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Matthew 28
posted August 9, 2012

Revelation 13
posted August 16, 2012




Sermon of the Week#200906 February 22, 2009

When the Apostle Paul was on his second missionary tour, he came to Athens and found a city full of idols and his spirit was provoked within him. It was often said that it was easier to find a god in Athens than to find a man. They had an idol for any kind of religion and a few of them were idols to any unseen gods they may have missed. So Paul reasoned in the synagogue and marketplace every day with any and all who met him.

The Epicurean and Stoic philosophers met him, and some said, “What would this babbler say?” Others said, “He seems to be a setter forth of strange gods because he preached Jesus and the resurrection.” Neither one of these philosophies believed in the resurrection from the dead, and the Epicurean philosophy could be summed up in the phrase, ‘eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die’. Paul agreed with that part of it as he quoted them in 1st Corinthians 15:32, “If there is no resurrection, let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.” Otherwise Paul did not have much respect for their philosophy as he said in Colossians 2:8, “Take heed lest there be anyone that makes spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, and not after Christ.”

So the city fathers brought Paul up to Mars Hill and told him, “We would know more of this teaching which is spoken of thee for thou bringest strange to our ears and we would know therefore what these things mean.” It seems strange they would be offended by Paul as a setter forth of strange gods, when they had an altar for every god and religion anyway. So what’s the big deal? It was ever thus even today. It is obvious that some churches may have teaching contrary to the Word of God; but like the altars of ancient Athens, what difference does it make? One religious persuasion is as good as another, until someone like Peter and Paul comes along with the message of the unknown God.

A few years ago I recited Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill to a modern audience. It only takes a few minutes to preach the same sermon Paul preached almost two thousand years ago, and it is obviously an outline of the original message. So if we follow Paul’s outline, the following are some of the thoughts that Paul expressed that day when the wise men of Athens said he was a setter forth of strange doctrine.


First, he complimented them as being very religious, and then said, he even found an altar that honored THE UNKNOWN GOD. Then he informed them that since they did not know this unknown God, he would tell them about Him.

Paul told them this unknown God did not dwell in a temple made with hands, like the gods they knew; and at that moment the audience could turn their heads and see a short distance away the greatest pagan temple of ancient days, known as the Parthenon where the female goddess Athena was worshipped.

Then Paul could have told them the unknown God was the one who made the world and although they could not see Him physically, for no man can see God and live, they could see Him by the works He had done; he may very well have used the word he would use in Romans 1:20, “The invisible things since the beginning of the world are clearly seen, being perceived by the things that are made, even His everlasting power and divinity; that they might be without excuse.” While we cannot see the unknown God, we can look up and see Him by what He has done.

Many years ago as a teenager I saw a documentary film on the life of Mark Twain. Mark Twain said that he was born in 1835, the year that Halley’s Comet came in. He said since he was born when that comet came in, and he would die when Halley’s Comet came back. Seventy-five years later in 1910 Halley’s Comet returned and Mark twain died. He guessed his demise correctly. Seventy-five years later in 1985 Halley’s Comet returned again. One night about ten o’clock I went out and looked toward the west, and saw Halley’s Comet. Halley’s Comet is a dirty block of ice about ten miles long, and every seventy-five years it travels millions of miles and always returns. For those who are alive in 2060 Halley’s Comet will return. Could all this just happen, or was it planned by someone the Athenians called the unknown God?

So if you want to see the unknown God before Halley’s Comet comes back, just look up at that big yellow ball called the moon, then look at that red ball called Mars, and then look at that beautiful big blue ball, space travelers call the earth, and you will see the unknown God the Athenians thought about when they heard Paul preach on Mars Hill.

So Paul said that unknown God is the One who made the world. Now Paul knew that God made the world because he said in Romans 11:1 that he was an Israelite of the tribe of Benjamin, and with that heritage he would have been familiar with the first chapter of Genesis where it is said that God made the world in six days. And that is the only historical reference as to how it was done, and since no member of the human race was present, all we have to go on, is the account in that first chapter of Genesis.

If the Athenians had known what modern man knows today, they would have told Paul that some say it took millions and millions of years for God to make a world like the model we now live on. Now that sounds like superstition. It appears the more learned and advanced in the knowledge of worldly matters people become, the more superstitious they get. Just look at these philosophers on Mars Hill. They prided themselves that Athens was the pinnacle of worldly learning, and their city was full of idols; now doesn’t that sound intelligent? Paul could have pointed out the obvious by reminding them this unknown God is all-powerful, and being such a powerful God, He was able to make a world in six days, or six months, just as easily as six millions years, and not raise a sweat.

And besides, as finite people it is good to remember what the all-powerful God said in Job 38: 2-7, “Who is this that darkeneth counsel with words without knowledge? Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth; when the morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy?” Where were you Job, where was anybody?”

