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Acts 17:27

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

That they should seek the Lord - This is a conclusion drawn from the preceding statement. God, who is infinitely great and self-sufficient, has manifested himself as the maker of the world, the creator, preserver, and governor of men. He has assigned them their portion, and dispensed to them their habitations, and the various blessings of his providence, to the end that they should seek him in all his works.

Feel after him - Ψηλαφησειαν αυτον, That they might grope after him, as a person does his way who is blind or blindfolded. The Gentiles, who had not a revelation, must grope after God, as the principle of spiritual life, that they might find him to be a Spirit, and the source of all intellectual happiness; and the apostle seems to state that none need despair of finding this fountain of goodness, because he is not far from every one of us.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

That they should seek the Lord - Greek: to seek the Lord. The design of thus placing them on the earth - of gang them their habitation among his works - was, that they should contemplate his wisdom in his works, and thus come to a knowledge of his existence and character. All nations, though living in different regions and climates, have thus the opportunity of becoming acquainted with God, Romans 1:19-20. The fact that the nations did not thus learn the character of the true God shows their great stupidity and wickedness. The design of Paul in this was doubtless to reprove the idolatry of the Athenians. The argument is this: “God has given to each nation its proper opportunity to learn his character. Idolatry, therefore, is folly and wickedness, since it is possible to find out the existence of the one God from his works.”

If haply - εἰ ἄρα γε ei ara geIf perhaps - implying that it was possible to find God, though it might be attended with some difficulty. God has placed us here that we may make the trial, and has made it possible thus to find him.

They might feel after him - The word used here ψηλαφήσειαν psēlaphēseianmeans properly “to touch, to handle” Luke 24:39; Hebrews 12:18, and then to ascertain the qualities of an object by the sense of touch. And as the sense of touch is regarded as a certain way of ascertaining the existence and qualities of an object, the word means “to search diligently, so that we may know distinctly and certainly.” The word has this sense here. It means “to search diligently and accurately for God, to learn his existence and perfections.” The Syriac renders it, “That they may seek for God, and find him from his creatures.”

And find him - Find the proofs of his existence. Become acquainted with his perfections and laws.

Though he be not far … - This seems to be stated by the apostle to show that it was possible to find him; and that even those who were without a revelation need not despair of becoming acquainted with his existence and perfections. He is near to us:

(1) Because the proofs of his existence and power are round about us everywhere, Psalm 19:1-6.

(2) because he fills all things in heaven and earth by his essential presence, Psalm 139:7-10; Jeremiah 23:23-24; Amos 9:2-4; 1 Kings 8:27. We should learn then:

(1) To be afraid of sin. God is present with us, and sees all.

(2) he can protect the righteous. He is always with them.

(3) he can detect and punish the wicked. He sees all their plans and thoughts, and records all their doings.

(4) we should seek him continually. It is the design for which he has made us; and he has given us abundant opportunities to learn his existence and perfections.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Here we have a sermon to heathens, who worshipped false gods, and were without the true God in the world; and to them the scope of the discourse was different from what the apostle preached to the Jews. In the latter case, his business was to lead his hearers by prophecies and miracles to the knowledge of the Redeemer, and faith in him; in the former, it was to lead them, by the common works of providence, to know the Creator, and worship Him. The apostle spoke of an altar he had seen, with the inscription, "TO THE UNKNOWN GOD." This fact is stated by many writers. After multiplying their idols to the utmost, some at Athens thought there was another god of whom they had no knowledge. And are there not many now called Christians, who are zealous in their devotions, yet the great object of their worship is to them an unknown God? Observe what glorious things Paul here says of that God whom he served, and would have them to serve. The Lord had long borne with idolatry, but the times of this ignorance were now ending, and by his servants he now commanded all men every where to repent of their idolatry. Each sect of the learned men would feel themselves powerfully affected by the apostle's discourse, which tended to show the emptiness or falsity of their doctrines.
Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 69

With deep earnestness the mother of Jesus watched the unfolding of His powers, and beheld the impress of perfection upon His character. With delight she sought to encourage that bright, receptive mind. Through the Holy Spirit she received wisdom to co-operate with the heavenly agencies in the development of this child, who could claim only God as His Father. DA 69.1

