We are placed here and now for a reason. We know the people we know, we have the neighbors we have, we are in groups with certain people because God has appointed this place and time for us. Our proximity to others gives us opportunity, and Paul shows how we should interact with nonbelievers around us in order to make the most of that opportunity and introduce others to Jesus. This article is Day Two of “Here and Now” – a MOPS study available on YouVersion.
Paul’s Approach — Who is God?
As you and I share who God is in our communities, we have to understand that we all see God in a certain way based on our experience. What has happened that makes you view God the way you do? Most people who grew up in a church never think twice about whether there is a God or not. Others would never think to question whether there is more than one god. But for those who grew up in other environments or cultures, or have chosen other paths, this may be something they have to wrestle with. The people of Athens were going to have to wrestle a bit with what they had been taught about the gods in the past compared to what Paul was teaching them now about the one true God. He understood that, and so he presented truth in a loving way.
So, who is God?
In Acts 17:24-27, Paul spoke to the Athenians. They were religious but didn’t understand God, so he gave them a basic lesson.
“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. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 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. Acts 17:24-27
First he said, The God … This is important in a society that believed there were over 30,000 gods. He emphasized that there is just one God.
In Acts 17:24-25, Paul explained that this one God is the opposite of their idols.
- He is Creator of everything.
- He is Lord of all.
- He cannot be contained in a building.
- He does not need anything from us.
- He sustains his creation.
In Acts 17:26-27, Paul shared these truths about God:
- Every nation is traced to Adam.
- God determines the time and place for every individual.
- God put within us a desire to know him.
Paul called people around him to think about God in a different way. After explaining God, Paul quoted two of the Athenians’ pagan poets. He got their attention in much the same way we might get someone’s attention by quoting a current movie or song lyric. In Acts 17:29, Paul pointed out the biblical truth that we are God’s offspring, and because we are, we need to think about God differently. He isn’t an image we can form and create on our own. He is a powerful, gracious, and righteous God who calls us to repentance. He is a God who creates, sustains, supports and forgives, but he is also a God who will ultimately judge those who have chosen a way other than him.
Paul did what he could, and then left the results to God. The people responded to Paul much like people respond to the message we share today.
- Some rejected it. Acts 17:32 says that when they heard about the resurrection, they sneered. They heard the truth, and their pride wouldn’t allow them to do anything but mock it.
- Some were reluctant. In the last part of verse 32, some said, We want to hear you again on this subject. They were interested but they put off doing what truth required.
- A few believed. Verse 34 says, Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed.
In Acts 18:1, we see Paul commit the results of the message to God. After this, Paul left Athens.
It seems that the Good News Paul shared wasn’t well received in Athens. Only a few believed, and the city is never mentioned again in Scripture. The few believers there formed a very small church, and as far as we know there was not a great outbreak of believers following his visit, but Paul did what he was placed there to do. He shared what he knew about God and urged people to turn to him. The same is true when you and I talk about Jesus with those in our community. It is our responsibility to do what we can to connect others to Christ, and then let the Holy Spirit do the rest.
- How do you view God?
- What events have shaped your relationship with God?
- Visit the YouVersion app and commit to spending 4 days studying and praying about how you interact with others, right where you are.