Acts 17:21-25
Acts 17:21 (KJB)
(For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)
Those who were citizens of Athens and also from different areas of Greece would come to this place to discuss and see if anything new could be learned. This place was just a place of discussion and nothing else was accomplished there. Most of the people who had spent their days here were nothing but curiosity seekers and really not great philosophers as their forefathers were. All they wanted to know was, “what’s new?” I think Solomon answered that question previously. (Eccl 1:9 KJV) The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
Acts 17:22 (KJB)
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.
Paul then wastes no time in beginning his discourse. This place where he is preaching is like a central location where the message of the Gospel may go out by means of others who may hear it and discuss it. He starts out by claiming that the men of Athens were too superstitious. The word “superstitious” carries with it the meaning of “religious.” Many world religions are based on superstitions. He is not only speaking of their philosophy but in all areas they exhibit a superstition. Superstition can also be understood as false religion or false worship. Paul is also telling them that they are more superstitious than people in the other places he has visited.
Acts 17:23 (KJB)
For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.
Ignorantly - Not knowing
Paul then makes a declaration concerning an inscription he saw on an altar. This will give him a good introduction to begin proclaiming the true Gospel to them. By having an altar to an Unknown God, the Athenians did not want to take a chance in overlooking one of the gods. They believed in the pantheon of Greek gods and were in fear if they missed placing an altar to any of them. Paul makes use of this altar but he is not saying that their altar to an unknown god is pleasing unto the Lord. Whoever that altar was meant to appease, Paul turns it around as a platform for his evangelistic message about the true God. Since Paul used the word “worship,” it could mean there was a group dedicated to this unknown God and they would have worshipped him and served him in total ignorance. Even the heathens were aware that there was something beyond their own named gods.
Acts 17:24 (KJB)
God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;
Paul had begun right at the beginning stating that God created the world and everything which was in it. The Greeks believed their gods lived on Mt. Olympus but Paul is stating here that God is in Heaven and He is Lord of Heaven and Earth. The Athenians would have seen many temples dedicated to their gods, especially on the Acropolis. Paul states that the true God does not dwell in any temple made with hands. This statement teaches that God is so immense that he cannot be contained within the walls of any temple. Paul has literally told them that their false gods were puny in comparison to the true God. (Isa 66:1 KJV) Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?
Acts 17:25 (KJB)
Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;
The true God does not need to be worshipped with what men can do such as building physical temples. Paul then states that He needs nothing because He is self-sustaining. The true God is the creator and source of life and gives that life to human beings in the form of physical life and that includes the entire animal kingdom along with the trees and plants of the world. God made Himself known to Abraham, Isaac, Abel, Adam and Eve and others without the use of a temple or any other edifice. He now makes Himself known to all true believers through the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures.