Phil Cox

Miscellaneous


(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)

Home page
Recent Columns
Previous Series
Phil's background
Preaching engagements
Creation and science
Miscellaneous
Contact Phil

Links
Stubbington Baptist Church
Acorn Christian Healing Foundation
Evangelical Alliance Basis of Faith

Some of them sneered

22nd March 2008

Paul travelled through the Roman Empire, teaching anyone who would listen about the Kingdom of God. When he reached Athens, he gave what became a very famous speech, recorded in the book of Acts:

Acts 17v22-31
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that 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.
"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of Heaven and Earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
"Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone — an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 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."

Not much has changed. Today, people worship all kinds of things. For all our claims to be a rationalistic, scientific society, we still seem to find or make gods for ourselves. I remember that when George Harrison died, a BBC reporter said that he had clearly been a very spiritual man, because he kept two carved elephants by his bed! This says something about George Harrison - he worshipped "an image made by man’s design and skill". But it also says something about the BBC, and about us all.

As a society, we in the UK have rejected the Lord of Heaven and Earth. But we've tried to replace Him with wooden elephants, crystals, horoscopes, paganism, Feng Sui (for goodness' sake!) and all sorts of other falsehoods. I think it was G. K. Chesterton who said "when men stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing; they believe in anything".

True spirituality is relationship with the true God, "the Lord of Heaven and Earth". There is no other.

If we don't know the true God, then we find a need within us to worship something. So we make a false god for ourselves, or we choose to worship some part of creation, instead of the creator.

Who is the true God? Paul tells us that He is:

  • The God who made the world and everything in it;
  • the Lord of Heaven and Earth;
  • Not... like gold or silver or stone — an image made by man’s design and skill.

And that He:

  • Does not live in temples built by hands;
  • Is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything;
  • Gives all men life and breath and everything else;
  • Made every nation of men;
  • Determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.

This is the true God. Why settle for anything less? How, in this day and age, can we worship what has been created, instead of the One who created all things? How can we find meaningful spirituality in anything shaped by human hands? The true God is here - and we need to "seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us".

And He is also the Judge of all the Earth. He:

  • Commands all people everywhere to repent
  • Will judge the world with justice.

There's still time. We can turn to Jesus Christ, repent of our sins, and accept His forgiveness, before judgment comes.

Paul said that God "has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead". What was the crowd's reaction?

Acts 17v32-31
When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, "We want to hear you again on this subject." At that, Paul left the Council. A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

Again, not much has changed. The church still proclaims the Kingdom of God, still teaches that Jesus Christ paid for our sins and that god raised Him from the dead. And some people still sneer.

Why do some people find it contemptible that we claim that Jesus Christ rose from the dead? Surely the answer to this is that it's impossible to raise someone from the dead. That seems on first inspection to be a very good reason. But if there is a God, and if that God could indeed create Heaven and Earth (and someone did!) then that God can do ANYTHING. He can change the nature of the universe. He can suspend the natural laws of the universe any time he wants to. He can choose to do things differently. That is, He can perform miracles.

And one reason why He performs miracles is to give proof of the truth of the Biblical teaching. As Paul said, he "has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead". The fact that raising Jesus from the dead is impossible is the very reason that it constitutes proof! If God did nothing extraordinary, we would wonder if He exists or not. So when He does do something extraordinary, we should express gratitude and not scepticism. We should see a miracle for what it is - proof of the existence of God!

Some people - then and now - couldn't understand this. So, like small-minded people everywhere, they sneered. But, as Hamlet told his friend in Shakespeare's play, "there are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy".

But - then and now - "A few men... believed". And those that believed inherited eternal life.

It's a pity about the others.