Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church Acts #14: The “Unknown God” To hear this message and others download our free app at the App Store. Search The Gathering Connect.
Photo: Mars Hill, Athens, Greece. These are the steps that the Apostle Paul ascended to preach his sermon “The Unknown God” before the Areopagus.
Christian No More? 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Galatians 6:7-10
No one would argue that the United States of America was founded upon the Judaeo Christian faith and that Jesus Christ, and His teachings, became the cornerstone of our nation’s building. No one would argue either that those Christian principals, once highly valued by our nation’s forefathers, have since been devalued and are dangerously close to being eradicated all together by our government and its people . Some would say this is only right since America isn’t Christian anymore: As former president Barack Obama once said in a campaign speech: “We are no longer a Christian nation—at least not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation and a Buddhist nation and a Hindu nation and a nation of non-believers.”
Shall a father change the rules of his home just to make way for his guests? Should he change those rules for those in his own family who choose another path? God’s word says “no!” God has warned us not to be yoked (fastened) together with unbelievers (nationally our personally). “What harmony is there between Christ and Belial” (Belial: a Hebrew word “used to characterize the wicked or worthless.” The etymology of the word is often understood as “lacking worth”, from two common words: beli- (בְּלִי “without-“) and ya’al ( יָעַל “to be of value”) the term later became personified as the devil in Jewish and Christian texts). This is not to say that Christians cannot co-exist peacefully with non-believers, but that we are never to embrace their ways. When one does compromise in this way there are always grave consequences. As we read in Galatians 6:7-10: “God will not be mocked”. We will reap what we sow!
Paul lived in a day where God’s people had not only deserted their Jewish faith, but they had rejected His provision of a forgiving Messiah, Jesus, and nailed Him to a cross! Pagans ruled the world because God’s people choose to abandon the standard that God prescribed. Christians… Stand for what you believe in, even if you should stand alone!
The Unknown God Acts 17:1-4
Imagine the USA without freedoms and liberties. Imagine the USA ruled by a demigod who was elected by “the people.” Imagine our children living under oppression and enslaved by an unstoppable power that we allowed to rule because of our own laziness and spiritual apathy. If you can imagine such a thing then you can imagine what the Jews felt like in the first century and you can imagine how unpopular Paul’s message must have been to them. Talk about kicking a man when he is down. Yet, “as his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue” to speak with the Jews as he did at every new stop along his missionary journeys. The God who had parted the Red Sea for the Jews, fed them bread from heaven, provided water from rocks and once led them by a fire at night and a cloud by day, had become all but “unknown” to them. They worshiped a concept, a legend, a distant memory. Those who were not Jews worshiped everything else that gave way to their appetites and conveniences.
Today, America is very much teetering in the same position. The true Jesus of the Bible (on which this republic was built) has become so watered down that He is unknown to so many who call themselves “Christian.” Those who are not “Christians” worship everything else. But America is still standing so no one listens…(Israel was a mighty walled city before the Babylonian captivity too). We will reap what we sow. What are you sowing today?
Three Types Of Reactions Who are you?
When people hear the truth of the gospel preached, they will have one of the three reactions that we see here in this chapter of Acts. Cultures, technology, fashions, and languages change drastically over time but people and their reactions to the gospel pretty much remain the same:
The Jealous: (The Thessalonian Jews) Acts 17:5-9, John 15:19-21
These Jews did not like Paul’s message because to receive it would mean that they would have to repent. When people feel convicted they will either admit wrong and change or lash out to justify their own sin. The Thessalonian Jews were jealous of Paul and Silas’ relationship with God and their success in preaching the truth. They were jealous of Paul’s ability to admit his own mistakes as a Jew and to leave a prominent position as a rabbi to follow his convictions. They were jealous so they persecuted Paul and his companions. They even “rounded up some bad characters” to help them. Unable to find Paul and Silas they attacked Jason (who welcomed them into his house) and other believers. Jesus said that some will hate you for being a “true” believer (John 15:19-21), but remember, it is Christ they hate. you are just the vehicle of His truth. Move on, as Paul and Silas did. There are those who want to hear.
The Seekers: (The Bereans) Acts 17: 10-15, Matthew 7:7-8
The Jews at Berea “were of more noble character” because they “examined the scriptures.” The Bereans wanted the truth even if it hurt! When they discovered that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah they repented and followed! One should never change the message of the gospel to please a crowd. A true seeker will always find “The Way” because he is looking for truth. Matthew 7:7-8 (haters will be haters!)
The Religious: (Athenians at Areopagus) Acts 17:16-23, 24-34
The Athenians professed to be wise but were fools. Romans 1:20-22 There will always be people who are more impressed by the inventions of their own mind than they will ever be with the one who created that mind in the first place. The Areopagus was the highest judicial court at Athens. Its sessions were held on Mars’ Hill. Here Paul exposed the sin and folly of idol-worship with such boldness, that none could refute him, and some were converted. These high minded men thought themselves wise to make an altar to an “Unknown God” (politically correct) and thereby excused themselves from seeking real truth. Religion is man made like stone altars and it cannot save. Only Christ can save. Believers must live out their faith and preach the “good news” (Romans 10;11-15). How else shall they hear? Be unstoppable! Forget about the reactions of the damned there are people who want to be saved… we must find them!