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Paul’s Address on Mars Hill 


Text: Acts 17:26 and Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 3 and 4

Paul moves on, and having taught the Athenian philosophers the doctrine of God, he teaches about the doctrine of man.  Let’s see what he teaches…

We are all the children of one single set of parents, we are all related, we are all equal before God – sinners who need salvation.

1 All People are Equal Before GodAnd He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings

Paul teaches us here that before God, all men are equal.  Acts 10:34 But what exactly does it mean that ‘God is no respecter of persons?’  He speaks about…

  • The oneness of humanity.  In God’s eyes we are all the same, regardless of our race or skin tone. Christians cannot ever be racists; not if you believe the Biblical account of creation, for the Bible clearly teaches us here and elsewhere that we all have  one common ancestor, we are all the children of Adam and Eve. That’s a good thing, isn’t it.  Of course it is, but it also means that we have all inherited Adam’s sin and misery.  It’s in that sense that we are all equal before God.  We are…
    • Equal before God in our state of sinfulness.  Romans 5:12.12  
    • Equal in responsibility to repent. 2 Peter 3:9  
    • Equal in that Christ died for sinners. His atoning death is sufficient in its breadth to cover the sins of every single sinner who will come to him, regardless of their racial ethnicity.  1 John 2:2  The amplified bible helps us with this one, “And He [that same Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins [the atoning sacrifice that holds back the wrath of God that would otherwise be directed at us because of our sinful nature—our worldliness, our lifestyle]; and not for ours alone, but also for [the sins of all believers throughout] the whole world.”
    • Equal in heavenly praise.  Revelation 5:9   Black people white people, people of every race and nation will be in heaven with us, our brothers and sisters joining together in praise of Almighty God..
  • The lifespan of humanity.  and has determined their preappointed times.  In our last study in this passage we noted that we are on a divine life support system, that it is God who grants us life and breath and all things, and that the minute he withdraws that support our lives end and we go into eternity, and in passing we mentioned that God has the date of that termination of life already appointed for us., Psalm 31:15  God decides our lifespan.    Job 14:1-5  
  • The politics of humanity. and the boundaries of their dwellings, Remember that politicians or earthy authorities do not control or command history.  They are not in charge.  It is the Lord, who determines the boundaries of nations, our dwelling places. Whatever happens, – it is the Lord who is in control, not the men and women who hold the reins of power.  Remember the vision of Isaiah in Isaiah 6:1 The earthly political scene may have changed, but God install seated on his throne, from everlasting to everlasting.  God determines and sets the limits on our borders. Gk ὁροθεσία (horothesia)  

All people are equal but not all people are the same!  We stand before God as sinners, regardless of our race or status or colour or intellectual ability or qualifications.  We are all equal.  But we are not all the same.  God ordains for us the times and seasons of our lives, and the boundaries of our lives.

2. All People Have a RESPONSIBILITY to Seek God27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that 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 have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’

Paul drives home a point. The very purpose for which God made us, and the responsibility that rests upon every man and woman… 

  • We were created to seek the Lord. God wants us to reach out to our creator.  Even a pagan poet should be able to look at Creation, and realise that there must be a Creator, and reach out our hands to Him.  The psalmist reminds us, in Psalm 19:1, The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.  Paul later makes this same point to the Romans in Romans 1:20 So why don’t we?  
  • We are in darkness.  That darkness involves…
    • Spiritual Blindness. There’s an interesting use of words here, for Paul speaks of how these pagans might ‘grope’ their way towards God.  The Greek ψηλαφάω (psēlaphaō), implies to ‘search by touch.’   People can’t even see what is in front of their own eyes.  Romans 1:21,  2 Corinthians 4:3-5 And yet even in the darkness of our sin, we are responsible to seek the Lord…
    • Stubbornness.  The stubbornness of our sinful hearts, which makes us reluctant even to grope in the darkness for the divine light.  It’s bad enough that we must grope for God in the darkness, but we don’t even want to do it! We know that there is a Creator God and we know that there is an end coming to this life, and we are stubbornly unwilling to even seek the One who could rescue us.  Psalm 10:4  Psalm 14:2-3  Romans 3:11    And yet…
  • Salvation is at hand. He is not far from each one of us.  Jesus said,  Mark 1:15  “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”.  How ironic!  We are blindly groping around for God, and he is right beside us, right to hand, not far away!  It is the Gospel, that Jesus, God’s sinless Son, has come into this world to save guilty sinners.  He died on the Cross, bore that dreadful eternal punishment that was my due, that I have earned and deserved by my sinfulness and rebellion, and because he has paid my penalty, my fine, I am set free from punishment and eternal wrath.  That’s the good news, and it is so simple to appropriate it for ourselves, to just reach out and take the promise of God for ourselves. Repent and believe and be saved!  Reach out and take it!
  • Where do we find God?  In a statue, an idol, a shrine, a temple? Maybe even in a church? In a tent mission?  Yet we don’t need to do any of those things,  for as Paul tells the Athenians, for in Him we live and move and have our being, The Lord is with us, giving us life and breath and everything.   

So, Paul sets out the Doctrine of God, and the Doctrine of Man before the Athenians.  Now, he must join the dots, and explain to them the Doctrine of Salvation, How the gap between God and Man is bridged, and how mankind can be reconciled to the God who created them.  Be sure, “It is time to seek the Lord!”

BobMcEvoy March 2021

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