Second, tell them who God is (vv. 24-29). This is Paul's lesson to the ignorant about the unknown God. This is Theology 101. It's ironic that Paul was teaching the ABCs of theology to those who were known worldwide as supreme intellectuals. It proves the truth of 1 Corinthians 1:25: "The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." Here are five things ignorant, rebellious men need to know about the "Unknown God."

God is the Creator. Verse 24a: He "made the world and all things in it." In Paul's day and ours, the truth makes no room for men's opinions regarding origins.

God is the Ruler. Verse 24b: "He is Lord of heaven and earth [and] does not dwell in temples made with hands." It logically follows that if God is the Creator, He is also the rightful Ruler of what He created. And if He is Creator and Ruler, He doesn't live in what His creatures have made.

God is the Giver. Verse 25: "He [is not] served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things." Far from needing anything from men, the Creator "causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matt. 5:45).

God is the Controller. Verse 26: "He made from one man every nation of mankind … having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation." That statement was a blow to the national pride of the Greeks, who scornfully referred to non-Greeks as "barbarians." Nonetheless, God controls the affairs and destinies of men and nations.

God is the Revealer. Verses 27-29: Men should "seek God... He is not far from each one of us... Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like [anything] formed by the art and thought of man." God, by creating, ruling, giving, and controlling all things, has clearly revealed Himself in what He has made—men are truly without excuse (Rom. 1:20).

Third, tell them what God says (vv. 30-31). Paul's evangelism method ends with a simple, powerful point: tell them to repent or be judged. In the past, God was patient. But a day is coming when He will judge the world through Jesus Christ. God gave sufficient proof of the truth of His Word in the resurrection of His Son—He holds all men accountable to that evidence. His grace in the past and His wrath in the future require repentance in the present. As Paul said elsewhere, "Now is 'the acceptable time,' behold, now is 'the day of salvation'" (2 Cor. 6:2).

That message isn't popular today, but then again, it has never been popular. "Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer... so Paul went out of their midst" (v. 32-33). I mentioned earlier that Paul's method was effective, and it is. Look at verse 34: "But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris, and others with them." It was effective to save those whom God chose to save. Paul was faithful to proclaim the truth. He left the results to God.

From Athens to Los Angeles, first century to twenty-first century and everywhere in between, repentance may not be popular, but it's still the gospel. Teach this post-Christian culture about God and then command repentance. That's the only message we have; without it, no one would be saved.

Widely known for his thorough, candid approach to teaching God's Word, John MacArthur is a fifth-generation pastor, a popular author and conference speaker, and has served as pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California since 1969. John and his wife, Patricia, have four grown children and fourteen grandchildren.

John's pulpit ministry has been extended around the globe through his media ministry, Grace to You, and its satellite offices in Canada, Europe, India, New Zealand, and Singapore. In addition to producing daily radio programs for nearly 2,000 English and Spanish radio outlets worldwide, Grace to You distributes books, software, audiotapes, and CDs by John MacArthur. In thirty-six years of ministry, Grace to You has distributed more than thirteen million CDs and audiotapes.

John is the president of The Master's College and The Master's Seminary, and he has written hundreds of books and study guides (see here), each one thoroughly biblical and practical. Best-selling titles include The Gospel According to Jesus, The Second Coming, Ashamed of the Gospel, Twelve Ordinary Men, and The MacArthur Study Bible.

Adapted from Acts 13-28, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary © 1996. All rights reserved.