Acts 17: To the Unknown God, a.k.a., Covering Your Bases

Acts 17: To the Unknown God, a.k.a., Covering Your Bases

A local preacher friend told a story some years back, and I believe it was told as a personal account, of encountering a man one day who requested to be baptized. This sort of request doesn’t happen often, so the preacher made inquiry as to the reason for the blunt request.

The man responded that he had been reading his Bible and believed he needed to be baptized in order to be saved. However, not knowing which baptism was the one he needed to receive, he had traveled the county and been baptized several times that day! In other words, he was trying to cover his bases.

This was exactly what was going on in Athens when Paul visited there in Acts 17. Luke records the city was completely given over to idolatry (v 16). Paul’s statement concerning the extreme religiosity of the Athenians is borne out in the writings of ancient historians. With some 30,000 gods in Athens, Petronius said “there are so many gods that it is easier to meet one than it is to find a man!” (Satyricon, Vol 1, ch 17). Though there were 30,000 gods in Athens, they feared they might have overlooked one, (Hey, with 30,000, it would certainly be possible!), so they erected an altar to “the unknown god.”

Seizing his opportunity, Paul said, “Therefore, the One you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you” (v 23). Paul then revealed to them the God who made all things, does not dwell in man-made temples, and is not served by men’s hands “since he gives all life, breath, and all things.”

This was a particularly astonishing statement, given that he was standing near the Greek Parthenon with its frieze depicting many of the primary Greek gods being provided creature comforts by human hands. These depictions can be found online, including on our website (www.burlesonchurchofchrist.com, “You Can Trust Your Bible,” PowerPoint presentation, slides 54-57).

Regarding the practice of baptism, some have contended that any baptism is acceptable and pleasing to God, provided it is practiced properly and done with the intent to please God. This is not far removed from covering one’s bases.

Baptism is an act of faith, based upon a proper faith and expectation of the forgiveness of sins and associated blessings (Col 2:11-13).

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