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(Acts 17:24) Introducing the Creator

(Acts 17:24) Introducing the Creator

by Stephen Davey
Series: Sermons in Acts
Ref: Acts 17:24

In Athens, Paul found a monument to an Unknown God. He took the opportunity to stand up and proclaim who this God was. What happened as a result? Find out.

CLICK HERE to access all of the messages in this series.


In 1798, Napoleon brought his armies to Egypt seeking knowledge of the ancient world as well as an expanded kingdom of his own.  A year after his troops arrived, along with scientists and archeologists, some of his soldiers were demolishing a low wall – and they made a remarkable discovery. They stumbled across one of the most significant archeological finds of all time – the Rosetta stone.

For centuries, the culture, language and life of this vast empire had remained a mystery because it had been written in what was to modern man an unknown language – Egyptian hieroglyphic writing.

But the Rosetta stone unlocked the mystery because carved on that stone tablet was the same message; carved on top in the picturesque hieroglyphs then in the middle with a cursive form of hieroglyphs and then, most importantly at the bottom of the stone, the same message was written in the Greek language.

You can only imagine the excitement caused by the Rosetta stone.  After centuries of silence, ancient Egyptian writings could now be understood. 

-Writings that revealed everything from:

 preparing a mummy for eternity

-to the technology behind the largest stone monuments in  

 the world

-the medical practices and farming techniques

-even the translation of ancient love  


The Rosetta stone was the key that unlocked the mystery of an ancient civilization – the kingdom of Egypt.  

In Acts chapter 17 as Paul stood before the Athenians he was surrounded by centuries of idolatry.  The Greeks had fashioned more than 30,000 statues of their gods and goddesses – and all around the Apostle loomed those statues of gold, silver, bronze and stone.

The Greeks, like every civilization that has ever lived or will ever live was desperately trying to unlock the mysteries of the universe.  So they worshipped Apollo whom they believed rode his fiery chariot, the sun, across the sky every day.  They worshipped the virgin goddess Athena whom their proud city, Athens, had been named after.

And a thousand more gods that they believed were procreated by the union of father heaven and mother earth.

Yet, Athens and the world of Greece were still without answers.

In our last discussion we went back in history to that moment when Epimenides, 600 years before Paul came to Athens, had let loose of flock of sheep from the very spot where Paul now stood.  The city of Athens had suffered a terrible plague and Epimenides believed that the sheep must be sacrificed to the angry gods so that the plague would cease.  Wherever the sheep lay down, the Athenians were to sacrifice them to the nearest statue or temple – but many sheep lay down without temple or statue anywhere near them – so the people of Athens erected a altar in the belief that they had overlooked some god – a god they didn’t know – and on that altar they inscribed the words, “To the unknown god”.

Now, Paul, after centuries of silence, announces that he indeed knows the name of that unknown God.

Notice back in Acts 17:22.  And Paul stood in 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.’  What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.”

Paul says in effect, “Let me answer the mystery of the heavens to you – let me unlock the century old question of your pantheon.  The missing God, the only true and living God has a name (in verse 18 Paul revealed the name – IhsouV).   The Rosetta stone is Jesus Christ, and He, Paul in effect declares to this polytheistic world, will translate for you the questions that are in the heart of every human being:

        “Who made me?”

“Was the universe a result of chance or creation?”

       “If it was created, whose creative power put it together? 

And finally, “Is there is a Creator who made me and all there is, then am I accountable to Him?”

All of these questions are answered, and more as Paul delivers this dynamic introduction to the Lord of heaven and earth.

There are several points to Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill. 

We looked at the first point last Lord’s day.  In verse 24 Paul declared, “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.”

So point # 1 was;, “My God”, Paul said, “is more than a monument.”

He is alive!  Back in verse 18 we discover that the theme of Paul’s message is the theme that sets Christianity apart from every other world religion.  “he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.”

600 years earlier, Epimenides had come up with the right idea but had all the wrong ingredients.  There was an epidemic called sin and a plague called death.  There was also an angry God that demanded the death of an eternal lamb to satisfy His wrath.  Jesus was the spotless, sinless Lamb who lay down His life, who bore the brunt of God’s wrath and in so doing paved the way for all who would believe in Him to avoid eternal death and the wrath of a holy God.

But that wasn’t the end of the story.  That Lamb came back to life – He resurrected from the grave – He is alive and coming soon to rule and reign as Lord of heaven and Lord of earth.

Point #1 – My God is more than a monument!

Point #2 – My God made it all!

In order to understand the context behind much of what Paul declared to the Athenians, it would help us to understand the current popular world view held by the Athenians.

It is still very popular today. 

            Polytheism – the world has more than one God

This was the world of Athens – and it has become the world of America; like India with its millions of gods, so America, while maintaining its belief in a supernatural being, has lost its monotheism to polytheism

This was the world view of ancient Athens and modern day Mormons.  In fact, Mormon theology believes that our Father God was created by a previous Father God who was created by still a more ancient Father God – and that we are all headed to our own personal planet where we also will rule as God.