God must have laughed as He inspired the Apostle Paul to say in 1st Corinthians 1:21, “For seeing in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God.” It was God’s wisdom that the world through books of science, mathematics, philosophy, medicine, or any other branch of human learning could ever show humanity the details as to how it all happened, and along with that, the way of salvation. This must come through the Word of God and His Word alone. It is no wonder the Athenians told Paul, “Thou bringest strange things to our ears.”


Another strange doctrine of Paul was the fact, not only did God create the world, but He created the heaven and the earth, and there must be more than one heaven, because Psalms 19:1 tells us, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Actually there are at least three heavens. There is one heaven that Jesus described when he said in Matthew 8:20, “The birds of the heaven have nests, but the Son of Man has not where to lay His head.” That is the heaven where the birds and airplanes fly. Then there is a second heaven where the stars, moon and planets, and farther away constellations are found. An example of that third heaven is Revelation 6:13 when the Apostle John tells of the day when the stars will fall from the heaven. And then there is the third heaven that Jesus referred to when He said in John 6:38, “I am come down out of heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.” Jesus not only came down from the third heaven, but Hebrews 12:2   informs us after Jesus died on the cross and arose from the dead, He ascended back into heaven to appear before the throne of God for us.

And it will be from that heaven that the Lord will descend according to 1st Thessalonians 4:16-17, “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” And what a day that will be for the redeemed!

But there is another side to that revelation of the Lord from heaven in 2nd Thessalonians 1:7-9, “And to you who are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of His power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance on them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction, from the face of the Lord and from the glory of His might.” And now here is more strange doctrine preached by Paul to the Athenians.


Another strange doctrine of Paul was when he told them the unknown God made a man. In Acts 17:26 he tells us, “And he made of one every nation of men to dwell upon the earth, having determined their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitation.” Whether it is of one man, or one blood, we are all descended from that one man and woman God created. Genesis 3:20 informs us that Eve is the mother of all living, and we need to remember as Paul told the Athenians, “The unknown God gives us life, breath, and all things.”

Paul at that point must have told the Athenians about the creation of man as beginning in Genesis 2:7, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils, and man became a living soul.” Not only did the Lord make a man from the dust of the ground, but after he sinned, God told him in Genesis 3:19, “In the sweat of thy face shall thou eat bread, till thou returnest unto the ground; for out of it thou wast taken: dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

But even before we return to dust God looks at us in life while we live as so many piles of dust. In Numbers 23:10 God said, “Who can number the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel?” In the United States of America the population is over three hundred million piles of dust according to God’s census. But cheer up; Psalms 103:14 reminds us, “For He knoweth our frame and remembers that we are dust.”

Because God remembers that we are dust is the reason Paul told the Athenians that God is not far from anyone of us, and that we can feel after him, if haply we might find Him, for in whom we live and have our being.

Most humans think that God is far away, somewhere on the rim of the universe because of our sin. We are like Adam who hid behind the trees of the garden when he sinned. It was not Adam that said, “God, where art thou?” It was God who said, “Adam, where art thou? Come out from behind those bushes; we need to talk.”

God has always been searching for us, even though we think He is far away; actually God is so close to you that when you holler His name in vain it is like yelling that blasphemy in God’s ear. God has searched for some longer than others. He searched for us when He sent the prophets from Moses to Malachi. He continued His search when Jesus came into the world and died on the cross and arose from the dead. He continued to search for men today through the preaching of the Great Commission as stated in Matthew 28:18-20, “All authority hath been given unto Me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world.” That search for the man God made of dust will go on until the day the trumpet sounds.

Now when Paul preached that message to the Athenians, He said, “God made of one all the nations that dwell upon the earth.” Genesis 1:26 reads, And God said, “Let us make man in Our image.” That one man was made in the image of God; and the Athenians had taken that one man made in the image of God, and made themselves a god in the image of man.

Actually the pagans had done worse than that according to Romans 1:22-23, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for a likeness of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.”

This was the sin of ancient Israel according to Acts 7:40-41, “They told Aaron, make us gods that shall go before us…and they made a calf in those days, and brought a sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their hands”; and Exodus 32:4 informs us they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you forth out of the land of Egypt.”

So God made a man in the image of God, and the Athenians took that man and made him a god, and then they made that god an animal, and finally took that animal, and made him a creeping thing that crawls on his belly.

But we are no better; we have our idols today, and are searching for more. When we find another idol, we search for another the next year. The news showed a man with a huge banner at a football game celebrating the victory of his team, and the message of his banner proclaimed: ‘Now I can die happy’. It is still true; Thou bringest forth strange teaching to our ears.

Paul concluded the message with the appeal that the Lord over heaven and earth was willing to overlook the worship of idols, both then and now, and commanded all men everywhere that they should repent: inasmuch as He has appointed a day when He would judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He had ordained: whereof He has given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead.

The Day of Judgment has been encircled on God’s celestial calendar; the Judge has been ordained, it is just a question of time as it is written in James 5:9, “The Judge is standing at the door.” The Athenians derided the idea of the judgment and resurrection from the dead, so there was nothing more to say; thus Paul went out from among them.