22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious.
“said” – “The thrust of his message is clear: the Creator God, who has revealed Himself in Creation, has now commanded all to repent, for everyone must give an account to Jesus Christ whom God raised from the dead.” Stanley D. Toussaint, “Acts,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 403.
“very religious” -a compound word literally meaning, “to fear deities firmly”. The latter part of the word (daimon) can refer to deities in general or more specifically to evil spirits (demons). Paul’s choice of this word is probably very strategic and implies that behind the worship of false gods lies the work of evil spirits. Religion nor worship is man’s problem. We see clearly in this text man’s desire for both. The problem lies in man’s natural tendency to warp and pollute these. All of man’s religion essentially focuses on the wrong object of worship.
23 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.
“to the unknown god” – In their desire to cover all of their spiritual bases, the people of Athens have made a place of worship for a deity they may have overlooked in their ignorance. In this way, our current society mirrors that of ancient Athens. We see both a blending of various religions and the acceptance of religions who by their nature are incompatible with other religions as simultaneously equal, right, and acceptable. For an example of this belief, consider the coexist bumper stickers found on many vehicles today. I’m not saying that as believers we cannot have tolerance or coexist with men and women of different faiths, but to assume that each faith is right and equally credible is logically inconsistent and impossible when you consider the tenants of many of these religions. Paul seizes this opportunity to introduce the people to the worship of the one, true God.
“What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you” – We can learn and employ a bit of Paul’s method here. Notice that he takes a common point of familiarity and uses it as a bridge to gospel sharing.
24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,
“who made the world” – See Gen. 1:1; Paul shares a similar thought in Col. 1:16, 17.
“being Lord” -Because God is Creator and Sustainer of all things, he is rightly understood as “Lord” of all things (“heaven and earth”). He has authority and rights over all of creation. For another example of God having rights and authority over creation see Rom. 9:20-21. In secular literature the term arose in the 4th century BC in reference to slave ownership, and from their began to be used more widely… “In the sense of one who “is there for something,” who “is put in charge of certain things” and has them “under him,” Werner Foerster and Gottfried Quell, “Κύριος, Κυρία, Κυριακός, Κυριότης, Κυριεύω, Κατακυριεύω,” ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 1043. …ranging from one who may own slaves, own land, or be over pupils in a teaching environment. In biblical thought, the NT word kurios carries strong ties back to the OT understanding of God as YHWH. In the NT it is associated with both God, the Father and with Christ – especially after the resurrection, when believers began to more fully understand the divinity of Christ as evidenced through the resurrection. See Phil. 2: 5-11.
“does not live in temples made by man” – Such a great God does not live in humanly constructed temples, as the Athenians assumed their Greek gods did (cf. Stephen’s words in Acts 7:48–50). Stanley D. Toussaint, “Acts,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 403.
God could not possibly be like gold or silver or stone. God makes people—people do not make God. Kenneth O. Gangel, Acts, vol. 5, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 290.
25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.
“as though he needed anything” -In contrast to the Athenian gods who needed human assistance in various matters, the true God is not dependent upon mankind in any way. Instead, it is man who is solely dependent upon God for our existence. See Col. 1:16-17.
God is above human temples, but He is also self-sufficient and is not sustained by human provisions. This truth would appeal to the Epicureans who believed that what god or gods existed were above human events. The last part of the verse, dealing with God’s providing people with life (cf. v. 28) and material needs (cf. 14:17), suited the Stoic philosophy of aligning their lives with the “Purpose” of the Cosmos. Paul was thus beginning where his listeners were and was leading them from their inadequate concepts of the truth. Stanley D. Toussaint, “Acts,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 403.
26 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,
“having determined” -Paul emphasized the sovereignty of God over the world. A nations existence is not an end unto itself. It occurs only according to the will of God.
What Paul is saying here is that it is God who determines how long a nation shall exist—the time of its ascendancy, popularity, and decline. No nation decides this by itself; God is in control. Like Daniel said, ‘He (God) removes kings and sets up kings’ (Dan. 2:21). God decides not only how long a nation stays on the map, but also how far it will reach before it is sent into decline by God. Kenneth O. Gangel, Acts, vol. 5, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 290.
27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,
“he is actually not far from each one of us” -What a compassionate paradox that the sovereign, creator of all allows himself to be known.
28 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.’
“we are indeed his offspring” – not meaning that all are redeemed, but that all are dependent upon God for our existence.
29 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.
“being then God’s offspring” -It is naive, according to Paul’s conclusion, to think one could adequately worship, represent, or contain such a God with golden figurines. If we are dependent upon him for existence, how could one then make God dependent upon mankind for his existence in idol form?
“we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone” – Here we see the misguided worship of the Athenians again.
30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,
“overlooked, but now he commands” – Note both the mercy and justice of God.
“all people everywhere to repent” – This small phrase teaches us much about the gospel.
1. The gospel is for “all people”
2. The gospel is for everyone – “everywhere”
3. The gospel is consistent and effective. Every person is saved to same way – through repentance.
31 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.”
“by a man” – obviously a reference to Christ.
“he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” – Christ’s resurrection authenticates his gospel and his identity, while bringing assurance to those who follow him.
32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.”
“some mocked” – Belittling the divinity of Christ is not a new reaction.
33 So Paul went out from their midst.
34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.
“But some men joined him and believed” – The gospel may not be received by all who hear it, but it is effective.