Sermon: God Does Not Live In Man-Made Temples Acts 17:10-34

God Does Not Live In Man-Made Temples

Acts 17:10-34

Introduction

Paul and the others have left Thessalonica now moving through Berea and then Paul has gone on ahead to Athens waiting while the others catch up.  We’re told that the brothers thought it best to take Paul away to Athens.  Many think that they thought Paul should take a little break and head down to the sea for a few days of much needed rest.  Here’s what Paul does while on vacation in Athens…

TT- All people are worshippers and will either worship the true God or idols.
Human need met by text

We must see our own propensity toward idolatry.  They come in a myriad od shapes and sizes and a rainbow of colors.  The more we are drawn to them the blinder we become.  This passage portrays the City of Athens as being full of idols.  If we’re not careful our lives can quickly be full of idols.

Acts 17:10-34 (ESV)
10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue.
11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.
13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds.
14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there.
15 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.
16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.
17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.
18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.
19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?
20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.”
21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.
22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious.
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.
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,
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.
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,
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,
28 for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
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.
30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,
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.”
32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.”
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.

1. God, the Creator

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious.
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.
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,

Luke shows us the event…Paul has been invited to speak at the Areopagus.  This is the counsel of the latest and greatest thinkers of Athens.  Here there would heard the newest ideas concerning man.  Athenian Philosophers were gathered to here this visitor to Athens.
1 Corinthians 9:22b (ESV)
I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.
Paul addresses the crowd that day, the way other philosophers would address them.  The greeting, Men of Athens was music to their ears.  They would hear Paul because Paul was not speaking down to them but to them on their terms.

Beloved do we know how to speak to those who have no Christian influence?  We are living in a day when many around us have no idea of even the most basic teachings of Christianity.  The Bible to them is just one of many books.

Paul has spent a few days walking around the City of Athens surveying the lay of the land, so to speak.  What he has discovered cause his heart to ache.

16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.

Paul’s firsthand witness of the hundreds of idols placed in and around the City of Athens, Greece is proof to the fact that the people of Athens were very religious.

As he walked around the city, he saw altars, temples and idols that were dedicated to false deities of those in Athens.  Each one, no doubt, had history and an inscription showing which god it was to represent.
Then the Apostle walked up to an idol or a statue that had an inscription: To the Unknown god. AGNOSTIS THEOS read the plaque on one of the idols.

Beloved, we shouldn’t miss the irony of this event.  Here in Athens met the most famous of philosophers and orators of the first century.  The best of human wisdom was assembled in Athens.  Can you see the futility of human wisdom?

21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.
Literally, they spent all their time discussing human wisdom.  They knew everything except the true God.  They knew all the latest inventions, developments, wisdom, happenings around the world but in all their wisdom, they did not know God.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (ESV)
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,
23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,
24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Every temple and idol that the Athenians worshipped were made by their own hands.  Man has the great temptation to worship, as God, the things he makes or as the Bible calls it the works of his hands.

The irony is also found in that the best epicurean and stoic philosophers can do is make statues to worship?

I want to take a minute to investigate from the Bible what happens when we worship idols…Paul said the city is full of idols.

Biblical Theology of Idolatry-

We are created in the image of God.  This has multiple parts, but in part this means we in some way resemble God.  We don’t look like God because God is a spirit.  But we too have a spirit and are eternal.  Because we are eternal beings we must worship the true God who is eternal.
-Because we are eternal we must only worship God who is eternal.

Exodus 20:3-6; Isaiah 42:8

-Idolatry is exchanging the worship of the eternal Creator with His creation

Romans 1

-Idolatry most often refers to creation in the sense of things the worshipper has fashioned from creation…literally, handmade.

In Exodus 32 we read the account of the golden calf.  Over and over again throughout the narrative it is highlighted that the people and/or Aaron fashioned, made the calf with their hands.  When Moses comes down the mountain he hears the people singing.  They are singing because they have fashioned this calf and are worshipping it, saying that the calf led them out of Egypt.  Imagine, the very gold God gave them as plunder when they left Egypt was used to fashion the idol.

-Stephen explains…
Acts 7:35-41 (ESV)
35 “This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’—this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush.
36 This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years.
37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’
38 This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us.
39 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt,
40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’
41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands.

– Result of Idol worship…
Psalm 115:1-18 (ESV)
1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
2 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?”
3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.
5 They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.
6 They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell.
7 They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat.
8 Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.
9 O Israel, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.
10 O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.
11 You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.
12 The LORD has remembered us; he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron;
13 he will bless those who fear the LORD, both the small and the great.
14 May the LORD give you increase, you and your children!
15 May you be blessed by the LORD, who made heaven and earth!
16 The heavens are the LORD’s heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man.
17 The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any who go down into silence.
18 But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD!