From the earliest times the faithful in Israel had given much care to the education of the youth. The Lord had directed that even from babyhood the children should be taught of His goodness and His greatness, especially as revealed in His law, and shown in the history of Israel. Song and prayer and lessons from the Scriptures were to be adapted to the opening mind. Fathers and mothers were to instruct their children that the law of God is an expression of His character, and that as they received the principles of the law into the heart, the image of God was traced on mind and soul. Much of the teaching was oral; but the youth also learned to read the Hebrew writings; and the parchment rolls of the Old Testament Scriptures were open to their study. DA 69.2

In the days of Christ the town or city that did not provide for the religious instruction of the young was regarded as under the curse of God. Yet the teaching had become formal. Tradition had in a great degree supplanted the Scriptures. True education would lead the youth to “seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him.” Acts 17:27. But the Jewish teachers gave their attention to matters of ceremony. The mind was crowded with material that was worthless to the learner, and that would not be recognized in the higher school of the courts above. The experience which is obtained through a personal acceptance of God's word had no place in the educational system. Absorbed in the round of externals, the students found no quiet hours to spend with God. They did not hear His voice speaking to the heart. In their search after knowledge, they turned away from the Source of wisdom. The great essentials of the service of God were neglected. The principles of the law were obscured. That which was regarded as superior education was the greatest hindrance to real development. Under the training of the rabbis the powers of the youth were repressed. Their minds became cramped and narrow. DA 69.3

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Ellen G. White
Fundamentals of Christian Education, 440

The life of Jesus gave evidence that He expected much, and therefore He attempted much. From His very childhood He was the true light shining amid the moral darkness of the world. He revealed Himself as the truth, and the guide of men. His conceptions of truth and His power to resist temptation were proportionate to His conformity to that word which He himself had inspired holy men to write. Communion with God, a complete surrender of the soul to Him, in fulfilling His word irrespective of false education or the customs or traditions of His time, marked the life of Jesus. FE 440.1

To be ever in a bustle of activity, seeking by some outward performance to show their superior piety, was, in the estimation of the rabbis, the sum of religion; while at the same time, by their constant disobedience to God's word, they were perverting the way of the Lord. But the education that has God back of it, will lead men to seek after God, “if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him.” The infinite is not, and never will be, bound about by human organizations or human plans. Every soul must have a personal experience in obtaining a knowledge of the will and ways of God. In all who are under the training of God is to be revealed a life that is not in harmony with the world, its customs, its practice, or its experiences. Through study of the Scriptures, through earnest prayer, they may hear His message to them, “Be still and know that I am God.” When every other voice is hushed, when every earthly interest is turned aside, the silence of the soul makes more distinct the voice of God. Here rest is found in Him. The peace, the joy, the life of the soul, is God. FE 440.2

When the child seeks to get nearest to his father, above every other person, he shows his love, his faith, his perfect trust. And in the father's wisdom and strength the child rests in safety. So with the children of God. The Lord bids us, “Look unto Me, and be ye saved!” “Come unto Me, ... and I will give you rest.” “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” FE 441.1

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 2, 342

I am so sorry for the man; for his course is in such a shape that it will not answer to be meddled with, for there are difficulties upon difficulties. I would say that the Lord understands the situation, and if M will seek Him with all his heart, He will be found of him. If he will do his best, God will pardon and receive him. 2SM 342.1

Oh, how precious it is to know that we have One who does know and understand, and will help the ones who are most helpless. But the rebuke of God is upon the father and the brother who would drive to destruction and perdition one who stands in the sight of God under no worse condemnation than themselves; and yet they will so use their gifts of speech as to dishearten, discourage, and drive M to despair. 2SM 342.2

M may hope in God and do the best he can to serve God in all humility of mind, casting his helpless soul upon the great Sin Bearer. I have not written a word to either father or son. I would gladly do something to help poor M to make things right, but this cannot be done as matters are now situated, without someone's being wronged.—Letter 175, 1901. 2SM 342.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 460

*****

[Reprint from A testimony published in tract form.]

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