Tuesday: Paul and the Unknown God

Daily Lesson for Tuesday 5th of December 2023

Notice that Paul did not disparage the false religion or false gods of the Athenians. He gathered whatever points of good he could find, few as they were, and capitalized on them.

Read Acts 17:22-23. What was Paul doing here in his attempt to reach these people with the gospel?


“ ‘People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious’ ” (Acts 17:22, NIV). Paul was complimenting pagans! Their religion was misguided in every way, and yet, Paul complimented their devotion.

Image © Kim Justinen from GoodSalt.com

Paul continued, “ ‘As I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship . . .’ ” (Acts 17:23, NIV). By describing his own study of the Athenian religion, Paul communicated a respectful attitude toward the people. He was not rushing in as a self-proclaimed expert with all the answers for how the people needed to change. In reality, he was, in fact, an expert and did, in fact, have the answers that these people needed! But he did not present himself that way, or else he would have been rejected outright. Instead, he was seen as someone who cared for the people and desired their good.

Commenting on the inscription, “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD” (Acts 17:23, NKJV), Paul took advantage of what could be seen as common ground. They believed in god (many, actually), which was a great start (some people back then didn’t believe) and could open the way to deeper conversation. He did not scoff at the negative idea of an altar to an unknown god. Instead, he appreciated and admired a people who cared enough about spiritual things to go to the effort and expense of worshiping something they didn’t even know, just in case they were missing something.

Were they misguided? Of course, but that could be addressed. What was important in the beginning was that they were devout in what they did understand. That, Paul recognized, was material the Holy Spirit could work with.

Paul had found a talking point that would pique their interest.

What bridges and points of contact can you think of that would open opportunities for deeper conversation with others with whom you come in contact?


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