Painting a Picture (Acts 17:23-31)

For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;” (Acts 17:23–24, AV)

One time as I was going door-to-door to proclaim the hope of the gospel, a young girl came to the door. She was interested in hearing how a person could obtain eternal life. Yet, she had no comprehension about anything regarding God or salvation in Christ. When I asked her, “Who do you think Jesus is?” she said, “I have no idea.” There are people today who do not know anything about Jesus or salvation. So, I had to paint a picture of God and His plan for salvation. Paul ran into many people like this in Athens and He paints a picture for them to grasp the unknown.

First, Paul presents God as the infinite Creator of all (v24). He begins with an apologetic argument showing God is the first cause of all creation. This presents a picture of the infinitude of God including His power, His knowledge, His presence, and His holiness. Only one of infinite power can create something out of nothing. God is omnipotent.

Second, in the creation we see an intricate design rather than random material. This is the argument from design. If we consider the complexity of the universe and life itself, we see the imprint of a Master Designer. Therefore, the infinite complexity and expanse of the creation indicates that the Creator is of infinite intelligence. God is omniscient.

Third, Paul indicates that God “does not live in temples made by man.” Paul, with this statement, indicates that God is infinitely present. He is all powerful, all knowing, and present everywhere. God is omnipresent.

Fourth, Paul presents God as self-existent. Paul states that God is not “served by human hands, as though he needed anything” (v25). Man is dependent on God but God is not dependent on man.

Fifth, God is sovereign and rules over all. Paul indicated that He is “Lord of heaven and earth” (v24) and established the nations and their epochs (v26). He is infinitely sovereign.

Sixth, God is the giver of “life and breath and everything” to all humanity (v25). God has created man in His likeness. This is not a physical likeness, but a moral, mental and relational likeness. The fact that God created man with a moral aptitude indicates that God is infinitely moral and thus infinitely holy.

Seventh, God has a supreme purpose for all humanity. He states that God has created man “that they should seek” Him that they might “find him” (v27). This means that God is love and that this love for man is infinite.

In view of the picture that Paul paints of God, all idols are nothing but mere statues that pale in comparison. This reveals that God is the divine Law Giver who establishes the perfect standard of holiness. Thus, understanding this, people will recognize the severity of their sin. God is the infinitely righteous judge who will judge all humanity by this moral standard (v31). We will need to engage the post-Christian person in our society by painting a picture of God. They must grasp this truth before they can see the gravity of their moral choices in life.

Published by Steve Hankins, Th.D.

Steve has had extensive military, business and ministry experience. He has served for over 16 years in full time vocational ministry and many years of part time ministry in churches. He has led churches through start-up and recasting of vision. Now He resides on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he is working to help smaller churches and believers to renew their hearts and regain the joy of the Lord.

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