..one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom yo u worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about. (Acts 17:23)


I feel strongly that most of the people I know who are not church goers, think of The Lord (if they think of him at all) like the Athenian’s did as Paul addressed them. The unknown god, was one option among many, and perhaps, to the Athenians, he was a god of last resort, a kind of universal backstop god who might catch you if you fell in between the other divine departments. How true that is today. We all know that people are most likely to call out in desperate prayer when all else has failed. People often pray when facing death whether they have lived a life of faith or not. People often pray when things go wrong. It might be an everyday prayer to be spared the humiliation of being late, for example, or it could be a massive, once in a life time, save me now if your are really there, double or quits, kind of prayer. But in whatever way, regardless of how trivial or deadly serious the prayer may have been, most people have prayed at least once to “the unknown god”


Acts 17:22-31 NLT

So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about. “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone. “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”


Paul preached the Gospel message to the Athenian Counsel using language and concepts they could understand. They were not Jews, and so he didn’t try to tell them about God’s chosen messiah, God’s judge on earth the Holy Redeemer using the ancient Hebrew scriptures, or odd Christian terminology. He spoke to them about one of the Gods they already worshipped, he adopted their theology and philosophy and introduced the idea that the unknown god was actually the Lord of all the gods and the creator of all things. My goal is to persevere in my quest to find a simple and direct way to reveal the truth and life-giving power of the gospel of Jesus to my own generation who no longer know this God.

Today’s readings:

2 Kings 9:14-10:31, Acts 17:1-34, Psalms 144:1-15, Proverbs 17:27-28


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