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"
1). God-fearers - Gentiles who had converted to Judaism and who most likely were converting to Christ under Paul's preaching
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: https://legacy-cdn-assets.answersingenesis.org/assets/pdf/tj/v17n2_cosmology.pdf and https://answersingenesis.org/big-bang/one-issue/ ). 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.