This is what Paul spoke of to the people in the Areopagus at Athens, Achaia.
The Areopagus is an outdoor theater with benches carved into the limestone on a hill at the edge of Athens where the religious council met to discuss things. Paul had found an altar in Athens with the inscription “To an unknown God”. Paul proclaimed to the Athenians that The Unknown God they had inscribed on an altar in town whom they worshiped was the God who made everything in the heavens and on earth. Paul explained that God was their Creator, God’s children and that He gives life and breath to all things but does not need anything from man. However, Paul explained to them that God has overlooked their ignorance but now He commands all to repent because He will have all men and women judged by the one whom He raised from the dead.
Below is Paul’s message taken from the bible:
Paul Addressing the Areopagus
22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:
TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, He does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” 33 So Paul departed from among them. 34 However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
Commentary: 17:22. Beginning with this verse (and continuing through . 31) is another of Paul’s “sample sermons” (cf. 13:16-41; 14:15-18; 20:18-35). This one shows how Paul addressed intellectual pagans. The thrust of his message is clear: the Creator God, who has revealed Himself in Creation, has now commanded all to repent, for everyone must give an account to Jesus Christ whom God raised from the dead.
Paul’s discourse includes three parts: (a) the introduction (17:22-23), (b) the unknown God (vv. 24-29), and (c) the message from God (vv. 30-31).
Paul began wisely by acknowledging they were very religious. The idea is that the Athenians were firm and rigid in their reverencing of their deities. These were carefully chosen words. But Paul subtly implied that their deities were evil spirits or demons, not gods. Behind idols are demons (cf. comments on Acts 16:16).
17:23. The Athenians, who feared they might overlook venerating some deity they did not know about, dedicated an altar to an unknown god. When Paul referred to this, he did not emphasize the altar but their ignorance of the true God.
17:24. Because God made everything, He is supreme over all—the Lord of heaven and earth (cf. 14:15; cf. Ps. 24:1). Such a great God does not live in humanly constructed temples, as the Athenians assumed their Greek gods did (cf. Stephen’s words in Acts 7:48-50).
17:25. God is above human temples, but He is also self-sufficient and is not sustained by human provisions. This truth would appeal to the Epicureans who believed that what god or gods existed were above human events.
The last part of the verse, dealing with God’s providing people with life (cf. v. 28) and material needs (cf. 14:17), suited the Stoic philosophy of aligning their lives with the “Purpose” of the Cosmos. Paul was thus beginning where his listeners were and was leading them from their inadequate concepts of the truth.
17:26. From one man refers back to Adam. This would be a blow to Athenian pride; they were sourced in the same original Creation as everyone else! One purpose of this Creation was to populate the planet (Gen. 1:28).
This sovereign God has omnipotently decreed the history (the times) and boundaries (the exact places) for the nations (cf. Deut. 32:8). Greece was not the only nation on earth!
17:27. One of God’s purposes in revealing Himself in Creation and history is that people would seek Him (cf. Rom. 1:19-20). Though sovereign (Acts 17:24), He is also immanent and not so far removed that He cannot be found.
17:28. To buttress his point Paul apparently quoted from Epimenides, the Cretan poet (whom Paul also quoted later in Titus 1:12): For in Him we live (cf. Acts 17:25), and move, and have our being. Also Paul quoted the poet Aratus, from Paul’s homeland Cilicia: We are His offspring. This second quotation was from Aratus’ work Phainomena. All people—Athenians along with all others—are God’s offspring, not in the sense that they are all His redeemed children or in the sense that they all possess an element of deity, but in the sense that they are created by God and receive their very life and breath from Him (Acts 17:25). The Athenians’ very creation and continued existence depended on this one God whom they did not know! No such claim could ever be made of any of the scores of false gods worshiped by the Greeks.
17:29. The conclusion is inevitable: since humans have been created by God, the divine Being, He cannot possibly be in the form of an idol, an image conceived and constructed by man (cf. Rom. 1:22-23).
17:30. God overlooked human ignorance revealed in idol-making, that is, He was patient. Though people are under His wrath (Rom. 1:18) and are without excuse because of natural revelation (Rom. 1:19-20), God “in His forbearance (anochē, holding back, delay¯) left the sins committed beforehand unpunished” (Rom. 3:25). All through time the Gentiles were responsible for the general revelation given to them; now with the worldwide proclamation of the gospel, the Gentiles are also responsible to special revelation. That response is to obey God’s command to repent of their sins.
