We concluded our study last week with Paul in Athens. Do you remember who we said was with Paul in Athens? No one! Paul was alone; he is the only Christian in Athens. And you think you lack fellowship! But both Silas and Timothy remained in Berea to help establish the church there.
Paul was in Athens waiting for Silas and Timothy to arrive, but as he went through the city he was provoked by their idiolatry. Pliny testified that there were over thirty thousand public statues in Athens, and many more private ones in the homes. So Paul began to preach the Gospel, first in the synagogue and then in the Agora. While preaching in the Agora, he got the attention of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. Paul's message created such a stir among them that they brought him before the Areopagus:
And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? (Acts 17:19 NASB)
Areopagus was a word that had two senses; it referred to a place (Mars Hill), and then it referred to a court of judges consisting of probably around thirty aristocratic Athenians. It is used in this verse for the court. This was one of the most sacred and reputable courts that had ever existed in the Gentile world. The justice administered in this court was said to be so strict and impartial that it was said that both the plaintiff and defendant departed satisfied with the decisions.
Socrates was arraigned and condemned by this court on the charge of innovating on the state religion. Paul addresses this court by saying:
"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.' What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. (Acts 17:23 NASB)
Paul assures that he won't be condemned by this court as Socrates was by saying that he was going to proclaim to them not a new god, but he was going to teach them who the "unknown god" was. Paul promises to tell them what they do not know--who that God is.
Is it important to know who God is? Listen to Jesus' words:
"And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. (John 17:3 NASB)
How important is knowing God? It is the only way to eternal life. It is the only escape from eternal death. God can be known, that is the message of Scripture.
Einstein, when he asked if there's a Creator, is quoted to have said, "Of course there is a cosmic power. Not to believe that is foolish, but we can never know Him." That's sad. Einstein is wrong. Those of faith can know God. He has revealed Himself through nature and through His Word.
As Christians we have been called to take the absolute truth of God into a world filled with confusion and contradictory world views. And that's a tough assignment. Probably from Genesis to Revelation, there is no better text to give us a model for how to do this than the sermon of Paul before the Areopagus; here Paul tells these pagans about God:
"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; (Acts 17:24 NASB)
Paul starts out by telling them that God is the Maker, and not the One who was made. God was not created by man; He is the One who makes man and everything else that exists in all the universe. He is the Creator of all things.
Unlike the synagogue where Paul would begin with the messianic promises, He went back just a little farther. He went back to Genesis 1. In fact, he went back to Genesis 1:1:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 NASB)
This was one of the fundamental problems in Athens. They didn't really believe that God created the heavens and the earth. Epicureans denied creation. You know how they denied creation? They didn't believe in evolution. They said matter was eternal. It never was created, so it didn't need a creator. That's how they solved the problem.
And Stoics were pantheists. They believed that God was matter, and matter was God.
So, contrary to the philosophy of the Athenians, the world--not just the planet earth, but the entire universe and everything in it have not always been in existence; rather, this one God about whom Paul is preaching created the universe and everything in it. Against the Epicureans, Paul declares that the universe was not formed by the random collision and combination of ever-existing atoms. Against the Stoics, Paul declares that God and the universe are not identical, but that God is distinct from the universe, and that this God does not only animate the universe, but He created the universe.
Many commentators say that since the Atheneans didn't know the Bible, Paul didn't quote Scripture. But as we study this sermon, you'll see that that's all Paul did was quote Scripture, he just doesn't give references.
Paul goes on to say, "He is Lord of heaven and earth"--God is the owner of everything He created. He is Lord of Heaven and earth. He is the Lord of everything. And Paul is again quoting Scripture:
(A Psalm of David.) The earth is the LORD'S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it. (Psalms 24:1 NASB)
God is proprietor and sustainer of Heaven and earth. He rules over everything. He is a universal King over the whole universe.
