Quick Links Quick Links

To An Unknown God


David Johnson

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)


Good morning, listeners. The title for the lesson this morning is “To an Unknown God.” Our study text is found in the New Testament, Acts chapter 17 beginning in verse 22.  Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I see in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship I even found an altar with this inscription: To an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown, I am going to proclaim to you.” 

In May of 1866 after our Civil War, the tradition began of the placing of wreaths and flowers at the graves of our war dead.  The most solemn ceremony is the placing of the wreath on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Our fallen heroes are not forgotten, whether known or unknown.

Someone has written this poem.   Quote, “They call me the Unknown Soldier. I often wonder why. I am sure I am only unknown to people passing by. One day we tried to take a very important hill. A sudden blast, then everything was still. So now I am resting in the grave for every one to see. They call me the Unknown Soldier, but it is really only me. And surely I am known to God,” end of quote.

You see, men often fear the unknown regarding the future, the unknown regarding jobs, the economy, the unknown regarding severe weather, the unknown regarding disease, death, even the unknown regarding after the grave and God.  But what is unknown to mankind God has made known through the Bible. To know God we must know him before the grave and experience a saving faith before death.

In the book of Acts chapter 17 verses 22 and following, the unknown has been made known. So men are without excuse. The apostle Paul was in Athens of southern Greece in the first century AD at the Areopagus which means the hill of Aries, the Greek god of thunder and war.  It was a place at that time to discuss and debate religious and or moral issues.  And the text says that the Athenians were very religious, literally meaning  they feared many gods.

In the world today, and increasingly in America, there are many gods. The most important god in the world today is the god of self, important because that is what most believe when you really get down to it. The god of self, the god of humanism, is the most popular, not the cults, not the other major world religions, but the god of self. But there are all kinds of gods.

Paul noticed an altar with an inscription to an unknown god. The Athenians were fearful of offending any god by failing to give him attention and, therefore, to cover any omissions they erected an altar to an unknown god. It was their ‘catch all’ god.  Today there is a similar idea. We call it fire insurance. Not for the house, but hell.  Just in case it is real, just in case God - or gods - really exist. But that is without knowing the one true God.  Today there is also total tolerance and political correctness that has made fashionable the acknowledging of all known gods as equal. For example, Jesus, Allah, Zeus, whomever.  They are all gods just with different names. But that is not knowing the one true God.

Today there are also Agnostics that cleverly claim that one cannot know God. He may exist, but one cannot know that with any certainty. In fact, no absolute truths can be known, because God - or gods - are unknowable. That is a modern unknown god.

Today there are also, of course, Atheists who claim they know there is no God. They claim they are certain God does not exist except in the minds of the deluded. So whether the first century AD or the 21st century AD, there are plenty of people who do not know the one true God of the Bible.

In Acts chapter 17 and verse 24 and following Paul, inspired of the Holy Spirit of the one true God has made known ways that we can even today, certainly today, make known the one true God and witness the truth. In verse 24 it says the God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth. Creation points to the creator God. There is tremendous order and design that points to a designer God. Today many sophisticated people think that science, that technology, that education, have replaced God. The one, true God is no longer fashionable.

On December 24th, the year of our Lord 1968 perhaps you remember the Apollo VIII which was the first manned mission to circle the moon. That day three astronauts did a live TV broadcast from orbit of the moon. Astronaut William Anders said, and I quote, “We are now approaching lunar sunrise. And for all the people back on earth, the crew of Apollo VIII has a message we would like to send. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and the earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good. And God divided the light from the darkness,” end of quote.  And the other two astronauts continued reading from the Scripture in Genesis one.  These men had knowledge of the Bible. This is Genesis chapter one in verses one through four that the first astronaut read that I just quoted. And these were 20th century, highly educated, scientific astronauts that also made these truths known to all the people back on earth regarding the one true God.  We can do likewise according to our opportunities and circumstances. Even astronauts witnessed regarding almighty God.

In Psalm 19 and verse one it says: The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Another theory which is not new, which is very common today called Pantheism which means that all nature and forces are god.  That is, the creation and creator are one, inseparable. The ancients—and even some today—worshiped and worship creation, the natural order, as God. This is not so.  Creator God is apart from his creation. God transcends. He is apart. He is different from his creation. There is the Creator and there is the creation. It tells us in Genesis 1:1: God created the heavens and the earth. God is not mother earth. This we know from the Bible.

