting you is a date with God above
Every hardship is a reason to be still
Each trial coming your way is a means to know His will.
What that means to me is that each day is an appointment to give God your fear and each anxious feeling you have is a chance to draw Him near. We need to make each day an engagement with God.
This is so powerful and true, Jeri. I literally copied and pasted it into my Evernote to look back at it on a regular basis and be reminded of the truths contained in your words. Each day is certainly a divine opportunity that we have to give our fear, anxiety, depression, and struggles to God who is sovereign and loves us eternally.
He cares. Sometimes, as you reminded us in your beautiful poem, that is all we need and all we need to know on the journey of life.
What touched my heart was Paul’s journey. No matter what, He continues to share the Good News. He still tells everyone all about Jesus and continues to share as he is led by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit knows where people are at.
We too are on a journey with Father God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, daily we are learning, growing in the ways of the Lord, the more we seek God the more we want to spend time with Him, the more we seek Him we can hear Him, feel Him, and we get to be apart of what He is doing. He loves it when we are excited and eager to share Jesus with others, our hope is that they will want to seek God too. God knows where people are at, no matter what people are doing God wants us to stay focused on what He is doing so we can continue to help others and we can continue to grow as well.
I heard God saying, “Stay close to Me, pray for those who are not responding, and pray that they would want to seek Us for a better life, be saved, and want to be apart of the family. Continue to reach out to others because you may not know where they’re at, but I know. It’s up to you to keep seeking and sharing because you never know when someone will join the family. When they do, let’s celebrate.”
As always, such a great word, Heidi. I really appreciated your reminder of staying focused on God and what He is doing as we live on mission. This section brought that home: God knows where people are at, no matter what people are doing God wants us to stay focused on what He is doing so we can continue to help others and we can continue to grow as well.
It is so easy to get distracted and to look and focus on other things when God calls us to stay tracking with Him and that will lead to an understanding and obedience to His call and mission.
This was what God was saying to me in Acts 17, “I am the Creator and I created you and you belong to Me. Since I created you, you should seek Me. I am not far from you. ‘For in Me, you live and move and have your being.’ You are responsible to have the right ideas about Me and you must reject the idea that other idols in your life could represent Me. To have the right ideas of Me, you must be in My word daily. You are to understand Me and worship Me in truth. I am the judge of all. Jesus paid the price for your sins.”
What this said to me is God wants me to seek Him, by drawing closer to Him through His word and by worshiping only Him. He wants me to get rid of any idols that I have in my life. Then I will be freed up for him to really work in me and to draw others to Him.
This is a great post, Kathy. This line stood out to me: You are responsible to have the right ideas about Me and you must reject the idea that other idols in your life could represent Me. To have the right ideas of Me, you must be in My word daily.
In my opinion, this captures the essence of the passage and the philosophical foundations for a biblical worldview. We are certainly responsible to seek the truth so that we know the heart of God and what is true about Him and His character. Our human frailty, flawed thinking, and emotional reactions to what is around us always present a challenge to realizing who the known God truly is.
We need to seek the Lord daily as you said to keep the proper view and understanding of who God is and who He is to us.
God gave me a song from Acts 17 called “We Need You”
We need you, we need you, Oh Lord
We need you each and every day
Your love, kindness, and hope inspires us
You are our Father in heaven
Creator of all things
We seek you, we seek you, we seek you
Our heavenly Father spreading your news
Seeing your miracles and sharing your love
Filling our body’s with your goodness
We need you, we need you, Oh Lord
We need you each and every day. Amen.
We all need our Father each and every day. Especially during difficult times. The good news is he is with us every moment through all things good or bad. I’m thankful for all that God has done and will do.
Thank you for your song this week, Alma. We absolutely need the Lord each and every day. We can’t go a moment without Him and the wonderful news is that He is there always just like your lyrics remind us. Your offering this week reminded me of some of the words to “Lord, I Need You”:
Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You, I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You