Those who worship idols become like them.  The judgment of God is that instead of partaking of the divine nature as we worship the true God and we fellowship and our soul communes with God through the Holy Spirit, in idolatry, we literally become like what we worship.  Just as the dead lifeless idol has eyes but cannot see and ears but cannot hear, so too does the worshipper have eyes and ears etc. that don’t function.

-Throughout the OT idolaters are portrayed as people who have eyes but do not see and ears but do not hear etc.

Isaiah 42:17-20 (ESV)
17 They are turned back and utterly put to shame, who trust in carved idols, who say to metal images, “You are our gods.”
18 Hear, you deaf, and look, you blind, that you may see!
19 Who is blind but my servant, or deaf as my messenger whom I send? Who is blind as my dedicated one, or blind as the servant of the LORD?
20 He sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear.
We could look to Isaiah 6 and other verses where the idol worshippers had been judged with literal spiritual blindness and deafness to the true God.

This is the issue in Athens when Paul.  All the very bright and intelligent people who were idolaters in Athens had eyes to see but were blind, they had ears to hear but were deaf, had mouths to speak and literally gave great orations but said nothing, because God had granted them to become like what they worshipped.
That is exactly why Jesus would say over and over, let those who have ears to hear let them hear.  The Creator in those wonderful times of grace was granting those who were blind and deaf through idolatry the ability to see and hear Him and all He had to say!
Here too in our text today, through the Apostle Paul, God was granting sight and hearing to the blind and deaf.

2. God, the Sustainer

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.

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,
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,
28 for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

They were so used to fashioning golden-calf type idols and temples that Paul wanted them to immediately see that the true God cannot be contained nor can He cannot be copied by the sculptor’s hands.

In fact, it is God who makes everything not man…

God alone creates and God alone gives life.  No idol can speak, hear or breathe.  But what God creates has life.

he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

26 And he made from one man…

God not only made man and not only breathed the breath of life into man, but He sustains us.
Notice what else Paul tells these idolaters, In him we live and move and have our being’; “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

God in no way is dependent on man for anything.  But we are dependent on Him for everything.  We don’t give life to God as some pretended with the idols they made but He gives us life.  The revelation of God has overtaken us.

The truth when someone denies God is that God has given them up and they have become like what they worship…Literally, Romans one…

Romans 1:18-25 (ESV)
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,
23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,
25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

3. God, the Judge

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.
30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,
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.”
The final point the Apostle makes is that even though people have in many cases gotten away with their idolatry God will judge them.  The Israelites who made the golden calf were all put to death some forty years later in the wilderness.  God is merciful not wishing any to perish but that all would come to repentance.  So too, with these Athenians God has passed over their sin for a time but as Paul tells them,

30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,
This was their opportunity.  God was willing to grant these wicked idol worshippers grace and mercy.  Paul explained the Gospel to them.  He spoke about sin and that they would be judged because of it.  He told them that there is one Man appointed by which God would judge them.  Jesus Christ.  Either we have the righteousness of Jesus or that righteousness becomes a testimony against us.

There is no doubt about it.  This appointed event will happen.  God guarantees that it will because He raised Jesus from the dead.
Notice what the results were…
32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.”
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.

For that one moment in time, for these folks the scales were lifted.  God relented of His judgment that they would become like what they worship.  When they learned about Christ, they saw in Him… life and breath and everything.

Additional Application

First, I hope we saw the complete vanity of human wisdom.  Human wisdom is foolishness to God.  It’s literally, the blind leading the blind.  It will never deliver what it claims to be able to deliver.  It claims it can bring peace and joy but only always delivers suffering and death.

Second, did you notice the dilemma of these people in Athens?  They were guilty of idolatry; their city was full of idols.  The result was that the Creator God who, in reality, made them was through overlooking their sin.  The hourglass had run out.

Third, we must flee from idols.  Understand, they are the worst type of trap or even the worst type of addiction.  When you worship an idol, spiritual blindness sets in.  People don’t even realize that they are blind.  They can see but they can’t really see.  Just like these Athenians who called Paul a babbler and mocked him were so blind that they couldn’t see and hear the truth.

Fourth, I pray we see the real issue in idolatry.  We desire to fashion something with our own hands because we can manipulate it and it does not hold us in any way accountable.  The true God is Almighty and glorious.  He holds all people accountable.

Examine yourself– this is difficult because in most cases the very thing we’re trying to assess, we’re blind to.  Plead with God to show you if there are idols in your life.

 

 

 

Benediction…….

 

The very last words from 1 John…
1 John 5:20-21 (ESV)
20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

 

1 Timothy 1:17 (ESV)
17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

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