Then Paul stood in the middle of Mars' hill, and said, You men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are too superstitious.…
Paul's spirit was "stirred" with holy indignation, and with pure and strong compassion, as he witnessed the abounding signs of superstition in the streets of Athens. But he had the wisdom to begin his address to these "men of Athens" by an expression which they would take to be complimentary. He told them that he perceived they were abundantly religious. He did not conclude this from witnessing their numerous divinities, but from the inscription he had read on an altar, "To the unknown God." Adroitly seizing on this as proof positive that they were in ignorance as to the true object of worship, he said that he could declare to them the Deity whom they were ignorantly or unconsciously worshipping. Then he spoke out the everlasting truth concerning the living God, which he had learned, and in the knowledge of which he stood superior, not only to those degenerate philosophers, but to the wisest man that had ever spoken their language and immortalized their city.
I. THE NATURE OF GOD.
1. Paul taught the unity of the Godhead. "God that made the world," etc.; a very noticeable singular, He taught, concerning his nature, that this was:
2. Spiritual; such that it is a vain and senseless thing to try to make any likeness of him. "God is a Spirit," we ourselves being his children, and it is not in gold or stone or silver to produce any sort of semblance of him (ver. 29).
3. Independent; so that he does not need the service of human hands. Except as expressions of our feelings of penitence, or trust, or gratitude, or homage, all offerings are an insult to his majesty and his power (ver. 25; and see Psalm 1:8-13).
4. Omnipresent. We need repair to the interior of no temple walls to find him, for he is "Lord of heaven and earth" (ver. 24), filling immensity with his presence. He is net far from any one of us; he compasses our path and our lying down; he besets us behind and before; we cannot go where he is not (ver. 27).
5. Sovereign. He is Lord of heaven and earth; he is the Divine Ruler of all.
II. THE DIVINE RELATION TO MANKIND. We not only want to know generally who and what God is; we also and equally want to know what is the particular relation in which he stands to us. And what, we ask, does he desire we should be to him? Here is the answer:
1. He is the Maker of the world in which we live: he "made the world and all things therein" (ver. 24).
2. He is the Divine Benefactor from whom all blessings flow: "He giveth to all life," etc. (ver. 25).
3. He is the Divine Provider and Arranger of all human affairs (ver. 26). His intelligence has foreseen, and his wisdom directed everything.
4. He is the Father of all human spirits: "We are also his off spring" (ver. 28). And we are so in that
(1) he is the Author (ver. 26) of our common humanity (ver. 26);
(2) he is sustaining us all in constant existence: "In him we live," etc. (ver. 28);
(3) he is deeply interested in us, and desires our approach to him; he has so wrought that men should "seek him, if haply they might feel after him and find him." He desires to be sought and found of us, that we may commune with him and rejoice in him, that we may attain to his likeness and prepare for his nearer presence. If such is the nature of God, and such the relation in which he stands to us, then:
(1) How pitiful a thing is
(a) heathenism, the ignorance of God; and
(b) atheism, the denial of God; and
(c) indifference, the rejection of God!
(2) How excellent and how wise a thing is
(a) reverence for God;
(b) obedience to God;
(c) an earnest effort to obtain the Divine favor, and to live in his love! - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.