Paul Shares His Knowledge About God and Creation
While passing through Athens, the Apostle Paul spent some time sharing insight about the One True God with a local group of well-educated philosophers. Modern Christians can learn from Paul’s example.
Some Christians ask why (or if) we should bother studying and sharing our knowledge of creation? They wonder: “Doesn’t studying Creation take away from my Bible study and prevent me from knowing God?”
Q1) Are there any New Testament examples that justify studying creation as a means to know and share God?
In our last Devotional study, we examined the Old Testament account in which God asked Job a series of questions about creation. By identifying some of the many great and indescribable aspects of His own creation, God provided evidence to support His greatness and Job’s need for a little humility.
Similarly, as recorded in Acts Chapter 17, the Apostle Paul used his Biblical understanding and personal observation of creation to describe the One True God to a group of well-educated but skeptical scholars. In fact, Paul uses creation to identify the unique and specific God of the Bible to a group who couldn’t otherwise distinguish the One True God from dozens of other stone idols.
Whereas God’s creation discussion highlighted Job’s finite mortal understanding and gross need for humility. Paul’s discussion with the philosophers in Athens focused on introducing “learned” non-Christians to their previously “unknown” God. Both discussions serve to Glorify God by causing the audience to appreciate the grandeur of the creation that reflects Him.
They also provide a basis and justification for our own creation study.
Q2) How can modern Christians learn from Paul’s discussion?
Using Time Wisely – People of Action!
While waiting in Athens to meet up with some of his friends, the Apostle Paul had some time to kill. Rather than using his spare moments as a chance to catch a quick nap or to watch a few extra kitten videos on his social media accounts, Paul decided to share his spiritual gifts and his knowledge of creation and its Creator by visiting religious Jews in the synagogue and “learned” philosophers in the marketplace.
What a blessing for us that the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to write a “post” detailing Paul’s oration in front of the philosophers.
His opening statement began like this: “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.”
His audience had sidelined religion despite its apparent presence in their midst. A man of action, Paul observed this sinful substitution and sought to set their understanding straight by sharing his own knowledge.
Modern Christians face a similar cultural tendency to sideline God and can take note of Paul’s argument as one Biblically-sanctioned way to approach re-introducing people around us to God.
Q3) According to Paul, why is he making this argument?
Paul first related to his audience by acknowledging an aspect of their culture that bore a resemblance to God. ….announcing the goal of his argument [to proclaim God to them] in order to (re)introduce them to a God that was present, but unknown to their society (at the time).
Paul wanted to introduce them to a God Who was Present But Unknown!
Q4) What was Paul’s first argument when sharing about God?
Paul’s very first description of God is as follows: “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.”
Paul’s argument suggests that, in order to know God, one of the very first things that someone needs to be told – is that this is the God (whether you know Him or not) Who “made the world and everything in it.”
The preeminence of this argument while sharing the gospel is consistent with the first verse of the Bible in Genesis Chapter 1 as well as first verse in the NT gospel according the Apostle John. Both of these pivotal books describe creation in their first verse.
Paul’s next point is that: “You must also understand that God is not contained by Human temples or hands and that He doesn’t need anything from us.”
Pauls’ argument goes on to suggest that a person cannot be properly introduced to God without understanding that “He created life, breath, and everything, as well as, every nation, every boundary, every period of time.”
According to Paul, knowing creation enough to share about with a non-believing audience, is a valuable means to spread the Good News!
Q5) Why did Paul say that God created the “world and everything in it?”
In Paul’s words – so that people might seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.
It follows that in order for us to begin to understand God, we MUST first acknowledge that He is the Creator of the world and everything in it!
Paul goes on to refute the deistic notion that God set Creation in motion and then abandoned it by saying: “He is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of 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 a man whom he has appointed… and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Beginning with Creation
Paul’s argument starts with the Genesis Creation and ends with Christ’s Resurrection and Coming Judgment. His audience greatly resembles the demographic that many Americans will face when sharing their faith whether in school, work, or the culture.
Just like Paul, Americans who are sharing the good news of God and His Works are likely to face one of the same reactions by the crowd. Paul’s crowd either immediately rejected His assertions, asked to hear more, or believed immediately.
Modern American Christians can be encouraged by Paul’s lesson to the Athenians both in its content and in the mixed reaction of the crowd… We should never let our feelings of unpreparedness or our fear of failure prevent us from sharing.
We encourage you to share lessons of God’s creation with your family and friends as a means to share the wisdom and greatness of our Creator with the world that he created!
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