Here’s the notes for my sermon preached on Acts 17:16-34 at Cross of Christ Fellowship in Naperville, Illinois.
“Making the Unknown God KNOWN” (Acts 17:16-34)
Intro: Greatest Earthly joy vs Great Possible Joy; Christian claim: God made known (Jn 1:18); we can know God (Jn 17:3)
-M.S. In Christ, the unknown God is made known. It is our joy to know this God and make him known to others.
CONTEXT: Acts tell us about the establishment and expansion of the Kingdom of God on earth as God’s people, filled with the Holy Spirit, bear witness to Jesus and those called by God respond in saving faith.
–Acts 1:8 being fulfilled
–Paul’s second missionary journey
-Paul has arrived at Athens.
*KEY VERSE: 17:23 “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.”
–Let’s Consider two things together this morning:
1. In Christ, the unknown God is made known.
2. It is our joy, as Christians, to know this God and make him known to others.
1. IN CHRIST, THE UNKNOWN GOD IS MADE KNOWN!
I. Paul’s Ministry in the Land of Idols (16-21)
-Paul arrived at Athens (16)
-Athens was considered an intellectual capital (Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, Yale)
-Athens was FULL of idols (16b)
-Athens was full of idols, mainly to the Greek gods (Zeus, Ares, Apollo, Hermes)
-‘easier to find a god than a man!’
*QUESTION: What are the idols we face and see in Naperville? (NCC idolat def: hope/happiness, sig/security)
1. Money; 2 Career; 3 Success; 4 Comfort; 5 Children’s Programs; 6 Houses; 7 Food; 8 Sports;
-Calvin: ‘The heart is a factory of idols’
-How is God calling you and I repent of idolatry this morning?
-Paul was PROVOKED in his spirit (16c)
–“Provoked”= Upset, disturbed. It is the right and godly response as we see sin celebrated and desire to see God glorified
APPLICATION: It is right to feel provoked at times at blatant and flagrant disregard of God and God’s ways.
CHALLENGE: To feel provoked, and still do what is right.
-God calls us to reject self-righteousness, and to pray, love, and do what is right (speaking/acting).
-Paul’s initial ministry (17)
–Synagogue: Jews and religious people
–Marketplace: those who happened to walk by
-Argument for cold-contact evangelism! (Street corners, or people you just meet)
-Paul’s audience included INTELLECUTALS (18)
-Philosophers in the audience
–Epicurean: Similar to Deism; Soul dies at death; Life’s goal: pleasure and avoiding pain.
–Stoics: pantheistic; world determined by fate; humans must submit to pain and suffering.
-Paul’s engagement with them left them interested, though they misunderstood him (18b)
-Paul has open door to preach to the INTELLECTUAL LEADERS (18-21)
-“Areopagus” [Mars Hill], was gathering of intellectual leaders in Athens, who debated various social issues
-God has opened a door for Paul to proclaim Christ to them.
*APPLICATION: What can we learn from Paul?
-Took initiative in evangelism
-Engaged religious and irreligious
-Utilized private and public settings to share the gospel.
-The overwhelming difficulty of the task did not stop him from preaching the gospel.
-It can feel pretty hard to engage in gospel ministry here, but God still is changing lives and hearts.
II. Making the Unknown God Known (22-31)
God worked through the preaching of Paul to make Himself known in Athens! -Today, we get to a hear a summary of Paul’s sermon.
-We learn from Paul’s method (he was sensitive to his context, yet also bold)
-We also are reminded of who God is as we listen to Paul’s sermon: God is majestic and great,
Paul’s Sermon: 22-31. Key idea is v 23b “Unknown god…this I proclaim to you.”
Possible Titleà “MAKING THE UNKNOWN GOD KNOWN” (22-30)
22-23: Intro: Summary: ‘You are religious (worship many idols), so I am going to proclaim ‘the unknown God’ to you.’
-In Athens there were altars dedicated to the ‘unknown God’
-Paul is using this as opportunity to make the true living God known
-We can learn from Paul: Be savvy and aware of connecting points with unbelievers
1. GOD IS THE CREATOR and SUSTAINER OF EVERYTHING (24-25)
-God “made the world and everything in it”: (Impressed by lego creationàhow much greater is God’s Creation!)
-God is “Lord of heaven and earth” (Impressed by ruling over companyàhow much greater is God’s rule!)
-God does not live in temples: not confined to human spaces
-God is not “served by human hands, as though he needed anything” (our neediness vs God’s self-sufficiency)
-Doctrine of “aseity”
-God is the one who “gives to all mankind life and breath and everything”
-Every ‘good and perfect gift comes from him’ (Jas 1:17)
OBSERVATION: God, the one true God, is infinitely great and majestic.
-How might this change how we live today if we remembered it?
APPLICATION: I think it helps us fight against sin and idolatry.
-Being filled up with knowledge of God helps us put sin to death2. ALL OF US BELONG TO GOD (26-27a)
–God made us all, beginning with Adam (“he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth,”)
–God determines where we live: “having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,”
–God desires we seek him and find him: “they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him”
*IMPLICATION: God is irrelevant to no one. We are only here because of God’s sovereign rule and reign and grace.
3. GOD IS NOT FAR FROM ANY OF US (27b-28a)
-God is closer to us than we realize: actually not far from each one of us, 28 for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
-Paul is quoting a secular writer here to communicate a biblical truth: God is close.
4. AS HUMANS, WE ARE LIKE GOD (28b-29)
-God made us and we are like him (28b-29)
-Contrary to Mormonism, God did not literally has sex w/wife in heaven to create us.
-Rather, God is our Father as the one who created us in His own image.
-This is why all idolatries fail: idols are dead while the one true God is LIVING.
*IMPLICATION: Atheistic evolution is false.
-We are not a cosmic accident.
5. GOD CALLS FOR A RESPONSE (30-31)
-In his mercy, he overlooked sin, but not has judged it at the cross (30).
-NOW, he “commands all people everywhere to repent”
*KIDS: What does it mean to REPENT?
-History is moving to the day of Judgment (31a)à TERMINATOR 2 (Machines taking over & killing all humans) -God will judge every single person, and we will be judged by Jesus.
-Our culture hates this idea, but it is real and true.
-God has given us ‘assurance’ this will take place by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead ‘raising him from dead’
-One thing the resurrection proves is the truthfulness and trustworthy nature of God
-Resurrection of Jesus is a historical fact, which must be dealt with.
-Lee Strobel became a Christian.
3. Responding to the God Made Known (32-34) à3 Kinds of Response
1. MOCKING (32a): 32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked.
2. SOME INTERESTED, BUT NOT ACCEPTANCE (32b) But others said, “We will hear you again about this.”
3. OTHER BELIEVED AND BECAME CHRISTIANS (33-34)
34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.
APPLICATION: Same is true today when we preach the gospel.
*In Christ, the unknown God is made known.
2. IT IS OUR JOY TO KNOW THIS GOD AND MAKE HIM KNOWN TO OTHERS.
- The JOY of knowing God.
-Better than all the idols of suburbia
-We’ve been saved to this through the gospel
- The JOY of making him known to others
CONCLUSION: In Christ, the unknown God is made known.
It is our joy, because of the gospel, to know this God and make him known to others.