In 1993, approximately 7,000 representatives from more than 125 of the world’s religions came to attend the second World Parliament of Religions in Chicago.  They came a century after the first Parliament of 1893.  Everyone at the commemoration agreed on simple adherence to the Godlen Rule:  “We must treat others as we wish others to treat us.”  Lectures and workshops, meditation sessions and ritual dances highlighted the program.  A hundred prominent leaders from about a dozen creeds discussed, created, signed, and released a nine-page “Declaration of a Global Ethic.”  It was a common outline between the faiths decrying environmental destruction, sexual abuse, religious violence, exploitation, genocide, and  the like.  Its signers pronounced the declaration a historic document, on a par with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  A most arresting news item showed a not-so-subtle sign of problems at the Parliament.  Incredibly, the word “God” had to be left out of the 5,000 word “Declaration.”  Why?  To include the word God would have “excluded many faith groups with different views of God and the divine.”  In deference to other religions, they dropped the word God, coming closest in one reference to ‘Ultimate Reality.’  At the Parliament of World Religions, the word “God” was offensive . . .”Ultimate Reality” was passable.”

The Population of Heaven  Dr. Ramesh Richard, p. 70  Moody Press

That’s like having a World Parliament on Mathematics and leaving out any reference to numbers.

Or a World Parliament on Medicine and not allowing doctors to come.

The world searches for the supernatural and yet ignores to clarion call, the infinite invitation of Jesus Christ who said, “Come and drink of me and you will never thirst again.”

Let me briefly introduce you to some additional world views – what Paul has to say in Athens directly confronts them as well.

            Deism – one God made the world, then left it alone

Probably the most famous deist was Thomas Jefferson – whose disbelief in the miraculous caused him to compose his own New Testament Gospels.  A New Testament void of miracles and therefore void of the greatest miracle of all – the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  His New Testament ends with the verse, “There they laid Jesus, and rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre and departed.”

Deism denies the intervention of God into the affairs of man.  While there is a God and He did indeed create all there is, from that point on He sort of walked away.  So God is never involved in His creation. 

Deism is not dead by the way – it was captured in a best selling song, “From a Distance” sung by Bette Midler on her CD entitled Experience the Divine.   The lyrics are sung, “God is watching us, God is watching us, God is watching us . . . from a distance.”

God is not watching us from a distance.  The Bible teaches that God is intimately involved with His creation.  In fact, as we’ll see in a moment, the Apostle Paul will clearly expound a deeply interested and  involved treatment of creation by its Creator God.

            Pantheism – God is the world, the world is God.

Everything is divine – the divine is in everything – this is the popular belief represented by Hinduism, Buddhism and the New Age Movement. 

You can certainly understand the popularity of a movement that declares “You are god” rather than, “you will stand before to God, right?”

            Atheism – the world have a God

Doesn’t the picture of a world all alone connote such loneliness?

            Finite Godism – the world has a somewhat limited God

This view does not believe in an all powerful Creator God.  The world evolved by a God who was and is supremely intelligent, but who doesn’t have enough power to keep the world going in the right direction.

Harold Kushner is a popular adherent to this view, primarily because evil exists in the world and bad things happen to people who believe in God.

If God were all powerful, shouldn’t He . . . couldn’t He stop the evil from happening to them?

The scriptures would respond to that as God Himself says, “My thoughts are above your thoughts, my ways are higher than your ways.”  In other words, because I am an infinite God, there will always remain some mystery to how my hands move – but to those who love me, He promised that all things would work together for good (not that all things were good, but that all things would work together for good) to them that love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose – and what purpose is that?  Comfort?  Health?  Prosperity?  No, the next verse says, “the purpose of God is that you might be conformed to the image of His Son.”

Finite Godism says, ‘We can let God off the hook if we just understand that He isn’t powerful enough to take care of the universe.”  But in reality, they have not taken Him off the hook, they have taken Him off the throne.”

       Finally Theism – a world created by an all powerful, personal God

Notice back in verse 24.  Jesus Christ is the Lord of heaven and  earth – that is, He is the sovereign master over all that there is.

Daniel 4:34 and 35 declare, “God’s dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation.  And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, “What hast Thou done.”  In other words, this sovereign ruler is accountable to no one.  He answers to no one – not even you, or me.

Psalm 13:19  The Lord has established His throne in the heavens and His sovereignty rules over all.”

What right does God have to rule over all there is?  Paul answered, “God is the rightful ruler of heaven and earth because He is – verse 24a - The God who made the world and all things in it.

You know why the heart of sinful rebellious man argues against the fact of theistic creation – that God made everything there is?  Because, if He made everything there is then He indeed has the right to rule every one that lives.  This is then His planet now ours.  This is His animal kingdom not ours.  This is His sun and moon and stars, not ours.

And ultimately, as Paul himself will alter declare, and this is the real sticking point with unregenerate man – mankind will one day stand before their creator God and give an account of their works and their worship.

Because of that, man stubbornly refuses to acknowledge a Creator God because if that domino falls, then we’re all in a heap of trouble.

But Paul declares, “MY GOD MADE IT ALL.”

You notice that nowhere in Acts 17 does Paul attempt to prove the existence of God.  He simply declares that God is.