Then Paul says God, "Does not dwell in temples made with hands"--Paul effectively declares his rejection of all popular religions in Athens. All around the spot where he stood were temples in which the gods made their abode. This was a strong, decisive stroke against the whole system of the Grecian idolatry. And again Paul is quoting Scripture:
Thus says the LORD, "Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? 2 "For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being," declares the LORD... (Isaiah 66:1-2 NASB)
God is transcendent. He is beyond time and beyond space. He doesn't live in these temples:
"But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built! (1 Kings 8:27 NASB)
He doesn't live in these shrines. He is beyond the bounds of the physical. He is that Eternal Spirit. "You can't make God, "he says,"because God made you."
Not only is God the Creator and Lord, He is also the Preserver:
neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things; (Acts 17:25 NASB)
This is an indirect stroke against making of images and offering of sacrifices. The ancient pagans believed that the gods were somehow fed and nourished by offerings. Paul's hearers had been in the habit of presenting meat offerings and drink offerings in the temples under the superstitious belief that they were devoured by the gods.
When Paul says, "Neither is He served by human hands"--he is directly confronting the self-sufficient Stoics who think they can negotiate with God. To those who feel morally self-sufficient, this is bad news; it threatens to take away our basis for boasting. But to those who feel morally desperate and hopeless before a holy and infinitely righteous God, this is good news.
Again, Paul is quoting Scripture. He uses words from Isaiah:
Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk in it, (Isaiah 42:5 NASB)
God does not need us, but we need Him. When praying to God, David says:
"But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from Thee, and from Thy hand we have given Thee. (1 Chronicles 29:14 NASB)
Since "life," the Greek word z, was popularly associated with Zeus, the supreme Greek god, and since the triad of "life and breath and everything" reflects terminology current to his hearers, it is possible that Paul is again deliberately contradicting their religion. He is saying, in effect, that the Christian God, who does not live in temples, and who is not served by human hands, is the author and sustainer of life, not Zeus.
People, the reason we are breathing is because God gives us breath. He is that Sovereign of the universe, who controls even our breathing.
Look at what Paul says of God:
Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:35-36 NASB)
God owes no one because everything comes from Him. God doesn't need anything from us. He is self-contained, self-fulfilled, independent, and self-sustained. He's creator, ruler, and giver of all things.
So Paul starts out by telling them that God made the world and everything in it. The Scripture certainly affirmed this, and we could spend literally hours trekking through the Word of God affirming that God, Himself, is the creator. For example:
How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the LORD his God; 6 Who made heaven and earth, The sea and all that is in them; Who keeps faith forever; (Psalms 146:5-6 NASB)
For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, But formed it to be inhabited), "I am the LORD, and there is none else. (Isaiah 45:18 NASB)
The Christian faith maintains as a foundational belief from the Bible that the universe was created by the infinite God, simply by speaking it into existence. There is a battle today over the origins of the universe. The tension is really one between philosophical beliefs rather than scientific evidence. The famous Scopes trial was the beginning of the public battle, but it rages on even more furiously today.
The foundation of evolutionary thought is that there is no design or designer to our universe. All is governed by time, chance, survival of the fittest, mutations, and natural selection that bring us to where we are today. The existence of a God establishes purpose and design, and most importantly dependance upon a God. You see, if God created the world, then man is accountable to Him. To escape this accountability, man has come up with the idea of evolution. If you do away with God, then you have no accountability, and you are free to do what you wish. That's why there is, and always will be, a fierce battle by evolutionists to keep any theory of intelligent design or creationism out of the classrooms. Their philosophical and unproven presuppositions demand it.
What does science tell us about evolution? Dr. A.E. Wilder-Smith, who has a whole long list of letters after his name, wrote a book called The Scientific Alternative to Neo-Darwinian Evolutionary Theory. In this book he demonstrates the absurdity of evolution on the basis of one great reality, and that one great reality is the encoded information in the DNA of living organisms. Every living organism has in it DNA. DNA is genetic material, and on that genetic material in every living thing is a code, and that is an operative code. And that living organism, whether you're talking about a cell or whether you're talking about a man and everything in between, all of that operation of every living thing is dependent on that encoded information. And listen to this, every different living thing has a completely different code.
