Monday Devotional: May 8, 2023



Bible Reading: Acts 17:22-31 (CEB)

22 Paul stood up in the middle of the council on Mars Hill and said, “People of Athens, I see that you are very religious in every way. 23 As I was walking through town and carefully observing your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: ‘To an unknown God.’ What you worship as unknown, I now proclaim to you. 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, is Lord of heaven and earth. He doesn’t live in temples made with human hands. 25 Nor is God served by human hands, as though he needed something, since he is the one who gives life, breath, and everything else. 26 From one person God created every human nation to live on the whole earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God made the nations so they would seek him, perhaps even reach out to him and find him. In fact, God isn’t far away from any of us. 28 In God we live, move, and exist. As some of your own poets said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 29 “Therefore, as God’s offspring, we have no need to imagine that the divine being is like a gold, silver, or stone image made by human skill and thought. 30 God overlooks ignorance of these things in times past, but now directs everyone everywhere to change their hearts and lives. 31 This is because God has set a day when he intends to judge the world justly by a man he has appointed. God has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

As I stood at the Acropolis and viewed the Parthenon and various crumbling edifices, I felt overwhelmed by the ruins and broken statues of gods and people. More than an ancient history fact, for the people in that day, the gods resided in shrines made by humans. As I took the short walk down to the Areopagus, a word referring to the civil council that met on Ares (Greek god of war) or Mars (Roman god of war) Hill, I felt overwhelmed again as I stood where ancient Athenians stood as Paul delivered his sermon on Mars Hill.

In previous verses, we find a perplexed Paul viewing a city full of idols, a brazen Paul arguing in the synagogues and agora, and a confronted Paul at the Areopagus answering to an Athenian philosopher. In verses 22-32, Paul, with temerity, gives his sermon at Mars Hill, addressing the plurality of Greek religion and citing an altar to an unknown god observed in Athens. Piety probably caused Greeks to create this altar out of fear they might offend a god unknown to them. Paul proclaims the God they don’t know as the one true divinity.

Echoing Isaiah and Old Testament prophets, Paul offers those gathered the God who made heaven and earth as the one who needs no support from humans. Paul stresses that God provides life and breath as well as the unity of all humanity through God’s creation of all nations “from one ancestor.” Pointing to how we all search for God, he meets the Athenians on their own ground by quoting two Greek philosophers — “In him we live and move and have our being” (sixth-century BCE poet Epimenides) and “We too are his offspring” (third-century BCE Stoic, Aratus). Paul, in his wisdom, tempers his proclamation with some accommodation of Greek interest.


God, may I look beyond the brokenness and ruins of daily life to the joy of living and moving with you. Amen.

By Judy Wooldridge, The Upper Room Disciplines 2017, page 168.