Gospel: Making the Unknown Known

Deb, holding her small child, arms around her neck, looked up at me. I had asked if she believed in God. She responded, “I pray to God all the time, but when I finish, I wonder to myself, Who am I praying to? What is God like? I don’t know anything about God.”

People just like Deb were living in Athens in the first century. When Paul arrived, he met many religious people who did not know God. Athens was so religious that it was said to contain more gods than people. Wherever Paul looked he was confronted with altars and idols. One altar, bearing the inscription “To the unknown god” (Act 17:23),[1] impressed him particularly.

Saddened at men’s confusion and certain of the gospel, Paul conversed with everyone about “Jesus, and the resurrection” (v18). Soon he was brought before the intellectual elite of Athens to share his message. To those who knew nothing of the true God, Paul spoke of Him in three ways.

God the Creator

“God,” said Paul, “made the world and everything in it” (v24). He is almighty, sovereign and self-sufficient. He is a personal Creator with an interest in all those whom He has created.

However, humans have not responded to God as they should. The many physical idols of Athens demonstrated that the people’s hearts were far from God. They searched for ultimate satisfaction and placed their highest affection on anything but the true God. This is still the case, and it is inexcusable. “God” therefore “commands all people everywhere to repent” (v30).

God the Judge

God “has fixed a day on which he will judge the world” (v31). Those who reject Him will ultimately have that choice ratified – they will be rejected by Him. Righteous judgment is coming.

But who will sit as judge? A man. But surely God alone could be capable of judging the world? Yes, but this man is God. God has “given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (v31). This man is Jesus Christ. When He was here, He made it known that He would one day execute judgment. His resurrection confirms the truth of His claim.

God the Savior

But Paul’s news was good. God desires to be known and trusted by all. He “desires all people to be saved” (1Ti 2:4). He organised the world so that people “should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.” He is “not far from each one of us” (Act 17:27).

Is God truly interested in us? Christ came into the world to “seek and to save the lost” (Luk 19:10). He suffered for sins, enduring the judgment we deserve for the sins we have committed, “making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col 1:20). His success in accomplishing this task has been confirmed by His resurrection.

What is the answer to our separation from God and our guilt before Him? “Our great God and Savior Jesus Christ … gave himself for us” (Titus 2:13-14). God has dealt with the problem of our sin at the cross. You can be reconciled to God today through the Lord Jesus Christ. Some repented and believed this message in Athens. Will you?

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the ESV.