Darwin had no clue about that. There was no genetic study when he wrote hisOrigin of the Species. He didn't know anything about DNA. He didn't know anything about chromosomes. He didn't know anything about genetics. It didn't exist as a science; he was just describing what he thought he was seeing. It was all according to appearance and nothing more.
"The entire realm of genetics," Wilder-Smith points out, "which is all about information, storage, and retrieval was totally unknown to Darwin." Every living thing is programed by its DNA. If you' re talking about flowers, one may be red, another blue, because there's information in the DNA in the genetics that causes that to happen. That's a code of information in every living thing.
Science has tried to tell us that evolution is a process called mutation, that living organisms have the capacity to mutate. But you need to understand that mutations do not change the nature or the kind of any living organism. They don't make it anything other than what it is. What mutations involve, and this is important, is always a loss of existing information. There is never a gain of information. Mutations never add new genetic information. Mutations, therefore, do not work toward an upward evolutionary process.
The big issue, the issue that is bringing down evolution, is the study of the origin of information, it's called "Information Theory." Where did the information come from? Where did the code come from? A monkey has a monkey code, and the DNA and the chromosomes and the genetics just keep making the monkey behave like a monkey. There's no code in there to turn the monkey into a man. There's no such thing as jumping out of your species.
Where did this genetic information come from? It couldn't evolve out of nowhere. It's too precise. Wilder-Smith says this, "Darwin's so-called gradualism postulated in the last analysis, all forms of biology were derived from a single, simple cell which by an unbroken series of small gradualistic changes gave rise to an unbroken chain of steps from the original cell up to man himself, and biology was strictly continuous." This is just unbelievable, and only a man in Darwin's time, who didn't know genetics, would ever come up with such a statement, because if a one-celled thing developed into a man, then all the encoded information necessary to run that one-celled thing and to run everything from then on all the way up, including the man, had to be in the original cell. And if it wasn't in the original cell, then where did it come from? That's the question. It's ridiculous. They know that all of the encoded information to run every living thing in the universe is not contained in a one-celled amoeba. What is contained in a one-celled amoeba is the code for a one-celled amoeba.
Every living organism in the universe has its own code. How did it get that code? Where did it come from? To make evolution the answer is ridiculous. It had to come from a divine mind who made everything.
Why, then, do scientists continue to advocate this ridiculous theory of evolution motivated by chance? Why do they do that? Well, the bottom line is they do it to avoid God. They do that to push God out of their lives, to avoid His law, to avoid His standards, to avoid His will, to avoid His Word, and to avoid His judgment on their lives.
What gives God the absolute authority over man? I'm looking for a one word answer; what is it? Creation. God is the Creator of all things, and we owe Him our obedience and our worship. We are not here by chance, we are not an accident, we are not a mutation, we are the direct creation of God. God created us, and He can command us:
Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. (Genesis 1:3 NASB)
This is creation ex nihilo, out of nothing. There was no one to suggest plans to God, or to suggest alterations to the plans God had. There was no one to defeat God's purpose. God was alone. He could do as He pleased:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (John 1:1-3 NASB)
Now, how else can you say it? There's no evolution in John 1:3, "All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." Nothing is in existence that He didn't create:
By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. (Hebrews 11:3 NASB)
"By faith"--it's the only way we understand, not by empirical analysis. In other words, you have to believe the Bible. Notice carefully the end of the verse, "so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible." Now there is an absolute statement that totally discounts evolution. What you see in the created world was not made out of some other material. But rather, everything you see in God's created universe was made by Him out of nothing. And that's exactly what it says in the book of Genesis.
The Bible is relentless in its affirmation of this truth:
"Indeed, ask now concerning the former days which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and inquire from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything been done like this great thing, or has anything been heard like it? (Deuteronomy 4:32 NASB)
There was a day when God created man on the earth. He is not the final stop in a multi-billion year process of evolution. There was a day, we know it to be the sixth day as Genesis tells, when God created the earth.
Man is not the end of an evolutionary chain, he is the direct creation of God as is everything else:
"But from the beginning of creation, God MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE. (Mark 10:6 NASB)
God created man, He did not just evolve. Over and over and over this emphasis is made in Scripture.
