Acts 17:22-24, 30-31 - So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: "Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: 'To the unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man ... The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead."
One can only imagine the impact St. Paul's sermon must have had on the Greek philosophers of that day. Addressing the presence of an altar inscribed to an unknown god, Paul replies that there is only one God, that He made heaven and earth, and He is very much alive.
There is no need, friends, to speak any longer about an "unknown god." There is no need to stumble around in spiritual hopelessness. God has made Himself known to you for your forgiveness and your salvation. Scripture says that long ago God spoke through Isaiah, Jeremiah, and many other prophets, in many ways. More recently, however, God has spoken to us through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 1:1-4).
And the Scriptures let us know that because of Jesus Christ, our Heavenly Father will not deal with you and me according to the penalty our sin demands. Instead, forgiveness is promised. As the psalmist of old says, "For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:11-12).
God "knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust" (Psalm 103:14). He knows there is nothing we can do to earn His love or expect His forgiveness. Therefore, this compassion—all this love the known God has for you—is offered to us in the cross of Christ, by which God has lifted judgment against us. As the apostle John writes: "the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7b). And this God gave proof of this "by raising Him from the dead."
Let us then confess with the saints, praising this God who knows us—and has made Himself known to us. "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:37-39).
WE PRAY: Heavenly Father, You have clearly made Yourself known to us and shown us that You love us in Jesus. Thank You! Amen.
From "The Known God," a sermon from Rev. Dr. Wallace Schulz, former Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
1. Why do you think the Greeks of Paul's day had an altar dedicated to an unknown god?
2. How has God made Himself known to us?
3. When someone says it's impossible to know anything about God, how do you respond?
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