In Acts chapter 17 verses 24 through 26 it tells us, in part, that God made and gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation. He determined the times set and the exact places where they should live.  Therefore, according to the Bible we can know that our one true God is also the sovereign controller, initiator of life with breath, of nations, of human history, of geography, of boundaries and everything else.  He is a powerful and personal God that is involved in the affairs of men.   In verse 27 God did this so that men would seek him. God is knowable. He can be sought. He is seekable.  He is available and this is evident, obviously, by his creation and creativity in every aspect of life on this earth. And wise men still seek him, the one true God of the Bible.

It says in verse 28 of Acts 17 that in him, that is God, we live and move and have our being.  Our one true God is also a personal God who seeks a personal relationship, individually and intimately, with each of us. And each of us uniquely have our being and purpose in him.  This is a passage of Scripture which inspired George Washington Carver who was an agricultural chemist who discovered 300 uses for peanuts and hundreds more for soybeans and pecans and sweet potatoes. Listen to George Washington Carver in his own words. Quote, “I read in Scripture: In him we live and move and have our being. The out of doors has been to me more and more a great cathedral in which God could be continuously spoken to. Man needed a purpose, a mission to keep him alive. And I could be God’s coworker. My purpose is to increase the welfare and happiness of people,” end quote.

George Washington Carver, a scientist, sophisticated, highly educated, and yet he could know the one true God through his abilities and work and purpose that God had given him and that God uniquely gives to each one of us. God is knowable if we truly seek him. God can be found and we must know God before the grave. Why?  Well, the answer is in Acts chapter 17 and verse 31: For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.  He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.

Obviously this is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ himself. From the Bible we can know and believe by faith that Jesus Christ is the coming judge. He is the unique Son of God, crucified for the sin of the world, but alive forevermore, raised from the dead. And the proof?  Part of the proof is that Christ’s church, 2000 years later, is on every continent of every culture, language and race.  Would this be true of only a dead prophet?

There are billions, with a ‘B’, billions of professing Christians in Christendom today. Some might say that Allah and Islam today also have more than a billion followers.  Well, that is true. But one of the glaring differences between Christianity and Islam today, regarding its followers, is that with Islam in predominantly Muslim nations, the worship of Allah is mandatory. It is the only state religion, whereas with Christianity it is voluntary. There is a choice today. You don’t have to be a Christian. And, yes, we have freedom of religion in this country. You can be of whatever denomination or faith group that you choose, but Christianity today is voluntary by choice.  Today regarding the one knowable true God and the man Jesus, the unique only begotten Son of God in the 21st century, just as in the first century, according to Acts chapter 17, there are still three basic choices to know God, whereby we can receive or reject. We have a choice.

The first is in Acts chapter 17 and verse 32 where it simply says that some sneered in the first century. And many sneer today regarding Jesus Christ and Christianity and salvation and heaven and the one true God of the Bible. Many sneer.

The second choice is also in Acts chapter 17 and verse 32 where others said to the apostle Paul, We want to hear you again on this subject. In other words, they delayed. And today we have many, many that delay, that are procrastinators that say ‘I will think about it’. But they often never act, never receive, personally receive Jesus Christ through obedient faith and act upon it and live it and preserve it.

Third, there is verse 34, the third choice or Acts 17 that says if you believe in the one true God of the Scripture you must follow him.  And so this morning which are you? You must believe. Some will sneer. Some will delay and say, ‘I will think about it’. But if you believe and became followers, you will understand that this was what the apostle Paul himself was preaching and teaching. And yet still only a few that heard became followers and believed.

We cannot know the identity of the Unknown Soldier.  But we can know the identity of the one true God and the Son of God, the man Jesus, the man God, Jesus Christ, who is himself the greatest revelation of God. Jesus Christ is deity in bodily form as revealed in the Scripture found in Colossians chapter two and verse nine.

So do you know him? Are you sharing the truth about the one true God and his Son Jesus Christ with those around you? We must.  We must believe.


David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, Indiana

Leave a Reply

That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10