Just like the beginning of your Bible – it simply declares, “In the beginning God . . . in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Isaiah 45:18, the prophet describes God as “the God who formed the earth and made it.”

Jeremiah picked up the same theme as he declared, “It is He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom; and by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens.”  Jeremiah 10:12

Jeremiah also said what we sang a few moments ago, “Ah Lord God!  Behold, Thou has made the heavens and the earth by Thy great power and by Thine outstretched arm!  Nothing is too difficult for Thee.”

Go over to the New Testament and you read the same clear, dogmatic declaration. 

Ephesians 3:9  “God. . .created all things.”

Colossians 1:16 specifically points to Jesus Christ as the creative agent in the Genesis account of creation.  He, the second person of the Godhead was particularly responsible, for Paul writes under inspiration, “By Him (Jesus Christ) all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created by Him and for Him.”

So that’s exactly where Paul begins as he addresses a polytheistic Athenian crowd.

Why?  Because, I believe, if a person can believe in the first creation by God, then he is prepared to believe in a second creation – the new creation of sinful men and women by redemption.  And if a person can believe in a second creation, he’ll have no trouble believing in a third creation as described in Revelation which reveals the future creation of a new heaven and a new earth.

Now notice again verse 24 – Paul states, “The God who made the world and all things in it.”

Paul’s original word translated world is the greek word “kosmos”.   It as a clever choice of word simply because the Homer, the ancient hero of Athens used that word to speak of the Greek system of order in their government.   Another brilliant Athenian named Plato, used the word to refer to the order in which a woman put on her makeup – this layer first, then that layer – he probably got into trouble from Mrs. Plato for using her as an illustration in his Philosophy 101 class!

The basic meaning of kosmos includes the idea of arrangement and order.  When the word came to refer to the universe, it carried with it the idea of order in the universe.

One of the arguments for creation by God is the cosmological argument – Since we see the effects of order – there must be a cause behind the effects.

Another argument for creationism is the teleological argument – that is, the creative complexity of creation demands a divine designer.

Let me give you a couple of examples as we wrap up our discussion.

And let me say, I don’t consider myself an apologist – especially when it comes to science as illustration.  Science was one of those classes I barely survived in order to graduate.

I’m kind of like that little five year old boy who came home from Sunday School very excited.  His teacher, had told the class the story of Adam and Eve and how Eve was created from Adam’s rib.  A few days later he was running around and he got a cramp in his side – he ran up and announced, “Mommy I think I’m having a wife.”

Like him, I’ll admit I’m way over my head – but I do love to read and research.

The first illustration of creations wonderful design, which demands a designer comes from a book written by an unbeliever.  A bio-chemist that has rocked the establishment by his publication entitled, Darwin’s Black Box.  In this book he argues that complex systems could not have evolved – they must have been designed

Let me read some edited comments from his book;

            Read comments.

Darwin’s Black Box  Michael Behe  The Free Press, 1996

The average person who has been taught Darwinian evolution since grade school would never be told of Darwin’s personal anxiety caused by his theory.  He had rejected the Biblical account of creation and, in fact, the Biblical God – and he paid a heavy emotional price.

He wrote to a friend who evidently believed in God the Creator, a letter, published in 1888 along with many of his letters and notes, these words:

“I am conscious that I am in an utterly hopeless muddle.  I cannot think that the world, as we see it, is the result of chance, and yet I cannot look at each separate thing as the result of Design . . . again I say am, and shall ever remain, in a hopeless muddle.”

Vital Apologetic Issues p. 123   Roy Zuck, General Editor  Kregel Publications 1995

The Apostle Paul answered Darwin when he wrote in Acts 17:24  God who made the world and all things in it.  Every separate thing, created by the Divine Designer.

One more illustration , this time from a medical doctor named Paul Brand.  His book entitled, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, includes another designer truth hidden inside the human cell that Darwin never saw.

Locked away inside each cell nucleus is a chemically coiled strand of DNA.  Once the egg and sperm share their inheritance, the DNA chemical ladder splits down the center of every gene much as the teeth of a zipper pull apart.  DNA re-forms itself each time the cell divides;  2, 4, 8, 16, 32 cells, each with the identical DNA.  Along the way, cells specialize, but each carries the entire instruction book of one hundred thousand genes.  DNA is estimated to contain instructions that, if written out, would fill a thousand six-hundred-page books.  A nerve cell may operate according to instructions from volume four and a kidney cell from volume twenty-five, but both carry the whole compendium.   The DNA is so narrow and compacted that all the genes in my body’s cells would fit into an ice cube; yet if the DNA were unwound and joined together end to end, the strand could stretch from the earth to the sun and back more than four hundred times.

       Fearfully and Wonderfully Made pp. 45, 46   Paul Brand & Philip Yancey  Zondervan,  1980

The Apostle Paul declared to the crowd gathered on Mar’s hill – “You have searched for the truth of the supernatural – I’m here to give you the Rosetta stone to that mystery.  To translate Christ is to understand the mystery of the universe.

With authority and courage, grand ambassador of Christ declared, “My God is more than a monument” and “My God is the creator of all things.”




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