To the God Nobody Knows
from the apostle Paul as he addressed the men of Athens concerning the
incredible collection of idols he saw there. I have chosen the contemporary
language of THE MESSAGE. If you prefer, read it in your favorite translation
- Acts 17:16-34.
TO THE GOD NOBODY KNOWS
The longer Paul waited in Athens for Silas and Timothy, the angrier he got -
all those idols! The city was a junkyard of idols.
He discussed it with the Jews and other like-minded people at their meeting
place. And every day he went out on the streets and talked with anyone who
happened along. He got to know some of the Epicurean and Stoic intellectuals
pretty well through these conversations. Some of them dismissed him with
sarcasm: "What an airhead!" But others, listening to him go on about Jesus
and the resurrection, were intrigued: "That's a new slant on gods. Tell us
These people got together and asked him to make a public presentation over at
the Areopagus, where things were a little quieter. They said, "This is a new
one on us. We've never heard anything quite like it. Where did you come up
with this anyway? Explain it so we can understand." Downtown Athens was great
place for gossip. There were people hanging around, natives and tourists
alike, waiting for the latest tidbit on most anything.
So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus and laid it out for
them. "It's plain to see that you Athenians take your religion seriously.
When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I
came across. And then I found one inscribed, TO THE GOD NOBODY KNOWS. I'm
here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know who
you're dealing with.
"The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of the sky and
land, doesn't live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run
errands for him, as if he couldn't take care of himself. He makes the
creatures; the creatures don't make him. Starting from scratch, he made the
entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and
space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the
dark but actually FIND him. He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not
remote; he's NEAR. We live and move in him, we can't get away from him! One
of your poets said it well: 'We're the God-created.' Well, if we are the
God-created, it doesn't make a lot of sense to think we could hire a sculptor
to chisel a god out of stone for us, does it?
"God overlooks it as long as you don't know any better - but that time is
past. The unknown is now known, and he is calling for a radical life-change.
He has set a day when the entire human race will be judged and everything set
right. And he has already appointed the judge, confirming him before everyone
by raising him from the dead."
At the phrase "raising him from the dead," the listeners split: Some laughed
at him and walked off making jokes; others said, "Let's do this again. We
want to hear more." But that was it for the day, and Paul left. There were
still others, it turned out, who were convinced then and there, and stuck
with Paul-among them Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris.
- Acts 17:16-34 from THE MESSAGE: THE NEW TESTAMENT IN CONTEMPORARY ENGLISH,
by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress, 1993.
[Who knows? Some conversation you have today may introduce a friend to the
"God who made the world and everything in it."]
Have a great week,