Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Eternity declared in creation

Acts 17:22-25 So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects.23 For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands,as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things"

Today's post begins a series of posts featuring the idea of "eternity". As the Apostle Paul was in the cultural epicenter of the Greek and Roman world, Athens, the scripture states in Acts 17:16 "Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols." Paul was in the course of his second missionary journey and was getting ready to engage in dialogue with those who had been listening to his preaching. Acts 17:17-21 records four groups of people that Paul would end up engaging before it was all said and done:

1). God-fearers - Gentiles who had converted to Judaism and who most likely were converting to Christ under Paul's preaching

2). Jews of the Synagogue - These may had been Jews who had converted to Christ or who were still as yet unconvinced. Nonetheless they were Jews who were members of the local Jewish center in Athens.

These first two groups occupied Paul's time until he was engaged by two other groups who composed the august assembly at Mars Hill, the scene of Paul's epic sermon.

3). Epicurians - These philosophers would correspond to those who wanted to live life to its fullest based upon their desires. Escape of pain and finding of pleasure was the backbone of Epicurean thought. 

4). Stoics - Perhaps you have heard the word "stoic" used to describe someone who is detatched from their emotions and are all about the facts and reason. Stocism as a philosophy emphasized self-sufficiency and the abilities of the mind to arrive at practical solutions to finding life's happiness.

Paul had his hands full by the time he arrived at Mars Hill. He faced a crowd of skeptics, cynics and thinkers who treated His message as nothing more than another intellectual oddity of first century life. The audience to which Paul preached was moreso about finding fulfillment in this life and doing it all by themselves. As Paul cleared  his throat and began to preach, what came forth was a message that would express the Biblical message of God's eternal plan of salvation and glory. Eternity was brough forth front in center in Paul sermon. 

Main point of application: As we think about the subject of eternity, I liken it to a simple  diagram featuring the name of God and two arrows doing out in either direction:
Why did Paul focus on this theme of eternity in his message. The point of application for this post, and really this blog series will be: It is important how you respond to eternity in this life. The whole point of Paul's sermon is to unfold how it is we see The Eternal God's reality shown forth in this life. Notice firstly...

Creation declares eternity. Acts 17:22-25
As we already observed in the opening verses of today's post, God made the world and everything in it and is the source of life as we know it. By rights all things and all people owe their existence to God. Scripture uniformly teaches that creation declares the glory and eternal nature of God. Psalm 19:1 states - "The heavens are telling of the glory of God;And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands." Romans 1:20 tells us - "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."

The largeness of the universe, the smallness of the atom and the mystery of human life are three examples that come to mind when thinking about how creation points to something and really Someone beyond itself. 

First, consider a specific example of the universe's large-scale pattern. The universe's distribution of galaxies in concentric circles or shells of specific distances has been observed by various astronomers over the past few decades (for those interested see: and ). This pattern of galaxies stretching hundreds of billions of light years across the universe suggests not only a definite beginning to our universe, but an intelligent One that lies outside the universe. 

We also see creation declaring eternity in the world of the very small, the atom. When we look at the complexity of the atom, specific numbers and electrical charges are necessary for its most basic constituient sub-particles to exist (i.e protons, neutrons and over a dozen other sub-atomic particles). Particle physicists have demonstrated that the variables necessary for atoms to exists have been constant since the beginning of the universe. If one were to run a clock backwards to where current science believes the universe began, those laws governing atoms break down, meaning that they suddenly are non-existent. Again this lends further support to the fact that a non-natural, albeit a Supernatural cause was responsible for the beginning of all things. 

Then thirdly, we consider the riddle of humanity itself. How is it that mankind, being physical in nature, yet has an immaterial mind, and consciousness? Models outside of a Supernatural origin of all things have been unsuccessful in fully explaining humanity's ability to think, reason and to express itself artisitically on the basis of base natural laws. Science can indeed explain how things happen and what happens, yet the "why" questions that must be answered cannot be answered by science alone. 

All of creation, from the smallest atoms, to mid-sized creations such as ourselves, to the largest structures of the universe all scream that there is Someone responsible for why it is there is something rather than nothing. Psalm 90:2 tells us: "Before the mountains were bornOr You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God." Romans 11:36 says - "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen." 

Why is it that so many people today deny the fact that eternity is declared in creation? Whenever you read Romans 1:18-20 or Psalm 19 or any other scripture that speaks about God's Eternal presence and power clearly demonstrated in creation, there is always a spiritual and moral objection to such evidence. Why was Paul's audience, as a majority, resistent to his message in Acts 17? Unbelieving man, untouched by God's grace, will bristle at the suggestion that an all-powerful, all knowing God has authority over their lives. Epicureans prided themselves on governing their lives by their physcial drives and Stoics strove to be self-sufficient people. Though the philosophies may have had different names, the underlying thoughts are still alive and well in contemporary thought. 

Our world will gladly ignore the evidence of the eternal to avoid moral and spiritual accountibility. This is why it is important to understand how you will respond to the eternal so clearly declared in creation.

More tommorrow.....

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