What is our response to the truth that God is our Creator? Worship!
(For the choir director. A Psalm of David.) The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. 2 Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard. 4 Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, 5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course. 6 Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other end of them; And there is nothing hidden from its heat. (Psalms 19:1-6 NASB)
Psalm 19 tells us that the knowledge of God has been written for us in two volumes, general revelation--the Creation; and special revelation--the Bible. In the first part of this Psalm the Psalmist, David, says that God reveals Himself through His world, through nature. These verses are a declaration of the greatness of God as seen in the world of nature.
Now let me ask you something? Can man come to know God through natural revelation? As man looks at the glory of God in the heavens, does he realize there is a God? Isn't this what Romans 1 teaches?
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Romans 1:20-21 NASB)
Most people look at this verse and see grounds for general revelation. Man looks at creation, knows there's a God, and is without excuse. Look at the first part of verse 21, "for even when they knew God." Who is this referring to? Is it all men? Do all men know God?
not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; (1 Thessalonians 4:5 NASB)
Paul says the Gentiles do not know God. So who is he talking about in Romans 1:21?
Do men come to know God in any way through natural revelation? What about the scientist who look at the universe through the Hubble telescope? When they see those awesome sites of God's creation, do they fall down and worship God? No, they worship the big bang.
Who was it that knew God? It was Israel, and only Israel:
He declares His words to Jacob, His statutes and His ordinances to Israel. 20 He has not dealt thus with any nation; And as for His ordinances, they have not known them. Praise the LORD! (Psalms 147:19-20 NASB)
Look at verse 23 of Romans 1:
and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (Romans 1:23 NASB)
Who did this? It was Israel! Notice what the Psalmist says:
They made a calf in Horeb, And worshiped a molten image. 20 Thus they exchanged their glory For the image of an ox that eats grass. 21 They forgot God their Savior, Who had done great things in Egypt, (Psalms 106:19-21 NASB)
Look at verse 24 of Romans 1:
Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. (Romans 1:24 NASB)
"But My people did not listen to My voice; And Israel did not obey Me. 12 "So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, To walk in their own devices. (Psalms 81:11-12 NASB)
Romans 1 is not talking about general revelation, it is talking about Israel who alone had special revelation.
Natural or general revelation will not bring anybody to God; just like special revelation won't bring anybody to God. The only way man comes to God is if God draws him to Himself:
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Corinthians 2:14 NASB)
The man without the Spirit cannot appreciate God's glory through the heavens, or through special revelation. God must first open the heart of man, then man can see His glory in creation and in The Word. How much do dead men see of the glory of God?
All men are lost, Jew and Gentile, and none seek God. God is seeking men, even though they are not seeking Him. Gentile evangelism is to be traced to the heart of God, not the hearts of men. The only way any unbeliever is convinced and converted is by the divine opening of the heart, which is the work of God through His Holy Spirit.
God created everything, and we are responsible to give Him worship. Worship is attributing ultimate worth to something. Worship is valuing one thing above all else. It's literally "worth-ship."
Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, 5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course. 6 Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other end of them; And there is nothing hidden from its heat. (Psalms 19:4-6 NASB)
Does this language give you the idea that the sun is in motion? Notice that the sun "comes out of his chamber." it "runs his course," it "rises from one end of the heavens," and now notice, "its circuit to the other end." It sure appears that the sun is moving.
Many explain this away by saying, This is the language of accommodation. God is explaining it how we see it. I think that God does accommodate some of his communication in the Bible to the limits of human readers. The use of anthropomorphic descriptions of God would be an example. God's "hand, eyes, ears, or arm" are ascribing physical qualities to a spiritual being for the sake of our understanding. Such texts are not really saying God as Spirit has a real physical hand, but merely using that to describe an otherwise incomprehensible attribute in terms we recognize.
I think that God uses language of accommodation for any subject that falls under the heading of transcendence. He does so because our finiteness limits our ability to understand His infiniteness.
