I love to read about Paul’s journey’s. In chapter 17, we see where Paul and the team head to Thessolanica and Berea, then heads for Athens. There, Paul takes a look around and is “greatly distressed” to see all the idols the people of Athens have built. If you’re familiar with Greek mythology, you know that there is a god for everything – fire, war, water, love, etc.
Paul even found an idol that was dedicated to “an unknown god” – and he takes this opportunity to tell the people of Athens about the one, true God:
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”
The people of Athens were obviously very spiritual – looking to worship something – anything and everything! Yet, it seems to me that they knew there was something more, so they set up an idol to “an unknown god”. It was all they knew how to do…until Paul came to down and explained who this unknown God was.
I find it interesting that only “a few became followers”. A disappointing result if you compare this to the other two towns Paul visits, Thessalonica and Berea, where “large numbers” and “many” believed. It makes me wonder if the Greek people had a harder time believing due to the fact they were already so spiritual. Perhaps they wanted to make Yaweh just another of their gods.
The encouragement for me today is the first commandment – to have no other gods before the one, true God. What am I worshiping?
grace & peace,