A look at Paul’s Sermon on Mars Hill in Acts 17….
22 So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. 23 For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ 29 Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. 30 Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
I think a theme running through this message is that we do not give credit where credit is due. We become so arrogant, saying “look God what I have done for you.” As John Piper said, “That’s a tragedy!” God is the giver of everything-our life, breath, gifts, talents…What we do with our hands was given to us by God, to serve others glorifying the Lord, not ourselves. He is the maker of Heaven and Earth. He has appointed our time and place here. He has determined that His people will seek Him and find Him. In Him we live, move and exist. (vs 25-28).
Verse 25 says, “nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things…” God does not need us to serve Him because He does not need anything. But He gives us a heart to serve His people. We do it for God’s glory NOT for favor in the sight of man (Col 3:23-24).
I can do all things in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:13) and apart from Him I can do nothing (John 15:5). Nothing we do, no act of service, our talents, gifts, etc, is of ourselves. It is given by God. We have life in Him. We move in Him. We exist in Him. He is our creator, our Lord.
In verse 29, Paul tells the men of Athens that their formed images and art is not like the Divine Nature of God. If we are the offspring of God, why then, would these man-made idols be anything like Him? God is So much bigger than that. (Isaiah 40:18-20). He is the Lord of Heaven and Earth, the Creator and Giver of all things. He is incorruptible and eternal. Nothing we do with our hands is anything compared to His creation.
We may not, literally, be creating golden idols for worship and ignorantly offering them to God, so how does this relate to us? Personally, I know that when serving the body of Christ, I have to be sure I am glorifying God for everything I do and being sure that it is not the favor of men I am seeking. Yes, it feels good to be recognized and appreciated, but ultimately the glory goes to God, who has determined my place and time and given me the gifts to serve. I am nothing without Him.
Verse 30 is a call to repentance with a warning that God will judge all people in righteousness. We are called to be holy as He is Holy but God is gracious and merciful and will judge us through Jesus.
God brought us salvation, called us to holiness and denial of the world, to live righteous and godly lives, while seeking Jesus who gave Himself to redeem “a people for His own possession.”
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. (NASB)