17:31. At this point Paul introduced a distinctively Christian viewpoint. His reference to the Man clearly looks to Daniel 7:13-14 which speaks of the Son of Man. This One, appointed by God the Father, will judge the world with justice (cf. John 5:22). The authentication of Christ’s person and work was His resurrection. Here again the resurrection of Jesus was preached. The idea of resurrection (cf. Acts 17:18, 32) was incompatible with Greek philosophy. The Greeks wanted to get rid of their bodies, not take them on again! A personal judgment was also unpalatable to Greeks. The gospel message struck at the center of the Athenians’ needs.
Interestingly Paul (vv. 30-31) discussed the topics of sin (“to repent”), righteousness (“justice”), and judgment (“He will judge”), the same areas in which Jesus said the Holy Spirit would convict people (John 16:5-11).
17:32-34. To a Greek it was nonsense to believe a dead man could be raised from the grave to live forever, so some of them sneered. Others with more discretion said they wanted to hear Paul again on this subject. As a result a few men became followers of Paul and believed, including even Dionysius, an Areopagus member (i.e., a council member; cf. comments on v. 19), and a woman named Damaris. Other women converts in Acts include Lydia (16:14-15), a few prominent women in Thessalonica (17:4), and a number of prominent Greek women in Berea (v. 12).
What have we learned?
- We have learned that the Athenians had many Gods and altars.
- Paul saw the one altar to The Unknown God, he observed that the Athenians were a very religious people and used this altar to teach them about the God of heaven.
- The thrust of Paul’s message is clear: the Creator God, who has revealed Himself in Creation, has now commanded all to repent, for everyone must give an account (repent) and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior whom God raised from the dead.
- Paul subtly implied that their deities were evil spirits or demons, not gods. Behind idols are demons.
- Because God made everything, He is supreme over all—the Lord of heaven and earth. Such a great God does not live in humanly constructed temples, as the Athenians assumed their Greek gods did.
- God is above human temples, but He is also self-sufficient and is not sustained by human provisions.
- One of God’s purposes in revealing Himself in Creation and history is that people would seek Him (cf. Rom. 1:19-20). Though sovereign, He is also not so far removed that He cannot be found in prayer.
- Since humans have been created by God, the divine Being, He cannot possibly be in the form of an idol, an image conceived and constructed by man.
- God overlooked human ignorance revealed in idol-making, that is, He was patient. Though people are under His wrath (Rom. 1:18) and are without excuse because of natural revelation (they were suspicious there was a real God and did not seek Him) (Rom. 1:19-20), God “in His forbearance left the sins committed beforehand unpunished” (Rom. 3:25). All through time the Gentiles were responsible for the general revelation given them (they were aware of the earthly things God provided); now with the worldwide proclamation of the gospel, the Gentiles are also responsible to special revelation. That response is to obey God’s command to repent of their sins.
- This One (Jesus Christ), appointed by God the Father, will judge the world with justice (John 5:22). The authentication of Christ’s person and work was His resurrection (when He was raised from earth to heaven).
- Overall, God has given us a choice to accept Jesus as our Savior or not and told us to repent of our sins for He has appointed a day for Jesus Christ to judge us with righteousness.
That may not scare some folks but they really should fear God for God has said these things!!!
Hearts can be renewed by Jesus. Christ can make a heart strong. God can create a new clean heart. The Lord can cleanse the heart and renew its spirit.
Please remember that if we have any hope in our Lord and Savior who gave us “everything” we must be continually faithful to the Lord, first.
God is testing us every day and has given us the right to make our own choices. Do you know which ones are the right choices in Gods mind?
Fear God, love God, honor God, and trust God with all your heart, mind and soul and you will receive and experience the joy of the promises of God’s blessings in His time.
Prayer: Father in heaven, hallowed is Thy Name. I praise You for Your Son and the Holy Spirit. I praise You for Your grace in sending us Your wisdom about “Unknown, Unloved and Mocked.” Please bless all those who have read this article for they too are seeking Your righteous truth, love, wisdom and understanding.
May God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit and Christianity be our guiding lights, our safety nets and our inspiration for loving happiness in all of Your kingdom. Father into your hands I commend my spirit. Not my will, but Yours be done. Please come Lord Jesus.
I pray in Jesus sweet name and to His glory through the power of the Holy Spirit,