But God does not use accommodating language for any subject within the realm of our finiteness, literally the created cosmos. This is because all such subjects are within our created abilities to understand.
People, I am convinced that the Bible teaches geocentricity. That is that the earth, not the sun, is fixed in space and at the center of the universe. I also believe that the earth is unique and special compared to all other heavenly bodies. The heliocentric view pictures the sun as motionless at the center of the solar system with all the planets, including the earth, in motion around it.
A geocentric model of the universe was first formalized by Ptolemy, the famous Greek astronomer who lived in Alexandria around A.D.130. Ptolemy's model was generally accepted until Copernicus published his heliocentric model in 1543. Galileo promoted the Copernican theory that the earth was moving about a fixed sun.
Luther's stand against heliocentricity as an attack on the reliability of Scripture is well known. Melanchthon, in his Elements of Physics states that the Scriptures clearly teach that the earth stands fast and the sun moves around it. In his commentary on Psalm 93:1 Calvin wrote: "The heavens revolve daily; immense as is their fabric, and inconceivable the rapidity of their revolutions"--a clear refutation of Copernicus and his heliocentrism.
Nowadays, most people are convinced that the Church was wrong, that the earth is in actual motion. Until scientists convinced the world that geocentricity was a primitive, foolish idea contradicted by vast quantities of evidence, practically all Bible scholars took it as obvious that the Scriptures taught geocentricity--in exactly the same way that Bible scholars solidly upheld special creation until scientists convinced the world that there was a vast quantity of evidence proving evolution. In both cases there is actually none which can stand up to close scrutiny.
You may be thinking, "Everyone knows that the earth is moving." Yet if you ask anyone for proof, all the response you are likely to get is: Science has proven it. Do you think that? Has science proven that the earth revolves around the sun? No!
The Michelson-Morley experiment, one of the most important and famous experiments in the history of physics, was performed in 1887 by Albert Michelson and Edward Morley at what is now Case Western Reserve University. Their experiment was designed to measure the change in the speed of light due to the assumed motion of the earth through space when measured in different directions on the earth's surface. The failure of this experiment to detect any significant change played an important role in the acceptance of Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity.
The Theory of Special Relativity holds as a basic assumption that the speed of light will always be the same everywhere in the universe irrespective of the relative motion of the source of the light and the observer.
Astronomer Fred Hoyle writes, "Today we cannot say that the Copernican theory is "right" and the Ptolemaic theory "wrong" in any meaningful physical sense." (Fred Hoyle, Nicolaus Copernicus (London: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd., 1973), p. 78.). So science isn't totally backing the heliocentric model.
My problem with the heliocentric model is that the frame of reference of the Bible is clearly geocentric: positions and motions are measured relative to the earth. Consider, for example, Joshua's command for the sun and moon, rather than the earth, to stand still. There are sixty-seven Scriptural references which tell us that it is the sun, and not the earth, that moves. Do you know how many references there are to the earth moving? None! Zip! Zero!
The assertion that the earth is unique and special is clearly and unequivocally taught in the first chapter of Genesis. The plain sense of the creation account is that all other heavenly bodies were not even brought into existence until the fourth day of creation. Thus, God had already created the earth, separated the waters above and below the atmosphere, formed the earth into continents and oceans, and brought forth vegetation upon the earth before He paused to create the Solar System, the Milky Way, and all of the other material bodies in the universe. It is very clear that the creation of the earth was distinct from that of any other heavenly body.
Scientific theories will come and go, but the Word of God endures forever. By limiting the Biblical language to appearances, it implies that science somehow has access to deeper truths that go beyond the appearances. Science is never to be seen as a means of learning truth. Truth is found in the Scriptures alone; the Bible has a monopoly on truth. It is God's Word that must be believed, not the experiments of men.
So what is our response to the God who created all things? Acknowledging that man is a creature with meaning and purpose--created in God's image, and recognizing that we belong to God, He created us, and we are to give Him glory by praising Him and following His laws. We are not here by chance, people, we are God's creation!
"Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created." (Revelation 4:11 NASB)
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