Lesson 68: Paul’s Answer to Superstition – Acts 17:22-34

by Pastor Ricky Kurth

You're listening to Lesson 68 from the sermon series "Acts" by Pastor Ricky Kurth. When you're done, explore more sermons from this series.


“Superstitious” (v.22) means excessively devoted, as the Athenians were to their idols (cf.v.16). They’d park an “altar” (v.23) in front of each idol to sacrifice to it (Ezek.6:13). But the one Paul found had no idol, for it was to the unknown God (v.23).  They had 30,000 gods, but were superstitiously afraid they’d missed one!  Paul said he would tell them about that god they were already worshipping, lest they kill him for trying to introduce a new god, like they did to Socrates.

Paul told them their unknown God created heaven and earth (v.24), because after He did, He spent the next 2,000 years trying to get the Gentiles to worship Him.  They refused to (Rom.1:21), so Paul is taking them back to their roots as Gentiles to show them where they went wrong, as Stephen did when he took the Jews back to their roots (Acts 7:2).

The first place they went wrong was in building God temples (Acts 17:24cf.IISam.7:5-7). Secondly, they worshipped Him “with men’s hands” (Acts 17:25), i.e., with idols (cf.Isa.2:8),  “as though” God needed an idol to represent Him!  He’s a giver, not a needer.  He gave us all “life” (Acts 17:25) when He gave us “breath” (v.25cf.Gen.2:7).  And He gave us “all things” (v.25) when He made Adam king of the world.

God didn’t make us “all of one blood” as opposed to the four blood types.  He made us “one blood” as compared to when Satan made men of two bloods (Gen.6:1-4). Letting that happen was the Gentiles’ third mistake. But the Athenians could relate to that!  Their gods were always sleeping with women and having kids called demigods.  But God made men of one blood when He killed off those men of demonic blood with the flood, and appointed Noah king of the world, and all men came from his blood.  That’s what “determined the times before appointed” means (Dan.2:21).  They could relate to that too, since they believed Zeus flooded the world, and Deucalion survived on an ark, and we all came from his blood.

Ancient man’s fourth mistake came when Noah’s seed refused to “replenish” the earth (Gen.9:1), and built a city instead (11:1-4).  God scattered their language (v.6-9) to make them scatter.  That set up “nations” (Acts 17:26), nations who set “the bounds of their habitation” when they set up borders around their nations. God did that to make them “seek the Lord” (v.27cf.Gen.11:4-6), but those scattered Gentiles built more cities in their nations.  And when men live together, they start telling each other how smart they are, and “imagine” (Rom.1:21-23) something really vain—that they are God.  They had a better chance finding God by feeling after Him, like blind unsaved men have to, than they had living next to a neighbor who told them they were gods.

The Greeks believed the gods all lived far off on Mt. Olympus, but Paul says the unknown God wasn’t far from them (v.27cf.Ps.139:7-10).  They made images to their faroff gods to bring them up close and personal, but Paul said they didn’t need to do that for their unknown God.  He then reminded them their own poets said we’re God’s “offspring” (v.28).  We’re His offspring by creation (Lu.3:23, 38), but His children by faith (Gal.3:26).  But since offspring resemble their fathers, and we “live” and “move,” they shouldn’t think God is an idol that doesn’t live and move (Acts 17:29).

“Winked at” (v.30) means to overlook, as when a grandfather winks at a grandson who did wrong instead of punishing him.  God overlooked idolatry in Gentiles for 2,000 years (Acts 14:15,16) because He intended to get the Jews saved and have them tell Gentiles to repent.  So He didn’t suffer idolatry in Jews (Ezek.14:6), but He suffered it in Gentiles—until Paul.  He then sent Paul to tell “all men” to repent of idolatry (Acts 17:30cf.26:20), not just Jewish men.

They knew what “man” Paul meant (v.31cf.v.18). God made Him the world’s judge (Jo.5:22,27) because He could judge as one who’d been tempted and didn’t sin.  Men thought they got rid of their judge when He died, but they didn’t!

A video of this sermon is available on YouTube: “Paul’s Answer To Superstition” Acts 17:22-34

Related Files: