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Mars Hill #1 – The Doctrine of God Acts 17:24-25


Paul’s Address on Mars Hill  #1 THE DOCTRINE OF GOD

Text:   Acts 17:24-25  and Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 9

Paul’s sermon to the Athenians continues, Paul begins to address their condition, and to explain in detail about the God whom the Athenians don’t know…

1 God is THE CREATORGod, who made the world and everything in it

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth…

Paul begins his doctrinal instruction right where the Bible begins. At Creation. And see that he makes no concession to the Greek ideas about creation.  Many Greeks were like the ‘Gnostics’ – who believed that God was too remote to get his hands dirty, making any material entity.  So the Greeks conceived of a ‘demiurge’ an emanation from ‘god,’ or even a series of emanations, finally resulting in a semi-god who would be able to create the world.  Paul gave no credence to these Greek ideas whatsoever.  He goes to the Biblical account of Creation and teaches them the doctrine of God…  

  • God created the world.  God, who made the world.  This is fundamental.  God is the Creator.  
    • He created the word for his glory. He didn’t have to create, he created the world because it pleased him to do so, in order that his divine power could be demonstrated, so that his wisdom could be made known, so that he could lavish his goodness and love upon his own creation.  The Biblical doctrine of Creation is firmly fixed in Scripture.  
    • He created the world out of nothing.  He created this world out of nothing at all.  We call this ‘creation ex-nihilo’ It is how the Bible begins, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).  What existed before creation?  God did, and our human minds, limited by the constraints of time and space, simply cannot take this in, we can’t hope to comprehend it, this side of eternity.  YET
    • He created all of this in just six days.  Do you LITERALLY BELIEVE THIS? You should.  In Exodus, the six day creation of Genesis 1 is given moral authority in the Torah, Exodus 20:8-11 Jesus sanctioned the writings of Moses in the Law, John 5:45–47,   He does it again in Luke 13:14, when he speaks about the Sabbath.  (Colossians 1:16–17).
    • His creation work was PERFECT.  And when he made this world, because he made it for his glory, he made it PERFECT.  After his six day creation, we read, Genesis 1:31  
  • He completed the world.  and everything in it,.  As if it weren’t enough that God created the world in six days, perfectly, for his own glory, he filled it with good things!  He created the flora and the fauna that would inhabit this world, and he created men and women.  Look at the complexity of mankind:-
    • They are MORAL beings.  The Savoy Declaration, reads, “After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, 
    • They are made for communion with God. He made them in his own image, to reflect his glory into the world, and he gave them immortal souls, so that they could dwell with him for ever, enjoying God’s presence and glorifying his name.

 But Paul goes on with this teaching about the God these clever men don’t know.

2 God Watches Over, Cares For and Rules His Entire CreationHe is Lord of heaven and earth

Heidelberg LD9 ‘and who still upholds and governs them by his eternal counsel and providence,’ Those Greeks who believed in a god who was somehow involved in creating would have believed that he wasn’t much interested in the wold he created.  Like the 19th century deists, who believed that God created the world, then stepped back and left it to its own devices, like a master watchmaker, who creates a beautiful watch, completes it, winds it up, and sees that it is working then takes nothing more to do with it.  Paul teaches here that the God who created this world is intimately involved in it,  – he even provides the food for his created beings, Psalm 104:27–30   We owe everything to God, even the breath that we take is given to us by him. Not only us too, God feeds ALL his creation, Matthew 10:29.  God upholds this world and governs it.  He does so with  Divine Wisdom. And Divine Providence.  He does this through our Lord Jesus Christ.  In Hebrews 1:1-3,  

3 God is Self Sufficient

Paul’s third proposition is that the God who created the world, and who holds it all together doesn’t need me – no matter how important I think I am!    So Paul lays out some foundational truths about the all-sufficiency of God:-

  • He doesn’t need our vain works.  does not dwell in temples made with handsThe Almighty God who was powerful enough to create the universe, does not need us to build him a house or a temple in which he can dwell.  He is quite capable of doing that all by himself.  The Jews had laboured under a similar misapprehension and it had led to their downfall.  In the OT, before the fall of Jerusalem, they viewed the temple as a talisman, a guarantee of the city’s immunity from destruction, because God dwelt in the temple and so the temple could never fall to an invading army.  How wrong they were!  Jeremiah the prophet was despised by the Jews when he preached this message, Jeremiah 7:3-5.  The temple fell – because God doesn’t need a man made dwelling.  And…
  • He doesn’t need our vain worship.  V25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything,  The psalmist echoes this in Psalm 50:8-15. V12   
  • We need HIM.   since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.  The truth is that we need him!  Look at how Paul describes our total dependance upon God.  It is him to whom we owe our life.  It is him to whom we owe every breath we take, in fact everything that we need to sustain life is given to us by God.  HC. LD9  I  Most importantly we need Him in order to be assured of heaven.   We NEED Christ!  

So WE need God – we need him for life, we need him for food and provisions, we need his salvation.  We need Jesus.

Paul has begun his sermon to the intellectually minded, sin-blinded pagans of Athens by teaching them abut the God they don’t know. In our next study, we will see him introducing another important, fundamental doctrine, what the bible teaches us about mankind.

© BobMcEvoy March 2021

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